Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
We react here to the New York Times Editorial of August 24, 2015 that seemingly wants us to believe that Putin and the Ayatollahs found religion when they heard that 250,000 Arabs were killed in Syria. Really – why should they care?
Let us suggest that “THE DEAL” has turned the interest of Iran to revive its International Banking if the Sanctions are removed – and that is the real driving force that eventually can bring Putin and the Ayatollahs to the table IN EXCHANGE FOR A SAUDI AND THE OTHER GULF STATES OIL EXPORTERS PROMISE TO REDUCE THEIR EXPORTS OF OIL.
YES – the US and the Europeans are driven by humanitarian concepts – the Russians and the Iranians think of the PRICE OF OIL that hit them hard in their economies. The US and the Europeans enjoyed the lowering of the price of oil – based on the high supply figures and a decreasing demand that resulted from GREEN ACTIVITIES – higher efficiency and alternate sources of energy.
But also these two developing energy topics can only benefit from a higher price for oil. So what the heck – let us help the Syrians and save whatever cultural monuments the Islamic State has not destroyed yet. We know that one way or another – the Christian population of Syria and Iraq is doomed and the Lebanese Maronites strive already decades in Brazil like the Iraqi Jews who spread all over the globe – from the Far East to the Far West. But let the enlightened world deal with the problem – and explain to the Saudis that time has come for them to listen to the global woes and do their part by selling less oil !!!
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Alaska Dispatch News
Published on Alaska Dispatch News www.adn.com)
August 24, 2015
The White House on Sunday revealed some details of President Barack Obama’s upcoming three-day trip to Alaska .
The president will travel to “the Seward area, where he will have the opportunity to view the effects of climate change firsthand,” on Tuesday, Sept. 1, according to White House spokesperson Hallie Ruvin.
On the following day, the president will visit Dillingham and Kotzebue, “where he will engage directly with Alaskans on issues important to their communities and to the local economy,” Ruvin said.
Obama will leave the state on Sept. 2, Ruvin said, adding that additional details will be available later this week.
Speculation over Obama’s plans has grown as the date draws near. The president will touch down in Anchorage on Aug. 31 and deliver a speech at a State Department-sponsored Arctic conference that will draw nearly a dozen foreign ministers and hundreds of attendees.
Obama has said he plans to address climate change during his visit. But details are sparse — and rumors rampant — about whether he will address other issues, if security concerns will enable a visit to some of the most rural parts of Alaska, and just what kind of impacts the unusual visit will have on downtown Anchorage.
Source URL: www.adn.com/article/20150824/whit…
The three member Alaska Congressional delegation – two Senators and one Member of the House of Representatives – complained that they were not consulted by the White House. We assume that the President had good reasons for making his own decisions.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Report: Retired Saudi General Makes it His ‘Personal’ Goal to Achieve Saudi-Israeli Peace.
From the Algemeiner and WSJ – August 23, 2015
Anwar Eshki, a retired major general in the Saudi armed forces, has made it his personal goal to strike peace between Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
A former top adviser to the Saudi government, Eshki raised eyebrows in June when he appeared alongside Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General and longtime confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Dore Gold at a conference held by the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC, espousing desires to build a Saudi-Israel peace, especially to counter the regionally destabilizing expansion of Iran.
“The main project between me and Dore Gold is to bring peace between Arab countries and Israel,” said Eshki.
The former general noted that while the initiative is “personal,” Riyadh “knows about the project” and “isn’t against it, because we need peace.”
Eshki said Israeli and Saudi plans for their shared principal enemy Iran do not completely align, especially regarding an Israeli strike against Iran. He added, however, that Israel would be interested in dealing first with the threat posed by Iran’s proxy in Lebanon and Syria, Hezbollah, before committing its military to countering the much larger and imposing threat of Iran.
Saudi Arabia is also fighting an Iranian-backed group in Yemen, the Houthi rebels, who have taken over the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, and Eshki said it was the common threat of Iranian attempts to destabilize the region and “revive the Persian Empire” that has brought him and Gold together.
Israeli and Saudi officials have reportedly held several meetings in light of the P5+1 arrangement with Iran to peel back international sanctions in exchange for some restrictions on and monitoring of its nuclear program, which Jerusalem and Riyadh view as a boon to Iranian efforts to spread its influence in the Middle East.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs
Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development, Professor of Health Policy and Management, and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is also Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals. His books include The End of Poverty, Common Wealth, and, most recently, The Age of Sustainable Development.
Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/columni…
The UN at 70
Project Syndicate – Sunday, August 23, 2015
NEW YORK –The United Nations will mark its 70th anniversary when world leaders assemble next month at its headquarters in New York. Though there will be plenty of fanfare, it will inadequately reflect the UN’s value, not only as the most important political innovation of the twentieth century, but also as the best bargain on the planet. But if the UN is to continue to fulfill its unique and vital global role in the twenty-first century, it must be upgraded in three key ways.
Fortunately, there is plenty to motivate world leaders to do what it takes. Indeed, the UN has had two major recent triumphs, with two more on the way before the end of this year.
The first triumph is the nuclear agreement with Iran. Sometimes misinterpreted as an agreement between Iran and the United States, the accord is in fact between Iran and the UN, represented by the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the US), plus Germany. An Iranian diplomat, in explaining why his country will scrupulously honor the agreement, made the point vividly: “Do you really think that Iran would dare to cheat on the very five UN Security Council permanent members that can seal our country’s fate?”
The second big triumph is the successful conclusion, after 15 years, of the Millennium Development Goals, which have underpinned the largest, longest, and most effective global poverty-reduction effort ever undertaken. Two UN Secretaries-General have overseen the MDGs: Kofi Annan, who introduced them in 2000, and Ban Ki-moon, who, since succeeding Annan at the start of 2007, has led vigorously and effectively to achieve them.
The MDGs have engendered impressive progress in poverty reduction, public health, school enrollment, gender equality in education, and other areas. Since 1990 (the reference date for the targets), the global rate of extreme poverty has been reduced by well over half – more than fulfilling the agenda’s number one goal.
Inspired by the MDGs’ success, the UN’s member countries are set to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – which will aim to end extreme poverty in all its forms everywhere, narrow inequalities, and ensure environmental sustainability by 2030 – next month. This, the UN’s third triumph of 2015, could help to bring about the fourth: a global agreement on climate control, under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Paris in December.
The precise value of the peace, poverty reduction, and environmental cooperation made possible by the UN is incalculable. If we were to put it in monetary terms, however, we might estimate their value at trillions of dollars per year – at least a few percent of the world economy’s annual GDP of $100 trillion.
Yet spending on all UN bodies and activities – from the Secretariat and the Security Council to peacekeeping operations, emergency responses to epidemics, and humanitarian operations for natural disasters, famines, and refugees – totaled roughly $45 billion in 2013, roughly $6 per person on the planet. That is not just a bargain; it is a significant underinvestment. Given the rapidly growing need for global cooperation, the UN simply cannot get by on its current budget.
Given this, the first reform that I would suggest is an increase in funding, with high-income countries contributing at least $40 per capita annually, upper middle-income countries giving $8, lower-middle-income countries $2, and low-income countries $1. With these contributions – which amount to roughly 0.1% of the group’s average per capita income – the UN would have about $75 billion annually with which to strengthen the quality and reach of vital programs, beginning with those needed to achieve the SDGs. Once the world is on a robust path to achieve the SDGs, the need for, say, peacekeeping and emergency-relief operations should decline as conflicts diminish in number and scale, and natural disasters are better prevented or anticipated.
This brings us to the second major area of reform: ensuring that the UN is fit for the new age of sustainable development. Specifically, the UN needs to strengthen its expertise in areas such as ocean health, renewable energy systems, urban design, disease control, technological innovation, public-private partnerships, and peaceful cultural cooperation. Some UN programs should be merged or closed, while other new SDG-related UN programs should be created.
The third major reform imperative is the UN’s governance, starting with the Security Council, the composition of which no longer reflects global geopolitical realities. Indeed, the Western Europe and Other Group (WEOG) now accounts for three of the five permanent members (France, the United Kingdom, and the US). That leaves only one permanent position for the Eastern European Group (Russia), one for the Asia-Pacific Group (China), and none for Africa or Latin America.
The rotating seats on the Security Council do not adequately restore regional balance. Even with two of the ten rotating Security Council seats, the Asia-Pacific region is still massively under-represented. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for roughly 55% of the world’s population and 44% of its annual income but has just 20% (three out of 15) of the seats on the Security Council.
Asia’s inadequate representation poses a serious threat to the UN’s legitimacy, which will only increase as the world’s most dynamic and populous region assumes an increasingly important global role. One possible way to resolve the problem would be to add at least four Asian seats: one permanent seat for India, one shared by Japan and South Korea (perhaps in a two-year, one-year rotation), one for the ASEAN countries (representing the group as a single constituency), and a fourth rotating among the other Asian countries.
As the UN enters its eighth decade, it continues to inspire humanity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains the world’s moral charter, and the SDGs promise to provide new guideposts for global development cooperation. Yet the UN’s ability to continue to fulfill its vast potential in a new and challenging century requires its member states to commit to support the organization with the resources, political backing, and reforms that this new era demands.
Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/comment…
How to Select the Next UN Secretary-General.
By Dean Ngaire Woods and Nina Hallon, Project Syndicate, Oxford University
Ngaire Woods is Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government and Director of the Global Economic Governance Program at the University of Oxford.
Nina Hall, a post-doctoral fellow at the Hertie School of Government in Berlin, is the lead researcher on the WEF/BSG project.
Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/comment…
OXFORD – When the United Nations elects a new secretary-general next year, the world will face a crucial choice. With crises erupting in every region of the world, the need for strong, decisive leadership is self-evident. And yet the selection process for filling important international posts has often been characterized more by political horse-trading than a meritocratic search for the best candidate.
The tools to improve the process are available, and the time is right to ensure their adoption by the UN and other international organizations. A new report by the World Economic Forum and Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government lays out a series of best practices – each one of which has already been implemented by at least one international agency – that can guarantee that leaders are drawn from the most qualified candidates, and that the organizations for which they work are vested with the best possible management practices.
For starters, it is important to professionalize the selection process. For too long, backroom deals among governments have taken precedence over searching for a candidate with the relevant skills and experience. When Pascal Lamy, one of the authors of the report, was chosen to become head of the World Trade Organization, there was not even a description of the job against which his qualifications could be measured.
Once a candidate has been chosen, it is important to set clear performance expectations that can be evaluated annually. Groups like the World Health Organization – which came under fierce criticism during the Ebola crisis – can learn from the 80% of American non-profit boards that have a formal process in place for a yearly evaluation of their CEO.
Ethical standards also need to be strengthened. In April, Spanish police questioned Rodrigo Rato, a former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, as part of a corruption probe. Not long before that, his successor at the IMF, Dominique Strauss Kahn, faced pimping charges in France.
Putting in place a code that sets out clear standards for identifying conflicts of interest and robust methods for dealing with complaints about a leader’s behavior is crucial. In recent years, allegations of improper behavior have led to resignations by the heads of the IMF, the World Bank, and the UN Refugee Agency.
A leader is only as good as the people who work for him, so organizations must make it a high priority to attract and retain good staff and rid themselves of those who lack professional integrity or competence. Many global agencies are introducing systematic surveys of their employees, but much remains to be improved. Crucially, international organizations must build up the capacity to resist governments’ efforts to protect their underperforming nationals. Performance evaluations should be made public, allowing outsiders to measure progress (or the lack thereof).
Organizations also need to focus more on delivering results and tracking outcomes. For decades, countries borrowing from the World Bank and regional development banks have begged for the loan process to be expedited; most cannot afford to wait more than two years to find out whether a loan has been approved. Halving the time it takes to approve a loan is the kind of operational goal that a good leader can set, and for which he or she can subsequently be held to account.
It is also important to ensure well-structured, systematic engagement with stakeholders and civil-society groups, which is necessary to ensure high-quality and innovative inputs. Adopting an ad hoc approach, as many organizations currently do, frequently yields poor results.
Finally, it is crucial that organizations learn from their mistakes. Fortunately, almost all global agencies have instituted processes for independent evaluation. Less happily, most are still grappling with how to implement lessons learned. Evaluation is important, but it needs to be followed up with strong governance reforms that require leaders to shift incentives and behavior.
Pressure for change is mounting. In November 2014, Avaaz, the United Nations Association, and other NGOs launched a campaign to reform the selection process by which the UN secretary-general is chosen, replacing an opaque process dominated by the permanent members of the Security Council with a transparent one, in which all countries have a say. Among their demands are a clear job description for the role, public scrutiny of candidates, and a shortlist with more than one candidate.
Progress is being made in some agencies. The UN High Commission for Refugees now describes its objectives in its Global Strategic Priorities and evaluates progress toward them annually. And all senior UN officials must file an annual financial-disclosure statement with the organization’s ethics office.
One notably successful agency in this regard is the African Development Bank (AfDB), which has introduced an organization-wide whistle-blowing policy, an anti-corruption and fraud framework, and an office to investigate disclosures. The AfDB will choose a new president in May, and it has not only defined the job clearly; it has also identified eight candidates and asked each to set out their strategy in advance of the election.
The world relies on international organizations to coordinate the global response to a host of critical threats, from pandemics to financial crises. An effective UN leader needs to be able to persuade member states to cooperate, manage the organization well, and deliver results. Without good leadership, any organization – even the UN – is destined to fail.
Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/comment…
Gareth Evans, former Foreign Minister of Australia (1988-1996) and President of the International Crisis Group (2000-2009), is currently Chancellor of the Australian National University.
He co-chairs the New York-based Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect and the Canberra-based Center for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.
He is the author of The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and For All and co-author of Nuclear Weapons: The State of Play 2015.
MAR 26, 2013 – Project Syndicate
Valuing the United Nations.
MELBOURNE – There is nothing like exposure to smart and idealistic young people to make jaded and world-weary policymakers and commentators feel better about the future. I have just had that experience meeting delegates to the 22nd World Model United Nations Conference, which brought together in Australia more than 2,000 students from every continent and major culture to debate peace, development, and human rights, and the role of the UN in securing them.
What impressed me most is how passionately this generation of future leaders felt about the relevance and capacity of the UN system. They are right: the UN can deliver when it comes to national security, human security, and human dignity. But, as I told them, they have a big task of persuasion ahead of them.
No organization in the world embodies as many dreams, yet provides so many frustrations, as the United Nations. For most of its history, the Security Council has been the prisoner of great-power maneuvering; the General Assembly a theater of empty rhetoric; the Economic and Social Council a largely dysfunctional irrelevance; and the Secretariat, for all the dedication and brilliance of a host of individuals, alarmingly inefficient.
My own efforts to advance the cause of UN reform when I was Australia’s foreign minister were about as quixotic and unproductive as anything I have ever tried to do. Overhauling Secretariat structures and processes to reduce duplication, waste, and irrelevance? Forget it. Changing the composition of the Security Council to ensure that it began to reflect the world of the twenty-first century, not that of the 1950’s? No way.
But I have also had some exhilarating experiences of the UN at its best. The peace plan for Cambodia in the early 1990’s, for example, dragged the country back from hellish decades of horrifying genocide and ugly and protracted civil war. Likewise, the Chemical Weapons Convention, steered through the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, is still the most robust arms-control treaty related to weapons of mass destruction ever negotiated.
Perhaps one experience stands out above all. In 2005, on the UN’s 60th anniversary, the General Assembly, convening at head of state and government level, unanimously endorsed the concept of states’ responsibility to protect populations at risk of genocide and other mass atrocity crimes. With that vote, the international community began to eradicate the shameful indifference that accompanied the Holocaust, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Darfur, and too many similar catastrophes.
What needs to be better understood publicly is just how many different roles the UN plays. The various departments, programs, organs, and agencies within the UN system address a broad spectrum of issues, from peace and security between and within states to human rights, health, education, poverty alleviation, disaster relief, refugee protection, trafficking of people and drugs, heritage protection, climate change and the environment, and much else. What is least appreciated of all is how cost-effectively these agencies – for all their limitations – perform overall, in both absolute and comparative terms.
The UN’s core functions – leaving aside peacekeeping missions but including its operations at its New York headquarters; at offices in Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi; and at the five regional commissions around the world – now employ 44,000 people at a cost of around $2.5 billion a year. That might sound like a lot, but the Tokyo Fire Department spends about the same amount each year, and the Australian Department of Human Services spends $3 billion more (with less staff). And that’s just two departments in two of the UN’s 193 member states.
Even including related programs and organs (like the UN Development Program and the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees), as well as peacekeeping activities (which involve more than 110,000 international military, police, and civilian personnel), the UN system’s total cost is still only around $30 billion a year. That is less than half the annual budget for New York City, and well under a third of the roughly $105 billion that the US military has been spending each year, on average, in Afghanistan. Wall Street employees received more in annual bonuses ($33.2 billion) in 2007, the year before the global financial meltdown.
The whole family of the UN Secretariat and related entities, together with current peacekeepers, adds up to around 215,000 people worldwide – not a small number, but less than one-eighth of the roughly 1.8 million staff employed by McDonald’s and its franchisees worldwide!
The bottom line, as the youngsters gathered in Melbourne fully understood, is that the UN provides fabulous value for what the world spends on it, and that if it ever ceased to exist, we would have to reinvent it. The downsides are real, but we need to remember the immortal words of Dag Hammarskjold, the UN’s second secretary-general: “The UN was created not to bring us to heaven, but to save us from hell.”
Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/comment…
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 20th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Mayors of cities like London, Vienna, Istanbul, are usually the second most important elected official in their countries. Why is this not the case with New York City? What is different here? I feel like having a proposed answer:
In New York City special interests are stronger then in above named cities. The reason for my writing this posting is my anger at what I see in New York City as an exaggerated importance allowed to the Yellow Cabs Owners’ Associations that seem to have a historical hold on the way the city develops public transportation. This is not just the problem of the present Mayor – Mr. Bill De Blasio, but we also saw this during the reign of his predecessor Mr. Michael Bloomberg – the Republican tycoon. Then we were not astonished by this fact.
But Mr. De Blasio is the Democrat elected for his presumably progressive ideas. Indeed – he runs all over the globe talking about the environment and climate change – just like Mr. Bloomberg did. He helped recently lead the world’s Mayors to the Vatican in order to line up behind Pope Francis to help save the Paris 2015 UNFCCC meeting. But what does he do here at home?
I am targeting my attention to the Public transportation in NYC – specifically the bus service of the MTA that cuts into the business of the yellow cabs – and their owners had the upper hand. So, New York City was probably the only large city in the world without a decent public link to its airports.
Mayor Bloomberg already started to undo the Manhattan Transit buses under the guise of improving it. The case in point is the line M15 and the introduction of the SELECT transportation to replace the EXPRESS bus stops. With three Select runs for each regular run, and the elimination of some connections to the crosstown lines – like at East 72nd street – the riders started switching to yellow cabs right back six-seven years ago. This was a boon to the yellow cabs that started suffering from the competition from the Green cabs that came into existence when sectors of the public were pointing fingers at the “Yellows” refusing to go to outer boroughs under the guise (clearly against the law) that it was dangerous.
Under De Blasio things got worse. So often you see buses skipping a scheduled departure and taking off instead with a “NOT IN SERVICE” sign going from end-to-end without passengers and leaving those in need of that transportation to turn to cabs.
So, this mayor increased the spewing of fumes and greenhouse gasses by having useless bus trips and unneeded single passenger cab runs – something only the cab owners could love.
I write this today after having observed at Third Avenue and East 45th Street how the M101 Express passed by without stopping and out of the two lines M102 and M103 both scheduled to stop there at 4:29 PM (? in itself questionable) only the M103 stopped, while the other bus passed empty – NOT IN SERVICE.
Further – the public likes the recent introduction of the new UBER service but the mayor entered in a fight to disallow this service. I never understood his position beyond – again – it would hurt existing yellow cab owners. Is he indeed wedded to them?
The recent pols show the Mayor may have a hard time getting reelected. We hope some truly progressive Democrat steps forward to challenge him.
THE UPDATE of August 20, 2015 to our original article of August 8, 2015:
Mr. De Blasio seems to have found a new outlet for his energies – the nearly naked women-beggars of Times Square. But the “Job 1″ of his, according to the Wednesday August 19, 2015 editorial of amNewYork, is “MAKE THE TRAINS RUN ON TIME.” That is the subject we hammered on in our original paper as well.
Thinking of the mayhem that lies ahead of us in New York during the second half of this September month – this because New York is in effect the Capital of the World and most Heads of State will be flocking here – De Blasio simply does not feel like up to this situation. Sorry we must keep hammering on this.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Last night – August 18, 2015 – in New York City – we went to Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center to listen to a performance of perfection – Joshua Bell playing Bach – the Chaconne dating from 1720 and the Violin concerto in E major dating to “before 1730.”
I thought this became a subject for our website because of an article by Lars Gustafsson that was part of the printed program brochure that was handed out to us. The title “THE STILLNESS OF THE WORLD BEFORE BACH” – the fact that we might think that it might seem there was no great music before Bach – BUT THERE MUST HAVE BEN SOMETHING THERE BEFORE 1720.
Then I thought = wait the steam engine was developed over a period of about a hundred years by three British inventors. The first crude steam powered machine was built by Thomas Savery, of England, in 1698. Savery built his machine to help pump water out of coal mines – only in 1781 James Watt patented a steam engine that produced continuous rotary motion.
So we can say that the development of the steam engine, that brought about the industrial revolution, went on in parallel with the development of music that started with Bach and if we may say continued with Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart.
Could we say that some form of life did exist before we started to use coal en-masse and invented concepts of economic growth and development? What was the life we replaced? What was the cultural expressions we lost when accepting the progress in music?
The Gustafsson article stimulates our thoughts.
Gustafsson – since the late 1950s has produced poetry, novels, short stories, critical essays, and editorials. He gained international recognition as a Swedish writer with literary awards such as the Prix International Charles Veillon des Essais in 1983, the Heinrich Steffens Preis in 1986, Una Vita per la Litteratura in 1989, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for poetry in 1994, and several others. He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His major works have been translated into fifteen languages, and Harold Bloom includes Gustafsson in The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (1994). John Updike offered high praise for Gustafsson’s The Death of a Beekeeper in his collection of criticism, Hugging The Shore.
Gustafsson said once “I listen. I listen and I look. Creativity knows no rules. You can get an idea for a novel from a little something someone says, or just a face you see. A rabbi once told me that when God spoke to Moses in that bush, it wasn’t in a thundering voice; it was in a very weak voice. You have to listen carefully for that voice. You have to be very sharp.”
In May 2009, Lars Gustafsson declared that he would vote for the Pirate Party in the upcoming elections for the European Parliament
Lars Gustafsson: The Stillness of the World Before Bach
There must have been a world before
the Trio Sonata in D, a world before the A minor partita,
but what kind of a world?
A Europe of vast empty spaces, unresounding,
everywhere unawakened instruments
where the Musical Offering, the Well-Tempered Clavier
never passed across the keys.
where the soprano line of the Passion
never in helpless love twined round
the gentler movements of the flute,
broad soft landscapes
where nothing breaks the stillness
but old woodcutters’ axes
the healthy barking of strong dogs in winter
and, like a bell, skates biting into fresh ice;
the swallows whirring through summer air,
the shell resounding at the child’s ear
and nowhere Bach nowhere Bach
the world in a skater’s stillness before Bach.
published in New Directions Paperback NDP656, “The Stillness of the World Before Bach: New Selected Poems” by Lars Gustafsson.
Yes – there was a harmonious world even without the sound of Bach – that is what I took from the above poem.
Surely, I did not transform this into a feeling that this was a better world – simply I picked up that it was still a livable world that could exist with simpler pleasures.
Nevertheless we are thankful to Bach for having shown us the way to perhaps a higher level of civilized pleasures. How does this translate to the Steam-engine thought that we understand today as a step backwards – because of the dependence on fossil fuels?
But this would be a wrong conclusion – it would be more correct to see that we can get all those benefits from higher technologies like we get from Bach’s music, if we only opt to use Renewable Energy and even higher tech methods that allow us similar results without that pesky dependence on oil and coal. Gustafsson was right in in opting for the Pirates in his search for true enlightenment in a corrupt world.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Why Republicans Vote for Bernie?
Monday, 17 August 2015 00:00 By Thom Hartmann, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed
Ann Coulter knows who she wants to be the Democratic nominee for president, and who that person is, well, it may surprise you.
She wants Hillary Clinton to be the nominee, and thinks that if Bernie gets the nod, he’ll beat whoever the Republicans come up with to run against him.
You won’t hear me say this often, but Ann Coulter is right.
See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.
If Bernie Sanders ends up being the Democratic nominee for president, and it looks more and more every day like he will be, his Republican opponent is going to have a very hard time beating him.
And that’s because of all the Democratic candidates running, Bernie Sanders has the best chance of capturing Republican votes.
I’ve seen how Bernie does this, up close and personal.
Despite its reputation as a place filled with liberal hippies, Vermont, like most of rural northern New England, is home to a lot of conservatives.
Anyone running for statewide office there needs to win these conservatives’ votes, and Bernie is great at doing that.
Back in 2000 when Louise and I were living in Vermont, it wasn’t all that uncommon to see his signs on the same lawn as signs that said “W for President.”
Seriously, I’m not kidding.
And as NPR’s “Morning Edition” found out last year, some of Bernie’s biggest fans are in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, the poorest and most conservative part of the state.
It’s people from the Northeast Kingdom who’ve overwhelmingly elected Bernie to almost 20 years in Congress and two straight terms as senator, and it’s people like them in the rest of the country who will probably send Bernie to the White House if he gets the Democratic nomination for president.
So why is that?
Why is Bernie Sanders, a socialist, so popular with people who should hate “socialism?”
The answer is pretty simple.
While Americans disagree on social issues like gay marriage and abortion, they’re actually pretty unified on the bread and butter economic issues that Bernie has made the core of his campaign.
In fact, a recent poll by the Progressive Change Institute, shows that Americans overwhelmingly agree with Bernie on key issues like education, health care and the economy.
Like Bernie, 75 percent of Americans poll support fair trade that “protects workers, the environment and jobs.”
Seventy-one percent support giving all students access to a debt-free college education.
Seventy-one percent support a massive infrastructure spending program aimed at rebuilding our broken roads and bridges, and putting people back to work.
Seventy percent support expanding Social Security.
Fifty-nine percent support raising taxes on the wealthy so that millionaires pay the same amount in taxes as they did during the Reagan administration.
Fifty-eight percent support breaking up the big banks.
Fifty-five percent support a financial transaction or Robin Hood tax.
Fifty-one percent support single payer health care, and so and so on.
Pretty impressive, right?
And here’s the thing – supporting Social Security, free college, breaking up the big banks, aren’t “progressive” policies, they’re just common sense, and 60 years ago they would have put Bernie Sanders smack dab in the mainstream of my father’s Republican Party.
This is why Ann Coulter is so scared of Bernie becoming the Democratic nominee.
She knows that he speaks to the populist, small “d” democratic values that everyday Americans care about, regardless of their political affiliation.
That’s the really radical part of Bernie’s 2016 campaign, and what’s what maybe, just maybe, might make him the 45th President of the United States.
This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The time for feeling powerless in the face of climate chaos is over.
From: May Boeve - 350.org
Monday, August 17, 2015
2015 is on track to be the hottest year in recorded history, and this December hundreds of world governments will meet in Paris to try to strike a global climate agreement. It will be the biggest gathering of its kind since 2009, and it’s potentially a big deal for our global movement.
In Paris our governments are supposed to agree on a shared target for climate action, based on the national plans governments have been putting together all year — but the numbers just aren’t adding up. Everything being discussed will allow too many communities that have polluted the least to be devastated by floods, rising sea levels and other disasters.
This has the makings of a global failure of ambition — at a moment when renewable energy is becoming a revolutionary economic force that could power a just transition away from fossil fuels.
Join us in telling world leaders to keep fossil fuels underground and finance a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
Our movement has grown tremendously — and it shows every time a new leader stands up to declare we must keep fossil fuels under ground, or a university, church or pension fund divests from fossil fuels. The problem is the power of the fossil fuel industry.
The Paris negotiations could potentially send a signal that world governments are serious about keeping fossil fuels in the ground. If they fail, it will embolden the fossil fuel industry and expose more communities to toxic extraction and climate disasters.
The solutions are obvious: we need to stop digging up and burning fossil fuels, start building renewable energy everywhere we can, and make sure communities on the front lines of climate change have the resources they need to respond to the crisis.
This could be a turning point — if we push for it. Join our global call for action to world governments, telling them to commit to keeping at least 80% of fossil fuels underground, and financing a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
The time for feeling powerless in the face of climate chaos is over. No matter what happens in the negotiating halls, we must build power to hold them accountable to the principles of justice and science.
After many months of consultation with our global network, here is the plan for what I call “The Road Through Paris”: the plan to grow our movement and hold world leaders accountable to the action we need.
First, in September we will launch a global framework to grow the movement before and after the Paris talks. On September 10th, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and others will be joined by global movement leaders in New York City to lay out our vision for the road ahead. Then on September 26th communities across the globe will hold workshops to plan for the coming months of action. After that, I think we’ll see several months of escalating activity as communities drive the message home that we can’t wait for action.
The talks in Paris start on November 30th, and run for 2 weeks. But before the talks start, the world will stand together in a weekend of global action, paired with an enormous march in the streets of Paris. During the talks, 350′s team on the ground will do their best to help keep you in the loop on the most important developments. And when the talks wrap up, we’re planning a big action in Paris on December 12th to make sure the people — not the politicians — have the last word.
But most importantly, we won’t stop there. I want you to mark your calendars for the month of April in 2016. That’s when we will mobilize in a global wave of action unlike any we’ve seen before. Not one big march in one city, not a scattering of local actions — but rather a wave of historic national and continent-wide mobilizations targeting the fossil fuel projects that must be kept in the ground, and backing the energy solutions that will take their place.
In the 6 years 350.org has been around, this is the most ambitious plan we’ve ever proposed. But ambition is what is called for, along with courage, faith in each other and the readiness to respond when disaster strikes, plans change, or politicians fail to lead.
We are nearer than ever to the changes we’ve been fighting to see. I hope to stand with you in the coming months to see them through.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Breaking Latest forecast suggests ‘Godzilla El Niño’ may be coming to California
By Rong-Gong Lin II
The strengthening El Niño in the Pacific Ocean has the potential to become one of the most powerful on record, as warming ocean waters surge toward the Americas, setting up a pattern that could bring once-in-a-generation storms this winter to drought-parched California.
The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that all computer models are now predicting a strong El Niño to peak in the late fall or early winter. A host of observations have led scientists to conclude that “collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic features reflect a significant and strengthening El Niño.”
At the moment, this year’s El Niño is stronger than it was at this time of year in 1997. Areas in red and white represent the warmest sea-surface temperatures above the average. (Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at La Cañada Flintridge – their climatologist Bill Patzert)
To see the graphs – please go to Los Angeles Times or Rolling Stones – our source at:
Patzert said El Niño’s signal in the ocean “right now is stronger than it was in 1997,” the summer in which the most powerful El Niño on record developed.
“Everything now is going to the right way for El Niño,” Patzert said. “If this lives up to its potential, this thing can bring a lot of floods, mudslides and mayhem.”
After the strongest El Niño on record muscled up through the summer of 1997, the following winter gave Southern California double its annual rainfall and dumped double the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, an essential source of precipitation for the state’s water supply, Patzert said.
A strong El Niño can shift a subtropical jet stream that normally pours rain over the jungles of southern Mexico and Central America toward California and the southern United States.
But so much rain all at once has proved devastating to California in the past. In early 1998, storms brought widespread flooding and mudslides, causing 17 deaths and more than half a billion dollars in damage in California. Downtown L.A. got nearly a year’s worth of rain in February 1998.
The effects of this muscular El Niño – nicknamed “Bruce Lee” by one blogger for the National Weather Service – are already being felt worldwide. While a strong El Niño can bring heavy winter rains to California and the southern United States, it can also bring dry weather elsewhere in the world.
Already, El Niño is being blamed for drought conditions in parts of the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia, as occurred in 1997-98.
Drought is also persistent in Central America. Water levels are now so low in the waterways that make up the Panama Canal that officials recently announced limits on traffic through the passageway that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
El Niño also influenced the heavy rainstorms that effectively ended drought conditions in Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.
There are a couple reasons why scientists say El Niño is gaining strength.
First, ocean temperatures west of Peru are continuing to climb. The temperatures in a benchmark location of the Pacific Ocean were 3.4 degrees above the average as of Aug. 5. That’s slightly higher than it was on Aug. 6, 1997, when it was 3.2 degrees above normal.
The mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean is also bigger and deeper than it was at this point in 1997, Patzert said.
Second, the so-called trade winds that normally keep the ocean waters west of Peru cool — by pushing warm water further west toward Indonesia — are weakening.
That’s allowing warm water to flow eastward toward the Americas, giving El Niño more strength.
For this year’s El Niño to truly rival its 1997 counterpart, there still needs to be “a major collapse in trade winds from August to November as we saw in 1997,” Patzert said.
“We’re waiting for the big trade wind collapse,” Patzert said. “If it does, it could be stronger than 1997.”
There is a small chance such a collapse may not happen.
“There’s always a possibility these trade winds could surprise us and come back,” Patzert said.
Overall, the Climate Prediction Center forecast a greater-than-90% chance that El Niño will continue through this winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and about an 85% chance it will last into the early spring.
In California, officials have cautioned the public against imagining that El Niño will suddenly end the state’s chronic water challenges. A forecast is never a sure thing, they say.
And they also want to remind the public that California has been dry for much of the last 15 years. Even if California gets a wet winter this year, it could be followed by another severe multi-year drought.
“We certainly wouldn’t want people to think that, ‘Gee, because it’s an El Niño this year, it’s going to be wet and therefore we can stop conserving water,” Jeanine Jones, the California Department of Water Resources’ deputy drought manager, said in July.
Another problem is that the Pacific Ocean west of California is substantially warmer than it was in 1997. That could mean that though El Niño-enhanced precipitation fell as snow in early 1998, storms hitting the north could cause warm rain to fall this winter. Such a situation would not be good news “for long-term water storage in the snowpack,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at Stanford University.
Drought officials prefer snow in the mountains in the winter because it slowly melts during the spring and summer and can trickle at a gentle speed into the state’s largest reservoirs in Northern California. Too much rain all at once in the mountains in the winter can force officials to flush excess water to the ocean to keep dams from overflowing.
Swain said it’s important to keep in mind that all El Niño events are different, and just because the current El Niño has the potential to be the strongest on record “doesn’t necessarily mean that the effects in California will be the same.”
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“A strong El Niño is very likely at this point, namely because we’ve essentially reached the threshold already, but a wet winter is never a guarantee in California,” Swain said in an email.
“I think a good way to think about it is this: There is essentially no other piece of information that is more useful in predicting California winter precipitation several months in advance than the existence of a strong El Niño event,” Swain said. “But it’s still just one piece of the puzzle. So while the likelihood of a wet winter is increasing, we still can’t rule out other outcomes.”
Updated Aug. 13, 8:10 a.m.: In another sign that El Niño is gaining strength, sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean have risen to their highest level so far this year.
That temperature increase — 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the average — was recorded Aug. 5 by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center at a benchmark location in the Pacific. That is slightly higher than it was on Aug. 6, 1997, when it was 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.
Updated Aug. 13, 9:29 a.m.: “This could be among the strongest El Niños in the historical record dating back to 1950,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.
California will soon have toughest shower head requirements in nation
Another El Niño sign: Ocean temps hit highest level of the year
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here
By Eric Holthaus, Rolling Stone
09 August 15
The worst predicted impacts of climate change are starting to happen — and much faster than climate scientists expected
istorians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. In Washington state’s Olympic National Park, the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory. London reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day ever recorded in the U.K.; The Guardian briefly had to pause its live blog of the heat wave because its computer servers overheated. In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide.
On July 20th, James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public’s attention in the summer of 1988, issued a bombshell: He and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065. The authors included this chilling warning: If emissions aren’t cut, “We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.”
Eric Rignot, a climate scientist at NASA and the University of California-Irvine and a co-author on Hansen’s study, said their new research doesn’t necessarily change the worst-case scenario on sea-level rise, it just makes it much more pressing to think about and discuss, especially among world leaders. In particular, says Rignot, the new research shows a two-degree Celsius rise in global temperature — the previously agreed upon “safe” level of climate change — “would be a catastrophe for sea-level rise.”
Hansen’s new study also shows how complicated and unpredictable climate change can be. Even as global ocean temperatures rise to their highest levels in recorded history, some parts of the ocean, near where ice is melting exceptionally fast, are actually cooling, slowing ocean circulation currents and sending weather patterns into a frenzy. Sure enough, a persistently cold patch of ocean is starting to show up just south of Greenland, exactly where previous experimental predictions of a sudden surge of freshwater from melting ice expected it to be. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, recently said of the unexpectedly sudden Atlantic slowdown, “This is yet another example of where observations suggest that climate model predictions may be too conservative when it comes to the pace at which certain aspects of climate change are proceeding.”
Since storm systems and jet streams in the United States and Europe partially draw their energy from the difference in ocean temperatures, the implication of one patch of ocean cooling while the rest of the ocean warms is profound. Storms will get stronger, and sea-level rise will accelerate. Scientists like Hansen only expect extreme weather to get worse in the years to come, though Mann said it was still “unclear” whether recent severe winters on the East Coast are connected to the phenomenon.
And yet, these aren’t even the most disturbing changes happening to the Earth’s biosphere that climate scientists are discovering this year. For that, you have to look not at the rising sea levels but to what is actually happening within the oceans themselves.
Water temperatures this year in the North Pacific have never been this high for this long over such a large area — and it is already having a profound effect on marine life.
Eighty-year-old Roger Thomas runs whale-watching trips out of San Francisco. On an excursion earlier this year, Thomas spotted 25 humpbacks and three blue whales. During a survey on July 4th, federal officials spotted 115 whales in a single hour near the Farallon Islands — enough to issue a boating warning. Humpbacks are occasionally seen offshore in California, but rarely so close to the coast or in such numbers. Why are they coming so close to shore? Exceptionally warm water has concentrated the krill and anchovies they feed on into a narrow band of relatively cool coastal water. The whales are having a heyday. “It’s unbelievable,” Thomas told a local paper. “Whales are all over
Last fall, in northern Alaska, in the same part of the Arctic where Shell is planning to drill for oil, federal scientists discovered 35,000 walruses congregating on a single beach. It was the largest-ever documented “haul out” of walruses, and a sign that sea ice, their favored habitat, is becoming harder and harder to find.
Marine life is moving north, adapting in real time to the warming ocean. Great white sharks have been sighted breeding near Monterey Bay, California, the farthest north that’s ever been known to occur. A blue marlin was caught last summer near Catalina Island — 1,000 miles north of its typical range. Across California, there have been sightings of non-native animals moving north, such as Mexican red crabs.
No species may be as uniquely endangered as the one most associated with the Pacific Northwest, the salmon. Every two weeks, Bill Peterson, an oceanographer and senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Oregon, takes to the sea to collect data he uses to forecast the return of salmon. What he’s been seeing this year is deeply troubling.
Salmon are crucial to their coastal ecosystem like perhaps few other species on the planet. A significant portion of the nitrogen in West Coast forests has been traced back to salmon, which can travel hundreds of miles upstream to lay their eggs. The largest trees on Earth simply wouldn’t exist without salmon.
But their situation is precarious. This year, officials in California are bringing salmon downstream in convoys of trucks, because river levels are too low and the temperatures too warm for them to have a reasonable chance of surviving. One species, the winter-run Chinook salmon, is at a particularly increased risk of decline in the next few years, should the warm water persist offshore.
“You talk to fishermen, and they all say: ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before,’?” says Peterson. “So when you have no experience with something like this, it gets like, ‘What the hell’s going on?’?”
Atmospheric scientists increasingly believe that the exceptionally warm waters over the past months are the early indications of a phase shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a cyclical warming of the North Pacific that happens a few times each century. Positive phases of the PDO have been known to last for 15 to 20 years, during which global warming can increase at double the rate as during negative phases of the PDO. It also makes big El Niños, like this year’s, more likely. The nature of PDO phase shifts is unpredictable — climate scientists simply haven’t yet figured out precisely what’s behind them and why they happen when they do. It’s not a permanent change — the ocean’s temperature will likely drop from these record highs, at least temporarily, some time over the next few years — but the impact on marine species will be lasting, and scientists have pointed to the PDO as a global-warming preview.
“The climate [change] models predict this gentle, slow increase in temperature,” says Peterson, “but the main problem we’ve had for the last few years is the variability is so high. As scientists, we can’t keep up with it, and neither can the animals.” Peterson likens it to a boxer getting pummeled round after round: “At some point, you knock them down, and the fight is over.”
Attendant with this weird wildlife behavior is a stunning drop in the number of plankton — the basis of the ocean’s food chain. In July, another major study concluded that acidifying oceans are likely to have a “quite traumatic” impact on plankton diversity, with some species dying out while others flourish. As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it’s converted into carbonic acid — and the pH of seawater declines. According to lead author Stephanie Dutkiewicz of MIT, that trend means “the whole food chain is going to be different.”
The Hansen study may have gotten more attention, but the Dutkiewicz study, and others like it, could have even more dire implications for our future. The rapid changes Dutkiewicz and her colleagues are observing have shocked some of their fellow scientists into thinking that yes, actually, we’re heading toward the worst-case scenario. Unlike a prediction of massive sea-level rise just decades away, the warming and acidifying oceans represent a problem that seems to have kick-started a mass extinction on the same time scale.
Jacquelyn Gill is a paleoecologist at the University of Maine. She knows a lot about extinction, and her work is more relevant than ever. Essentially, she’s trying to save the species that are alive right now by learning more about what killed off the ones that aren’t. The ancient data she studies shows “really compelling evidence that there can be events of abrupt climate change that can happen well within human life spans. We’re talking less than a decade.”
For the past year or two, a persistent change in winds over the North Pacific has given rise to what meteorologists and oceanographers are calling “the blob” — a highly anomalous patch of warm water between Hawaii, Alaska and Baja California that’s thrown the marine ecosystem into a tailspin. Amid warmer temperatures, plankton numbers have plummeted, and the myriad species that depend on them have migrated or seen their own numbers dwindle.
Significant northward surges of warm water have happened before, even frequently. El Niño, for example, does this on a predictable basis. But what’s happening this year appears to be something new. Some climate scientists think that the wind shift is linked to the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice over the past few years, which separate research has shown makes weather patterns more likely to get stuck.
A similar shift in the behavior of the jet stream has also contributed to the California drought and severe polar vortex winters in the Northeast over the past two years. An amplified jet-stream pattern has produced an unusual doldrum off the West Coast that’s persisted for most of the past 18 months. Daniel Swain, a Stanford University meteorologist, has called it the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” — weather patterns just aren’t supposed to last this long.
What’s increasingly uncontroversial among scientists is that in many ecosystems, the impacts of the current off-the-charts temperatures in the North Pacific will linger for years, or longer. The largest ocean on Earth, the Pacific is exhibiting cyclical variability to greater extremes than other ocean basins. While the North Pacific is currently the most dramatic area of change in the world’s oceans, it’s not alone: Globally, 2014 was a record-setting year for ocean temperatures, and 2015 is on pace to beat it soundly, boosted by the El Niño in the Pacific. Six percent of the world’s reefs could disappear before the end of the decade, perhaps permanently, thanks to warming waters.
Since warmer oceans expand in volume, it’s also leading to a surge in sea-level rise. One recent study showed a slowdown in Atlantic Ocean currents, perhaps linked to glacial melt from Greenland, that caused a four-inch rise in sea levels along the Northeast coast in just two years, from 2009 to 2010. To be sure, it seems like this sudden and unpredicted surge was only temporary, but scientists who studied the surge estimated it to be a 1-in-850-year event, and it’s been blamed on accelerated beach erosion “almost as significant as some hurricane events.”
Possibly worse than rising ocean temperatures is the acidification of the waters. Acidification has a direct effect on mollusks and other marine animals with hard outer bodies: A striking study last year showed that, along the West Coast, the shells of tiny snails are already dissolving, with as-yet-unknown consequences on the ecosystem. One of the study’s authors, Nina Bednaršek, told Science magazine that the snails’ shells, pitted by the acidifying ocean, resembled “cauliflower” or “sandpaper.” A similarly striking study by more than a dozen of the world’s top ocean scientists this July said that the current pace of increasing carbon emissions would force an “effectively irreversible” change on ocean ecosystems during this century. In as little as a decade, the study suggested, chemical changes will rise significantly above background levels in nearly half of the world’s oceans.
“I used to think it was kind of hard to make things in the ocean go extinct,” James Barry of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California told the Seattle Times in 2013. “But this change we’re seeing is happening so fast it’s almost instantaneous.”
Thanks to the pressure we’re putting on the planet’s ecosystem — warming, acidification and good old-fashioned pollution — the oceans are set up for several decades of rapid change. Here’s what could happen next.
The combination of excessive nutrients from agricultural runoff, abnormal wind patterns and the warming oceans is already creating seasonal dead zones in coastal regions when algae blooms suck up most of the available oxygen. The appearance of low-oxygen regions has doubled in frequency every 10 years since 1960 and should continue to grow over the coming decades at an even greater rate.
So far, dead zones have remained mostly close to the coasts, but in the 21st century, deep-ocean dead zones could become common. These low-oxygen regions could gradually expand in size — potentially thousands of miles across — which would force fish, whales, pretty much everything upward. If this were to occur, large sections of the temperate deep oceans would suffer should the oxygen-free layer grow so pronounced that it stratifies, pushing surface ocean warming into overdrive and hindering upwelling of cooler, nutrient-rich deeper water.
Enhanced evaporation from the warmer oceans will create heavier downpours, perhaps destabilizing the root systems of forests, and accelerated runoff will pour more excess nutrients into coastal areas, further enhancing dead zones. In the past year, downpours have broken records in Long Island, Phoenix, Detroit, Baltimore, Houston and Pensacola, Florida.
Evidence for the above scenario comes in large part from our best understanding of what happened 250 million years ago, during the “Great Dying,” when more than 90 percent of all oceanic species perished after a pulse of carbon dioxide and methane from land-based sources began a period of profound climate change. The conditions that triggered “Great Dying” took hundreds of thousands of years to develop. But humans have been emitting carbon dioxide at a much quicker rate, so the current mass extinction only took 100 years or so to kick-start.
With all these stressors working against it, a hypoxic feedback loop could wind up destroying some of the oceans’ most species-rich ecosystems within our lifetime. A recent study by Sarah Moffitt of the University of California-Davis said it could take the ocean thousands of years to recover. “Looking forward for my kid, people in the future are not going to have the same ocean that I have today,” Moffitt said.
As you might expect, having tickets to the front row of a global environmental catastrophe is taking an increasingly emotional toll on scientists, and in some cases pushing them toward advocacy. Of the two dozen or so scientists I interviewed for this piece, virtually all drifted into apocalyptic language at some point.
For Simone Alin, an oceanographer focusing on ocean acidification at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, the changes she’s seeing hit close to home. The Puget Sound is a natural laboratory for the coming decades of rapid change because its waters are naturally more acidified than most of the world’s marine ecosystems.
The local oyster industry here is already seeing serious impacts from acidifying waters and is going to great lengths to avoid a total collapse. Alin calls oysters, which are non-native, the canary in the coal mine for the Puget Sound: “A canary is also not native to a coal mine, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good indicator of change.”
Though she works on fundamental oceanic changes every day, the Dutkiewicz study on the impending large-scale changes to plankton caught her off-guard: “This was alarming to me because if the basis of the food web changes, then?.?.?.?everything could change, right?”
Alin’s frank discussion of the looming oceanic apocalypse is perhaps a product of studying unfathomable change every day. But four years ago, the birth of her twins “heightened the whole issue,” she says. “I was worried enough about these problems before having kids that I maybe wondered whether it was a good idea. Now, it just makes me feel crushed.”
Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and evangelical Christian, moved from Canada to Texas with her husband, a pastor, precisely because of its vulnerability to climate change. There, she engages with the evangelical community on science — almost as a missionary would. But she’s already planning her exit strategy: “If we continue on our current pathway, Canada will be home for us long term. But the majority of people don’t have an exit strategy.?.?.?.?So that’s who I’m here trying to help.”
James Hansen, the dean of climate scientists, retired from NASA in 2013 to become a climate activist. But for all the gloom of the report he just put his name to, Hansen is actually somewhat hopeful. That’s because he knows that climate change has a straightforward solution: End fossil-fuel use as quickly as possible. If tomorrow, the leaders of the United States and China would agree to a sufficiently strong, coordinated carbon tax that’s also applied to imports, the rest of the world would have no choice but to sign up. This idea has already been pitched to Congress several times, with tepid bipartisan support. Even though a carbon tax is probably a long shot, for Hansen, even the slim possibility that bold action like this might happen is enough for him to devote the rest of his life to working to achieve it. On a conference call with reporters in July, Hansen said a potential joint U.S.-China carbon tax is more important than whatever happens at the United Nations climate talks in Paris.
One group Hansen is helping is Our Children’s Trust, a legal advocacy organization that’s filed a number of novel challenges on behalf of minors under the idea that climate change is a violation of intergenerational equity — children, the group argues, are lawfully entitled to inherit a healthy planet.
A separate challenge to U.S. law is being brought by a former EPA scientist arguing that carbon dioxide isn’t just a pollutant (which, under the Clean Air Act, can dissipate on its own), it’s also a toxic substance. In general, these substances have exceptionally long life spans in the environment, cause an unreasonable risk, and therefore require remediation. In this case, remediation may involve planting vast numbers of trees or restoring wetlands to bury excess carbon underground.
Even if these novel challenges succeed, it will take years before a bend in the curve is noticeable. But maybe that’s enough. When all feels lost, saving a few species will feel like a triumph.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 9th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Democrats are also looking forward to Thursday’s debate among the Republican presidential candidates — and making demands.
The Democratic governor of California – Edmund G. Brown – released a two-page letter Wednesday in advance of last Thursday’s planned GOP debate in Cleveland. He says California is hotter and drier than it’s ever been, making wildfires more severe and extending the fire season.
The Governor was asking the GOP candidates what they plan to do about climate change.
“Longer fire seasons, extreme weather and severe droughts aren’t on the horizon, they’re all here — and here to stay,” Brown said in his letter. “This is the new normal. The climate is changing. Given the challenge and the stakes, my question for you is simple: What are you going to do about it? What is your plan to deal with the threat of climate change?”
In general, the Republicans have criticized President Obama’s climate change plans as government overreach that will cut jobs in the energy sector and increase utility bills for middle class Americans.
But the Fox team under the leadership of Ms. Megin Kelly did not ask the candidates a single question in that direction.
So what is the candidates stand on these issues? Would they rather give up California then take a stand? Or the silence at that debate was imposed by the Republican National Committee.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 7th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The Republican Party of the USA is the guardian of Corporate America in effect it is owned by the corporations and we heard this from last night’s stage at the Cleveland Ohio Arena – the future home of the Republican National Convention that will be called to nominate the party’s candidate for the 2016 Presidential elections. We heard this from Donald Trump who said in the open that he gives money to any candidate just for the asking – he gave also to some of the others on that stage. He even gave to the foundation of the Clintons – that is how he owns them. Hillary came to his wedding – she had to – she got his money.
All the Senators on the stage are corporate owned he established. That explains many things. He thinks he would be the best President to save the country from this oppression from banks and Wall Street because he is one of those that know the system from the inside and he knew how to work with them to his advantage which he demonstrated in his corporations that went through four bankruptcies without himself ever have gone bankrupt.
The real problem with the US is this tremendous debt – in major part owed to China. He feels he is qualified to handle this issue more then any of those Corporate owned other competitors – he even is not promising to back any of them if they if they are nominated – he is savvy. Ever heard such a rebellion and ever figured that he is on solid ground in this rebellion?
Now about FOX NEWS – their owner and management are sworn Republicans and them running last night’s show turned it into a family affair rather then an event open to the Nation. Into this milieu intruded Donald Trump and rather then seeing in him the revolutionary they saw the sensation aspect but fought him in order to please the right-wing party base. They sat up a moderator team centered around a good looking monumental blonde and asked only questions on social issues that please that “base.”
THERE WERE NO REAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ECONOMY, ENERGY INDEPENDENCE, THE COMING GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE DISASTERS OR ANY OTHER REAL QUESTION ABOUT MATTERS OF GLOBAL CONCERNS. Instead we heard a question about if the candidate is getting his orders from God and innumerable attacks on Obamacare and the agreement with Iran.
My wife wrote me from Vienna that it is good Fox News cannot be seen live on local TV – so the locals do not see the US in all its political backwardness.
But, what is worse, seemingly no effort was made to open up the show to the non-initiated even here in the US. For example, in Manhattan NY it is known that Channel 5 is Fox News – but they did not show there – they moved it instead to one of their side channels 43 or 44. This while on Channel five they announced that they will give a summary of the first debate at 6 PM – and they did not do even that. I attest to it that mind-numbbing programs went on at least till 8:30 PM. Even I lost because of this the first debate before I found their whereabouts.
But, despite this Republican Leadership clear positioning as roadblock to American Progress, this show was NOT a total loss.
Starting already in the 5 PM “HAPPY HOUR or DRIVING time slot for what was presented as the second tier panel, there was an unprogrammed breakout by Carly Fiorina who was listed originally as 14th. She showed she could content-wise measure up to Mr. Trump, but could also be a leader something that he did not develop. Right there – like in the physical tests for military officer school – she got from among the contestants some that were ready to accept her leadership – this from no less then former Governor of Texas – Mr. Perry – whose starting ranking was 11th. So clearly the rankings will change and we expect Ms. Fiorina to be part of the upper tier at next meeting that will be handled by true outsiders from CNN.
The only other true discovery on those two panels was Dr. Benjamin Solomon “Ben” Carson, Sr. (born September 18, 1951) he is an American author, political pundit, and retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon. On May 4, 2015, Carson announced he was running for the Republican nomination in the 2016 Presidential election at a rally in Detroit, his hometown.
Carson was the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head. In 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.
After delivering a widely publicized speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, he became a popular conservative figure in political media for his views on social and political issues.
He was the one true intellectual on the panels and on the main panel the only non-lily-white person. In effect he is black and the right-wing counterpart to President Obama. He speaks slowly and each word is a thought out pearl. He was fifth on the ingoing list.
At some point he showed impatience and noted to the moderators that they do not direct questions to him. When he got a chance he said that color of skin is not the man and as a neurosurgeon he worked with the real man. Finally, his parting sentences noted that he is the only one on the panel who knows to separate Siamese twins and to remove half brain – but seemingly in Washington he was beaten to it.
I believe that whoever becomes next President – Democrat or Republican – ought to bring in Dr. Carson as a Consultant.
Our own evaluation of the results:
THERE WERE WINNERS: FIORINA, TRUMP, KASICH, CARSON, RUBIO, CHRISTIE
AND CLEAR LOSERS – BUSH, WALKER, PAUL, AND HOLD OUTS – HACKABEE, CRUZ.
THE QUESTION IS WHO WILL DROP OUT TO MAKE PLACE FOR FIORINA. IT SHOULD NOT BE KASICH OR CHRISTIE – SO IT MUST BE PAUL.
CNN SAID EARLIER THAT THEY WERE AIMING AT TWO GROUPS OF EIGHT. A PROBLEM AS BESIDES PAUL TWO MORE HAVE TO BE TAKEN OUT ??
We believe that THE ONE TO WIN IN CLEVELAND NEXT TIME – the real decision making event – WILL NOT BE TRUMP, BUSH, OR WALKER -
THE FIELD IS NOW WIDE OPEN FOR THE REMAINING EIGHT FROM THE ABOVE ELEVEN.
For further evaluation – please read what we mainly got from CNN – the true MEDIA winner from evaluating last nights panels.
CNN ARTICLE FRIDAY, August 7, 2015 – that is built on the FOX NEWS HELD REPUBLICAN DEBATE that THE FOX was not able to review by themselves.
SO, WHO WON THE REPUBLICAN DEBATE?
By Gloria Borger, CNN Chief Political Analyst
(CNN)CNN Opinion asked a range of contributors to give their take on the first Republican Party debate of the 2016 presidential campaign, and to pick their biggest winners and losers from the night. The opinions expressed in these commentaries are solely their own.
David Gergen: Trump, a gift to the GOP
Donald Trump may ultimately wind up damaging Republican chances next November but yesterday he gave the GOP presidential candidates a huge gift: his presence generated the biggest, most attentive opening day audience in American politics. Each of the 17 candidates had a chance to audition before a massive number of voters, not to mention donors and journalists. (The debate had a record 24 million viewers, according to Nielsen.)
As a group, the candidates generally rose to the occasion. Yes, there was still too much ideological rigidity, too many canned answers and too little attention to ways that technology and globalization are reshaping the United States. But with nine sitting or former governors and five sitting or former Senators among the candidates, the GOP could showcase plenty of talent.
For my money, there were two candidates who helped themselves the most. One was Governor John Kasich of Ohio: while sticking to conservative principles, he gave voice to common sense Midwestern values as well as a moral commitment to Americans living in the shadows. In effect, he tapped into some of the same anger that Trump has understood but turned it in a warm, positive direction.
The other big winner was Carly Fiorina whose performance in the afternoon debate was universally acclaimed in the press and social media. The GOP ought to hope that she moves up the polls so that women can see at least one representative on center stage — and in her case, one who is articulate, sophisticated and strong.
As for Trump himself, the old rules would say he hurt himself last night, especially with opening answers that came across as narcissistic and boorish. But with so much free floating anger and frustration in today’s politics, the old rules aren’t as powerful as they once were. Who knows? He could deliver yet another big audience when CNN hosts a second round of debates in September.
David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been a White House adviser to four presidents. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a professor of public service and co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at The Harvard Kennedy School. Follow him on Twitter: @david_gergen. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
Dan Pfeiffer: The debate was Trumped
This was the Donald’s debate. He dominated the discussion, he was the focus of the moderators, social media traffic spiked every time he opened his mouth. Other than Rand Paul (who is apparently still running for President), all of his fellow candidates went out of their way to avoid stoking his ire. Two years after the RNC’s post-election autopsy declared that the only path to victory is a more inclusive tone, Trump has pushed the party further to the right on immigration than it has ever been before. Smart professionals in the Republican Party cringed at every mention of illegals, deportations and walls being built.
Trump may have hurt himself or helped himself, no one really knows because he defies all the traditional rules of politics (he probably hurt himself a lot). But his effect on the field is clear. This is Donald Trump’s party and all the other candidates just seem glad to be invited.
Winner: Marco Rubio. On a night of very uneven performances, Rubio showed flashes of why Democrats fear him most. He has had a tough few months, losing a lot of altitude and momentum, and basically disappearing from the discussion, but he gave Republicans a reason to remember his name tonight.
Loser: Jeb Bush. After several bad weeks, Jeb Bush could really have used a good night. He didn’t have it. Bush, like Huntsman in ’12 and Dukakis in ’88, seems to shrink under the klieg lights. He was nervous, halting, and just painfully uninspiring. Politics in our polarized age is about motivation and Bush gave no indication that he could motivate anyone to get out of bed and vote on a rainy day in November.
No one outshines Donald Trump at GOP debate
Dan Pfeiffer is a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama and served in the White House in a variety of roles, including communications director.
Tara Setmayer: It’s all about relatability
Clear, concise, and a command of the issues. No, I’m not talking about the Donald or Jeb Bush (who terribly underperformed by the way). I’m referring to Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Although he was the youngest contender on the debate stage, he certainly came across as the adult in the room. On a night filled with plenty of zingers and testy exchanges, Rubio was able to rise above the bickering and overly produced bravado. He was prepared, comfortable and most importantly, relatable.
The spats on stage between Trump and Bush, Chris Christie and Rand Paul may have made for an entertaining spectacle, but none of that is worth a grain of political salt if voters cannot relate to you. The relatability factor sunk Romney in 2012 and is one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest vulnerabilities heading into 2016. In contrast, Senator Rubio’s own authentic life story as the son of Cuban immigrant parents, one a bartender, the other a maid, rising up from nothing to become a senator and stand on stage as the possible next President of the United States, represents the very essence of the American dream for anyone who believes in the limitless opportunities this country provides.
In one of Rubio’s strongest and most memorable lines of the night, he said: “Who is Hillary Clinton to lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck … who is Hillary Clinton to lecture me about repaying students loans?” Exactly.
If Rubio ends up the nominee, imagine the contrast on the debate stage a year from now between Clinton and Rubio. One represents the future, the other a relic of yesteryear. That’s a matchup the Clinton camp surely hopes to avoid and justifiably so.
Bush on the other hand had a disappointing performance. He came across as unsure, defensive and aloof. If Jeb comes across like that again in the upcoming CNN debate in September, watch for supporters on the fence between Bush and Rubio begin to move toward the junior senator from Florida.
Thursday’s winner: Marco Rubio
The loser: Jeb Bush
Breakout performance: Carly Fiorina
Tara Setmayer is former communication’s director for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, and a CNN political commentator.
Opinion: Donald Trump was terrible
Mel Robbins: Trump won.
The first GOP debate is over and Trump is still winning. He dominated the polls leading into the debate. He dominated the pre-debate commentary. He was the only candidate the press greeted when he arrived in Ohio. And most importantly, the rest of the field wasn’t that memorable. Yes Trump’s shtick works best when he’s on the campaign trail, not the debate stage but Trump didn’t do too much damage. At least not enough to knock him from his lead. Plus, Fox pounded him with “gotcha’ questions – like – “when did you become a Republican” yet Trump stood firm. He won the night because even despite ridiculous assertions like ” building a big beautiful door” in the wall he’d build fencing off Mexico, he managed to hold his lead among nine other GOP candidates.
Keep in mind, timing is essential in a campaign. And, at this stage in the race, the public is not yet focused on the election. We’re focused on paying bills, the end of summer, the start of school, basically – everything but the election. So Trump grabbed our attention early and even though Rubio, Christie and Kasich had a good night, Trump still was more memorable; which means at this stage in the race he won; for now.
Fox pushed an anti-choice agenda over and over and over – and the candidates took the baton and ran with it. From Scott Walker and the imaginary fetus he kept cradling as he talked about his anti-choice views, to Jeb Bush bragging about creating a pro-life culture in Florida despite his state’s record on rising births to unwed mothers to Huckabee pushing for a personhood amendment. Women, women’s health and a woman’s ability to make decisions about her body without men and the government interfering – were under attack.
When men control women’s bodies and our health decisions, every woman loses. And women lost tonight as these 10 men lectured America about what they’d do to limit our control over our bodies if they were president. When Carly Fiorina was asked about Jeb Bush’s quote (which he’s repudiated) that he was “not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” she said it was a “foolish” thing to say. Actually, it’s not foolish, it’s downright scary.
Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator, legal analyst, best-selling author and keynote speaker. In 2014, she was named outstanding news talk-radio host by the Gracie Awards.
Donald Trump slams Megyn Kelly
William Howell: Debaters run from race issue
For two hours, the top 10 Republican candidates held forth on the Fourth Amendment rights of unborn children, the imperatives of regulatory reform, the various manifestations of weakness shown by the Obama-Clinton foreign policy of the past six years, the need for a stronger military and simpler tax code, and the merits of a wall (or is it a fence?) along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Hardly a mention was made of race. Ben Carson brought it up only to dismiss its significance. No one confronted the violence, poverty, and incarceration rates that plague black and Hispanic communities. With the exception of Rand Paul’s last-minute shout out to Ferguson and Detroit, the candidates turned away from the bubbling cauldron of anger and alienation—expressed intermittently in resistance and deviance—that has captured national headlines for the last year.
At the 92nd minute, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly asked Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker about the Black Lives Matter movement. He responded with some abbreviated thoughts on the importance of police training. And there, the issue dropped flat, and the station cut to commercial.
Repeatedly, the panel of moderators needled candidates for their perceived weaknesses in an expected showdown with Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Newsflash: For a party that has failed to win a majority of the popular vote in 5 of the past 6 presidential elections, in a country where whites’ share of the electorate is shrinking, Republicans had better find a way to talk about race.
Winner: Marco Rubio. Cool, level-headed and sharp.
Loser: Donald Trump. Unable to command the stage, held in check by debate protocols and vacuous, this one blustered to audience boos
William Howell is the Sydney Stein professor in American politics at the University of Chicago.
Donna Brazile: Not a real debate, but an audition
With Donald Trump occupying center stage at the first presidential primary debate, the other nine contenders had to look for ways to interject their own ideas or to try to avoid taking a direct hit from the front runner. The task wasn’t easy.
From calling for a big wall to solve our broken immigration system to repealing Obamacare without an alternative, some of the candidates took up a lot of unnecessary room on that debate stage, especially when you consider how much they overlap, at least policy-wise. While they offered muted versions of conservative policies, Donald Trump, though, was the one who was saying those things right out loud.
It’s a bunch of guys saying the exact same thing, and trying to impress people with how well they say it. This wasn’t a debate, it was an audition to remain viable until the next debate or forum.
Biggest losers: Rand Paul and Chris Christie for their bitter clash over NSA surveillance and terrorism. They offered testosterone with a bit of Tabasco.
Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation for the Democratic National Committee. A nationally syndicated columnist, she is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of “Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pots in America.”
Buck Sexton: Paul showed up ready to fight
There was no clear standout in the big 10 GOP debate Thursday night, but several candidates turned in strong performances. Marco Rubio showed the polish and policy knowledge you would expect. Same for Ted Cruz, whose biggest obstacle may be over-eloquence, if there is such a thing. Chris Christie hit his stride on entitlements, and showed some glimmers of the swagger that made him a household name.
The biggest surprise of the night came from Rand Paul, who showed up ready to fight. The usually laid-back libertarian came out fiery, getting into squabbles with Donald Trump and Christie (winning the latter exchange). If nothing else, Senator Paul reminded America that he’s still in this thing in a meaningful way.
The rest of the candidates weren’t strong enough to move the needle in their favor. Scott Walker was just OK. Ben Carson came off as he is — an entirely likable, accomplished professional, but he still didn’t get much airtime. John Kasich, Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush were not memorable — and Bush in particular affirmed his politics as usual persona.
Trump is in his own category here. If you didn’t like Trump as a candidate before Thursday night, he did nothing to change your mind. Refusing to pledge his support for the GOP set the tone — and then he admitted on national television that he is an avowed crony capitalist. Of course, none of this will faze Trump’s most ardent supporters, but tonight solidified that he has no chance of winning over the rest of the GOP.
So, the winners tonight? Rubio, Cruz, Paul and Christie
The losers: Bush, Trump, Huckabee and Carson
Buck Sexton is a political commentator for CNN and host of “The Buck Sexton Show” on the Blaze. He was previously a CIA counterterrorism analyst.
Dean Obeidallah: Race now wide open
On Thursday, we were treated to not one, but two episodes of the summer’s newest reality show. Some will blame Donald Trump for transforming the race into a reality show. And those people would be right. But Fox News also did a great deal to add the reality show feel. First off, they only picked the top 10 contestants, I mean candidates, for the big show. Nothing says you are in the loser debate like staring out at 20,000 empty seat, as the seven other candidates were left to do. And before the debate Fox News’ Chris Wallace even promised someone would hand Trump a “fat juicy ball” of a question with which to attack Jeb Bush to see if the former Florida governor could take it. Fox News should just have gone full reality with celebrity judges and a gong.
So, who were the big winners and losers from the two debates? In terms of not meeting or fulfilling expectations, it would have been Ben Carson, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump. Trump especially so in that he didn’t offer details on policies, he lashed out, and seemed uncomfortable with the audience turning against him. The winner, at least in terms of might see their poll numbers improve, are likely to be Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Carly Fiorina.
But the bottom line is that the race now seems more wide open than ever.
Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM’s weekly program “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” He is a columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the politics blog The Dean’s Report. He’s also the co-director of the documentary “The Muslims Are Coming!” Follow him @TheDeansreport.
Maria Cardona: Bluster, bravado, no specifics
First things first: She may not have been part of the 10-man “main event” GOP debate, but make no mistake: It was Carly Fiorina, hands down, who shone most Thursday, during the earlier, so-called “happy hour” debate. The second-tier debate, held at 5 p.m. Thursday, proved to be more substantive and let lesser-known candidates like Ms. Fiorina stand out.
The prime time debate, on the other hand, brought us more of the same from every candidate: bluster, bravado, and no specifics from Donald Trump; Chris Christie and Rand Paul yelling at each other over the Patriot Ac;, attacks on Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood all around (is Planned Parenthood running for president?), and criticisms of everything President Obama has done on foreign policy with scant suggestion from any of them about how they would do anything differently.
Donald Trump did not look like a serious candidate, compared with others on stage. But he has struck a chord with Republicans, so likely did no harm to his front runner status and in fact may have satisfied GOP voters for continuing to be a thorn in the side of the Republican establishment. John Kasich may have done himself some good too, taking advantage of his home court advantage and underscoring his accomplishments in Ohio. Scott Walker? Flat, as was Jeb Bush. But Marco Rubio showed flashes of passion, especially on the issue of abortion.
Tonight’s debate likely did not do much to change the standing of these candidates among Republican voters. However, the group underscored to women, minorities, young people, and middle class families why GOP policies would take the country back to a time when women were told what to do with their bodies, where walls, language and different cultures cut people off from the promise of America, and where your future was more determined by how rich you were and not how hard you were determined to work.
Winners: Carly Fiorina, John Kasich — and Hillary Clinton for all of the fodder the candidates gave her for the general election campaign.
Loser: Jeb Bush
Maria Cardona is a political commentator for CNN, a Democratic strategist and principal at the Dewey Square Group. She is a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and was communications director for the Democratic National Committee. She also is a former communications director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Julian Zelizer: This is no way to pick a candidate
Welcome to the world of reality political television. While it is a good thing that an unusually large number of people seemed excited to gather Around their television sets and computer screens to watch Thursday night’s Republican debate, and the earlier “happy hour” debate, the importance of these contests is not a good sign for American democracy.
For sure, we were able to see whether candidates had the capacity to throw a good punch and deliver a catchy a quip. In the early debate, Carly Fiorina delivered some good lines about Donald Trump (“I didn’t get a call from Bill Clinton”) as well as Jeb Bush (“it is foolish to say that women’s health isn’t a priority”). And later, the top 10 candidates rose to the occasion as well, with lines that are sure to make the rounds on YouTube. Donald Trump delivered one about Rosie O’Donnell and political correctness that generated some excitement, while Jeb Bush demonstrated his wonkish qualities, though he certainly didn’t do enough to excite worried supporters. Rand Paul and Chris Christie had a heated interaction about government surveillance that showed both still have things to say.
Simply by taking up so much time, Donald Trump comes out of this debate continuing to be the center of attention, and all of the other candidates trying to take on Bush will feel frustrated in that they will probably have to continue to deal with Trump for more time to come.
But does all this tell us much about how any of these candidates would do as president? Ultimately, this is what voters need to know. At best, though, we get to judge how they will perform in the already stilted atmosphere of general election debates. That’s about it.
The debates have already skewed the decision process by creating two tiers of candidates based on national polls. And the format of the debate itself offered no time for substantive answers. The incentives in the debates are all for body language and making punchy statements. To be sure, there were some useful moments as the candidates talked about immigration, surveillance and other big issues of the day. But the benefits are limited.
Unfortunately, these debates have become the way we measure the people who are running — opinions are formed, buzz is generated, predictions are made, all on the basis of a stilted event that resembles prime time talent shows like “American Idol.” In fact, we are only a step away from having people call into a national number to vote off the candidate they like least. It’s no wonder than Donald Trump, the former star of The Apprentice, looked so comfortable on the stage and drew much of the attention.
Who was the biggest loser? American democracy. This is no way to pick who will run for president. Democracy deserves a more serious conversation.
Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a New America fellow. He is the author of “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society” and co-editor of a new book, “Medicare and Medicaid at 50: America’s Entitlement Programs in the Age of Affordable Care.”
Tom Rogan: Fiorina Thursday’s star
Carly Fiorina won the first debate. Easily. Implicitly criticizing Donald Trump and explicitly criticizing Hillary Clinton, Fiorina pressed GOP voters to give her their consideration. Fiorina will see a significant poll bounce in response — she even received applause when one of her comments was replayed during the primetime debate! Fiorina’s closest competitor in that debate was Rick Perry.
In terms of the major candidates in the second debate, Marco Rubio will win favor for his statements on abortion and American exceptionalism. Jeb Bush was strongest when defending education reforms in pursuit of social mobility, but largely played it safe. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie showed spark by challenging Rand Paul on national security and Mike Huckabee on entitlements. Ted Cruz was quiet, but recovered with a powerful concluding statement. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was confident — thriving off his supporters in the hall. Donald Trump, meanwhile, doubled down on his populist disdain, but struggled when pushed. And Kentucky Senator Rand Paul also struggled to find his voice.
The winner? I’d say Scott Walker, with Rubio and Kasich close behind. Walker received a tough question on Wisconsin’s economy but responded confidently. He was also impressive on foreign policy — an area where he’s previously been considered weak.
Thursday’s winner: Carly Fiorina and Scott Walker
The night’s loser? Rand Paul
Carly Fiorina shines in first GOP debate
Tom Rogan writes for National Review and is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group. He tweets @TomRtweets. His homepage is www.tomroganthinks.com.
Raul A. Reyes: Too much left unsaid
Watching the GOP debate tonight was something of a surreal experience because it offered a window into the mindset of the Republican base. This was a debate in which Donald Trump asserted that “no one was talking about immigration.” This was a debate in which 10 men, all of whom purport to be against big government, confidently discussed how they would regulate women’s bodies. This was a debate in which Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio denounced Obamacare — even though they both signed their families up for coverage.
But what was notable about this debate was what went unsaid. There was no discussion of the Voting Rights Act on its 50th anniversary. There was no discussion of U.S.-Cuba policy, Nor of Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. Most glaringly, for all the talk about illegal immigration, there was no discussion about what to do with the 11 million undocumented people who are already here.
One of the most potent social movements today, “Black Lives Matter,” merited exactly one question — to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The entire discussion lasted less than a minute. Ironically, a movie trailer for the upcoming “Straight Outta Compton” film addressed police brutality in communities of color more than tonight’s debate did.
The Fox hosts certainly showed no hesitation to challenge Trump. Yet, despite his thin-as-paper responses, their continued focus on him may have served to elevate his stature. Trump was his usual blustery self and did not serve up any huge drama — which might have the effect of extending the life of his candidacy.
Ultimately, the big winner of the night was John Kasich. He introduced himself to the nation as rational, reasonable and able to hold his ground in a competitive field.
The big loser was Scott Walker. As someone in the top tier of candidates, he did not seize the moment to advance his candidacy. Indeed, his statements seemed canned and he rarely exceeded his allotted time.
Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him @RaulAReyes.
Karlyn Bowman: Debate not a plus for GOP
There was much talent on the stage tonight, but we didn’t get to hear much of it. Perhaps it was impossible with 10 candidates on the stage, perhaps it was the circus like atmosphere of the first hour, perhaps it was Donald Trump the showman, perhaps it was the Fox hosts’ desire to play gotcha journalism. Regardless, this debate was not a plus for the GOP and the party needs to rethink these cattle calls. Trump and Jeb Bush may be the front runners in the polls, but Marco Rubio and Scott Walker did well.
Most of the candidates had at least one good line or an engaging back and forth with another candidate. Ben Carson had a terrific closing statement. I doubt this debate changed much. Trump is still a wild card, but I doubt the other candidates’ standing in the polls will change much.
Karlyn Bowman is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute where she studies public opinion.
(CNN)Every time we land in a presidential election year, there is always a big prize the candidates try to lure: women.
also by Gloria Borger
It’s always fun to be courted as part of the gender gap. That’s when the pols start to talk about family, health care, education and security. We hear about so-called women’s issues nonstop. We see candidates’ wives tell us their husbands are really human, loving and fab dads. Translation: If we love them, you can too.
Why all the fuss? Because at some point in the last few decades, campaigns figured out that women vote in higher numbers — and not necessarily like the men in their lives. Sometimes, yes. But not always, not by any means. In fact, the influence can often go the other way. What’s more, women are no monolith: Mitt Romney won with married women in 2012 by 7 points, for instance. Yet Barack Obama won with women overall by 11 points. In order to win this time, a GOP candidate has to do better.
Enter Donald Trump. He just loves women. At least that’s what he tells us. And women, of course, just love him. Not quite sure what the evidence is there, except for Trump’s involvement with Miss Universe or his declaration in one of his books that “I love women.”
Well, not so much with debate moderator Megyn Kelly, it seems, after she asked Trump about his assorted rants against women he clearly doesn’t love as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.” His answer was an effort to cleverly deflect with some rhetoric about how neither he nor the country has time to be “politically correct.” Even if that’s true, how does the ever-so-busy Trump have the time to constantly tweet his insults? Seems like he has a lot of time to be politically incorrect.
In a final coup de grace, Trump went after Kelly, allowing as to how he had been “nice to” her (for which she should be grateful, I presume?), but then theorized that maybe he ought not to be. Whoa. An untweeted threat? The real, live audience booed. He tried to back off from the bluster, but there it was.
Oh, and by the way, no candidate stepped up debate night to agree that Trump’s insults about women were offensive. Maybe it was the rules that kept them silent? Or maybe it was that Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the GOP field, had been offstage, relegated to the first (I-didn’t-have-enough-support-to-make-it into-the-big-boy) debate?
By Friday morning, Trump’s official account retweeted a tweet that referred to Kelly — an accomplished anchor, lawyer and mother — as a “bimbo.” Awfully presidential, wouldn’t you say?
So here’s where we are: Clearly, Republicans know they need more women to vote for them if they are going to win the presidency. Second obvious point: With Hillary Clinton running for president, the gender gap could turn into a gender wave. And not just because Clinton is a woman — women don’t automatically vote for women (see: Hillary Clinton, circa 2008 campaign) — but because Republicans, at least so far, have made a mess of it.
It’s not that it’s a premeditated “war on women” as the Democratic Party apparatus likes to dub it; it’s more of a head-scratching, did-you-just-say-that process of flubs that slowly seeps into the ether. Jeb Bush stepped in it when he said, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” Or that, while most Republicans oppose same-sex marriage, 58% of women support it. And in the last campaign, for instance, Republicans found themselves debating the issue of birth control, on the defensive after Senate candidate Todd Aiken spoke of “legitimate rape” and cringed in pain when Romney bragged he had “binders full of women” to choose from for potential statehouse jobs.
After 2012, Republicans even decided to hold seminars for GOP candidates about how to talk to women. Guess they left Trump off the list.
Generally, authenticity in politics is a great thing. We don’t see enough of it, to be sure. But that doesn’t mean that when you see it, you automatically have to like it. And in Trump’s case, count women as skeptical. A recent CBS News poll of registered voters shows that 62% of women have an unfavorable view of Trump. Among Republican women, he does somewhat better, but he’s still underwater: 42% have an unfavorable view of him; 38% like him.
In Trump’s book “The Art of the Comeback,” he waxes on about les girls: “There’s nothing I love more than women, but they are really a lot different than portrayed. They are far worse than men, far more aggressive, and boy, can they be smart. Let’s give credit where credit is due, and let’s salute women for their tremendous power, which most men are afraid to admit they have.”
If Trump says it, then it must be true.
Carly Fiorina shines in first GOP debate
By Mark Preston, CNN
Updated 12:50 AM ET, Fri August 7, 2015
| Video Source: CNN
(CNN)Carly Fiorina was one of the biggest winners Thursday night without even stepping on the prime-time stage.
The California businesswoman didn’t meet the eligibility criteria to participate in the marque event, but her strong performance at the 5 p.m. debate for second-tier candidates lingered throughout the evening.
She did make an appearance at the later forum — she was featured in back-to-back video clips about Iran that helped set up a question in the debate.
The first of them showed a moment from the earlier event in which one of her opponents, Rick Perry, turned to her while seeking to explain his position on the nuclear deal.
“I will tell you one thing,” Perry said, “I would a whole lot rather (have) had Carly Fiorina over there doing our negotiation than John Kerry. Maybe we would’ve gotten a deal where we didn’t give everything away.”
READ: Donald Trump roils GOP presidential debate
The compliment from the former Texas governor came about 50 minutes into the first Republican debate of the 2016 election — an acknowledgment from at least one of Fiorina’s rivals that she is a sharp, skilled negotiator.
When the final question was asked and answered in this first debate, it was clear that Fiorina stood out. Social media users and many commentators emphatically declared her the winner.
At this moment in the campaign, seven GOP candidates are fighting for relevancy, respect and their political futures. The “Republican Seven,” of which Fiorina is one, failed to make the cut for the main debate — the event that will feature Donald Trump at center stage.
For the seven lower-tier Republicans, there was no prime-time television exposure, no opportunities to compare and contrast themselves with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and no audience in the arena to watch them make the case as to why they should be the next commander-in-chief.
One of these seven Republicans needed a homerun to differentiate themselves from the other six and show why they deserve to be in the top 10 at the next debate at the Reagan Library in California.
The former Hewlett Packard CEO, who is sitting at between 1% to 2% in the national polls, did just that by demonstrating a sharp knowledge of the issues as she stood shoulder to shoulder on a stage of former and current U.S. senators and governors.
Carly Fiorina the superstar of first GOP debate?
Fiorina has an interesting story to tell and she let the viewers know that she did not begin her business career in a large corner office.
“I started as a secretary and became ultimately the chief executive of the largest technology company in the world, almost $90 billion in over 150 countries,” she said. “I know personally how extraordinary and unique this nation is.”
Does it sound familiar? A certain brash New Yorker has been dominating the political headlines of late by talking up his business acumen and how it has prepared him to be president. When asked by the moderator to explain why Trump is getting all of the attention, Fiorina was able to deliver a jab at the real estate mogul over his ties to the Clintons.
After acknowledging that Trump has hit a vein of anger in the American electorate, she pivoted and made a play for Republican primary voters. “I would just ask, what are the principles by which he will govern?” she said.
It is a question many Republicans, especially establishment Republicans, are wondering.
And for all of her talk, Fiorina is a political insider. Yet she does not carry the inside-the-Beltway stigma. On Thursday night, she deftly discussed her business accomplishments and governing philosophy while emphasizing her worldly connections and steely approach to pressing issues.
“On Day One in the Oval Office, I would make two phone calls,” she said. “The first one would be to my good friend, Bibi Netanyahu, to reassure him we will stand with the State of Israel.
READ: CNN fact checks the 2016 Republican debates
“The second will be to the supreme leader of Iran. He might not take my phone call, but he would get the message, and the message is this: Until you open every nuclear and every military facility to full, open, anytime, anywhere, for real inspections, we are going to make it as difficult as possible for you to move money around the global financial system.”
Fiorina ended the night by playing again to Republican primary voters looking for a candidate who can defeat Hillary Clinton in November 2016.
“We need a nominee who is going to throw every punch, not pull punches, and someone who cannot stumble before he even gets into the ring,” she said.
Clearly, Fiorina did not stumble, but it remains to be seen if her performance has caused enough GOP primary voters to reconsider her current standing in the race.
Even if they do, any budding Fiorina boomlet would have to overcome some stark realities. She needs to increase her name recognition, but she doesn’t appear to have the cash to do so. Her campaign has raised very little hard money — only $1.4 million — and her super PAC has had minimal success catching high-dollar donors.
And by flirting with invisibility in the polls, Fiorina hasn’t incurred the wrath of opposition research or had her resume thoroughly vetted. But that could soon change.
and from the left – from the Campaign for America’s Future - www.OURFUTURE.org
AUGUST 7, 2015
The GOP Debate is What Oligarchy Looks Like.
Recently five Republican presidential candidates paraded themselves before a group of mega-donors convened by the Koch brothers. Thursday’s debate was an extension of the Kochs’ beauty pageant.
And From Senator Bernie Sanders:
He appeals to the Democrats to have a discussion on all those thigs that the Republicans left out.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Coming Clean – The blog of Executive Director Michael Brune, The Sierra Club.
July 23, 2015
Obama’s Arctic Error: A Bad Call on Shell
The Obama administration inched a little closer to disaster yesterday when it issued almost-but-not-quite final approval to Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer. Because Shell’s capping stack (a critical piece of emergency response equipment) is currently on its way to Portland, Oregon, aboard a damaged icebreaker that requires repairs, the oil company is allowed to drill only part way into the seafloor — stopping short of where the oil is. If and when the capping stack gets to the proposed drilling site, Shell could then reapply for permission to resume drilling the rest of the way.
Last week, I wrote about why letting Shell into the Arctic makes no sense. It’s a case of taking huge risks to get something we don’t need. In fact, not only do we not need that oil and gas — we can’t even afford to use it if we want to meet the urgent imperative to limit climate disruption.
So why has the administration allowed things to go this far? If this were a wedding with a reluctant bridegroom, we’d be listening to the minister clear his throat and gaze out over the congregation. I don’t know. Maybe, even though they know this is a bad idea, they just don’t have the guts to call it off.
But you know what? That’s the wrong analogy. What’s about to happen in the Chukchi Sea is more like a blind date than a shotgun wedding. Even if Shell manages to get its act together with its exploratory drilling this summer, it will still need approval for commercial drilling, and it will be even harder to make a case that such drilling can be done safely. Shell would also need to install hundreds of miles of pipeline, both on the seafloor and dry land. The process could take a decade or more, and every step along the way, we have opportunities to make the case that clean energy is better for our country and our planet. And the longer this drags on, the more obvious it will be that drilling in Arctic waters is an unnecessary invitation to disaster.
When Shell’s damaged ship arrives in Portland, we’ll be there. When Shell cuts corners or takes dangerous risks, we’ll be there. When this or any other administration flirts with selling more oil leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, we’ll be there, in the courts and on the streets. We’re in this for the long haul, along with the hundreds of thousands of Americans who’ve already joined the growing #ShellNo! movement. We’re in it for the Arctic, for the wildlife, for the Native Alaskans, and for the climate. And we’re in it to win.
We will not rest until President Obama cancels all drilling and future leases and protects the Arctic Ocean.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
She also will propose: “Other areas of focus will be improving the efficiency of buildings and ensuring that fossil fuel production is ‘safe and responsible,’ and protecting financial markets from climate-related risks.” Will this satisfy the Stop Climate Change advocates?
Hillary Clinton Unveils Far-Reaching Climate Change Plan
Hillary Rodham Clinton at a campaign event at Iowa State University in Ames on Sunday July 26, 2015 as reported by the NYT.
DES MOINES, July 26, 2015 — Promising more than a half-billion solar panels by the end of a first term and an ambitious target of clean energy for every home in America in a decade, Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled goals on Sunday evening to reduce the threat of climate change.
She said she would continue President Obama’s sweeping plan to limit carbon emissions from power plants, and announced targets that even push beyond current goal’s for greenhouse gases.
Mr. Obama’s proposed regulations are expected to be finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency in August, and the real work of making the changes — shutting down coal plans and increasing the number of renewable electricity sources — would fall to the next administration.
The Clinton campaign said the goals, set out on its website in a video, were the first of a six-plank plan to address climate change that Mrs. Clinton would continue to unveil in coming weeks and months.
Other areas of focus will be improving the efficiency of buildings, ensuring that fossil fuel production is “safe and responsible,’’ and protecting financial markets from climate-related risks.
In the video and at an earlier event, Mrs. Clinton said that critics of taking strong action, who include most of the Republican presidential candidates, were ignoring the seriousness of the threat.
“Those people on the other side, they will answer any question about climate change by saying, ‘I’m not a scientist,’’’ Mrs. Clinton said in Ames, Iowa on Sunday. “Well I’m not a scientist either. I’m just a grandmother with two eyes and a brain.’’
Mrs. Clinton also promised to help any workers who lose their jobs as coal plants respond to Mr. Obama’s plan to limit carbon emissions. Appalachia, once a bastion of Democratic support, has been hostile to Mr. Obama for what officials like Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, call a “war on coal.”
“I will be very clear, I want to do more to help in coal country,’’ Mrs. Clinton said at the event. She expressed gratitude to men “who mined the coal that created industrial revolution that turned on the lights that fueled the factories, who lost their lives, who were grievously injured, who developed black lung disease.’’
Mrs. Clinton’s pledge to produce “enough renewable energy to power every American home within 10 years of taking office’’ — that is, by 2027 — is even more ambitious than Mr. Obama’s plan.
The president has pledged to get the United States to produce 20 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2030 — essentially tripling renewable power from today.
Mrs. Clinton’s plan would arrive at 33 percent, said Heather Zichal, who served as Mr. Obama’s senior climate change adviser until last year.
“I think this initial statement from her is a strong signal that she’s committed to a thoughtful policy that pushes the envelope,’’ she said.
Mrs. Clinton’s rollout of a climate plan, the latest in a series of policy agendas, was in part intended to counter the threat on her left from Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who draws thunderous cheers at rallies when he calls for the immediate action on the warming climate. And unlike Mr. Sanders, Mrs. Clinton has not clearly stated whether she opposes building the Keystone XL pipeline, which has become the leading rallying cry of grass-roots environmentalists.
On Friday, Tom Steyer, the billionaire climate activist, said that in order to receive his backing and financial support, a candidate would have to pledge to enact an energy policy that would lead to the generation of half the nation’s electricity from renewable or zero-carbon sources by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050.
Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, has already put forth such a plan.
In a statment, Mr. Steyer praised Mrs. Clinton’s proposal without offering explicit financial support. “Today, Hillary Clinton emerged as a strong leader in solving the climate crisis and ensuring our country’s economic security,” he said.
On the other side – “Strong showing for Donald Trump in Iowa and New Hampshire.”
The other contenders in the lead are Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and GW Bush’s brother Jeff Bush. No climate related proposals from any of them yet. Moving up fast is Ohio Governor John Kasich who in just 10 days moved in New Hampshire from unknown to 7%.
On the Democrats side Mrs. Clinton leads Senator Bernie Sanders in Iowa by 55 to 26; in New Hampshire by 47 to 34.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
In the Shadow of the Storm
By Rebecca Solnit, Harper’s Magazine
26 July 2015
Ten years ago this month, on the day Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, I was at Camp Casey, an informal encampment outside George W. Bush’s Crawford ranch, listening to a group of veterans talk about their opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By chance, it was also the day my first feature for Harper’s Magazine went to press, an essay about how people react in the wake of major urban disasters. It wasn’t until the following Easter that I went to New Orleans for the first of at least two dozen post-storm visits. The water had receded by then, and the houses had been searched by teams who left what became a familiar mark throughout the city: a big spray-painted x with data written in each of its four quadrants about who and what had been found inside, when they’d been found, and whether they were found alive or dead. On one boxy white two-story house on Deslonde Street, the word baghdad was also painted.
When I first visited that house, the city around it felt dead. Whether New Orleans would ever come back to life was one question. What kind of life might come back was another. Some people had fled before the hurricane hit, thinking they were only leaving for a few days. Others rode out the storm and then departed for what they knew would be an open-ended exile. Michael White, a jazz clarinetist and a professor at Xavier University, was among the former. After a few months in Houston, he came back to the wrecked, largely abandoned city that his family had called home for generations. As he told me recently, he returned to a profound loss of the past and deep uncertainty about the future. His home, near the breach of the London Avenue Canal, was almost completely submerged. The flooding destroyed a collection of musical material so rich and complex it took him several minutes to describe it: 5,000 CD recordings, 1,000 vinyl records, 4,000 books, 50 clarinets, historic photographs, sheet music, a Louis Armstrong film library, and a trove of artifacts related to early jazz greats such as Sidney Bechet.
Growing up in New Orleans, White, who is now sixty, went to school with Fats Domino’s children. Both a distinguished musician and a historian of New Orleans, he was befriended by and played with musicians born between 1890 and 1910, from whom he gathered the stories and sounds of the birth of jazz. In Houston he feared that the cultural continuity of his native city might be shattered, that New Orleans might never come back. His collection never would. And his octogenarian mother, devastated and strained by the destruction, died in exile.
People like White’s mother, of whom there were many, are not counted as part of Katrina’s death toll, but perhaps they should be. “Katrina” is less the name of a storm than it is a shorthand for a series of largely man-made catastrophes: the lack of an evacuation plan for the poorest and most vulnerable people in the city; the regularly predicted failure of the levees maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the inadequate emergency management of city, state, and federal government; and the corruption and bureaucratic delays that hindered the rebuilding process. The “Baghdad” graffiti was a reminder that the two places were devastated by the same regime — and a suggestion, perhaps, that in the wake of the storm poor black New Orleanians were often treated like enemies.
Katrina and its aftermath can seem impossibly remote. The Bush Administration was then at the height of its powers; political dissent was largely silenced in the name of patriotism while those who thought we could win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were still loud and confident. But disasters often undermine the credibility of people in power, and Katrina did a fine job of revealing the callousness and cluelessness of the administration, from the president to Michael Brown, the cheerfully unqualified head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Today, Brown is nearly as distant a memory as the image of George W. Bush as a competent centrist.
In another way, however, that time remains uncomfortably close, because it was the beginning of a series of spectacularly public episodes of American racism. As they were in Baltimore, in Ferguson, in Sanford, Florida, and in many other places recently, unarmed black people were shot by police and vigilantes in storm-soaked New Orleans. A vast population of mostly African-American New Orleanians was trapped on the rooftops and elevated freeways of a sweltering city that was 80 percent underwater and bereft of electricity and nearly all commerce and services. They were portrayed by the government and the media as too savage and dangerous to rescue or to allow to leave the city. New Orleans became a prison. The media fell back on the usual disaster tropes of looting, raping, and marauding hordes, and proved eager to demonize black people rather than see them as vulnerable victims of a catastrophe. They made news out of rumors, many of which turned out to be entirely baseless, about people shooting at helicopters from rooftops and corpses from imaginary bloodbaths piling up in the Superdome.
When I returned in February 2007, the Baghdad house looked unchanged. Its windows and doors were still missing, and there were weeds and wreckage all around. But I saw a man on a ladder working on the place. In June of that year, I found that the house had been painted a crisp white. It had a neat lawn and new windows, and the doors and staircase had been repaired. On the wall hung a banner for Common Ground Relief, an organization founded after Katrina by former Black Panther Malik Rahim and other activists. Common Ground was an improvisational organization of the sort that disasters often beget, a group that was able to respond to changing needs and local particulars better than the top-down organizations that arrived from outside. It began as a supply center in the Lower Ninth Ward, the mostly black neighborhood where the Baghdad house stands, but soon added a clinic providing medical care where none was available. It eventually expanded its mandate to gutting and rebuilding houses, coordinating and housing armies of young, radical volunteers, and providing job training.
The storm lifted up some lives and tossed others around and smashed them. Some people picked up where they left off, particularly those in the older, more affluent “sliver by the river” above the flood levels. Some found their lives taking another direction. Five years after the storm, the black population of New Orleans had fallen by more than one hundred thousand. Some who fled found good lives elsewhere; others did not but couldn’t afford to come home. There is no clear or easy story about Katrina’s consequences for New Orleans. It traumatized many of those who survived; it caused the death of nearly 2,000 people directly and many others indirectly. It also shocked a stagnant, corrupt city that was suffering a slow economic and demographic decline into reforming itself.
Naomi Klein coined the term “disaster capitalism” to describe the opportunistic way that free-market evangelists use crises to push their agenda. There was certainly some of that happening in New Orleans, where a conservative elite took advantage of the storm to convert the entire public school system to charter schools and fire all the unionized teachers, to shut down the city’s vast housing projects, and to close one of the country’s oldest public hospitals. (Neither the hospital nor the housing projects were seriously damaged by Katrina.) But Klein’s term doesn’t capture the full picture of what happens after a disaster, which is less a conquest than a conflict over who will determine the future.
The elites don’t always win. New Orleans has seen a number of progressive victories over the past decade. Exposure of the murderous corruption of the New Orleans police force resulted in a federal overhaul of the department. Alternative institutions like Common Ground still serve the needy. Katrina energized New Orleanians not just to reclaim their city but to rethink it.
The civic engagement of old-timers and newcomers alike has given the city an unprecedented dynamism, a practical democracy that’s rare elsewhere in the country. People in New Orleans always did show up: for parties and parades, for christenings and funerals, and for neighbors’ barbecues. A great many people have a deep sense of place and local history. They talk convivially with strangers and cultivate a wide set of acquaintances in the city. Now they show up in force when policy is being made and the city’s future is being charted.
Prisca Weems, an environmental scientist who has the confounding title of stormwater manager for the city, is trying to figure out how to build resilient water-diversion systems for the next century. That means engaging with climate change, coastal erosion, rising oceans, and the ways that the city’s storm water and groundwater have been mismanaged since the late 1800s.
For more than a century, New Orleans had been at war with the water that surrounds it. The groundwater that remained in its marshy center was pumped out, deepening a below-sea-level basin that rainstorms and breached canals filled all too easily. At the same time, the city had pulled water in to ease shipping — notably through the Industrial Canal, which cut the Lower Ninth Ward off from the rest of the city and flooded that neighborhood during Katrina, and the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, nicknamed the Hurricane Highway, which gave cargo ships and storm surges from the Gulf a shortcut to the city. The outlet also allowed salt water to reach the swamp cypresses that had served as surge buffers; their skeletal white stumps still stand on the far side of the levees at the north end of the Lower Ninth Ward. The Hurricane Highway was shut down in 2007, and a system of barriers has been built to replace it. Just as China built walls to keep out human invaders, so New Orleans now has its own great wall to keep out the water, what Weems calls a “one-hundred-thirty-three-mile perimeter-defense system, with levees, flood walls, pump stations, and gated structures.”
Weems told me that New Orleans is now hoping to take advantage of water in the city instead of being forever at war with it. Large numbers of New Orleanians routinely talk about subjects like hydrological management and study maps of potential transformation. It’s the rare urban area in which many citizens have become avid urbanists. Weems praised the city’s populist approach to recovery. “We had the downside of taking longer to recover,” she said, “but the upside was citizen engagement in planning processes, in discussing the future not only in the city but in specific neighborhoods. The government is accountable to the citizens of this city in a way it wasn’t before. We have worked hard to shape the future.” Post-Katrina New Orleans, she added, “was like a viral laboratory.”
I’m not sure when the new houses started going up around the Baghdad house. In 2008, the place stood alone. By June 2010, a bright-pink house on stilts stood next door. It, too, had a Common Ground banner on its balcony. Lately, dozens of colorful new houses have gone up nearby. (They’re known locally as Brad Pitt houses, after the founder of the Make It Right foundation, the nonprofit that built them.) These houses are architecturally adventurous and ecologically sound, with solar panels above and stilts below that are built to ride out the next flood. There is a new energy in the city, albeit one that leaves some people out — it has raised housing prices, hurting those who’ve been left behind in the new economy. The Make It Right houses were subsidized for returning residents of the Lower Ninth; many others displaced by the storm could not find their way through the bureaucracy that was supposed to help pay for rebuilding or find funds to reclaim their homes. The neighborhood now includes a hundred pink, orange, green, blue, and yellow Make It Right homes, as well as a lot of green space where houses used to be tightly packed. It’s become a de facto wildlife refuge, thanks to the unpopulated landscape and its position near the bayous on the edge of town.
In 2007, I interviewed an older woman from the Holy Cross neighborhood in the Lower Ninth. She was one of the losers in Katrina’s reshuffle. Her house was swamped in several feet of water, her family was scattered, and her job as a high-school teacher had been eliminated. At the time, she was fiercely determined to rebuild her home and to reclaim her life, but wading through the bureaucracy and living in a ruined neighborhood had worn on her. She still lives in her house, but when I asked her recently about the past eight years, she said, “Oh, honey, I don’t want to talk about all that, about the devastation. I want all that behind me.”
After Michael White came back, he oversaw the gutting, cleaning, and restoring of his house, but he found he could not live there. He had nightmares about water, and about friends who’d drowned nearby. “Some people are back to where they were before, or better,” he told me. “Some are not quite back yet. I bought a house four years ago, but I’m not quite back yet, and I’m trying like hell to get back. In the next year or two I’ll be able to get to a state of normalcy, though I realize things will never be the same.” New Orleans is in transition, he said, and it is still impossible to know how the changes will affect the social clubs, brass bands, jazz funerals, and second lines of the city. White is still teaching and playing music in New Orleans and on the road, and he is still a conduit between the old world of the early twentieth century and the present. But he lost something.
Disasters begin suddenly; they never exactly end. You might be cured of your cancer, but you can never again be the person who never had cancer. New Orleans on August 28, 2005, was a city in many kinds of trouble. The fallout from the storm prompted soul-searching, transformation, and reform. Many things have been gained in the years since, but only after so much was lost. And so many. The city is in the process of becoming another place, and the answer to whether that’s a good or a bad thing will always be — both. There’s a garden across the street from the Baghdad house; it’s green and Edenic, but it’s also where several people had homes before they got swept away.
for comments go to: readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
De Blasio, After Diverted Flight, Joins Climate Conference at Vatican
By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM – JULY 21, 2015 for the New York Times
VATICAN CITY — Leaders from around the globe, settled in their seats as a Vatican official approached the lectern.
A rare gathering of mayors, beckoned to this holy city by Pope Francis from as far as away as Johannesburg, was about to begin.
One participant, however, was missing: the mayor of New York. Scheduled to arrive in Rome on Tuesday morning for a two-day conference on climate change, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York instead found himself in Milan, thanks to fog that forced a brief diversion of his overnight flight from Kennedy Airport.
The mayor arrived at the Vatican about 80 minutes after his scheduled speaking slot. When he finally did speak there, he was unfazed, delivering an impassioned charge to his fellow mayors to resist “powerful corporate interests” and to aggressively battle climate change.
“Is it not the definition of insanity to propagate corporate policies and consumer habits that hasten the destruction of the earth?” Mr. de Blasio said.
He pledged that his administration would work to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030.
The Vatican event is part of an effort by Francis to focus world leaders on environmental causes, and mayors from across Europe, South America, and the United States were in attendance. The pope had been expected to address the gathering on Tuesday morning, but his appearance was changed to take place in the afternoon — a stroke of good fortune for Mr. de Blasio.
The mayor has taken pains recently to fight his reputation for tardiness, arriving more promptly at events in New York. But the vagaries of international travel can be trickier than a traffic snag on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Mr. de Blasio, who is expected to be in Rome for less than 48 hours, opted for an overnight flight that was scheduled to arrive about two hours before he was due at the Vatican. (Aides to Mr. de Blasio, aware of criticism about his frequent travels, had emphasized last week that his Vatican visit — his fourth European excursion in a year — would be kept short.)
But his plans were foiled by Roman fog, according to an American Airlines spokesman, who said the pilot of the mayor’s flight “elected to divert to Milan as a precaution.” The flight continued on to Rome after about an hour’s delay, once the fog was “burned off by the increasingly warm sun,” the spokesman, Ian Bradley, said.
Mr. de Blasio was not the only person to miss a scheduled slot for speaking. Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston was present but Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio de Janeiro sent an aide in his stead, citing unrest in his home country.
The gathering at the Vatican was prompted in part by a recent papal encyclical warning of the destructive effects of climate change. In his remarks, Mr. de Blasio said the encyclical “burns with urgency,” and he praised the pope, saying he had “awakened people across the globe to the dangers we face as a planet.”
“The encyclical is not a call to arms,” Mr. de Blasio said. “It is a call to sanity.”
Mr. de Blasio is scheduled to attend an official dinner at the Vatican on Tuesday evening and to speak again on Wednesday morning. The mayor is expected to leave for New York on Wednesday afternoon — weather permitting.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Outcomes of the Climate Summit of the Americas 2015
By Melissa Harris and Philip Gass of the IISD
From July 7th to 9th, the Government of Ontario, Canada, convened more than 300 leaders from government, businesses and civil society at the Climate Summit of the Americas. The idea for the event was borne out of a discussion at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York last September, among the leaders of Ontario, Quebec and California. They recognized the crucial role that subnational, or ‘infranational’ jurisdictions play in responding to climate change. The summit set out to foster and strengthen partnerships among jurisdictions for global climate action and build motivation and support for carbon pricing. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard delivered opening remarks, emphasizing that the solutions to climate change are already known, what is needed is the mobilization, motivation and political will to implement them. This message was echoed throughout the summit.
Carbon pricing is a must
The summit saw widespread support for the necessity of putting a price on carbon, and served as an opportunity to share lessons on the wide variety of approaches being undertaken at sub-national levels.
A morning session on July 7th chaired by the International Emissions Trading Association included speakers from TD Bank Group, ArcTern ventures, the law firm Latham & Watkins and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. With a general consensus that carbon pricing must be at the heart of a response to climate change, panelists discussed investment models, financing tools and ways in which funds raised by carbon pricing can further reinforce the transition to green economies. Reinvesting the funds raised by pricing back in transition to low-carbon economies was the preferred approach of the panelists, noting that this new revenue stream presents the greatest potential for investment in this area. An additional area of convergence was also the potential role of Green Bonds as a way to develop capital that can then leverage private financing for low-carbon development.
On an intergovernmental panel hosted by Bill Ritter, former Colorado Governor, Ministers from Ontario, BC, Quebec, Mexico and government officials from California and Brazil shared best practices and lessons learned from their climate policies. Panelists discussed coal phase-out, carbon tax, cap and trade, REDD+ and reducing short lived climate pollutants (SLCPs). While each region has taken a different approach to policies and pricing, panelists expressed an interest in working together.
At a morning panel the second day on successful carbon pricing models, participants addressed the questions of why and how pricing has worked in their jurisdictions, and how they have faced challenges to ensure a lasting impact. Speakers from Vermont, Duke University, Great Plains Institute discussed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), allowances, carbon taxes, the experience of the Midwest Governors Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (MGGRA) and the importance of decoupling economic growth from emissions. While they noted that the failure to pass national legislation in the U.S. in 2010 was a setback, the groundwork laid during that period in many states and regions has prepared those jurisdictions to better respond to new climate change approaches emerging from the EPA.
The cost of inaction
There was a reoccurring message from both government and businesses that action on climate change makes economic sense.
During a lunch keynote address, California Governor Jerry Brown explained how action on climate change is cheaper than inaction. He noted that we already have the tools, the question is whether or not we have the political motivation. A call to action for all levels of government, Governor Brown spoke to the need for federal support while recognizing that the most significant source of climate action will come from provinces and states.
On a similar note, Felipe Calderón, Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, and former President of Mexico discussed the false dilemma between economic growth and environmental improvement on day two of the summit. He provided an overview of the Commission’s new report which shows it is possible to have economic growth and a better climate at the same time. In 2014 for the first time in 40 years GDP grew by 3% while emissions did not increase. He outlined a number of actions in the areas of cities, land use, clean energy, energy efficiency, carbon pricing, efficiency, innovation, business, shipping and aviation, and HFCs with the potential to help ensure global emissions do not exceed 2C.
The issue of climate change policies and productivity was the topic of a green economy focused session with representatives from General Motors, Uniliver, the Cement Association of Canada and the Ecofiscal Commission. The importance of policy alignment and certainty was emphasized by all parties, as well the need for international perspective on how local policies effect international competitiveness for the private sector. The Cement Association use the example of cheaper imported cement taking the place in Canadian markets of domestically produced, carbon-priced product as an example of the concern of carbon leakage. As in other sessions, speakers noted that many private sector companies are increasingly seeing the inevitability of carbon pricing and called on governments to act coherently with long-term vision.
Role of forests and land stewardship
A panel on land-use and sustainable development was moderated by IISD President Scott Vaughan. Speakers from CIGI, Environmental Defense Fund, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, and Organization of American States discussed the critical role of land stewardship, forestry management and protection based on partnerships with indigenous peoples that protect human rights. Ontario was invited to join the IUCN Bonn Challenge to restore 150 million hectares by 2020. Examples of innovative finance to reflect the values of forests, including their role in carbon sinks, were explored, as was the critical importance of advancing integrated policies to support sustainability.
A mood of optimism
The second day of the summit got off on the right foot with an opening address by Former US Vice President and Chair of The Climate Reality Project, Al Gore. He posed 3 questions to frame the climate issue: must we change, can we change and will we change? The answer to all was unequivocally yes. He explained that the science is clear and the stakes are high so the status quo must change, and it is our duty as experts to build broader public support. In response to the second question, Gore noted that industry, engineers and other experts are working together to provide renewable energy solutions to enable the shift to decarbonized energy systems. Finally, in response to the question of will, Gore took an optimistic tone stating that although challenges remain, through collaboration and innovation, he believes that we will change to address climate change, the issue is whether or not the willingness to change will come quick enough. Quoting Wallace Stevens, and drawing upon the example of the civil rights movement, Gore stated “after the last no comes the yes, and on that yes, the future rests.”
The afternoon featured a number of additional speakers representing diverse backgrounds and viewpoints on climate change, but all with the same ‘call to action’ theme expressed by Gore, Brown, Calderón and Wynne.
Bianca Jagger discussed the importance of infranationals pushing the United Nations process forward, and linking human rights challenges to climate change. Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell highlighted that enlightened leadership on climate issues has and will continue to emerge, but that practical groundwork on implementation must quickly follow. A panel discussion on planning led by WWF President David Miller highlighted the critical role of government support for innovation and research on climate solutions.
IKEA Canada President Stefan Sjöstrand noted his company’s commitment of US$1billion in funding for climate solutions internationally, as well as committing to install electric vehicle charging stations at all IKEA stores in Canada this summer. President of International Council for Science Gordon McBean, representing the scientific community, shared a statement on behalf of Pan-American climate experts noting what has to be done, and that they are ready and willing to assist policymakers and others in developing and implementing solutions. Many others also committed to lend their support in various ways through the two-day event.
The climax of the summit was when Ontario and more than 20 other states, cities and regions signed the first-ever Pan-American action statement on climate change. The statement indicates that limiting global warming to 2C requires all levels of government to take action and outlines commitment options related to carbon pricing, emission reduction reporting, ambitious targets and action in key sectors. The statement builds on other initiatives such as the Under 2 MOU, the Compact of States and Regions and Compact of Mayors. It is hoped that other jurisdictions will sign on to the action statement in the lead-up to COP-21.
Sheila Watt-Cloutier provided a sobering closing plenary address on the consequences of inaction, drawing from her prior experiences, including her book Right to be Cold about the challenges Inuit have faced to their way of life as the climate warms. Climate change is a challenge for families, communities, wildlife, and the environment, and she noted that there is no price that can be put on the cost of the loss of arctic ice and the well-being it supports in the north.
In the final closing remarks the Ambassador from France Nicholas Chapuis remarked that he is buoyed by the motivation for action and the commitments that countries are making to the UN process. While these commitments not enough to maintain the two degree threshold, they are moving in the right direction. He noted this unique circumstance stating “not since 1992 have we had such hope of a universal agreement.… Paris is not the end, it is the beginning.”
The recurring message of almost all speakers was about motivation and political will. The solutions for climate change discussed at the summit were not necessarily new: carbon pricing, green procurement and transportation, urban planning, and other topics have all been discussed by environmental groups for years. What was new and readily apparent at the Climate Summit of the Americas was the overwhelming call to action from elected officials at the infranational level and their pledge to push their national counterparts to deliver at COP-21, while taking concrete steps to implement solutions themselves. Ten years ago it was scientists and environmental groups making the statements that Governors, Mayors and Premiers are saying now. Instead of just identifying solutions they are implementing them as well.
The theme of collaboration and collective solutions was also prevalent. Premier Wynne remarked that “Canada was founded on the idea that we have more to gain by working together than we can accomplish apart, it is in that spirit that we convene today”. This is highlighted in the broad range of signatories to the action statement, not just geographically, but in various levels of government. Minister Murray also noted that not only were governing parties present, but also members of opposition parties, in an effort to continue to drive climate change as a post-partisan issue.
The work of these jurisdiction is certainly not complete, and the press to drive agreement at COP-21 and beyond will be difficult, but as Gore noted, after the last no there is a yes, and the parties assembled at the summit all expressed their collective motivation to reach that yes in greater and stronger numbers than ever before.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill barring fines for dead lawns during drought.
By Melanie Mason
July 13, 2015, The Los Angeles Times.
Cities and counties will no longer be able to impose fines on residents for unsightly brown lawns while the state is in a drought, under a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday afternoon.
The measure, by Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown (D-Rialto) prohibits local governments from issuing fines for violations of “lawn maintenance” ordinances when the governor has declared a state of emergency due to drought conditions.
Cheryl Brown has said she’s aware of a number of cities, including Glendale, Upland and San Bernardino, that have levied fines or issued warnings to residents who allowed their lawns to go brown.
The measure is the most recent effort by the Legislature to encourage homeowners to let their lawns “fade to gold.” Last year, Brown signed a measure that barred homeowners’ associations from punishing their residents for unwatered lawns.
With California now in its fourth year of drought, the governor has called for strict conservation efforts, including requiring urban areas to cut their water use by 25%.
This month, state officials announced that residential water used dropped by 29% in May.
Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Arctic Icy hotspots in focus at climate talks?
Irene Quaile, Deutsche Welle
July 8, 2015
With western Europe sweltering in a record-breaking heat wave, climate scientists are meeting in Paris this week for what is regarded as the last major climate science conference before the key COP 21 in Paris at the end of this year.
“Our Common Future under Climate Change” wants to be “solutions-focused,” but starts off with a resumé of the state of science as a basis.
Permafrost ‘carbon bomb’ unlikely, but worries over northern thaw persist
Outlook for September Arctic sea ice tilts toward small reduction from last year
One of the topics on the wide agenda is, of course, the cryosphere, with scientists reporting on rapid changes in the Arctic ice and permafrost, and worrying developments in the Antarctic.
As conference after conference works to prepare a new World Climate Agreement, to take effect in 2020, the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) is concerned that the INDCSs, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, i.e. the climate action countries propose to take are not in line with keeping global warming to the internationally set target of a maximum 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Scientists tell us this itself would already have major impacts on the world’s ice and snow.
Climate pledges way too low
Pam Pearson, the founder and director of ICCI, told journalists during a recent visit to Bonn her indication of INDCS so far was that they are ”somewhere between 3.8 and 4.2 degrees” Celsius.
Pearson and her colleagues are working hard to make the scientific evidence on climate changes in our ice and snow regions accessible and “must-reads” for the politicians and others who are preparing to negotiate the new agreement at the Paris talks at the end of the year, to replace the Kyoto protocol. She was here in Bonn at the last round of UN preparatory climate talks last month, holding a side event and briefing media and negotiators.
Pearson was part of the original Kyoto Protocol negotiating team. She is a former U.S. diplomat with 20 years’ experience of working on global issues, including climate change. She says she resigned in 2006 in protest over changes to U.S. development policies, especially related to environmental and global issues programs. From 2007 to2009, she worked from Sweden with a variety of organizations and Arctic governments to bring attention to the potential benefit of reductions in short-lived climate forcers to the Arctic climate, culminating in Arctic Council ministerial-level action in the Tromsø Declaration of 2009.
Pearson founded ICCI immediately after COP 15 to bring greater attention and policy focus to the “rapid and markedly similar changes occurring to cryosphere regions throughout the globe” and their importance for the global climate system.
IPCC reports already out of date! At the briefing in Bonn a couple of weeks ago, she said:
“Certainly through AR5, (the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC) the science is available to feed into the negotiations. But I think what we see as a cryosphere organization, participating as civil society in the negotiations – and I think also, very importantly, what the IPCC scientists see — is a lack of understanding of the urgency of slowing down these processes and the fact that they are irreversible. This is not like air or water pollution, where if you clean it up it will go back to the way it was before. It cannot go back to the way it was before and I think that is the most important aspect that still has not made its way into the negotiations”.
Scientists taking part in the event organized by the ICCI in Bonn stressed that a lot of major developments relating especially to Antarctica and to permafrost in the northern hemisphere was not available in time for that IPCC report. This means the scientific basis of AR5 is already way out of date, and that it does not include very recent important occurrences.
Sea ice in decline
Dirk Notz from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg heads a research group focusing on sea ice and rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic.
He told journalists in Bonn: “Over the last 10 years or so we’ve roughly seen a fifty percent loss of Arctic sea ice area, so this ice is currently retreating very, very rapidly. In the Antarctic, some people are talking about the increase of sea ice. Just to put things into perspective: there is a slight increase, but it’s nothing compared to the very rapid loss that we’ve seen in the Arctic.“
The slight increase in sea ice in the Antarctic is certainly not an indicator that could disprove climate warming, as some of a skeptical persuasion would like to have us believe.
“In the Antarctic, the changes in sea ice are locally very different. We have an increase in some areas and a decrease in other areas. This increase in one area of the southern ocean is largely driven by changes in the surface pressure field. So the winds are blowing stronger off shore in the Antarctic, pushing the ice out onto the ocean, and this is why we have more sea ice now than we used to have in the past. Our understanding currently says that these changes in the wind field are currently driven by anthropogenic changes of the climate system,“ said Notz.
He stresses that as far as the Arctic is concerned, the loss of sea ice is very clearly linked to the increase in CO2. The more CO2 we have in the atmosphere, the less sea ice we have in the Arctic.
Changing the face of the planet
Notz stresses the speed with which humankind is currently changing the face of the earth:
“Currently in the Arctic, a complete landscape is disappearing. It’s a landscape that has been around for thousands of years, and it’s a landscape our generation is currently removing from the planet, possibly for a very long time. I think culturally, that’s a very big change we are seeing.”
At the same time, he says the decline in the Arctic sea ice could be seen as a very clear warning sign:
“Temperature evolution of the planet for the past 50 thousand years or so shows that for the past 10 thousand years or so, climate on the planet has been extremely stable. And the loss of sea ice in the Arctic might be an indication that we are ending this period of a very stable climate in the Arctic just now. This might be the very first, very clear sign of a very clear change in the climatic conditions, like nothing we’ve seen in the past 10,000 years since we’ve had our cultures as humans.”
Simulations indicate that Arctic summer sea ice might be gone by the middle of this century. But Notz stresses that we can still influence this:
“The future sea ice loss both in the Arctic and the Antarctic depends on future CO2 emissions. A rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice in this decade is possible but unlikely. Only a very rapid reduction of CO2 might allow for the survival of Arctic summer sea ice beyond this century.”
Antarctic ice not eternal
Whereas until very recently the Antarctic ice was regarded as safe from climate warming, research in the last few years has indicated that even in that area, some possibly irreversible processes are underway. This relates to land ice rather than sea ice.
Ricarda Winckelmann is a scientist with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research (PIK). She told journalists and climate negotiators at the Bonn talks that Antarctica could be regarded as the “sea level giant.. The global sea level would rise by 5 meters (16.4 feet) if West Antarctica’s ice sheet melted completely, 50 meters (164 feet) for the East Antarctic ice sheet.
“Over the past years, a couple of regions in Antarctica have really caught our attention. There are four hotspots. They have all changed rapidly. There have been a number of dynamic changes in these regions, but they all have something in common, and that is that they bear the possibility of a dynamic instability. Some of them have actually crossed that threshold, some of them might cross it in the near future. But they all underlie the same mechanism. That is called the marine ice sheet instability. It’s based on the fact that the bottom topography has a certain shape, and it’s a purely mechanical, self-enforcing mechanism. So it’s sort of driving itself. If you have a retreat of a certain region that undergoes this mechanism, it means you cannot stop it. “
The hotspots she refers to are the Amundsen Basin in West Antarctica, comprising the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which are the fastest glaciers in Antarctica:
“It has been shown in a number of studies last year that it actually has tipped. Meaning it has crossed that threshold, and is now undergoing irreversible change. So all of these glaciers will drain into the ocean and we will lose a volume that is equivalent to about a meter (3.3 feet) of global sea level. The question is how fast this is going to happen.”
Next comes the Antarctic peninsula, where very recent research has indicated that warm water is reaching the ice shelves, leading to melting and dynamic thinning.
Even in East Antarctica, which was long considered virtually immune to climate change, Winckelmann and her colleagues have found signs that this same mechanism might be at work, for instance with Totten Glacier:
“There is a very recent publication from this year, showing that (…) this could possibly undergo the same instability mechanism. Totten Glacier currently has the largest thinning rate in East Antarctica. And it contains as much volume as the entire West Antarctic ice sheet put together. So it’s 3.5 meters’ (11.5 feet) worth of global sea level rise, if this region tips,” says the Potsdam expert.
Pulling the plug?
The other problematic area is the Wilkes Basin.
“We found that there is something called an ice plug, and if you pull it, you trigger this instability mechanism, and lose the entire drainage basin. What’s really striking is that this ice plug is comparably small, with a sea-level equivalent of less than 80 millimeters (3.15 inches). But if you lose that ice plug, you will get self-sustained sea level rise over a long period of time, of three to four meters,” or 9.8 feet to 13 feet.
This research is all so new that it was not included in the last IPCC assessment:
“We’ve known that this dynamic mechanism exists for a long time, it was first proposed in the 1970s. But the observation that something like this is actually happening right now is new,” Winckelmann stresses.
Clearly, this is key information when it comes to bringing home the urgent need for rapid climate action.
Pam Pearson stresses that these changes in themselves have a feedback effect, and have an impact on the climate:
“The cryosphere is changing a lot more quickly than other parts of the world. The main focus for Paris is that these regions are moving from showing climate change, being indicators of climate change, to beginning to drive climate change, and the risks of those dynamics beginning to overwhelm anthropogenic impacts on these particular areas is growing as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up, as the temperature rises.”
Climate factor: permafrost
This applies in particular to the effect of thawing permafrost. Susan Natali from the Woods Hole Research Center is co-author of a landmark study published in Nature in April. She also joined the ICCI event in Bonn:
“Carbon has been accumulating in permafrost for tens of thousands of years. The amount of carbon currently stored in permafrost is about twice as much as in the atmosphere. So our current estimate is 1,500 billion tons of carbon permanently frozen and locked away in permafrost. So you can imagine, as that permafrost thaws and even a portion of that gets released into the atmosphere, that this may lead to a significant increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.”
The study was conducted by an international permafrost network. “The goal is to put our current understanding of the processes in permafrost regions into global climate models. The current IPCC reports don’t include greenhouse gas emissions as a result of permafrost thaw,” says Natali.
Permafrost regions make up some 25 percent of the northern hemisphere land area. The scientists say between 30 percent and 70 percent of it could be lost by 2100, depending on the amount of temperature rise. There is still a lot of uncertainty over how much carbon could be released, but Winckelmann and her colleagues think thawing permafrost could release as much carbon into the atmosphere by 2100 as the US, the world’s second biggest emitter, is currently emitting.
The time for action is now
“The thing to keep in mind is that the action we take now in terms of our fossil fuel emissions is going to have a significant impact on how much permafrost is lost and in turn how much carbon is released from permafrost. There is some uncertainty, but we know permafrost carbon losses will be substantial, they will be irreversible on a human-relevant time frame, and these emissions of GHGs from permafrost need to be accounted for if we want to meet our global emissions targets,” says Winckelmann.
The challenge is to convince politicians today to act now, in the interests of the future. Pearson and her colleagues are working to have a synthesis of what scientists have found to date accessible to and understandable for the negotiators who will be at COP21 in Paris in December.
In terms of an outcome, she says first of all we need higher ambition now, in the pledges being made by different countries. The lower the temperature rise, the less the risk of further dynamic change processes being set off in the cryosphere. The other key factor is to make sure there is flexibility to up the targets on a regular basis, without being tied to a long negotiating process. The current agreement draft envisages five year reviews.
“There are a number of cryosphere scientists who actually expect these kinds of signals from cryosphere to multiply, and that there may be some dramatic developments just over the next three to five years, that may finally spur some action,” Pearson says.
Here’s hoping the UN negotiators will not wait for further catastrophic evidence before committing to an effective new climate treaty at the end of this year.
This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 11th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
BP Could Get Billions in Tax Breaks on Oil Spill Settlement
By Jennifer Larino, The Times-Picayune
10 July 15
Last Thursday (July 2), states attorneys general in Louisiana and four other Gulf Coast states celebrated an $18.7 billion settlement with BP over claims from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. A report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group says the true value of the deal could be far lower after BP files its taxes.
Federal tax law prevents companies from deducting penalties paid for breaking the law from their corporate taxes. But damage payments — such as money paid for coastal restoration — can be treated as a business expense.
According to the Public Interest Research Group, at least $13.2 billion in the settlement is not defined as a penalty, meaning BP could potentially get tax breaks on that chunk of money. This includes payments to restore natural resources the spill damaged.
The settlement announced last week could wind up costing BP only around $14 billion after taxes assuming all those costs are written-off at the top 35 percent corporate tax rate.
Phineas Baxandall, the consumer group’s senior analyst for tax and budget policy, said a federal judge ruled that BP broke the law. The company must pay for its misdeeds, not shift the burden to taxpayers, he said.
“This is not just an accounting question,” Baxandall said. “There is a zero-sum game here between the American taxpayer and BP on this issue.”
The Public Interest Research Group has asked the Justice Department to include specific language in the settlement that prohibits BP from claiming tax breaks on payments. It also wants the full details of the settlement to be made public. The court has ordered most of the settlement details confidential for now.
The only portion of the settlement that appears excluded from tax breaks is the $5.5 billion environmental penalty BP has agreed to pay for violating the Clean Water Act.
Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle declined to comment on Public Interest Research Group’s findings. He confirmed the Clean Water Act penalties cannot be deducted.
BP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ed Sherman, a Tulane University law professor and a complex litigation expert who has followed the BP case closely, said the company likely negotiated for a lower Clean Water Act fine and higher natural resource damage payments with the tax advantage in mind.
Sherman said all sides benefit in ending what could have been years of litigation. But the tax breaks and the opportunity to make payments over 15 years — even longer for some payments — are distinct advantages for BP, he said.
“It was a fair settlement on both sides, but I think BP probably came out a little better,” Sherman said.
Baxandall said the way the Clean Water Act penalty would be distributed to states under the settlement could lead to more write-offs.
Under the terms of the agreement, 80 percent of the $5.5 billion penalty would be distributed to five Gulf Coast states under the RESTORE Act. Signed into law in 2012, the act establishes a fund for the penalty money and a framework to divvy up funds for restoration projects in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and coastal counties in Florida.
The funds are technically penalty money. But Baxandall said the way the money is used could be considered restitution, which would be a tax-deductible expense. He is worried BP could use that argument to press for more tax breaks.
This is not the first time settlement tax breaks have been called into question. The federal government’s $1.1 billion settlement with Exxon after the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill in Alaska was reported to have an after-tax cost of only $524 million.
A bill now in the U.S. Senate attempts to tackle the issue, requiring federal agencies to state whether out-of-court settlements are tax deductible. Companies would also be required to disclose whether they claimed settlement deductions in Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
In the meantime, the Public Interest Research Group is calling on the Justice Department to be more transparent about the settlement details.
Baxandall notes agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau promptly post settlements online for public scrutiny. The Environmental Protection Agency started in 2013 to include language in its settlements specifically banning parties from claiming tax breaks on cleanup funds.
The BP oil spill settlement announced last week is set to undergo a public comment period before being approved. Hornbuckle said the public comment period would begin after a final settlement is filed with the court, which is expected by early 2016.
“If there is enough outrage about this and people voice their discontent during that period, then I would hope the Justice Department would insert the few words it would take to save taxpayers billions of dollars,” Baxandall said.
If tax breaks are being used as a bargaining chip to finalize settlements, it needs to stop, he said.
“Everybody wins except for the public,” Baxandall said.