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Reporting from UNFCCC Meetings:

 

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

BBC – Science & Environment

Islamic call on rich countries to end fossil fuel use.

By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALSO:

California will soon have toughest shower head requirements in nation

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

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


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

By Eric Holthaus, Rolling Stone

09 August 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

By Melanie Mason

July 13, 2015, The Los Angeles Times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

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


Arctic Icy hotspots in focus at climate talks?

Irene Quaile, Deutsche Welle
July 8, 2015

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sea ice in decline

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other problematic area is the Wilkes Basin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Sunday, June 14, 2015 program started with Fareed retelling us the content of his last Friday’s Washington Post column – www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/s… /9ce1f4f8-1074-11e5-9726-49d6fa26a8c6_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

While some hysteria-builders in Washington are worried about a Saudi nuclear race to follow Iran, Fareed Zakaria tells us clearly that besides drilling holes to get out oil from the ground, the Saudis have actually not proven capability of doing anything else. They just do not have the people nor the education system that leads to knowledge. You can actually conclude that they are hardly a State in the normal sense of the word – though with them having a full treasury they will not fail easily – but clearly not amount to much power either. In effect they are a natural target for ISIS – so let them not bluff us.

The Saudi GDP is based 44% on oil and 90% of their revenues are from oil. Their puritanical reactionary conservative education system puts them at 73rd place in global ranking compared to the much poorer Iran that is placed 44th. Two out of three people with a job are foreigners – hardly a recommendation for capability of doing anything.

Then Fareed brought on Professor Michael Porter of Harvard who makes now a career of talking and writing about America’s unconventional energy opportunity that turned the till-2005 dependence on gas import and till 2008 dependence on oil import – to an economy now that produces $430 billion/year of oil-shale fracking gas and oil products – that he says have reduced the energy bill of an average American family by $800/year and is now being enhanced by secondary industries like the petrochemical industry.

Gas prices are now lower by one third then those in US trading-countries and he contends that even though there are environmental problems with “fracking” these problems get smaller with time as there are new technological developments leading to decrease in pollution. Oh well – this at least reduces the US dependence on Saudi good-will.

To point out some more the effect of oil on developing countries that export the stuff, Fareed brought on a New Yorker journalist who works now in Luanda, Angola, and previously worked many years in Russia. Michael Specter was fascinating in his description of the “Bizarro” World of Luanda where for four out of the last five years Luanda was the most expensive City for the “Expatriates.” The Fifth year they were second to Japan.

With a watermelon selling for $105, a Coke for $10 and a cab-ride of 20 miles costing $450 – this while the working locals make $4/day while after Nigeria Angola is now the second largest oil producer in Africa.

For a saner discussion Fareed brought on Richard Haass – a former official of the Bush administration, Advisor to Colin Powell and president of the New York City based Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003, and David Rothkopf – who worked for the Clinton Administration, Managed the Kissinger Associates, and now is CEO and Editor of the Foreign Policy Group that publishes Foreign Policy Magazine. Interesting, it was Haass who wore a blue tie and Rothkopf who wore a red tie – and to my surprise, and clearly to their own surprise – there was no difference between their positions on the issues.

The main topic was Iraq and they agreed that sending in some more advisers to keep the ongoing losing policy in place makes no sense and never did. Iraq has passed, or was handed, to Iran while the only functioning part of it are the Kurdish evolving State.

The problem is the Sunni part that will eventually be a State as well – but it depends on a change in US position if this will be the ISIS State or a conventional Sunni State. Trying to hold the three parts of Iraq together does not make sense – period.

Oh well – how we got there – ask the Bush family – now we guess – ask Jeb (John Ellis) Bush. and Fareed also pointed a finger at Senator Rick Santorum who wants to be President and says the Pope should not mix the church and science – leave science to the scientists which for him are the Climate-deniers paid by the oil industry.

Fareed pointed out to Santorum that Pope Franciscus happens to be a scientist. He was trained as chemist and worked as a chemist before reentering the seminarium for clerical studies.

This coming week the world might finally get a boost from the Catholic Church as very well described in the New York Times article by Jim Yardley of June 13, 2015: “Pope Francis to Explore Climate’s Effect on World’s Poor.”

On Thursday June 18, 2015, Pope Franciscus will release his most important Encyclical on the theme of the environment and the poor. This follows a meeting May 2014 of the Pope with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accompanied by his Development lieutenants. This could be finally a joined effort for the good of humanity – of faith and true science.

Above is not completely new. Already the last two popes started to investigate the moral choices of development. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI already wrote about the role of industrial pollution in destroying the environment. Francis went further – and on his January 2015 trip to the Philippines expressed his being convinced that global warming was “most;y” a human-made phenomenon. Now he is expected in the September trip to Cuba and New York, to bring the encyclical to the UN General Assembly and encourage the Heads of States to bring the issue to a positive conclusion at the December Climate Convention meting in Paris. The driving force of this Pope is his experience in Latin America with an agenda of poverty and Unsustainable Consumption that reveals ethical issues. He can be expected to reject the American conservative interests underwritten by oil industry interests that send to his doorsteps folks like Marc Morano and the Heartland Foundation with Republican Skeptics found in the US Senate of James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Fareed also mentioned on his program the fact that coincidentally it was June 15, 1215 that King John released the First Magna Carta that was shortly thereafter declared “Null and Void for all validity for-ever” by Pope Innocent II. A new Magna Carta was instituted later and it is the 2025 version that is the basis for the Constitutions of many States – including the USA. Pope Francis’s Encyclical might be viewed by future generations as the Magna Carta for the Earth – we hope the term SUSTAINABILITY will be brought into full focus – so ought to be “sustainable development.”

One last issue of this State of the World program was about the dwindling population in all European States and in many Asian States as well. It is only the USA that is growing – this thanks to immigration and some might say energy autarky?. The subject needs more linking to the rest of the program ingredients and we expect this will be done eventually.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

IISDRS – Summary & Analysis from the 5th Intergovernmental Negotiation on Post2015 Development Agenda

as per Langston James Goree VI

5th Session of the Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiations (Follow-Up and Review)
18-22 May 2015 | UN Headquarters, New York

 www.iisd.ca/post2015/in5/

The fifth session of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda took place from 18-22 May 2015, at UN Headquarters in New York.

The session, which focused on follow-up and review of the post-2015 development agenda, was led by the Co-Facilitators for the post-2015 process, David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland, and Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya.

This session marked the last of the “scripted” sessions outlined in UN General Assembly decision A/69/L.46, on modalities for the process of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda. During the course of the week, delegates discussed: follow-up and review of the post-2015 development agenda; goals, targets and indicators; themes for the interactive dialogues during the Post-2015 Summit in September; and the way forward. An interactive dialogue with Major Groups and other stakeholders took place on Wednesday, 20 May. Delegates adopted the six themes for the interactive dialogues, which will be transmitted to the President of the General Assembly.

During the week, participants discussed what exactly “follow-up and review” entails at the national, regional and global levels. There was much discussion on the role of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in this regard. There was disagreement on whether there should be technical revisions to the targets, which were approved by the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals in July 2014.

At the end of the week, the Co-Facilitators announced that the zero draft of the outcome document would be circulated on or about 1 June 2015, noting this would provide enough time to delegations to organize preliminary informal consultations before the sixth session of the intergovernmental negotiations begins on 22 June.

The Summary of this meeting is now available in PDF format

at  www.iisd.ca/download/pdf/enb3218e… and in HTML format at

 www.iisd.ca/vol32/enb3218e.html

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A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE MEETINGS

The fifth session of the post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations marked the last stocktaking session of the process before the focus turns to the textual negotiations on the post-2015 outcome. Since January 2015, participants have discussed elements of the structure of the post-2015 development agenda, including the declaration, the goals and targets, means of implementation and, at the fifth session, follow-up and review. As delegates await the zero draft of the outcome document, which they were informed would be issued by the Co-Facilitators on or about 1 June, it is clear that some “existential questions” remain regarding the post-2015 development agenda. These questions could be the focus of difficult debates before negotiations conclude in July. This brief analysis reflects on some of these questions, within the context of the fifth session’s discussions on follow-up and review, and examines the way forward, in the context of a complex set of interrelated sustainable development negotiations.

“COMING TO TERMS WITH THE TERMS”

While most delegations shared the view that a well-functioning review framework is essential for the implementation of the SDGs, it was clear that there is not yet agreement on the nomenclature. While most developing countries wanted to maintain the terminology “follow-up and review” in the outcome document, some developed countries preferred to use “monitoring, accountability and review” instead. The phrases have different meanings and implications and many developing countries are concerned that “accountability” could imply conditionality.

The EU, for example, said monitoring, accountability and review are all essential for the implementation of the agenda, and clarified that monitoring is about data and information to provide an assessment of progress, while accountability is about taking ownership, responsibility and ensuring follow-up of commitments. By contrast, the G-77/China stressed the importance of follow-up and review, noting that these terms were used in decision A/69/L.46 on the modalities for the process of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, and stating that accountability and monitoring had “no place in the debate.” India argued that it is better to look at this part of the post-2015 agenda as “review and follow-up,” since review should precede follow-up.

It was clear from this that achieving a common understanding on the terminology is necessary before agreeing on any review framework.


“BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR”

By the end of the week, there was some degree of consensus that, at the global level, the HLPF should be the main platform for follow-up and review. However, the issue of whether the review of the post-2015 agenda should take place under a highly centralized structure under the authority of the HLPF or under a network with the HLPF at its core remained, among other questions. As these discussions took place, Co-Facilitator Kamau cautioned delegates to “be careful what you wish for,” noting that there was a level of complexity built into their proposals and that, once their complexity was unpacked, it would be difficult to develop a proposal that would work, especially given the short negotiating time left before the Post-2015 Summit. The G-77/China said the HLPF should be the key forum, to which other mechanisms created to follow up on outcomes of UN conferences and conventions should report in order to eschew unnecessary duplication.

Japan, however, stressed that it is impossible to build a highly centralized structure whereby one single authority would take charge of following up the wide and interlinked agenda. Therefore, Japan and others suggested that the global review structure should have the HLPF at the center, with the widest possible network of existing review mechanisms supporting it. Existing mechanisms, from the World Trade Organization for trade elements, to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee for reviews related to official development assistance, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation for multi-stakeholder efforts, and existing legally binding agreements for relevant targets were identified as candidates for supporting mechanisms during the discussions, but the nuts and bolts of the reporting relationship with the HLPF and timing for reviews require further examination and discussion.

Another issue that remains to be unpacked is whether the follow-up for the FfD3 and post-2015 processes should take place under an integrated framework or in two separate review mechanisms. The EU and Switzerland, among others, supported developing an overarching monitoring, accountability and review framework for the entire post-2015 agenda, including both the financial and non-financial MOI, and said the FfD3 review process should ultimately feed into the HLPF. The G-77/China, by contrast, argued that the two processes are independent and said, even though they have points in common, they need two different review frameworks. Many agreed that the unpacking of this issue will depend on what is agreed by FfD3 in July.

A key question for the follow-up and review mechanism relates to how the HLPF itself will function. As the Co-Facilitators noted, delegates assigned a multitude of possible tasks to the HLPF during this session, including: keeping track of progress; identifying shortcomings and gaps on the SDGs; making recommendations about what countries should do to stay on track; discussing national and regional reviews; providing a science-policy interface; and addressing emerging issues and challenges. The Co-Facilitators reminded delegations that the HLPF only meets eight days a year, under the auspices of ECOSOC, with three of those days taken up with a ministerial segment. Co-Facilitator Kamau’s suggestion that the HLPF might need to meet twice a year was almost universally rejected, but his idea that some elements could be “offloaded” to other UN bodies that could report back to the Forum generated some interest. Additional proposals related to the HLPF’s functions included calls for the annual HLPF meetings to focus on thematic topics, and for the adoption of a four-year review cycle, where governments could be invited to communicate how they are implementing the SDGs at the national level and what still needs to be done.

In addition to the HLPF, there was also discussion on how other institutions and stakeholders would be involved. On the question of whether regional or global institutions should undertake national reviews, some proposed that country reviews should be done at the regional or sub-regional levels, with the HLPF taking the lead on the global assessment with inputs from the UN Regional Commissions, other relevant stakeholders and international organizations. Others, such as Switzerland and Germany, said the HLPF should review both how countries are doing individually and how the international community is doing globally. Many countries also stressed the importance of stakeholder participation at all levels. The EU, for example, suggested that the UN Global Compact could contribute to the work of the HLPF by preparing assessments of the private sector’s involvement in implementation. Several delegates noted that NGOs, civil society and the private sector also need to be held accountable for implementation of the post-2015 development agenda, especially with regard to MOI. The G-77/China and Egypt said that the follow-up and review process should be determined by national governments and include the participation of all relevant stakeholders in accordance with existing laws and regulations, pointing to another aspect in which further unpacking will be necessary before the follow-up and review framework is adopted.

“WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PICK AND CHOOSE WHICH GOALS TO IMPLEMENT AND WHICH GOALS NOT TO”

In opening the session, Co-Facilitator Kamau highlighted that, because the SDGs are interrelated, “we will not be able to pick and choose which goals to implement and which goals not to.” This indivisibility of the agenda, due to the integrated nature of the SDGs, implies that one cannot look at a goal without taking into account its relationship with other goals and targets. For example, as a participant noted during the interactive dialogue with Major Groups and other stakeholders, universal health coverage will not be achieved without sanitation, and sanitation will not progress without improvements in education, such as school toilets, which calls for integration and policy coherence. Some participants noted that the same interdependence applies to thematic reviews and proposals to organize the work of the HLPF along thematic lines. If those thematic reviews are to be considered, inter-sectoral linkages as well as horizontal linkages with other multilateral agreements, international organizations, the private sector, governments and other stakeholders will have to be considered to ensure coherence of action.

What will be reviewed does not, however, simply relate to the coherence and inter-linkages between the goals, but also to the targets and indicators under each goal. While the targets were included in the report of the OWG, some said that having undefined numbers?identified by the use of “Xs”?was unacceptable and expressed concern that Heads of State should not adopt a document with “Xs.” However, when the Co-Facilitators distributed a document containing revised targets, there were mixed reactions to the proposal to revise only some of the targets. Some welcomed the revisions so as to ensure that the goals are measurable and aligned with international agreements. Others actually supported leaving the “Xs” in the text since it would allow countries to choose the targets that are best for them. Finally, there were those who expressed concern that this exercise could reopen the SDGs and thus derail the entire post-2015 agreement. The development of indicators by the UNSC will also try to achieve coherence across this indivisible agenda.

“WE CANNOT USE PREVIOUSLY AGREED LANGUAGE IN A DOCUMENT THAT IS LOOKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE”

Based on the discussions during the first five sessions of the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, the Co-Facilitators will attempt to put “flesh on the bones” of the document to be adopted in September. However, as several countries noted, the outcome document has to look towards the future, not rely on “stale,” previously agreed UN language. To achieve this objective, delegates will need to unpack previous arrangements and business-as-usual frameworks to understand how 193 countries can individually and jointly pivot to pursue a sustainable development path for the next 15 years. Optimists at the fifth session pointed to the sticking points that emerged from the discussion as evidence that delegates are grappling with the need to change course, although they too wondered how the complexities of interrelated issues and actors could be fully recognized when the process finally puts pen to paper over the next two months.

The zero draft of the outcome document will be the focus of three weeks of negotiations in June and July. The Co-Facilitators have asked delegations to consult within and among their negotiating groups before the sixth session begins on 22 June, and start to build bridges across the chasms on the agenda. Many questions remain about the details of this agenda and the fifth session of the intergovernmental negotiations indicated that there could be a rocky road ahead in reaching agreement on terminology, the follow-up and review process, the role of the HLPF, and any changes to the targets. What is clear, however, is that many want a document that will “connect, inspire and motivate” a global audience, avoid recycling UN language, and look towards the future.

This analysis, taken from the summary issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin ©  enb at iisd.org, is written and edited by Pamela Chasek, Ph.D. , Ana Maria Lebada, Nathalie Risse, and Christine Søby. The Editor is Lynn Wagner, Ph.D. The Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI <kimo@iisd.org>. The Sustaining Donors of the Bulletin are the European Union, the Government of Switzerland (the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC)), and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. General Support for the Bulletin during 2015 is provided by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, SWAN International, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Japanese Ministry of Environment (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies – IGES), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Funding for translation of the Bulletin into French has been provided by the Government of France, the Wallonia, Québec, and the International Organization of La Francophonie/Institute for Sustainable Development of La Francophonie (IOF/IFDD). The opinions expressed in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD or other donors. Excerpts from the Bulletin may be used in non-commercial publications with appropriate academic citation. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at <kimo@iisd.org>, +1-646-536-7556 or 300 East 56th St., 11D, New York, NY 10022 USA.

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


IPCC Expert Meeting: Climate research community looks into future scenarios.
IPCC Press Release

GENEVA, May 18 – Climate experts will meet in Laxenburg near Vienna, Austria, on 18-20 May 2015 at an Expert Meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to discuss and further develop new socioeconomic scenarios as shared tools for climate research.

Experts from the climate change research community will meet with representatives of the IPCC at the meeting hosted by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria.

“We use scenarios much like testing probes to explore future societal developments and their consequences for climate and the environment,” said Keywan Riahi, who leads IIASA’s energy program and is convening the Expert Meeting. He is also a lead author of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on the mitigation of climate change. “The scenarios that were assessed by the IPCC have proven vital for the AR5. This expert meeting will have a detailed look at a new generation of scenarios and framework that the climate change research community has adopted to facilitate the integrated analysis of future climate impacts, vulnerabilities, adaptation, and mitigation,” said Riahi.

Scenarios, as used in research with integrated assessment models, are stories about potential ways that the future might develop. They feature specific quantitative elements and details about how sectors such as the economy, climate, and the energy sector interact. By looking at scenarios, researchers look for insights into the paths and circumstances that might lead to specific objectives.

“The scenarios from the research community form the backbone of our analysis of potential climate change impacts as well as mitigation and adaptation solutions,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, Chief Economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, which deals with the mitigation of climate change. The IPCC facilitated the development of the new scenarios in AR5 and assessed their results in the report, but the process is coordinated by the research community.

The Expert Meeting is being convened to continue the dialogue with the research community, to take stock of the achievements of the process during the AR5 cycle, to share available information across scientific disciplines, and to discuss the role of scenarios in future IPCC products.

With the meeting the IPCC intends to bring together scientific groups with diverse expertise and backgrounds to share experiences and expectations related to the scenario community’s activities and to facilitate further development of common scenarios in climate change research. This will allow a more integrated assessment of mitigation, adaptation, and climate change impacts across the entirety of IPCC work in the future.

The development of the new socioeconomic scenarios, called ‘Shared Socioeconomic Pathways’ (SSPs) complements the Representative Concentration Pathways already used in AR5; these are previously developed trajectories for future levels of greenhouse gases that are being explored in experiments by the climate modeling community.

The SSPs enable researchers to conduct related studies across a broad range of topics. Just before the IPCC meeting a new generation of SSP scenarios has been made publicly available for review by the community (see below). The research communities will continue to investigate the implications of various socioeconomic developments on the local, regional, or global scale for the impacts of climate change and the costs, risks, and benefits of a range of possible policies.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the world body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

It released the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in four stages over 2013 and 2014, finishing with the AR5 Synthesis Report in November 2014.

The IPCC organizes Expert Meetings and Workshops to facilitate discussions of topics relevant to the assessment process and to receive early input from the scientific community. In order to enhance coordination across the Working Groups in the preparation of the IPCC Assessment and Special Reports, topics of a cross-cutting nature are of particular interest. Proposals for Expert Meetings and Workshops are approved by the IPCC Plenary. The nomination process for the two kinds of events differs, as governments nominate experts for Workshops, while for Expert Meetings, attendees are nominated by the Working Group Co-Chairs.

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Database for the SSPs:
 secure.iiasa.ac.at/web-apps/ene/…

Scenario database of the IPCC AR5:
 secure.iiasa.ac.at/web-apps/ene/…
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About IIASA The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policy makers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by scientific institutions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Europe. www.iiasa.ac.at

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

On the Occasion of the Second Annual United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum,

The Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) invites you to:

Expert Session: “The Arab World’s Transition to Sustainable Energy Pathway: A Look from Inside”

19 May 2015, 2:40 – 3:55 pm
Sheraton Times Square Hotel, New York (Room C)

In the last few years, Arab countries have taken a number of initiatives to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency investments. The session aims to present these key developments and highlight ‘hot’ energy markets in the region. In particular, the session will focus on private sector investment opportunities, highlight developments in energy subsidy reforms and present newly launched renewable energy and energy efficiency supporting policies. The presentation will be based on the recently released 2015 edition of the Arab Future Energy Index (AFEX) developed by the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE) with support of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Arab Climate Resilience Initiative. AFEX 2015 assesses the sustainable energy investment climate in 17 countries of the Arab region and is a key analytical benchmarking tool for gauging progress on national energy goals. As the region embarks on the implementation of the expected post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), AFEX provides a practical analytical tool that is expected to play a critical role tracking progress of the expected future SDG on energy.


On the Occasion of the Second Annual United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum,


The Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) invites you to:

Expert Session: “The Arab World’s Transition to Sustainable Energy Pathway: A Look from Inside”

19 May 2015, 2:40 – 3:55 pm
Sheraton Times Square Hotel, New York (Room C)

Agenda: 19 May 2015, 2:40 – 3:55 pm

2:40 pm: Opening remarks by Dr. Tareq Emtairah, RCREEE Executive Director and Mr. Adel Abdellatif, Senior Strategic Advisor, Regional Bureau for Arab States, UNDP, on addressing the sustainable energy challenges in the Arab region.

2:50 pm: Presentation of AFEX 2015 key progress highlights on sustainable energy development in the Arab region by Ms. Nurzat Myrsalieva RCREEE Lead

3:10 pm: Expert views and panel discussions, moderated by Dr. Tareq Emtairah:

Panelists:

• Palestine: H.E. Dr. Omar Kittaneh, Minister of the Palestine Energy Authority

• UAE: Mr. Dane McQueen, UAE Advisor on Sustainable Energy Opportunities in the Arab Region

• The World Bank: Mr. Alejandro Moreno, Energy specialist, Energy and Extractives Global Practice

3:30 pm: Audience Q&A session

3:55 pm: Concluding remarks

For more information, please visit: www.rcreee.org and se4allforum.org/forum-agenda, or contact  rcreee.org

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UAE: Mr. Dane McQueen, UAE Advisor on Sustainable Energy Opportunities in the Arab Region

• The World Bank: Mr. Alejandro Moreno, Energy specialist, Energy and Extractives Global Practice

3:30 pm:

Audience Q&A session

3:55 pm:

Concluding remarks

For more information, please visit: www.rcreee.org and se4allforum.org/forum-agenda, or contact  ana.rovzar at rcreee.org

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

Mitigation and Adaptation in the UNFCCC Debates

An analysis of the UNFCCC’s discussions provided by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin

for graphs please see the original – weadapt.org/knowledge-base/adapt…

Introduction

Climate Change Adaptation appears to occupy the center of the climate negotiations. There are claims in the literature on climate diplomacy about an ‘adaptation turn’ in the last years of the negotiation. We challenge those and find adaptation to have been present and highly visible from the very beginning, particularly the specific question of adaptation finance.

In the larger debate on climate change, the notion of ‘adaptation’ is often opposed (or at least contrasted) to that of ‘mitigation’. Such a contrast is not without reason. The two notions refer to vastly different ways to deal with global warming.

‘Mitigation’ refers to the efforts to lessen the impacts of climate change by acting on its causes and therefore reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG).

‘Adaptation’, on the contrary, refers to the efforts to prepare our societies to cope with the effects of climate change.

Though the two approaches are not mutually exclusive (there is no contradiction between striving to avoid the dangers and prepare to deal with those that cannot be avoided), they have often been opposed by the actors in the climate change debate. In this narrative we explore the status of mitigation and adaptation in the UNFCCC debate.

This article is part of the Climaps project by EMAPS. If you want to learn more about the project, please read more in this article.


The rise of adaptation related issues

Looking at figure 1 of the text, the difference between mitigation and adaptation is evident. Terms related to the efforts to mitigate climate change organize 7 of the 12 clusters of the networks, grouped in three main semantic arenas, widely scattered across the graph (‘emission reduction’; ‘carbon sinks’; ‘energies, technology transfer and clean development projects’).

Compared to the mitigation clusters, adaptation clusters are fewer and more compact. The 3 clusters dedicated to adaptation (‘environmental and social impacts’, ‘vulnerability and adaptation’ activity and adaptive ‘funding and equity’) are tightly grouped at the centre of the map. This shows the difference in status of adaptation in the UNFCCC negotiations.

Where mitigation is the primary objective of the conference, and thus formulated in numerous ways, adaptation, impacts and vulnerability seem more limited in their articulation, but also more commonly connected to other issues (which accounts for their centrality in the map). The figure also reflects the different types of contextualisation of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Figure 1: from Climaps.eu.The ‘place’ of adaptation. Network of terms co-occurring in the same paragraphs of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Volume 12. Node position is determined by a force vector algorithm (Jacomy et al., forthcoming) bringing together terms directly or indirectly linked, and keeping away terms with fewer co-occurrences. Node size is proportional to their frequency in the corpus. Node color follows the clusters identified by the clustering algorithm. Click to see main Issue map.

Looking at Figure 2, one will immediately notice that there is (with the exception of COP6 in the Hague) a general increase of the overall number of appearances of issues until COP16 in Cancún. This reflects the increase of the total number of participants during the COPs.

Adaptation and mitigation issues are both visible in the UNFCCC negotiations. However mitigation has been from the very beginning a top priority on the negotiations’ agenda. In the first phase of the negotiations little attention was dedicated to the actions of developing countries to cope with the impacts of climate change. Except that the most vulnerable members succeeded in putting the issue of financing adaptation activities on the agenda from the first COP (see also figure 4).

Adaptation, however, assumed greater importance in the second phase of the negotiations. With all parties facing difficulties in achieving their mitigation objectives, debates on what shall be done regarding vulnerability, climate change impacts and adaptation, as well as how to finance these actions became more relevant.

Figure 2: from Climpas.eu. Stream graph of the absolute and relative visibility of issues during UNFCCC negotiations, 1995-2013. The size of each flow is proportional to the number of paragraphs in which two terms defining the issue are present. Flows are sorted according to the number of occurrences: for each COP, the highest flow corresponds to the most visible issue while the lowest corresponds to the least visible. Click to see Issue map.

The diagram (Figure 3) shows a remarkable stability. Most countries maintain their relative rank throughout the 19 COPs. The 10 most active countries are represented by a rather stable, small group, which includes the United States, China, Europe, Australia, and Japan. The three leaders of the negotiations – China, the United States, and Europe – are ubiquitous. There are several exceptions. First, the Philippines and Bolivia, two countries from the southern hemisphere, have taken on very active roles, perhaps disproportionate with their size.

Figure 3: from Climaps.eu. Stream graph of the absolute and relative visibility of the countries of the UNFCCC negotiations, 1995-2013. The size of each country flow is proportional to the number of paragraphs in which the name of the country appears. Flows are sorted according to the number of occurrences: for each COP, the highest flow corresponds to the most visible issue while the lowest corresponds to the least visible. Click to see main Issue map.
Key messages

– Reading the two maps (Figures 1 and 2) together, it is possible to remark that (as expected) mitigation plays a preeminent role in climate diplomacy. Mitigation constitutes the bulk of UNFCCC’s discussions.

– Adaptation appears to occupy the center of the climate negotiations and has been present and highly visible from the very beginning (especially with the topic of adaptation funding). These findings challenge some of the claims in the literature about climate diplomacy about an ‘adaptation turn’ in the past few years of the negotiation.

– What has always been present and visible in the negotiations is not the entire discussion about adaptation, but the specific question of adaptation finance.

– No clear pattern exists to support the hypothesis that certain states or groups of states may be particularly active on adaptation related issues.

The maps were produced by analyzing the reports on the UNFCCC’s discussions provided by Volume 12 of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB).

More about this project:

Climate Adaptation in Bangladesh – A case study on tracking adaptation funding.
A closer look at the practices of vulnerability assessment and the priorities of adaptation funding.

Published:
28th April 2015

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


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

Dan Smith 22 April 2015

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Responding to risk

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

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

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


The current menu of action

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

Climate change adaptation plans rarely address fragility and conflict comprehensively.

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

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


What needs to be done

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

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

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

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


But where to start?

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

Here is what the G7 communiqué says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invitation to the 2nd annual United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum

SE4ALL Forum

Kindly find attached an invitation from Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and Chief Executive Officer of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, for the 2nd annual United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum that will take place on 17-21 May in New York.

Important information on registration, as well as preliminary documents such as agenda and concept note will be made available on the Forum website at www.se4allforum.org.

Very best,
Sustainable Energy for All Forum Team

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

Vienna Energy Forum 2015

The Vienna Energy Forum 2015 (VEF 2015) will emphasize the multiple benefits of the post-2015 development and climate agendas and showcase the best practices and actions on the ground that can contribute to both agendas. Energy practitioners, policymakers and thought leaders will discuss the interconnections of sustainable energy and inclusive development in the areas of partnerships, finance, policy, technology, capacity building and knowledge management. The event will also explore the consequences of trends such as population growth and urbanization, as well as addressing the resulting increase in energy demand. Other topics will include South-South cooperation, and energy, water, food and health linkages. The event is organized by the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and Austrian Foreign Ministry.

The Vienna Energy Forum 2015 (VEF 2015) will take place only a few months before the Sustainable Development Goals Summit in New York (September 2015) and the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris (November 2015). By emphasizing the multiple benefits of the Post-2015 Development and the Climate Agenda and by showcasing best practices and actions on the ground, the VEF 2015 aims at contributing to both.

Building on the findings from the VEFs held in 2009, 2011 and 2013, as well as the overarching goals of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), the VEF 2015 will provide a high-level platform for thought leaders, policy makers and energy practitioners to engage in a multi-stakeholder dialogue on pivotal sustainable energy issues connected to inclusive development, including partnerships, finance, policy, technology, capacity building and knowledge management.

dates:
18-20 June 2015
venue:
Hofburg Palace, Michaelerkuppel, 1010
location:
Wien, Austria
contact:
UNIDO
phone:
+43 (1) 26026-0
fax:
+43 (1) 2692669
e-mail:
 vef2015 at unido.org

www:  www.viennaenergyforum.org

Registration is open now here!

 www.unido.org/en/news-centre/eve…

read more: energy-l.iisd.org/events/vienna-e…

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Key questions to be addressed at the VEF 2015:

• What are the main benefits of sustainable energy to inclusive development and productive capacities?

• What are the main drivers of the increasing energy demand across sectors and how can these be addressed in an integrated way?

• How can we strengthen the potential of sustainable energy so that it results in concrete actions supporting the Post-2015 Development and the Climate Agenda?

• What are the areas of greatest potential in energy efficiency, and what can be done to accelerate action and investment in energy efficiency, the ‘hidden fuel’ that has some of the most promising prospects to advance the goals of climate security and sustainable growth?

• Which innovative financing mechanisms can we use to promote renewable energy systems? How do we scale up investments in renewable energy technologies to meet the SE4ALL goals?

• How do we energize multi-stakeholder partnerships, private sector involvement and regional cooperation to promote sustainable energy for all?

• How can the nexus perspective be operationalized to support integrated approaches to energy, water, food, ecosystems and human health?

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


The “Hindenburg Trap”: Dump Oil, Coal & Gas Stocks if You Want to Retire
.

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment – posted by Reader Supported News

08 March 2015

 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…

hat is the actual value of the oil, gas and coal fields owned by big energy corporations, which gives them their stock price and allows them to be counted as assets for borrowing purposes?

The real value of those hydrocarbon resources is zero.

Or actually it is much less than zero, since there are likely to be a lot of liability lawsuits and insurance claims for severe environmental and property damage. Coal, oil and gas are now where the cigarette companies were in 1990, on the verge of getting hit with massive penalties. Big Coal and Big Oil are dead men walking.

The only thing that stops the entire world economy, including that of the United States, from collapsing is that investors continue to pretend that what I just said is not true. Because of this pretense, some people will go on making a lot of money with hydrocarbon investments in the short and perhaps even the medium term. Much investment and assignment of value is a matter of confidence.

But the confidence is misplaced. If you are still fairly young and you or your pension fund bought a lot of petroleum or gas or coal stocks in hopes of retiring on them, think again. You will lose your shirt.

Worse, because so many loans and other investments are anchored by the supposed value of coal, oil and gas, the world is walking an economic tightrope and the gentlest of breezes could knock it off into a crisis that would make 2008-2009 look like a minor hiccup.

In particular, if a sizable ice shelf breaks off in the Antarctic, you could see a sudden sea level rise that would panic the public and possibly lead some countries to outlaw things like coal and gas.

The Bank of England is doing a big study of this problem, which economists call that of “stranded assets.” That is a fancy phrase for when you invest in something that suddenly loses its value.

For instance, say you invested in Blockbuster Video Entertainment, Inc., when people used to rent DVD’s of movies from brick and mortar stores. In 2006 it seemed a good stock to buy– it had 9000 stores and 60,000 employees (almost as many as there are coal miners). And then streaming video came along. Stranded asset. Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010 and survives only as a streaming service of Dish satellite television, which bought it and was gradually forced to liquidate all the stores.

The same thing will happen to coal, oil and natural gas, for two big, inexorable reasons. First, burning hydrocarbons is fatal to the health of our planet– in terms of the energy it releases, it is like setting off atomic bombs constantly. After a while that would take a toll. Second, other far less destructive ways of generating electricity are every day becoming cheaper and more efficient, especially wind and solar.

That coal as an industry is a bad investment should be obvious. The Obama Environmental Protection Agency has decided finally to start actually enforcing the Clean Air and Water Act, and has also claimed the right to regulate states’ carbon dioxide emissions (in which it has been upheld by the Supreme Court). Most coal plants will likely close over the next five years. Can you say, Blockbuster Video? I’d dump those coal stocks, like yesterday, or call my pension fund and make them drop them.

Of course, there was already a social conscience argument against investing in coal, which is dirty– burning it emits mercury (a nerve poison) and other dangerous pollutants and makes people sick. It also causes acid rain. And it is a major emitter of carbon dioxide, the deadliest poison of all. It is a horrible thing.

Let’s consider what has happened in Iowa just since 2005.

In 2005, wind generated 4% of Iowa’s electricity. Coal was responsible for a whopping 79%, about 4/5s.

In 2013, wind generated 28% of Iowa’s electricity. Coal had fallen to only 59%.

Given those trend lines, in such a short period of time, does coal look like a good investment to you? Or does wind? Especially since we know what the EPA is planning for coal.

Coal isn’t just competing with wind. The conservative Deutsche Bank has just concluded that in 14 states of the US, solar power is now as inexpensive as that from coal and natural gas. Right now. That is, it would be crazy to build a new coal plant today when you could generate electricity just as cheaply with solar.

And get this: by 2016– next year! — Deutsche Bank concludes that solar will be competitive with coal and natural gas in all but three or four states. And that is not an argument based on subsidies for solar. It will be as inexpensive as coal-generated electricity just purely on a market basis (in fact, it will be even cheaper, since there are massive government subsidies for coal, gas and oil).

Critics say that the wind dies down sometimes and the sun doesn’t shine on half the earth at night. This problem is referred to as that of “intermittency.” But it isn’t an insoluble problem. For one thing, the wind often blows more at night, so turbines can take up the slack from solar plants. For another, there are now molten salt solar installations that go on generating electricity for six hours after sunset. As batteries improve in efficiency and fall in price (both things are happening already, big time), the problem of intermittency will fade into insignificance, likely within a decade.

Another drag is that the electricity grid in many states needs to be redone. Wires need to be laid from the Thumb in Michigan where the wind is to the Detroit metropolitan area where most of the electricity is used. But it really is a relatively minor expense, and since the fuel for wind turbines is free, it would pay for itself fairly quickly. That is just a matter of having a state government that is on the ball and sees where the future profits are to be made. Cheap wind- and solar- generated electricity will allow factories to save money on energy and make their products more inexpensively, allowing them to compete on the world market. A solar facility is helping power the Volkswagon plant in Chattanooga. They’re not paying for coal or gas to produce that portion of their power, because the sunlight is free, and that will make their cars more competitive in price. Some buyers may throw their business to Volkswagen because they are greener. All factory owners will quickly move in this direction over the next few years.

So there isn’t any doubt about it. Buying stocks in coal, gas and oil companies is like buying stocks in zeppelins. They are outmoded and prone to crashing and burning, a Hindenburg waiting to happen. (Zeppelins were good investments once, too; they carried tens of thousands of people across the Atlantic and the top of the Empire State Building was designed to anchor them; but they became a stranded asset.)

It is therefore absolutely amazing that institutions of higher education like Harvard often refuse to divest from oil, gas and coal companies. The science and the economics are clear as day– burning hydrocarbons is disastrous for a city like Boston over time, and holding stranded assets is a one way ticket to bankruptcy court. I couldn’t tell you whether this decision is made out of short-sightedness or out of ethical and moral corruption (universities live nowadays on donors’ donations and don’t want to anger generous alumni who make their living purveying coal, gas and oil).

But those hydrocarbon stocks, and loans made on the basis of those worthless assets, are endangering the economic health of us all. Buying and holding them is the equivalent of refusing to vaccinate your children against measles. It is an individual decision that imperils the rest of the public. You and I may not be able to do much about the Koch brothers’ hold on state legislatures, or about the mysterious insidiousness of the Harvard regents. But most of us have some say in what stocks are in our pension funds or 401ks. There shouldn’t be any coal, gas or oil securities in there. Unless you like the idea of working backbreaking minimum wage jobs into your 80s.

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ONE OPPOSING COMMENT:

0 # brycenuc 2015-03-08 18:03
Juan Cole needs a course in basic science. It is no accident that Germany and Denmark who have the highest percentage of renewable electricity generation also have the highest electricity prices in the world. When the taxpayers and rate payers tire of paying for the exorbitant government subsidy required to keep them running, “renewable” energy will become the stranded asset. Where did Germany turn, when it realized it had to have a more reliable source of electricity? IT TURNED TO COAL. Germany’s conversion to more “renewable” energy has caused its carbon emissions to increase.

Incidentally, the huge volume of emissions shown in the photograph accompanying Cole’s message is not from gas, oil, or coal; it is from steam.

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

February 17, 2015

Tesla’s Disruptive New Plan to Power Your Home
by Dr. Kent Moors

From a surprising source – Dr. Kent Moors’ Oil & Energy Investor’s site we picked up the following:

February 17, 2015 – but we picked this up only February 25th because Google deemed the posting a “Promotion rather then “Primar

 oilandenergyinvestor.com/2015/02/…

TESLA’s DISRUPTIVE NEW PLAN TO POWER YOUR HOME.
by Dr. Kent Moors

Dear Oil & Energy Investor,

Two eye-opening announcements prove that renewable energy is no longer at the mercy of the price of oil.


Both involve solar power, which I find increasingly attractive in today’s markets.

The first is a major test of a joint project between Tesla Motors Inc. (NasdaqGS: TSLA) and SolarCity Corp. (NasdaqGS: SCTY) involving 500 California homes.

Sources have told me they expect this test to be the final “proof of concept,” followed by wider applications in both residential and commercial uses.

The lynchpin between the two is a family connection.

Tesla’s CEO is Elon Musk, one of the most innovative entrepreneurs of our time, while his cousin Lyndon Rive is the CEO of SolarCity. Musk is also SolarCity’s biggest shareholder.

Now the two are coming together in hopes of solving the industry’s biggest roadblock…

———————————

This was followed by:

Solar Power Comes of Age

Tesla, of course, needs very little introduction. The California-based company has a very visible position in cutting-edge electric cars.

SolarCity, on the other hand, is the market leader in residential solar power installations. In the third quarter of 2014, SolarCity led the pack in this portion of the business by grabbing 39% of the market. Meanwhile, SolarCity’s next-closest competitor came in at 16%.

The two market leaders are now combining some of their operations in a very serious attempt to bring solar power into more consumer areas. In short, SolarCity is working with Tesla to make rooftop panels that are fitted with Tesla batteries.

Now a major test is underway in California that may usher in a new age of residential solar battery use.

The California test will utilize a solar battery with the ability to power a home for two days in the event of a blackout. In everyday use, the unit is expected to allow homeowners to store solar-generated power for use during high-cost periods, giving them the flexibility to use the conventional grid for cheaper, off-peak electricity.

Storing generated power for use at other times – in short, perfecting a new line of cost-effective batteries – has been the industry’s single biggest hurdle.

So the California residential test may well usher in a whole new ballgame. Considering the batteries from the Tesla-SolarCity venture (involving more than the California test) utilize a new generation of silicon batteries, rather than relying on rare earth metals or lithium, is also a plus. This type of approach is already well advanced, and is based on considerable familiarity and history.

It also doesn’t hurt that Tesla is building the biggest battery factory on the planet right now. Dubbed the “Gigafactory,” the plant is expected to have a dramatic effect on the energy storage market, helping to bring battery costs down by as much as half by 2020.

So while the initial price of these installations may come in high, as with any generation-changing new technology, the cost will eventually come down. What’s more, there may be some credits and other inducements provided by the companies to stimulate usage.

This development, combined with the recent decisions by Apple Inc. (NasdaqGS: AAPL) to power its new Pentagon-like headquarters via solar and Google Inc. (NasdaqGS: GOOG) opting for wind power for its San Francisco Bay Area base, show that renewables are now moving into all aspects of electricity end use here in the States.

and the SECOND BIG NEWS OF THE INTRODUCTORY PIECE:

India Breaks Ground on the World’s Largest Solar Plant

The second major development for renewables is unfolding halfway around the world.

India has announced a major push to provide 15% of its electricity needs from renewables with an initial push into solar power, which is unfolding right now. It’s the first high-profile effort to provide concrete plans for a major Asian advance into solar power distribution.

The Times of India reported yesterday that the construction of the world’s largest solar power plant has begun in the central Indian Rewa district, within the state of Madhya Pradesh. The plant, a joint venture between state-run PSU Urja Vikas Nigam and the Solar Energy Corp. of India, will provide 750 megawatt of electricity. Once online, the plant will be 36% bigger than the largest plant currently in operation.

The current world leader is the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, which just opened in California’s Mojave Desert. Situated on 3,800 acres near Joshua Tree National Park, the plant produces enough energy to power 160,000 homes.

But the Indian push into solar power hardly ends there. The government has plans for two dozen solar farms strategically placed throughout the country.

In all, the State Bank of India has committed resources for the development of 15 gigawatt of solar power by 2020. The objective is to provide a full 15% of the nation’s energy needs from renewable sources within five years.

To be sure, there are some doubts that New Delhi can pull this off. For one thing, the price tag is very debatable. For another, the national electricity distribution grid is in a sorry state, and would require significant, pricey, and (at the moment) an unspecified amount of investment to be able to shoulder the anticipated new power load.

Still, with the Chinese committed to a similar 15 gigawatt goal from solar by 2020, Germany’s decision to end its reliance on nuclear power, and the continued growth pattern in the U.S., one conclusion is already abundantly clear.

The future of solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and other renewables is longer dependent on the price of crude.

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


How has the oil price drop affected the bioenergy industry? Read the results of the WBA survey.

From: Bharadwaj V Kummamuru  bharadwaj.v.kummamuru at worldbioenergy….

Dear all,

World Bioenergy Association (WBA) would like to thank everyone for their voluntary participation in the survey on the oil price drop effect on the bioenergy industry.

We have received answers from 25 countries. The number of employees in the companies surveyed varied from 10 to more than 1 000. Respondents included pellet producers, biogas producer, and bioenergy equipment manufacturers etc.

In summary, the decline in oil prices from June 2014 to January 2015 has had a moderate to severe effect on 75% of the respondents while the rest were unaffected. The current situation benefits countries highly dependent on oil imports. However, bioenergy producers are struggling with lower investments, lower profit margins and less financial resources available for bioenergy development.

The complete summary is attached. For any comments on the survey, please email us at  info at worldbioenergy.org

Kind regards

WBA staff
 www.worldbioenergy.org

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 31st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Most of Public and About Half in GOP Back Climate Action

By Coral Davenport and Marjorie Connelly, The New York Times, 30 January 2015


An overwhelming majority of the American public, including nearly half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group (“Natural Resources for Industry” Oriented – this is our editor’s addition) “Resources for the Future”.

In a finding that could have implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, the poll also found that two-thirds of Americans say they are more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change. They are less likely to vote for candidates who question or deny the science that determined that humans caused global warming.

Among Republicans, 48 percent said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change, a result that Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of political science at Stanford University and an author of the survey, called “the most powerful finding” in the poll. Many Republican candidates either question the science of climate change or do not publicly address the issue.> “It recruits more Tea Partyers than it repels,” Mr. Krosnick said.

READ MORE AT:  www.nytimes.com/2015/01/31/us/pol…


Some of the Comments:

+3 # Dust 2015-01-30 16:44
The question becomes one primarily of world view. Interestingly enough, nobody wants to be considered “unscientific”, so they begin with an a-prior view and look for evidence that that can classify as “science” to support it. (Most people do this, regardless of viewpoint, but people who are truly interested in science refer to science and change their views accordingly).

The parallels to the “creation science / intelligent design” paradigm are fairly clear. Nobody wants to outright dismiss science, so they define the only valid sources of scientific research in increasingly limited and constrained ways. CS/ID people produce NO science of their own; the only thing they do is use their modified version of science to produce what appear to be legitimate questions or holes in the field of evolutionary biology. (FWIW – they also confuse the fields of evolutionary biology and physics). They then assert that ANY lack of perfect understanding in evolutionary theory is clearly grounds to dismiss the entire thing.

A similar parallel can be found in the field of encryption and cryptanalysis. Folks read a standard reference like Applied Cryptography in C and set out to write their own encryption algorithm. Now – THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS!! But when their lack of understanding comes to the fore and their work is not taken seriously by cryptanalysts, the intelligent thing to do is learn more about the field, not scream that there is a conspiracy against you.

+2 # Ken Halt 2015-01-30 16:45
Interesting to read some of the uninformed comments in the article. The MSM and Koch affiliates have been very effective with their propaganda

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

While on his way to Saudi Arabia, Obama released his opposition to drilling in a sensitive area of he Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Could this allay some Saudi worries?

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Obama’s Arctic Refuge Drill Ban Won’t Change Much, For Now
January 26, 2015

by John Ydstie of NPR

President Obama says he will ask Congress to give wilderness status to protect more than 12 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The president announced his intention Sunday in a video, describing the area as a pristine habitat with abundant wildlife:

“It’s very fragile. That’s why I’m very proud that my Department of Interior has put forward a comprehensive plan to make sure that we’re protecting the refuge and that we’re designating new areas, including coastal plains, for preservation,” he said.

But Obama’s action could put billions of barrels of oil beneath the wilderness out of reach of energy companies. Industry representatives are criticizing the decision, but also say Obama’s request will have little immediate effect.

Obama’s request for wilderness status reverses a recommendation by the Reagan administration in 1987 to allow drilling in a small area of the ANWR. In the intervening quarter of a century Democrats and Republicans have continuously sparred over the issue and no drilling has taken place.

Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the industry’s views, says despite the glut of oil on the market today because of the U.S. shale boom, the country will eventually need the oil from ANWR.

“If you look at Department of Energy forecasts, we’re gonna need oil and natural gas to fuel this economy for decades to come,” Milito says. “So, we gotta plan well ahead so we have the ability to fuel this economy for future generations.”

He points to a U.S. Geological Survey estimate that projects ANWR contains between 5 billion and 16 billion barrels of oil. He says the industry would likely find even more once it begins drilling.

Fadel Gheit, a managing director and oil expert at Oppenheimer & Co., says he believes the president’s decision does not change the outlook for developing the ANWR reserves significantly.

“It will make life more difficult for the industry; it will put another hurdle — but technology will always bring the hurdle down,” Gheit says.

He says the shale revolution reduces the urgency of tapping the ANWR oil.

“There’s really no need to take a chance on ANWR, since ANWR is still a very sensitive area,” he adds.

Gheit says the shale oil glut gives the oil industry five to 10 years to develop the technology it needs to convince the public that it can drill safely in such an environmentally sensitive place.

It’s virtually certain the new Republican-controlled Congress will reject the president’s recommendation. But Obama’s request does effectively block drilling for the next two years and he could veto a congressional bill to allow it.

But if Republicans keep control of Congress and the country elects a Republican president, Obama’s effort to protect ANWR from drilling could be swept aside.

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


Battle Over Offshore Drilling In Arctic Dwarfs ANWR

April 15, 2009

by Elizabeth Arnold of NPR

Melting ice in the Arctic may not be good for species that live there, but it does mean those icy waters are much more accessible and cost-effective places to drill for oil and gas.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was in Alaska this week as part of an “information gathering” tour to help craft a new Outer Continental Shelf drilling policy. After two days of public testimony from those for and against offshore drilling, Salazar pronounced Alaskans passionate and divided.

Just over a year ago, the oil and gas industry bid $2.6 billion for drilling rights in the Chukchi Sea, located in the Arctic between Alaska and Russia. It’s the largest oil and gas lease sale in history, and it’s staggering when compared with the $7 million that the same leases went for in 1991.

Though rapidly retreating sea ice makes it easier and more cost-effective to drill in the Chukchi Sea, it also means the area is more fragile. Just about every marine mammal and seabird in the Chukchi Sea is already endangered or a candidate for listing. And, the opposition from native villages that rely on fish, walrus, seals and whales for subsistence dwarfs the fight over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


Melting Ice Could Mean More Drilling, More Controversy

The biggest lease of the most recent sale went to Shell Gulf of Mexico, which spent $105 million for rights in the Chukchi Sea. Shell already had bought leases even further north and was ready with rigs when then-President George W. Bush lifted the ban on drilling along the Outer Continental Shelf.

“We are drill-bit ready to move in the Arctic right now, and this is stuff that can happen right now, and with a few things going our way, we will be ready to go in 2010,” says Pete Slaiby, Shell’s Alaska general manager.

But those few things are now largely in the hands of Salazar, who went to Alaska this week as part of the process of developing this administration’s offshore energy plan. He has called a time out on new leasing, for more public input, and he got plenty Tuesday.

Whaling captain and mayor of the North Slope Borough Edward Itta advised slowing down: “Mr. Secretary, like all Alaskans, the people of the North Slope depend on the economic engine of oil and gas development. We have supported onshore for well over 30 years now. But, Mr. Secretary, offshore is a different matter.”

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin advised speeding up: “Delays or major restrictions in accessing our needed resources for environmentally responsible development are not in the nation’s or our state’s best interest.”

Passionate Protests From Both Sides

From laborers in hard hats chanting “jobs, jobs, jobs” to environmentalists dressed as polar bears and puffins, division and emotion over offshore drilling was apparent.

Shell’s Slaiby says the industry has learned from problems like the Exxon Valdez spill. Of the total volume of oil, less than 1 percent ends up in the oceans, he says. And, he says, more than 100 exploratory wells have been drilled in U.S. and Canadian Arctic waters without a single accident.

But concern over offshore drilling in Arctic waters doesn’t just center on spills. The Interior Department is also responsible for endangered species. An increasing number of marine mammals and seabirds in the arctic are in decline, and the fear is that the impacts of a warming climate will be compounded by new development.

Species At Risk

Traveling on an icebreaker in the northern Bering Sea, University of Wyoming researcher Jim Lovvorn studies seabirds that breed in the Arctic, including the spectacled eider. On both hands, he counts off other species in danger: Steller’s eiders, king eiders, common eiders, red-throated loons, yellow-billed loons, four species of ice seal, walruses and bowhead whales.

“You could not find a more sensitive habitat,” Lovvorn says.

On the same ship, USGS research ecologist Chad Jay is tracking the Pacific walrus, which is also under consideration for listing as a threatened or endangered species. Reductions in the extent of ice over the past few years have forced walruses onto small pieces of remnant ice.

In 2007, there was no ice at all near the shelf.

“As a result of [ice shelf melting] we saw upwards of 6,000 walruses hauling out along the shore of northwest Alaska, which is the first ever,” Jay says. “It means that a greater number of animals are using a smaller space to forage in and to haul out on — probably not a good thing.”

But the very thing that is cause for concern with regard to walrus and other species in the Arctic is what’s made drilling in these waters more attractive to industry: less sea ice.

Whether and how to balance development of a what is a fragile ecosystem — and what some believe is the next best answer to America’s thirst for oil — poses a major policy decision for the new Department of Interior. Salazar says he doesn’t expect to make everybody happy.

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

from: Martin Indyk
please reply to:  foreign_policy at brookings.edu

Subject: Brookings Search for a New Energy Security and Climate Initiative Director

THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION – FOREIGN POLICY
 www.Brookings.edu – a Washington DC based Think Tank.

Dear Colleague,

We hope you can help spread the word about an exciting career opportunity at The Brookings Institution. We are currently searching for a new director of our Energy Security and Climate Initiative, who will also serve as a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Program at Brookings. The candidate should have expertise in energy security, energy economics or climate policy, as well as a detailed knowledge of U.S. and international energy markets. An expertise in the geopolitics of energy, energy sustainability and/or climate change are essential, and regional expertise in Asia or the Middle East is preferred. Outstanding written and oral communication skills in English are required; fluency in relevant regional languages is desirable.

Applicants must apply online, submitting a full resume complete with a list of publications plus a description of research interests and priorities. For more information about this position, go to: www.brookings.edu/about/employmen….

Please share this job posting with qualified candidates. We appreciate your help in getting the word out to qualified candidates in the energy security and climate policy communities.

Best Regards,

Martin Indyk
Vice President and Director, Foreign Policy
The Brookings Institution

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


The Jewish National Fund (Hebrew: Keren Kayemet LeYisrael) (abbreviated as JNF, and sometimes KKL) was founded in 1901, at the Fifth Zionist Congress, to buy land for Jewish settlement and develop land in Ottoman Palestine (later British Mandate for Palestine, and subsequently the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories).

The JNF is a non-profit organization. By 2007, it owned 13% of the total land in Israel. Since its inception, the JNF has planted over 240 million trees in Israel. It has also built 180 dams and reservoirs, developed 250,000 acres (1,000 km2) of land, and established more than 1,000 parks.

In 2002, the JNF was awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement and special contribution to society and the State of Israel.

Yona Kremenezky: A disciple of Theodor Herzl and his long-standing aide, was a well-known Viennese industrialist. He was appointed first Chairman of the JNF – 1902-1907 with Herzel’s support. Even before being appointed Chairman of KKL-JNF, soon after its establishment, Kremenetzky attributed paramount importance to the land for the Jewish People. He himself had acquired a tract in Petah Tikva and planted an orchard there.

In his capacity as head of JNF, he developed two salient fund-raising devices: Its stamps and Blue Box. He served as Chairman until the Head Office moved from Vienna to Cologne.

Early land purchases were in Judea and the Lower Galilee. In 1909, the JNF played a central role in the founding of Tel Aviv. The establishment of the “Olive Tree Fund” marked the beginning of Diaspora support of afforestation efforts. The Blue Box – the money collection box – (known in Yiddish as the “Pushke”) – has been part of the JNF since its inception, symbolizing the partnership between Israel and the Diaspora. In the period between the two world wars, about one million of these blue and white tin collection boxes could be found in Jewish homes throughout the world. From 1902 until the late 1940s, the JNF sold JNF stamps to raise money. For a brief period in May 1948, JNF stamps were used as postage stamps during the transition from Palestine to Israel.

The first parcel of land, 200 dunams (0.20 km2) east of Hadera, was received as a gift from the Russian Zionist leader Isaac Leib Goldberg of Vilnius, in 1903. It became an olive grove. In 1904 and 1905, the JNF purchased land plots near the Sea of Galilee and at Ben Shemen. In 1921, JNF land holdings reached 25,000 acres (100 km²), rising to 50,000 acres (200 km²) by 1927. At the end of 1935, JNF held 89,500 acres (362 km²) of land housing 108 Jewish communities. In 1939, 10% of the Jewish population of the British Mandate of Palestine lived on JNF land.

From the beginning, JNF’s policy was to lease land long-term rather than sell it. In its charter, the JNF states: “Since the first land purchase in the early 1900s for and on behalf of the Jewish People, JNF has served as the Jewish People’s trustee of the land, initiating and charting development work to enable Jewish settlement from the border in the north to the edge of the desert and the Arava in the south.”

After Israel’s establishment in 1948, the government began to sell absentee lands to the JNF. On January 27, 1949, 1,000 km² of land (from a total of about 3,500 km²) was sold to the JNF for the price of I£11 million. Another 1,000 km² of land was sold to the JNF in October 1950.

In 1953, the JNF was dissolved and re-organized as an Israeli company under the name Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (JNF-KKL). In 1960, administration of the land held by the JNF-KKL, apart from forested areas, was transferred to a newly formed government agency, the Israel Land Administration (ILA). The ILA was then responsible for managing some 93% of the land of Israel. All the land managed by the ILA was defined as Israeli lands; it included both land owned by the government (about 80%) and land owned by the JNF-KKL (about 13%). The JNF-KKL received the right to nominate 10 of the 22 directors of the ILA, lending it significant leverage within that state body.

After concentrating on the Centre and Northern part of the state, the JNF-KKL started supporting Jewish settlements around the Negev border from around 1965.

The JNF charter specifies reclamation of land for the Jewish people as its primary purpose. During the 1980s, almost 60,000 acres (240 km2) were planted. Over 50,000 acres (200 km2) of crop-land were reclaimed and hundreds of miles of roads built. Research into soil and water conservation and the construction of dams and reservoirs took on added importance in the face of water shortages and drought.

The JNF’s collaborative work involves participation in the International Arid Land Consortium, which explores the problems and solutions unique to arid and semiarid regions, working to develop sustainable ecological practices as a means to improve the quality of life among people in arid regions

The present KKL-JNF World Chairman, since 2006, is Mr. Efi Stelzer who spoke to us at the Jerusalem Post Conference – please see our first article in this series – www.sustainabilitank.info/#34982

He said that the role of his organization now is mainly – in few words – “Preparing for the generations to come.”

He elaborated: “Conserve our natural resources for the future.” As examples of this policy, he cited the organization’s planting of over 240 million trees, its battle against encroaching desertification, its development of water resources, agriculture, community development and tourism, and its preservation work of religious sites of all the country’s faiths.

“KKL-JNF’s activities are intended to benefit all residents of the State of Israel without discrimination,” emphasized Stenzler, and described the Wadi Attir Project, which consists of the establishment of a sustainable desert community in conjunction with the Negev Bedouin. “All our work is carried out with the support of KKL-JNF’s Friends throughout the world,” he added.

At the conclusion of his speech, KKL-JNF’s World Chairman addressed the diplomatic representatives directly: “The expertise KKL-JNF has accumulated is used by developing countries all over the world,” he said. “We shall be glad to expand our International collaboration and benefit from the knowledge your countries have to offer, while contributing to you the products of our experience.”

The guests at the Conference were able to learn more about KKL-JNF’s activities at the KKL-JNF stand in the entrance lobby, where informational pamphlets were distributed and Creating a Better Tomorrow – a film about the work of KKL-JNF – was screened before his presentation. A token gift of a key chain bearing the KKL-JNF symbol was presented to each visitor.

KKL–JNF is the oldest environmental organization in Israel, having been established over 110 years ago. Throughout the years they have actively cooperated with many countries and international organizations in a wide variety of projects. We will now focus on this International Cooperation.

We will look at topics that the KKL-JNF categorizes as:

– Knowledge in Service of Humanity
– International Climate Change Initiatives
– International Forestry Initiatives
– International Water Initiatives

KKL-JNF shares its knowledge and experience all over the world, and has participated in and sponsored numerous international conferences, showcasing KKL-JNF’s technical experience and applied research.

The technical areas are in: Desertification, Afforestation, Water, Climate Change, and Agriculture.


on International Climate Change Initiatives JNF plays a vital role in preserving open spaces. Israel is one of the only nations in the world to have more trees today than it did a century ago.

JNF has become an international expert in afforestation in arid and semi-arid regions, and regularly participates in international forums and participates in joint forestry projects with other countries and international organizations.

Israel is recognized as a world leader in managing scarce water resources, water recycling and similar fields. JNF is at the forefront of innovative solutions to Israel’s water crisis and helps other Nations with its know-how..

KKL-JNF is Israel’s largest non-governmental organization (NGO) with United Nations status, dealing with land amelioration, water conservation and afforestation. This international cooperation activity addresses key global issues through mutual networking, knowledge sharing and spreading environmental advances beyond Israel’s borders.

JNF stands at the forefront of knowledge and technology needed for:

Managing open areas and forests

Combating desertification

Developing and implementing advanced methods for harvesting water run-off

Reclaiming rivers and streams

Conserving the land through sustainable agriculture and research


As a country that is largely arid, Israel has met the challenge of managing desert lands and combating desertification. JNF is the leading body in this field, and is interested to share its experience and know-how with its neighbors and with countries around the world.

Just as KKL-JNF lessons are learned from the experience of others, so too does JNF teach others to use the experience it has accumulated. KKL-JNF plays a central role in disseminating this information through its cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Agriculture. In December 2008, the three were instrumental in realizing an initiative for an international seminar on the subject of “Combating Desertification.”

KKL-JNF also takes part in the ongoing discussions led by the International Arid Land Consortium (IALC) and the Middle East Research Cooperation (MERC).

Israel participates in the three Rio Conventions – Biodiversity, Climate Change, and Desertification, was involved in hosting meetings that worked on the Synergies between the three conventions, and the bi-annual series of DDD Conferences started in 2008 – Drylands, Deserts, and Desertification – which the Fifth Conference in this series, the Sede Boqer Conference, November 14-20, 2014 – was the reason of my own visit to Israel this year, was just the right example of how Israel and the JNF as part of it, can develop cooperation with international organizations, single States, corporations, Academia, and NGOs. In a future article on our website I will be going into more details of what transpired at the Sede Boqer meeting.

Talking about Climate Change, KKL-JNF are proud of their tree planting activities – and from their website I am copying the following:

The process of climate change is the result of human activities, which cause the emission of greenhouse gas that pollutes the atmosphere. The average person should plant 200 trees in his/her lifetime.

Planting trees is one of the most effective, proactive ways of stopping the greenhouse effect that is responsible for climate change.

People pollute the atmosphere as a result of their everyday activities. Each person is responsible for the emission of 70 to 100 tons of greenhouse gas during his/her lifetime.

Each tree absorbs about half a ton of atmosphere-polluting carbon dioxide during its life.

The average person should plant two hundred trees in order to neutralize the pollution s/he produces during his lifetime.

Since its inception, KKL-JNF has planted over 230 million trees on a million dunams of land, which help mitigate climate change.

As part of the United Nations (UNEP) “Plant the Planet” program, whose goal is to plant a billion trees, KKL-JNF committed itself to planting six million trees in Israel over the next decade.


Israel is recognized as a world leader in managing scarce water resources, recycling, re-using wastewater and similar fields. Much of this information has been researched and implemented by KKL-JNF, who is happy to share knowledge with other countries and professional bodies throughout the world. With the help of its friends worldwide, KKL-JNF is at the forefront of innovative solutions to Israel’s water crisis, including building water reservoirs, developing biological water technologies to purify wastewater for reuse, and river restoration.


Oak Hammock Wetlands in Manitoba, Canada and Hula Valley in the Galilee, Israel Bird Migration and Conservation Work – an opening to Africa as well:

A twin-site treaty for the promotion of the combined development of two major bird-conservation sites – Lake Hula in Israel and Oak Hammock Marsh in Manitoba – has been signed in October 2010 between KKL-JNF and the government of the Canadian province of Manitoba.

The partnership agreement was signed by KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler and Manitoba’s Minister of Water Stewardship Christine Melnick at a ceremony held at Lake Hula Park. It is designed to formalize cooperation on site development, scientific research, educational activities and management challenges. Upon signing the agreement, Minister Christine Melnick has said: “We hope that this collaboration between the two countries will enable Lake Hula and Oak Hammock Marsh nature reserve to reach their full potential both as tourist attractions possessed of a rich and varied ecological system that feeds significant freshwater sources and as major way stations for migrating birds.”

Oak Hammock Marsh Park covers 36 thousand dunam (approx nine thousand acres). It is the remains of what was once a large lake, and it attracts a great deal of wild life, including some 280 species of birds that either pass through the site or nest in it. Half a million geese and duck pass every year though the park, which is considered one of North America’s prime bird-watching locations. Visitors to the park have thirty kilometers of trails at their disposal, together with a modern visitors’ center.

The Hula Valley is one of the most unique regions in northern Israel, and the Hula Lake Park is considered one the most important birdwatching sites in the world. Lush, green fields are interspersed throughout the valley surrounded by imposing mountains on the east and the west. The striking black volcanic basalt hills south of the valley slowed down the flow of melted snow and rain from Mt. Hermon creating historic Lake Hula and its surrounding wetlands, which served as a filter for the water flowing into Lake Kinneret. At different seasons it hosts cranes, storks, pelicans, ducks, raptors and many water birds. KKL-JNF was among those who established the lake in the early 1990s, and it remains among the sites managers today.

We will get back to this subject in a future article in our series – this because on December 1st, 2014 I found myself involved at the German-Israeli Climate Talks in the Herzliya Israeli Air Force Auditorium on The Effects of Climate Change on Birds @ Bird Migration. This was a meeting on the importance of the Hula to the Bird Biodiversity in Europe. The Israeli scientists extended now their work to Kenya as well. This International topic was going to be picked up in Israellagain on December 22nd.

Manitoba and Israel are very different from each other. For example, Manitoba has over 100,000 lakes, some of which are larger than the entire State of Israel, while Israel has only one sizable lake: the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). The two countries’ bird-conservation sites, however, have significant features in common. Both have been restored after being damaged by human activity, and each is located on one of the world’s two foremost bird migration routes: from Europe to Africa and from North America to South America. A great deal of effort has been invested in educational activities at both sites, and both serve as centers for scientific research.

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

Op-Ed | Timothy Egan
Obama Unbound
By TIMOTHY EGAN

The president is acting like a man who’s been given the political equivalent of a testosterone boost.

 www.nytimes.com/2014/12/20/opinio…

Obama’s trademark caution in a crisis still serves him well. He kept his head during the Ebola meltdown when everyone else was losing theirs. Had we gone jaw to jaw with Putin over Ukraine, rather than building the case for sanctions, the world would be far messier. But in finally learning how to use the tools of his office, Obama unbound is a president primed to make his mark.

There may not be a lightness to his step, a lilt in his voice or a bit of jauntiness returned to his manner. The office ages everyone prematurely, and makes spontaneity all but impossible. But President Obama is acting like a man who’s been given the political equivalent of a testosterone boost.

He promised to be transformative. Instead, especially in the last two years, he’s been listless, passive, a spectator to his own presidency. Rather than setting things in motion, he reacted to events. Even Ebola, the great scare that prompted so much media hysteria it was awarded Lie of the Year by PolitiFact, was somehow his fault. No more. Of late, the president who has nothing to lose has discovered that his best friend is the future.

On normalizing relations with Cuba, on a surprising climate change initiative with China, on an immigration gamble that’s working, and executive orders to protect the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery in Alaska or try to root out gender pay disparities, Obama is marching ahead of politicians fighting yesterday’s wars. In setting an aggressive agenda, he has forced opponents to defend old-century policies, and rely on an aging base to do it.

Are Republicans really going to spend the first year of their new majority trying to undo everything the president has done — to roll back the clock? Will they defend isolation of Cuba against the wishes of most young Cuban-Americans? Will they restore a family-destroying deportation policy, when Obama’s de-emphasis on sending illegal immigrants home has already given him a 15-point boost among Latinos? Will they take away health insurance from millions who never had it before? Will they insist that nothing can be done on climate change, while an agreement is on the table for the world’s two biggest polluters, the United States and China, to do something significant?

The President Obama of the last six weeks is willing to take that bet. The tediously cautious, adrift president who governed before his party was rejected in November never would have.

Of course, it helps to have the wind at his back — gusts of good news.

Remember when Mitt Romney promised to bring unemployment down to 6 percent by the end of his first term? Obama has done him one better: two years ahead of schedule, unemployment is 5.8 percent. The economy added 321,000 jobs last month and average hourly wages actually rose, on pace to make 2014 the best year for financially battered Americans in almost a decade. And if there’s a Republican somewhere who predicted that gas prices would be well below $3 a gallon in year six of the Obama presidency, bring that prescient pol forward.

Remember, also, the man-crush that Republicans had on Vladimir Putin? Ohhh, Vlad — such a leader! Forceful, militarily aggressive, a manly man. Obama the plodder was getting played by Putin the Great. Now, the Russian president better keep his shirt on, for his country is teetering, increasingly isolated, its currency in free fall. Plunging oil prices have shown just how fragile a nation dependent on oil can be.

Perhaps the best thing to happen to him was the crushing blow his party took in the midterm elections. Come January, Republicans will have their largest House majority in 84 years — since Herbert Hoover was president. Granted, no politician wants to join Hoover and history in the same sentence. But Obama is not cowering or conceding. He’s been liberated by defeat, becoming the president that many of his supporters hoped he would be.

East Jerusalem.
Editorial

The Embattled Dream of Palestine

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

A one-state solution? A two-state solution? Any solution?
… from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and for recognition of a Palestinian state. He has …

 www.nytimes.com/2014/12/20/opinio…

With negotiations stalled and Israel narrowing the space for a peace deal by expanding settlements, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has made a desperation play for a two-state solution. He is pushing the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution that would set a deadline for full Israel withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and for recognition of a Palestinian state. He has strong support from Europe, where some governments have ratcheted up the pressure on Israel by individually endorsing Palestinian statehood.
The United States, trying to protect Israel’s interest, wants at the very least to delay a Security Council vote until after the Israeli election. That makes sense, since a showdown now almost certainly will benefit the opponents of a two-state solution. The campaign — in which a coalition formed by Isaac Herzog, head of the opposition Labor party, and Tzipi Livni, the recently dismissed justice minister, favors a two-state solution — is likely to focus on domestic issues. But the outcome could well determine the prospects for the elusive dream of a Palestinian state.

Op-Ed Contributor
Bring On the Dark
By CLARK STRAND

Night was once the only thing that put the human agenda on hold.

WOODSTOCK, N.Y. — WHEN the people of this small mountain town got their first dose of electrical lighting in late 1924, they were appalled. “Old people swore that reading or living by so fierce a light was impossible,” wrote the local historian Alf Evers. That much light invited comparisons. It was an advertisement for the new, the rich and the beautiful — a verdict against the old, the ordinary and the poor. As Christmas approached, a protest was staged on the village green to decry the evils of modern light.

Woodstock has always been a small place with a big mouth where cultural issues are concerned. But in this case the protest didn’t amount to much. Here as elsewhere in early 20th-century America, the reluctance to embrace brighter nights was a brief and halfhearted affair.

Tomorrow is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. But few of us will turn off the lights long enough to notice. There’s no getting away from the light. There are fluorescent lights and halogen lights, stadium lights, streetlights, stoplights, headlights and billboard lights. There are night lights to stand sentinel in hallways, and the lit screens of cellphones to feed our addiction to information, even in the middle of the night. No wonder we have trouble sleeping. The lights are always on.

In the modern world, petroleum may drive our engines but our consciousness is driven by light. And what it drives us to is excess, in every imaginable form.

Beginning in the late 19th century, the availability of cheap, effective lighting extended the range of waking human consciousness, effectively adding more hours onto the day — for work, for entertainment, for discovery, for consumption; for every activity except sleep, that nightly act of renunciation. Darkness was the only power that has ever put the human agenda on hold.

In centuries past, the hours of darkness were a time when no productive work could be done. Which is to say, at night the human impulse to remake the world in our own image — so that it served us, so that we could almost believe the world and its resources existed for us alone — was suspended. The night was the natural corrective to that most persistent of all illusions: that human progress is the reason for the world.

Advances in science, industry, medicine and nearly every other area of human enterprise resulted from the influx of light. The only casualty was darkness, a thing of seemingly little value. But that was only because we had forgotten what darkness was for. In times past people took to their beds at nightfall, but not merely to sleep. They touched one another, told stories and, with so much night to work with, woke in the middle of it to a darkness so luxurious it teased visions from the mind and divine visitations that helped to guide their course through life. Now that deeper darkness has turned against us. The hour of the wolf we call it — that predatory insomnia that makes billions for big pharma. It was once the hour of God.

There is, of course, no need to fear the dark, much less prevail over it. Not that we could. Look up in the sky on a starry night, if you can still find one, and you will see that there is a lot of darkness in the universe. There is so much of it, in fact, that it simply has to be the foundation of all that is. The stars are an anomaly in the face of it, the planets an accident. Is it evil or indifferent? I don’t think so. Our lives begin in the womb and end in the tomb. It’s dark on either side.

We’ve rolled back the night so far that soon we will come full circle and reach the dawn of the following day. And where will that leave us? In a world with no God and no wolf either — only unrelenting commerce and consumption, information and media … and light. We need a rest from ourselves that only a night like the winter solstice can give us. And the earth, too, needs that rest. The only thing I can hope for is that, if we won’t come to our senses and search for the darkness, on nights like these, the darkness will come looking for us.

Clark Strand is the author of the forthcoming book “Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age.”

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