Archive for December, 2015

Hope and Despair: Can the Planet Be Saved?

December 30, 2015

(photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/Zak Bickel/The Atlantic)
(photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/Zak Bickel/The Atlantic)

By Rebecca J. Rosen, Adrienne Green, Li Zhou, Alana Semuels, and Bouree Lam, The Atlantic

30 December 15

 

Experts on ecology, conservation, and climate change offer their reasons for optimism and pessimism going into 2016.

he two words “climate” and “change” are so routinely strung together that just saying them as a pair—“climate change”—seems to somehow obscure the full weight of the phenomenon they describe, to say nothing of its consequences. But in those moments when one pauses to consider the ramifications of human activity on the planet for generations and generations ahead, things can feel beyond bleak. And yet: This past year saw the nations of the world reached their first-ever agreement on an ambitious plan to rein in emissions, perhaps the most significant progress yet made on this issue.

We reached out to some of the leading scholars of climate change, conservation, and ecology, and asked them what, as the Earth begins yet another trip around the sun, is giving them cause for hope and despair. Below are their answers, lightly edited for length and clarity.

Robert Glennon, professor of law and public policy at the University of Arizona

Reason for despair: I despair that we don’t consider water to be scarce or valuable. A century of lax water laws and regulations has spoiled most Americans. We turn on the tap and out comes as much water as we want for less than we pay for cable television or cellphone service. When most Americans think of water, they think of it as similar to air—as infinite and inexhaustible. In reality, it’s both finite and exhaustible.

Because we don’t respect water as remarkable, we use needless quantities for frivolous purposes, such as growing grass in the desert. And because we don’t pay the real cost of water (only the cost of the infrastructure to provide it), we remove the incentive to conserve. Perhaps most important, our innovation economy has encouraged engineers and inventors to create water-saving technologies that extend our supply; but the price of water is so low that few of them have viable business plans.

Reason for hope: We have a suite of options to confront the crisis and prevent it from becoming a catastrophe. These options include conservation, which remains the low-hanging fruit; reuse of treated municipal effluent; and desalination of ocean or brackish water. We can also price water sensibly to encourage conservation, while protecting access to water for persons of modest means. Finally, we can use the power of market forces to encourage a modest reallocation of water from low to higher-value uses. A low single-digit percent reduction in agricultural water consumption would solve the municipal and industrial water-supply problem. Modernization of farm irrigation systems, paid for by cities and industry, would protect the viability of rural communities and secure needed supplies for the urban sector.

None of these options requires a radical change in our behavior, but they will require the moral courage and the political will to act.

Margo Oge, former director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality of the Environmental Protection Agency

Reason for despair: Climate change is the biggest challenge our planet faces. The science is clear, the risks are real, and the phenomenon’s impact on every part of our planet is increasingly visible. In mid-December, nearly 200 countries met in Paris to secure a historic agreement to reduce the impacts of the global threat. The negotiators for every single country involved have accepted that we need to take immediate and substantive action on this threat. Back at home, however, Congressional Republicans continued their decades of denial. In a symbolic rebuff of global urgency on the issue, both the House and Senate voted to repeal President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. By the time our legislators—a few hundred people—finally accept the overwhelming scientific evidence about the threat, I despair that time will have run out for future generations. I fear that killing, or endlessly delaying, the nation’s serious efforts to mitigate this threat will be catastrophic: rising seas swallowing island nations, floods wiping out towns and villages, unprecedented heat waves and drought destroying crops and lives, and even global instability that provokes wars.

Reason for hope: What gives me optimism is watching our country take a positive role in the Paris international-climate agreements after decades of foot dragging on the issue. When the United States leads, other countries follow. This means that the U.S. efforts to secure strong climate actions in Paris and at home will make a hugely positive impact globally on carbon emissions. The United States has, in fact, long been a leader on environmental technology innovation. In the 1970s, it was American car-emission standards that led to the development of catalytic convertors. These devices were the first to ever clean up the toxic soup coming out of cars’ tailpipes.

The rest of the world followed America. Today you can’t find a car without one.

After we banned leaded gas, Europe and the rest of the world came along. In 2009 we initiated another world-leading effort, regulations that will cut automotive carbon pollution in half as well as double the fuel efficiency of passenger vehicles by 2025. For decades, American environmental efforts have led to innovation, saved lives, and created jobs. As a result of these regulations, our car industry is today undergoing a technological and economic revolution. Our automakers are building the most fuel-efficient vehicle fleet in history and are already ahead on a trajectory to doubling fuel economy by 2025. The world needs the United States to continue and expand its technological leadership in mitigating climate change.

Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University

Reason for despair: One thing that brings me close to despair is the fact that, just in the West, we seemed to have turned a corner in regard to meat eating and factory farming—both are now on the decline—the resulting reduction in animal suffering and greenhouse gas emissions is being swamped by the growth in meat eating in China and other parts of Asia. Nevertheless, I don’t despair because the situation is not hopeless. As long as there is hope of change for the better, I’m too busy trying to bring about that change to lose myself in despair.

Reason for hope: More and more people are seeking fulfillment in their lives by turning away from the consumer lifestyle and instead living in accord with their values. The emerging movement known as effective altruism is one outcome of that, and it is having an impact. I’m encouraged by the tremendous progress made over the past 25 years in reducing extreme poverty and improving life expectancy worldwide. Infant mortality, for example, has been cut by more than half since 1990, despite rising population. If we continue to put more resources—our intelligence and our skills, as well as our money—into using reason and evidence to make the world a better place, then I am confident that we can make even more progress over the next 25 years.

Elizabeth Marino, assistant professor of anthropology​ at Oregon State University

Reason for despair: As an anthropologist working alongside indigenous communities in the United States, it’s hard not to see climate change as another wave of violence inherent in the colonial ideal. Colonized geographies like communities in Alaska, small nation states in the Pacific, and large nations in sub-Saharan Africa all share the heaviest burdens of a rapidly changing climate, all share vulnerabilities to those changes produced by unjust economic and political systems, and all are limited in social and cultural expression by the narrow-mindedness of what is deemed culturally acceptable by the “West.” These burdens are all part of climate injustice.

But even aside from this new form of colonial violence, I despair because, more than any other crisis, climate change needs alternative cultural models for framing problems and non-Western solutions.  Unfortunately, many accept as “natural” merely one set of ideas borne from very particular “Western” worldviews: the necessity of growth; monetary value as determinant of inherent value; the nature/culture dichotomy; competition as the driver of production; technological “fixes” as paramount. I despair when the solutions and rhetoric around climate-change mitigation and climate justice are embedded in these presuppositions; when the world stays narrow.

Reason for hope: The rest of the world is talking back. We see organizers using hashtags such as #pachamama, #indigenouscop21, #AOSIS, and #indigenousenvironmentalnetwork. We have growing innovative collaborations among scientists and Native American leaders and we see strongnon-state-based international alliances, political organization, and advocacy by non-Western leaders. It’s going to be an interesting century.

Juliet B. Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College​

Reason for despair: Despair? Yes, it is there. Not because I don’t think that eventually we will have a low- or zero-carbon world. We will. But how can one not despair at the certain destruction we’ve already ensured with the warming and chaos that is now built in to the climate system? This month flooding in my husband’s home city of Chennai reached second floors, with more than 1.8 million people displaced. In one 24-hour period there was nearly 11 inches of rainfall. California remains in the grip of a powerful drought. It is 60 degrees in Boston, in  December, in what’s likely the world’s warmest recorded year, a distinction which may be eclipsed 12 months from now. All the while, the politics of hatred are rising, like the sea levels.

Reason for hope: COP21, the UN talks in Paris, ended with a degree of hope that is unprecedented in the world of climate. Despite the absence of a binding agreement or emissions promises that have any hope of avoiding catastrophe, there has been almost delirious optimism, even from many environmental activists. (Not from all, of course. James Hansen and Bill McKibben have been outspoken in their criticisms of the weaknesses of the treaty, and they’re right.)

But I find four major reasons to be hopeful. The first is that China is acting decisively to reduce emissions from coal. The second is that renewable energy is now an economically viable alternative to fossil fuels, and will be even more so if we can eliminate the $450 billion a year in subsidies for the dirty fuels. The third is that the fossil-fuel companies are without doubt on the defensive. From the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline to government investigations into Exxon’s cover up of its own climate research, the behavior of this industry is finally on view. True, it is still quite powerful in Congress, but the combination of science, economics, and exposure is sounding the industry’s death knell. As we’ve already seen with coal, I predict that oil and gas won’t survive the mounting pressure to “keep it in the ground.” And that brings me to my fourth reason for hope: the growth of a global grassroots movement for climate justice and ecological sanity. It has taken a long time for us to get here, but it’s now unstoppable.

Robin Bronen, executive director of the Alaska Institute for Justice and a senior research scientist at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks​

Reason for despair: Living in Alaska, the only Arctic state in the United States, I am witnessing the fast-forward of geologic time. My despair increases as I watch Arctic ecosystems collapse. The recently negotiated Paris Climate Agreement includes aspirational language to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But in Alaska, winter temperatures have already increased 3.5 degrees Celsius since 1975. Ice and snow, iconic elements of the land and sea in the Arctic, are disappearing. The winter of 2014-2015 was the lowest snow season on record in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest urban center. Glaciers are losing 75 billion tons of ice annually. Arctic Ocean sea ice has decreased by 36 percent in the last three decades.

For indigenous communities in Alaska, these changes are life-threatening. Kivalina, Shishmaref, and Newtok, are three of the most imperiled communities. Each has chosen to relocate as a long-term adaptation strategy because sea ice no longer protects their communities from hurricane-force storms that eat the land on which they live. In presentations to U.S. government agencies and Congress,Shishmaref residents plead:

The no action option for Shishmaref is the annihilation of our community …

We are unique, and need to be valued as a national treasure by the people of the United States. We deserve the attention and help of the American people and the federal government … Shishmaref, we are worth saving.

Due to intense and prolonged advocacy efforts, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and President Obama traveled to Alaska this past summer. Despite these visits, no community knows when or if it will be able to relocate to higher ground to protect their unique way of life and connection to the land of their ancestors. The gross injustice of their experience adds to my despair because those who have done the least to cause our climate crisis are bearing enormous losses. Their experience also shows that we are completely unprepared to respond to the humanitarian crisis which will be caused by rising seas forcing millions of people from their homes, their heritage, and the places they love.

Reason for hope: Solidarity—the recognition that all of humanity is connected to each other and to the Earth—gives me hope. This understanding that we are one people living on a shared homeland is embedded in the climate-justice movement.

The Arctic, the harbinger of dramatic environmental changes, reminds us of this connection. Decreased Arctic sea ice affects the polar jet stream and contributes to the drought in California and the epic flooding and snowfall events in lower latitudes. The melting of Greenland threatens coastal communities all over the world. More than 50 percent of Greenland was melting in July 2015. In protests across the planet, people are standing together, across countries, Indigenous nations, ethnicities, age, gender, and class to demand that our human rights be protected, that the Earth’s ecosystems be protected and that those least responsible for our climate crisis be provided the resources to adapt and protect their lives.

Gernot Wagner, senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund

Reason for despair: Climate change. It’s the perfect problem: more global, more long-term, more irreversible, and more uncertain that virtually any other public-policy problem facing us. Climate change is a lot worse than most of us realize. Almost regardless of what we do on the mitigation front, we are in for a whole lot of hurt.

On the policy front, we have now talked for more than 20 years about how we need to turn this ship around “within a decade.” Not unlike the ever-elusive fusion technology, that hasn’t happened yet. Global carbon emissions declined slightly this year—for the first time ever without a global recession—but the trends are still pointing in the wrong direction. Worse, turning around emissions is only the very first step. It’s not enough to stabilize the flow of water going into the bathtub when the goal is to prevent the tub from overflowing. We need to turn around atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. That means turning off the flow of water into the tub—getting net emissions to zero and below. It doesn’t help our efforts that many people seem to confuse the two. A study involving over 200 MIT graduate students faced with this same question revealed that even they confuse emissions and concentrations—water flowing into the tub and water levels there. If MIT graduate students can’t get this one right, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Reason for hope: Climate change. Many signs point to some real momentum to finally tackle this momentous challenge.

The Paris Climate Accord builds an important foundation. It enables transparency, accountability, and markets to help solve the problem. Many governments are moving forward with pricing carbon: from California to China, from Sweden to South Africa, we see ambitious action to reign in emissions in some 50 jurisdictions. Meanwhile, lots is happening on the clean-energy front. That’s particularly true for solar photovoltaic power, which has climbed up the learning curve—and down the cost curve—faster than most would have expected only five years ago. That has also provided an important jolt for sensible climate policy. Then there’s R&D for entirely new technologies. Bill Gates leading an investment coalition with $1 billion of his own money is only one important sign of movement in that direction. The excitement for self-driving, electric vehicles is palpable up and down Silicon Valley, to name just one potentially significant example. In the end, it’s precisely this mix of Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and, of course, Washington that will lead—and, in part, is already leading—to the necessary revolution in a number of important sectors, energy and transportation chief among them.

 

Global Warming Redux: Another Ticking Bomb Out of Paris

December 30, 2015

By Lawrence Davidson (about the author) Permalink
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Reprinted from To The Point Analyses

 

From flickr.com/photos/29053754@N08/16809165491/: Global Warming

From flickr.com/photos/29053754@N08/16809165491/: Global Warming
Global Warming
(image by W J (Bill) Harrison) License DMCA
Part I — COP21

Paris was certainly 2015’s center for ticking bombs. The year was bracketed, first in January then again in November, by major terrorist attacks and ended with a December environmental conference which, given its non-binding results, opens the door to even more terror, albeit of a different kind, into the next century and beyond.

The 21st Conference of Parties, or COP21, ended in Paris on 12 December 2015. If you are not familiar with the name or acronym, it refers to the latest gathering of nations (195 of them) looking toward a collective decision to limit global warming by slowing the release of greenhouse gases. Following the conference closure there was a short spate of positive reactions that has now been followed by a rather ominous silence.

Until very recently there was a large number of people, mostly business people, lobbyists, and politicians, who denied that human practices, such as the use of fossil fuels, had any significant impact on planetary warming, and some dismissed the idea of warming altogether. These numbers seem to have shrunk, and most of those still adhering to such notions are not often heard in public. This muted opposition helped pave the way for the at once limited and over-hyped result achieved at the Paris conference.

The overall goal of COP 21 was an international agreement that would hold global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100, and then reduce the amount of warming even more in the years following. This goal was certainly agreed to in theory, but the conference also left us with no convincing reason to believe that the goal will be met in practice.

According to Science (18 December 2015), the publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, commitments were indeed made to pursue relevant “technological development,” mobilize “climate finance,” enhance transparency in the reporting of overall greenhouse emissions and have developed nations acknowledge their “legal responsibility” (but “without liability or compensation”) for the damage global warming is doing to poorer nations. All of this is well and good in a half-hearted sort of way, but it should be noted that the entire deal will only go into effect in April 2016 if “55 countries representing 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions have formally signed it.” And even if this happens, subsequent follow-through in terms of the reduction of greenhouse emissions is still hypothetical. Thus, as the Guardian newspaper reported(12 December 2015) in a confusing, contradictory way: “The overall agreement is legally binding but some elements — including the pledges to curb emissions by individual countries and the climate finance elements — are not.”

 

That should be quite sufficient to instill serious doubt about the ultimate outcome of COP21. Nonetheless, reactions were still upbeat. Everyone wanted to find the glass half full. Many climate experts, when asked if there was something about 2015 that made them hopeful, pointed to the Paris conference. Michael T. Klare, writing in Tom Dispatch (13 December 2015), proclaimed that as for those advocating the continued use of fossil fuels, “the war they are fighting is a losing one.” The transition to renewable forms of energy is inevitable. However, looking at the next hundred years, no one would say with certainty that the conference’s decisions would actually make a crucial difference. Thus, Andrea Germanos writing in Common Dream s (12 December 2015) quotes commentator George Monbiot in reference to COP21, “by comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”

Part II — Why a Disaster?

The Science article cited above puts the situation in historical context. “The individual national climate plans in the run-up to the meeting could still result in as much as 3.5 degrees centigrade of warming by 2100.” At 3.5 degrees we can expect sea levels to rise anywhere from 3 to 7 feet. Science goes on to explain that “much of the agreement’s promise hinges on the fine print to be hammered out in the coming years. And the provisions for individual nations to curb emissions further — crucial if the world is to limit warming to 2 degrees centigrade or less — has limited legal bite.”

In truth, even the 2 degree goal is insufficient. Those at most risk, such as the Pacific island nations, wanted to hold the line at 1.5 degrees. However, their fate, which in some cases is already terminal, was not deemed important enough to warrant the sacrifices the rest of the world would have to make to meet this demand. This in itself is a very bad sign.

There will, of course, be increasing efforts by environmental organizations, seeking to mobilize mass sentiment, to bring pressure on governments and industries. As one such mass movement leader declared at the end of the COP21 conference, “Now it is time to hold them [national leaders] to their promises. 1.5? Game on” (Common Dream s, 12 December 2015). No doubt such mobilization, like the hope for investment in renewable energy technology, will be very important in the long run. That it can achieve its ambitious goal in the short run is doubtful because there are other, even larger, organizable masses out there who will resist rapid, necessary change.

 

For instance, there are the inward-looking elements of the populations and leaders of the United States, China and India — the world’s biggest contributors to global warming. In the United States at least a third of the voting population is supportive of the conservative, anti-regulatory Republican Party that currently controls the congressional side of government. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has dismissed the COP21 agreement as “no more binding than any other agreement” on global warming made in past.

China has recently admitted that it has been under-reporting its coal burning in recent years. This calls into doubt that nation’s collective will to meet its COP21 pledges. To do so will unavoidably impact economic growth and increase unemployment with all the accompanying political consequences. A major part of India’s pledge to lower and/or compensate for growing greenhouse emissions is the preservation and expansion of the country’s forests. However, approximately “275 million Indians subsist on resources extracted from forests,” including forest wood itself, and past efforts at conservation in this area have led to political unrest and significant cheating through official corruption.

It is not that these three countries won’t make efforts to, say, move to renewable energy whenever and wherever feasible. They will. However, it is both politically and culturally unlikely they will be able to do enough to hold down warming to 2 degrees, much less 1.5 degrees

Part III — Conclusion
At this point one should ask what the Marshall Islands in the Pacific have in common with lower tip of Manhattan on the Atlantic coast of the United States. The answer is that both are threatened with inundation by 2100. In the case of lower Manhattan, it might be possible to build a sea wall to temporarily hold back the rising sea level. No such effort is possible for the Marshall Islands. It looks as if that island nation, with its roughly 53,000 people, is doomed.

The prospect that 195 nations can successfully coordinate their efforts to put in place policies that, over the next hundred years, will negatively impact their economies and the standard of living of significant numbers of citizens is far-fetched. Not impossible, mind you, but from a historical point of view, highly improbable.

What is probable is that local interests will promote denial long enough to make the necessary sacrifices politically unachievable. They certainly have done so so far. That means our grandchildren will almost certainly live in a very different atmospheric and geographic world than we do. And, of course, going forward, no one should invest in seashore real estate.

 

 

http://www.tothepointanalyses.com

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign
Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s
Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli
Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history.

His blog To The Point Analyses now has its own Facebook page. Along with the analyses, the Facebook page will also have reviews, pictures, and other analogous material.
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Emergency center activated at U.S. nuclear site — “Dead body found at facility”

December 30, 2015

ENENews


Emergency center activated at U.S. nuclear site — “Dead body found at facility”… “Officials confirm one death” — “Sheriff’s office is actively investigating the incident”

Gov’t Report: Plutonium detected in recent California air samples — “Fallout from Fukushima

December 29, 2015

ENENews


Gov’t Report: Plutonium detected in recent California air samples — “Fallout from Fukushima nuclear accident” may be to blame

Posted: 28 Dec 2015 03:54 PM PST

Let There Be War on Earth and Let it Be WWIII

December 28, 2015

Let’s start up World War III.
Let this be the moment now.
With every new debate,
Let this be my solemn vow:
To take each country,
And bomb each country,
For Lockheed and GE.
Let there be war on earth,
And let it be World War III.

How Did Hillary Win Over Michael Moore?

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A Quiz to See if U.S. Schools Taught You State Propaganda

Quiz Answers

Talk Nation Radio: Jon Schwarz on Secret Unaccountable Government

Ending War: An Online Course

I’m Dreaming of a Christmas Below 70

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Trump Didn’t Vote to Kill 1 Million Muslims in Iraq, Hillary Did

In Fantasyland Your Neighbors Live in, More War Is a Smart Idea

Talk Nation Radio: Eric Bonds on War and the Environment

Pearl Harbor Day and the Fantasy of US Victimhood

Five Things to Do About ISIS

Do Mass Killings Bother You?

War with Russia or with ISIS: What ever happened to peace?

Do War Makers Believe Their Own Propaganda?

Talk Nation Radio: Peter Werbe on Radical Independent Media

A Waroholic Wishes You Peace on Earth

Limits of Liberal War Opposition

Talk Nation Radio: Johan Galtung on ISIS and Alternative to War

The Evil of Arms Sales

The Awesome Samaritan

Chicago Restricts Drones: Who’s Next?

*****

Planning my spring 2016 book tour:
http://WarIsALie.org

*****

A great big thank you to those of you who helped by demanding that the U.S. Congress resume reporting on weapons sales. It has now resumed that reporting after a three-year gap. Here is the new report, and a New York Times article about it. The data included in the new report is radically different from that included in reports by SIPRI and, as far as we know, by anyone else.

International weapons sales are down since 2011 but up in 2014 from 2013. Most sales are still to the governments of poor countries. The top exporter is still the United States, and its share is increasing. The United States exports roughly half the weapons shipped around the world, and its European allies another 25%. Well over half of weapons shipments to the Middle East are still from the United States. This does not include weapons given to “moderates” or used by the United States itself.

The top weapons source for ISIS, Iraq, has a top weapons source: the United States. Every region of the globe has the same top weapons source: the United States. Three-quarters of U.S. weapons shipments are to the Middle East. Top recipients of U.S. weapons include: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, U.A.E., Israel, Kuwait, Oman, and Egypt. The human-rights respecting liberal democracies among top recipients of U.S. weapons include … no nations whatsoever.

*****

December 31st Deadline to Weigh in: What should World Beyond War work on in 2016?

Our central focus will always be advancing the ending of all war, through education and action, but we want to put some effort globally into one or more of the list of projects you’ll find by clicking here. Please help us choose at
http://worldbeyondwar.org/what-should-world-beyond-war-work-on-in-2016/

*****

Donate before the year ends:
http://davidswanson.org/donate

War Is A Lie: Second Edition, published by Just World Books on April 5, 2016. Please buy it online that day. I’ll come anywhere in the world to speak about it. Invite me!

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Thank you – Arms Report Released

December 28, 2015

A great big thank you to those of you who helped by demanding that the U.S. Congress resume reporting on weapons sales. It has now resumed that reporting after a three-year gap. Here is the new report, and a New York Times article about it. The data included in the new report is radically different from that included in reports by SIPRI and, as far as we know, by anyone else.

International weapons sales are down since 2011 but up in 2014 from 2013. Most sales are still to the governments of poor countries. The top exporter is still the United States, and its share is increasing. The United States exports roughly half the weapons shipped around the world, and its European allies another 25%. Well over half of weapons shipments to the Middle East are still from the United States. This does not include weapons given to “moderates” or used by the United States itself.

The top weapons source for ISIS, Iraq, has a top weapons source: the United States. Every region of the globe has the same top weapons source: the United States. Three-quarters of U.S. weapons shipments are to the Middle East. Top recipients of U.S. weapons include: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, U.A.E., Israel, Kuwait, Oman, and Egypt. The human-rights respecting liberal democracies among top recipients of U.S. weapons include … no nations whatsoever.

*****

December 31st Deadline to Weigh in: What should World Beyond War work on in 2016?

Our central focus will always be advancing the ending of all war, through education and action, but we want to put some effort globally into one or more of the list of projects you’ll find by clicking here. Please help us choose at
http://worldbeyondwar.org/what-should-world-beyond-war-work-on-in-2016/

*****

Donate before the year ends!

https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/support-worldbeyondwarorg

Sign the Declaration of Peace.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Support World Beyond War’s work by clicking here.

15 Big Climate News Stories of 2015

December 27, 2015

An Indonesian soldier tries to extinguish a forest fire on a peat land at Ogan Komering Ilir in South Sumatra, Indonesia. (photo: Muhammad Fajri/Xinhua Press/Corbis)
An Indonesian soldier tries to extinguish a forest fire on a peat land at Ogan Komering Ilir in South Sumatra, Indonesia. (photo: Muhammad Fajri/Xinhua Press/Corbis)

By Sophie Yeo and Simon Evans, Carbon Brief

27 December 15

 

s the year draws to a close, Carbon Brief takes a look at 2015’s top climate stories through the medium of numbers. Here are our top 15.

1. 1.5 Degrees Celsius Limit

Over the last 12 months, after years of taking the back seat, the idea of a 1.5C limit to global temperatures made steps into the limelight. The UN concluded its review of the 2C vs. 1.5C debate, suggesting that the lower limit would be “preferable.” A study found that the 1.5C target was still technically possible, though difficult. A guest post by Professor Myles Allen looks at the chances and the challenge ahead, while Carbon Brief also captured the views of a broad range of scientists.

The mounting pressure paid off, with the goal recognised in the final UN climate deal. So unexpected was its inclusion that climate scientists were “caught napping,” says Professor Piers Forster, in another guest post which surveys the task ahead of finding pathways towards the lower limit and the specific benefits of this long sought-after goal.

2. 188 Pledges

Over the course of the year, 188 countries submitted their “intended nationally determined contributions” or INDCs, to the UN. These pledges, which outline how nations plan to reduce emissions, form the backbone of the new UN climate deal. Carbon Brief has been tracking these promises of action and the money that they will cost to implement—a grand total of $3.5tn. We have also looked in-depth at the ambiguities and ambition of the major economies, including the EU, the U.S., RussiaCanada, China, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia, Australia and India.

Probably the most oft-repeated trope of 2015 was that these INDCs would not alone be enough to limit global temperature rise to below 2C. But according to a report from the UN Environment Program, the INDCs had political significance that can’t be expressed by mere numbers.

 3. 331 Seats

After May’s shock UK general election victory for the Conservatives, winning a narrow majority with 331 seats, we asked experts what it would mean for climate and energy. Their cautious welcome now looks optimistic. Apart from a commitment to phase out coal, there has been little positive policy news and plenty of surprise negatives.

The Tories’ efforts to cut support for renewables, ostensibly so as to deal with a projected overspend in green subsidies, arguably go far beyond their manifesto commitments. After good progress on renewables, the outlook looks gloomy and there are doubts over meeting future UK carbon budgets. Departmental budgets have also been cut.

4. 184 Pages

The release of Pope Francis’ 184-page encyclical in June brought with it a heightened interest in the subject of climate change and not just among the world’s 1.2bn Catholics. The document, called “Laudato Si’” contained strong words from the Pontiff on issues including urbanization, the destruction of nature and carbon markets.

The encyclical was covered by media outlets around the world, although an Italian paper faced censure for leaking it early. Carbon Brief investigated the years of scientific consultations that went into the making of the document, including a scientific report from two Pontifical Academies that called for a zero-carbon world. The Vatican wasn’t the only religious institution to get involved in climate change this year. The Islamic Declaration on Climate Change, released soon after, called for a phase-out of fossil fuels.

5. <$50 a barrel

Oil prices have continued to surprise in 2015. After starting around $50 a barrel, prices rose slowly before plumbing new depths as the year end approaches. The International Energy Agency said fuel efficient vehicles and reduced oil subsidies were helping create a “new normal” of sluggish demand despite low prices.

Carbon Brief took an early look at what $50 oil might mean for the global energy mix, as well as climate and energy policy back in the UK, where cheaper gas has also played a part in coal usereaching historic lows.

6. 1,600,000,000 Tons

In Indonesia, 2015 will be remembered as the year that their forests went up in flame with even more ferocity than usual. Peat fires, resulting largely from illegal “slash and burn” clearance techniques, spread rapidly in dry conditions related to 2015’s strong El Niño and released 1.6bn tons of greenhouse gases. In just six weeks, this bumped Indonesia up from sixth to fourth place in terms of largest emitting countries, putting it ahead of Russia. Carbon Brief looked at the scale of the disaster.

7. ? of Adults

More than a third of the world’s adults have never heard of climate change, according to new analysis of a global survey from 2007-08. In some developed countries, including Japan, U.S. and the UK, almost all adults have heard of climate change—although it turned out to be a different story when the pollsters asked them if it was a threat. Liberia, which came bottom of the list, had an awareness rate of just one fifth.

8. 1 in 6 Species

Climate change will accelerate the speed at which species become extinct, according to a reviewof scientific papers released in April. Scientists found that as many as 16 percent or one in six, of plants and animals would be under threat of dying out if global temperatures should rise by 4C. The risks increase exponentially as the planet warms. The study found that South American species have the highest extinction risk at 23 percent, followed by Australia and New Zealand’s at 14 percent.

9. 2 Times

Consumption of meat in Europe is twice as high as healthy levels and this is bad for the climate, according to a Chatham House study released in November. Global demand for meat is predicted to rise by 76 percent by the middle of the century, which could put upward pressure on greenhouse gas emissions. But it wasn’t all bad news, with the study’s authors suggesting that government action to nudge people towards sustainable diets would not be as politically toxic as is often assumed.

10. Zero Emissions

This year, the nations of the world collectively agreed to aim for zero or more precisely net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is firmly based in climate science, but its adoption was still unexpected.

Over the course of the year, the aim has been expressed in different ways. The G7 called forcomplete decarbonisation. The Vatican wanted zero carbon. COP21 briefly flirted with emissions neutrality. In the end though, the long-term goal of the final Paris climate deal is a “balance” between greenhouse gas emissions and sinks. That’s zero to you and me.

11. 1C of Warming

Scientists have said they expect 2015 to be the first year where the global annual average temperature surpasses 1C above pre-industrial levels. As the halfway point of the 2C limit embedded in international climate policy, this is a significant milestone for the planet. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says we’ve just had the hottest five-year period on record.

While this year’s El Niño was responsible for boosting 2015 temperatures higher than usual, scientists told Carbon Brief that it’s only a matter of time until temperatures rise beyond 1C more permanently. Indeed, the Met Office has already forecast that 2016 will surpass previous records to become the hottest ever year.

12. 0.6 Percent Fall in Emissions

During the second week of COP21 in Paris, scientists announced that global emissions look set to fall by 0.6 percent this year on the back of reductions in Chinese coal use.

After a decade of rapid increases, there’s now growing evidence that emissions have stalledworldwide, while UK emissions are falling through the floor. However, this is unlikely to signal a peak in global emissions just yet, the researchers caution.

The shift could mark a turning point for climate efforts, though even if the stalling of emissions is maintained, the world would remain a long way from its zero-emissions goal.

13. 9 Lowest Ice Extents

The nine lowest September ice extents in the Arctic have all occurred in the last nine years—a sign of the impact that climate change is having on the northernmost part of the planet. This summer, the Arctic saw its fourth lowest summer minimum on record, with ice shrinking to 4.41m square kilometers on the Sept. 11, according to the U.S.-based National Snow and Ice Data Center.

14. 341.4mm of Rain

Storm Desmond swept across the UK in early December, bringing a 24-hour record 341.4mm of rain in Cumbria, flooded homes and a renewed debate over the role of climate change in UK flooding. Carbon Brief wrapped up the media response and scientists’ views.

The year also brought record-breaking winds in the form of October’s 200mph Hurricane Patricia, though this caused less damage than March’s 190mph Hurricane Pam. Are these powerful storms linked to global warming? August’s 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina offered a chance for Carbon Brief to reflect on the latest science.

15. 94 Points

To celebrate its fifth birthday and the launch of its new website, Carbon Brief held its inaugural quiz night in the basement of a central London pub. The winning team was DECC (Department for Energy and Climate Change) Science, which scored a grand total of 94 out of 125. We published the full quiz online, including questions set by the likes of Christiana Figueres and Amber Rudd, for those who feel like testing their brains.

 

Major Japan Newspaper: Mutations in nearly every fir tree by Fukushima plant

December 24, 2015

ENENews


— Insects with missing legs or crooked — Abnormalities also found in monkeys, fish and frogs

Posted: 23 Dec 2015 04:09 PM PST

1950s U.S. Nuclear Target List Offers Chilling Insight

December 23, 2015

POLITICS
By SCOTT SHANEDEC. 22, 2015 258 COMMENTS
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A deactivated Titan II nuclear missile in May at the Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley, Ariz. Credit Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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WASHINGTON — Target category No. 275 from the nuclear target list for 1959 may be the most chilling. It is called simply “Population.”

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For the first time, the National Archives and Records Administration has released a detailed list of the United States’ potential targets for atomic bombers in the event of war with the Soviet Union, showing the number and the variety of targets on its territory, as well as in Eastern Europe and China.

It lists many targets for “systematic destruction” in major cities, including 179 in Moscow (like “Agricultural Equipment” and “Transformers, Heavy”), 145 in Leningrad and 91 in East Berlin. The targets are referred to as DGZs or “designated ground zeros.” While many are industrial facilities, government buildings and the like, one for each city is simply designated “Population.”

“It’s disturbing, for sure, to see the population centers targeted,” said William Burr, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive, a research group at George Washington University that obtained the target list in response to a request first made in 2006. Mr. Burr, who specializes in nuclear history, said he believed it was the most detailed target list the Air Force had ever made public.

The targets are identified only generically, with code numbers that correspond to specific locations. The exact addresses and names of facilities from that period are in a still-classified “Bombing Encyclopedia,” which Mr. Burr said he was trying to get declassified.

The 800-page document, marked “Top Secret” and in a fuzzy gray typescript, comes to light as the issue of air power and the possible targeting of civilians is again in the news. The United States has avoided bombing the Islamic State’s headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, for instance, because of the presence of civilian prisoners in the same complex.

But some presidential candidates have criticized President Obama for not ordering more strikes, including Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, who has called for “carpet bombing” the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. When challenged, Mr. Cruz said that “the object isn’t to level a city.”

“The object is to kill the ISIS terrorists,” he added, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

The newly declassified target list is titled “Atomic Weapons Requirements Study for 1959.” It is essentially a huge spreadsheet, produced by the Strategic Air Command in 1956 and projecting what could and should be hit in a potential war three years later.

It was produced at a time before intercontinental or submarine-launched missiles, when piloted bombers were essentially the only means of delivering nuclear weapons. The United States then had a huge advantage over the Soviet Union, with a nuclear arsenal about 10 times as big, said Matthew G. McKinzie, the director of the nuclear program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

He said that while the document conjured the height of the Cold War, the targeting of urban populations still remained an underlying principle of the use of nuclear weapons to deter attack. “The heart of deterrence is the threat to destroy the adversary’s cities, even today,” Mr. McKinzie said.

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Alex Wellerstein, a historian of nuclear weapons at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, said that in 1959, the United States had atomic bombs totaling about 20,000 megatons. President Dwight D. Eisenhower pushed to reduce the arsenal, and the tonnage was cut by half over the next year or two, he said.

“He just thought this would lead to the annihilation of the human species,” Mr. Wellerstein said.

At the time, military planners sought to surround the Soviet Union with bomber bases and, in the event of war, called for what they referred to in official documents as a “bomb as you go” strategy, flying toward the biggest Soviet cities and hitting every listed target along the way, Mr. Wellerstein said.

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David 15 minutes ago
Yes, but before people relegate nuclear apocalypse to ancient history, they should remember that nuclear weapons still exist and that…
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For those of us who came of age during the Vietnam War – the 1972 photo of a nine-year-old Vietnamese girl – as she walked down an open road…
GregA 15 minutes ago
General Sherman waged war against the civilian populations of the South during his “march to the sea”. His troops destroyed structures,…
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The 1956 document makes air power the highest-priority target, including 1,100 Soviet-bloc airfields, since the goal was to destroy Soviet bombers before they could take off and head for targets in Europe and beyond. But many air bases and command centers were in and around population centers, so even those strikes would have resulted in extensive civilian casualties.

The targets with the second-highest priority were those of the industrial infrastructure. That included the people who ran it.

Several military historians said Tuesday that while the general principle that civilians should not be targeted dated to before World War I, actual practice had often been dictated by the military needs of the moment. The allies in World War II and the Korean War began with a principle of avoiding killing civilians to the extent possible. But in each conflict, that ideal often gave way to bombing cities because it was seen as a military necessity.

Targeting civilians has often been viewed as a way of undermining enemy morale, prompting a revolt or surrender — and conceivably leading to a shorter war. And so the large-scale bombing of civilians has sometimes been defended on humanitarian grounds, even after the firebombings of Tokyo and Dresden, Germany, and the atomic bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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The authors of the 1956 target list had lived through those experiences. But with two superpowers facing the prospect of nuclear annihilation for the first time, the assumption was that one side or the other would quickly prevail, with deaths in the millions.

Stephen I. Schwartz, an independent consultant on nuclear weapons policy and the co-author and editor of a 1998 book on American nuclear weapons, “Atomic Audit,” called the target list “grim and frankly appalling.” But he said he was pleased that the document had been published at a time when fewer and fewer Americans, including policy makers, have much knowledge of nuclear weapons.

“We’ve known the general contours of nuclear war planning for a few decades,” he said. “But it’s great that the details are coming out. These are extraordinary weapons, capable of incredible destruction. And this document may be history, but unfortunately the weapons are not yet history.”

A version of this article appears in print on December 23, 2015, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: ’50s Nuclear Target List Offers Chilling Insight . Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

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