Articles, papers, comments, opinions and new ideas worth sharing

Authors of research papers and articles on global issues for this month

About Environment News Service (ENS), John Scales Avery, Dr. Glen Barry, Rod Bastanmehr, Brent Blackwelder, (3), Dana Gabriel, James K. Galbraith, Dr Andrew Glikson, Suzanne Goldenberg, Bill Henderson, Winona LaDuke, Tara Lohan (2), Frank Molley, Joe Romm, Dr EAS Sarma & Shankar Sharma, Scott Thill, Mandeep Tiwana

About Environment News Service (ENS), Keystone XL Environmental Consultant ‘Lied’ About TransCanada Ties  Keystone XL Environmental Consultant ‘Lied’ About TransCanada Ties
John Scales Avery, The Social Responsibility Of Scientists  The Social Responsibility Of Scientists
Dr. Glen Barry, Ecocide Is Not Development; Love And Ecology Are The Answer  Ecocide Is Not Development; Love And Ecology Are The Answer
Rod Bastanmehr, Ice Caps Melt in the North Pole . . . Again  Ice Caps Melt in the North Pole . . . Again
Brent Blackwelder, Water Wars On The Way In Absence Of A Steady State  Water Wars On The Way In Absence Of A Steady State, Cost of Arctic Methane Release Could Be $60 Trillion, The 'Size of Global Economy' in 2012  Cost of Arctic Methane Release Could Be $60 Trillion, The Size of Global Economy in 2012, Air Pollution Takes More Than 2 Million Lives Worldwide Each Year, Estimate Experts  Air Pollution Takes More Than 2 Million Lives Worldwide Each Year, Estimate Experts, 85% Of Filipinos Are Feeling The Effects Of Climate Crisis  85% Of Filipinos Are Feeling The Effects Of Climate Crisis
Dana Gabriel, U.S. Arctic Ambitions And The Militarization Of The High North  U.S. Arctic Ambitions And The Militarization Of The High North
James K. Galbraith, James K. Galbraith: How to Stop the Path of Economic and Social Destruction  James K. Galbraith: How to Stop the Path of Economic and Social Destruction
Dr Andrew Glikson, CO2: The Invisible Substance  CO2: The Invisible Substance
Suzanne Goldenberg, Al Gore: Obama Must Veto Atrocity of Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline  Al Gore: Obama Must Veto Atrocity of Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline
Bill Henderson, Alberta Flooding A Climate Change Wake Up Call , Hello, Prime Minister Harper?  Alberta Flooding A Climate Change Wake Up Call , Hello, Prime Minister Harper?
Winona LaDuke with Frank Molley, When Drones Guard the Pipeline: The Militarization of Our Fossil Fuels  When Drones Guard the Pipeline: The Militarization of Our Fossil Fuels
Tara Lohan, Why the U.S. Is Becoming Ground Zero For the Dirtiest Energy  Why the U.S. Is Becoming Ground Zero For the Dirtiest Energy
Tara Lohan, Obama Uses Major Climate Speech to Cheerlead for Natural Gas Industry; Keystone XL Fate Still Undecided  Obama Uses Major Climate Speech to Cheerlead for Natural Gas Industry; Keystone XL Fate Still Undecided
Joe Romm, Miami, As We Know It Today, Is Doomed. It s Not A Question Of If. It s A Question Of When  Miami, As We Know It Today, Is Doomed. It s Not A Question Of If. It s A Question Of When
Dr EAS Sarma & Shankar Sharma, India’s Coal Reliance And Global Warming Hypocrisy  India’s Coal Reliance And Global Warming Hypocrisy
Scott Thill, The 7 States Leading the Charge for Clean Energy  The 7 States Leading the Charge for Clean Energy
Mandeep Tiwana, Multinational Greed Is Threatening the Stability of Societies Across the Planet  Multinational Greed Is Threatening the Stability of Societies Across the Planet

Articles and papers from authors

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  July 25, 2013  
Cost of Arctic Methane Release Could Be $60 Trillion, The 'Size of Global Economy' in 2012

The Arctic is carrying an ?economic time-bomb? with a price tag of $60 trillion, the size of the world economy in 2012. Researchers have warned of this "economic time-bomb", following a ground-breaking analysis of the likely cost of methane emissions in the region.

Economic modelling shows that the methane emissions caused by shrinking sea ice from just one area of the Arctic could come with a global price tag of 60 trillion dollars -- the size of the world economy in 2012.

Writing in a Comment piece in the journal, Nature, academics argue that a significant release of methane from thawing permafrost in the Arctic could have dire implications for the world's economy.

The researchers, from Cambridge and Rotterdam , have for the first time calculated the potential economic impact of a scenario some scientists consider increasingly likely -- that methane from the East Siberian Sea will be emitted as a result of the thaw.

This constitutes just a fraction of the vast reservoirs of methane in the Arctic , but scientists believe that the release of even a small proportion of these reserves could trigger possibly catastrophic climate change.

According to the new assessment, the emission of methane below the East Siberian Sea alone would also have a mean global impact of 60 trillion dollars.

The ground-breaking Comment piece was co-authored by Gail Whiteman, from Erasmus University ; Chris Hope, Reader in Policy Modelling at Cambridge Judge Business School , University of Cambridge ; and Peter Wadhams, Professor of Ocean physics at the University of Cambridge .

"The global impact of a warming Arctic is an economic time-bomb," Whiteman, who is Professor of sustainability, management and climate change at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), said.

Wadhams added: "The imminent disappearance of the summer sea ice in the Arctic will have enormous implications for both the acceleration of climate change, and the release of methane from off-shore waters which are now able to warm up in the summer. This massive methane boost will have major implications for global economies and societies."

Most discussion about the economic implications of a warming Arctic focuses on benefits to the region, with increased oil-and-gas drilling and the opening up of new shipping routes that could attract investments of hundreds of billions of dollars. However, the effects of melting permafrost on the climate and oceans will be felt globally, the authors argue.

Applying an updated version of the modelling method used in the UK government's 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, and currently used by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the authors calculate the global consequences of the release of 50 gigatonnes of methane over a decade from thawing permafrost beneath the East Siberian Sea .

"The methane release would bring forward the date at which the global mean temperature rise exceeds 2 degrees C by between 15 and 35 years," said Chris Hope. "In the absence of climate-change mitigation measures, the PAGE09 model calculates that it would increase mean global climate impacts by $60 trillion."

If other impacts such as ocean acidification are factored in, the cost would be much higher. Some 80% of these costs will be borne by developing countries, as they experience more extreme weather, flooding, droughts and poorer health, as Arctic warming affects climate.

The research also explored the impact of a number of later, longer-lasting or smaller pulses of methane, and the authors write that, in all these cases, the economic cost for physical changes to the Arctic is "steep."

The authors write that global economic institutions and world leaders should "kick-start investment in rigorous economic modelling" and consider the impacts of a changing Arctic landscape as far outweighing any "short-term gains from shipping and extraction."

They argue that economic discussions today are missing the big picture on Arctic change. "Arctic science is a strategic asset for human economies because the region drives critical effects in our biophysical, political and economic systems," write the academics. Neither the World Economic Forum nor the International Monetary Fund currently recognizes the economic danger of Arctic change.

According to Whiteman, "Global leaders and the WEF and IMF need to pay much more attention to this invisible time-bomb. The mean impacts of just this one effect -- $60 trillion -- approaches the $70-trillion value of the world economy in 2012.

Story Source:

The story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge . The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

Journal Reference:

Gail Whiteman, Chris Hope, Peter Wadhams. Climate science: Vast costs of Arctic change. Nature, 2013; 499 (7459): 401 DOI: 10.1038/499401a


University of Cambridge (2013, July 24). Cost of Arctic methane release could be 'size of global economy', experts warn. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2013 , from­ /releases/2013/07/130724134256.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=

  Read Cost of Arctic Methane Release Could Be $60 Trillion, The 'Size of Global Economy' in 2012
  July 25, 2013  

In what is proving to be a relatively annual occurrence, the North Pole's ice has melted, turning the Earth's northern most point into a shallow lake. The North Pole Environmental Observatory released a photo on July 24 that has many clamoring to push climate change to the forefront of national concerns. The ice began to melt, with the melted water resting above a thin layer of ice, on July 13 during a month of abnormally warm weather (LiveScience reports the temperatures have been 1 to 3 degrees Celsius higher then the Atlantic Ocean's July average).

With an Arctic cyclone on the way, the strong winds and rain are said to be on course to possibly loosen the ice coverage even further, thinning the water and potentially expanding the lake. This all falls within an undeniable rising of temperatures across the globe, with the Northern hemisphere finding itself particularly affected (thanks largely to an ever-depleting hole in the ozone layer). Though April featured the 9th highest snow storm on record, according to the Washington Post, May's snow cover ranked the third lowest since 1967, melting almost half of the ice caps' snowy layer. Many scientists and environmental activists and just plain sane people are heeding this as a warning to take environmental action, as an increase in sea temperature is largely considered to be contributing to melting ice caps the world over.

Rod Bastanmehr is a freelance writer in New York City with a passion for music, film and culture. Follow him on Twitter @rodb.

  Read Ice Caps Melt in the North Pole . . . Again
  June 20, 2013  

Al Gore has called on Barack Obama to veto the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, describing it as "an atrocity".

The former vice-president said in an interview on Friday that he hoped Obama would follow the example of British Columbia, which last week rejected a similar pipeline project, and shut down the Keystone XL.

"I certainly hope that he will veto that now that the Canadians have publicly concluded that it is not safe to take a pipeline across British Columbia to ports on the Pacific," he told the Guardian. "I really can't imagine that our country would say: 'Oh well. Take it right over parts of the Ogallala aquifer', our largest and most important source of ground water in the US. It's really a losing proposition."

The proposed route for the Keystone XL pipeline takes it across the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies ground water for drinking and irrigation

Campaigners have cast Keystone XL as the most important decision of Obama' presidency. The State Department, which has say over the project because it crosses the US-Canadian border, is to announce its decision later this year.

But Gore said an even larger environmental decision loomed for Obama next month. The White House has indicated Obama could offer a long-awaited climate plan, the first concrete proposals since his inauguration in January when the president suggested it was a religious and patriotic duty to deal with the challenge

"This whole project [Keystone XL] is an atrocity but it is even more important for him to regulate carbon dioxide emissions," Gore said. He urged Obama to use his powers as president to cut carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants – the biggest since source of global warming pollution.

"He doesn't need Congress to do anything," Gore said. "If it hurts the feelings of people in the carbon polluting industries that's too bad."

Gore was speaking from Istanbul, where he will soon lead a three-day training session on climate change for a global group of some 600 activists. Since the 2000 election, when Gore won the popular vote but lost the White House to George Bush, he has turned his public life over to action on climate change. The gathering in Istanbul will be the 22nd time Gore has presented his regularly updated slide show on the science behind climate change to a group of global activists.

He planning an even bigger training exercise in Chicago at the end of July, where he hopes to deliver his new slide show to more than 1,000 activists. It will be the largest such session since Gore adopted education and training of climate-change activists as one of the main concerns of his post-political career, and the first such exercise in the American mid-west.

The timing is critical – in climate terms, with atmospheric carbon dioxide reaching a new milestone of 400ppm – and on the political agenda, Gore argued. Last year's extreme weather – including superstorm Sandy and the punishing drought across the mid-west – has exposed the real-time costs of climate change. Extreme events inflicted $110bn in damages last year, according to the Obama administration.

Gore said he was also encouraged by the rise in climate activism by Democrats in Congress, singling out the Rhode Island senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who has made weekly speeches on climate change. "The conversation on climate is evolving rapidly partly because mother nature has joined the conversation and has a powerful voice, Gore said.

He said he believed those events were steadily moving public opinion on climate change to an historic tipping point – similar to the shift of opinion on such once controversial issues as civil rights and same sex marriage.

"People have the impression that is a Sisphyean task right now but times are changing," Gore said. "Just because the opponents of doing anything on global warming are trying to intimidate people to not even considering it, that is no reason for the rest of us to conclude that it is impossible. I don't think that it's impossible."

Gore said there was no way, in his view, to achieve climate action without continuing to keep the topic on the public agenda.

"I think we have to engage, difficult as it can seem to be, and build a critical mass to get beyond the critical tipping point," he said. "That is what it is all about. We have to win the conversation and change the law and put a price on carbon."

  Read Al Gore: Obama Must Veto 'Atrocity' of Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline
  June 17, 2013  

Someone needs to explain to me why wanting clean drinking water makes you an activist, and why proposing to destroy water with chemical warfare doesn’t make a corporation a terrorist.

I’m in South Dakota today, sort of a ground zero for the XL Keystone Pipeline, that pipeline, owned by a Canadian Corporation which will export tar sands oil to the rest of the world. This is the heart of the North American continent here. Bwaan Akiing is what we call this land-Land of the Lakota. There are no pipelines across it, and beneath it is the Oglalla Aquifer wherein lies the vast majority of the water for this region. The Lakota understand that water is life, and that there is no new water. It turns out, tar sands carrying pipelines (otherwise called “dilbit”) are sixteen times more likely to break than a conventional pipeline, and it seems that some ranchers and Native people, in a new Cowboy and Indian Alliance, are intent upon protecting that water.

This community understands the price of protecting land. And, the use of military force upon a civilian community- carrying an acute memory of the over 133,000 rounds of ammunition fired by the National Guard upon Lakota people forty years ago in the Wounded Knee standoff. That experience is coming home again, this time in Mi’gmaq territory.

Militarization of North American Oil Fields

This past week in New Brunswick, the Canadian military came out to protect oil companies. In this case, seismic testing for potential natural gas reserves by Southwestern Energy Company(SWN), a Texas based company working in the province. It’s an image of extreme energy, and perhaps the times.

SWN exercised it’s permit to conduct preliminary testing to assess resource potential for shale gas exploitation. Canadian constitutional law requires the consultation with First Nations, and this has not occurred. That’s when Elsipogtog Mi’gmaq warrior chief, John Levi, seized a vehicle containing seismic testing equipment owned by SWN. Their claim is that fracking is illegal without their permission on their traditional territory. About 65 protesters, including women and children, seized the truck at a gas station and surrounded the vehicle so that it couldn’t be removed from the parking lot. Levi says that SWN broke the law when they first started fracking “in our traditional hunting grounds, medicine grounds, contaminating our waters.” according to reporter Jane Mundy in on line Lawyers and Settlements publication. This may be just the beginning.

On June 9, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) came out en masse, seemingly to protect SWN seismic exploration crews against peaceful protesters – both native and non-Native, blocking route 126 from seismic thumper trucks. Armed with guns, paddy wagons and twist tie restraints, peaceful protestors were arrested. Four days later the protesting continued, and this time drew the attention of local military personnel. As one Mi’gmag said, “Just who is calling the shots in New Brunswick when the value of the land and water take a backseat to the risks associated with shale gas development?”

The militarization of the energy fields is not new. It’s just more apparent when it’s in a first world country, albeit New Brunswick. New Brunswick is sort of the El Salvador of Canadian provinces, if one looks at the economy, run akin to an oligarchy. New Brunswick’s Irving family empire stretches from oil and gas to media, they are the largest employer in New Brunswick and the primary proponents of the Trans Canada West to East pipeline which will bring tar sands oil to the St. Johns refinery owned by the same family. Irving is the fourth wealthiest family in Canada, the largest employer, land holder and amasses that wealth in the relatively poor province. The Saint John refinery would be a beneficiary of any natural gas fracked in the province. In general, press coverage of Aboriginal issues is sparse there at best.

Fracking proposals have come to their territory with a vengeance, and the perfect political storm has emerged- immense material poverty (seven of the ten poorest postal codes in Canada), a set of starve or sell federal agreements pushed by the Harper administration (on first nations), and extreme energy drives.

Each fracking well will take up to two-million-gallons of pristine water and transform the water into a toxic soup, full of carcinogens. The subsistence economy has been central to the Wabanaki confederacy since time immemorial, and concerns over SWN’s water contamination have come to the province. A recent Arkansas lawsuit against SWN charges the company with widespread toxic contamination of drinking water from their hydro-fracking.

Canada is the home to 75% of the worlds mining corporations, and they have tended to have relative impunity in the Canadian courts. Canadian corporations and their international subsidiaries are being protected by military forces elsewhere, and this concerns many. According to a U.K. Guardian story, a Québec Court of Appeal rejected a suit by citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo against Montreal-based Anvil Mining Limited for allegedly providing logistical support to the DRC army as it carried out a massacre, killing as many as 100 people in the town of Kilwa near the company's silver and copper mine. The Supreme Court of Canada later confirmed that Canadian courts had no jurisdiction over the company's actions in the DRC when it rejected the plaintiffs' request to appeal. Kairos Canada, a faith-based organization, concluded that the Supreme Court's ruling would "have broader implications for other victims of human rights abuses committed by Canadian companies and their chances of bringing similar cases to our courts".

In the meantime, back in New Brunswick, a heavily militarized RCMP came out to protect the exploration crews. Opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has many faces, from ranchers in Nebraska and Texas who reject eminent domain takings of their land for a pipeline right of way, to the Lakota nation which walked out of State Department meetings in May in a show of firm opposition to the pipeline. All of them are facing a pipeline owned by TransCanada, a Canadian Corporation.

On a worldwide scale communities are concerned about their water. In El Salvador, more than 60% of the population relies on a single source of water. In 2009, this came down to choosing between drinking water and mining. In 2009, after immense public pressure, the country chose water. It established a moratorium on metal mining permits. Polls show that a strong majority of Salvadorans would now like a permanent ban. A testament to how things can change even in a politically challenged environment.

Up in Canada’s version of El Salvador, twelve people, both native and non were arrested, some detained and interrogated by investigators by the RCMP forces on June l4, and after a day of the federal military “making their presence” felt, the people of the region have concerns about how far Canada will go to protect fossil fuels.

Here in Bwaan Akiing, I am hoping that people who want to protect the water are treated with respect. And, I also have to hope that those 7,000 plus American owned drones aren’t coming home, omaa akiing, from elsewhere to our territories in the name of Canadian oil interests.

Video by Charles LeBlanc

Winona LaDuke is the Executive Director of Honor the Earth in White Earth Reservation, MN.


  Read When Drones Guard the Pipeline: The Militarization of Our Fossil Fuels
  June 15, 2013  

Editor’s Note: Tara Lohan is traveling across North America documenting communities impacted by energy development for a new AlterNet project, Hitting Home. Follow her trip on Facebook or on Twitter.

A few years ago most Americans had never heard of tar sands. Now, thanks to mounting opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and a recent spill in Arkansas, vocabularies have grown, and so has a movement. Environmentalists have ignited a firestorm of protests over the pipeline, prompting rallies in DC and states across the country, resulting in high-profile arrests and media blitzes.

(click the image below to see the slideshow)

Tar Sands Development in Utah

June 17, 2013  | 

U.S Oil Sands has been given the go-ahead for what will be the first industrial-scale tar sands mine in the U.S. The company's test mine site is in the Tavaputs Plateau not far from Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah.

View all commentsSee all slideshows

Keystone XL, which would allow more dirty oil from the environmentally ravished boreal forests of northern Alberta to flow through the U.S., has become a rallying call of sorts, a tangible way for environmentalists and other concerned residents to fight the elusive specter of climate change.

With all the focus on blocking the Obama administration’s approval of Keystone XL, the general public has mostly missed a project plugging along at 8,000 feet atop the Tavaputs Plateau in Eastern Utah (part of the ever-larger Colorado Plateau), and not far from beloved Arches and Canyonlands national parks. This fall a Canadian company named U.S Oil Sands (formerly Earth Energy Resources) leapt another legal hurdle on its multi-year journey to becoming the first commercial-scale tar sands mine in the U.S. Local and regional activists have been fighting the development for years, but it has somehow missed the national conversation, which is odd because the potential for tar sands and oil shale development in Utah could be massive.

“We don’t want the unconventional fuel industry to gain a foothold on the Colorado Plateau,” said Taylor McKinnon of Grand Canyon Trust. “The U.S. unconventional fuel carbon bomb is bigger than Alberta’s."

What’s at Stake

Tar sands (also known as oil sands) are rocks that have bitumen (a form of oil) mixed in with sand, clay and water. Tar sands are usually extracted by strip mining an area to remove the rock, then crushing it and using heat, water and chemicals to separate the oil, which is then diluted with other hydrocarbons in order to make it liquid enough to be transported to a refinery. (Sometimes in situ recovery is possible, where steam and chemicals are pumped into underground wells to enable the bitumen to come to the surface.) The process is energy- and water-intensive and the waste massive and dangerous, at least as it has been done in northern Alberta (see photos here).

Utah is the primary location of tar sands in the U.S., but oil shale abounds in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. Oil shale is similar to tar sands, but when heated the rock releases kerogen, an oil-like substance. The presence of oil shale in the West is no secret—Ute Indians referred to it as “rocks that burn.” What is new, however, is the economics of bringing these unconventional fuels to market and the green light from Washington.

The federal government has approved 132,100 acres of land available for tar sands development in Utah and another 687,000 acres in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado for oil shale. (This is a scaled-back number, thanks to pressure from environmental groups, from what was first proposed in the Bush administration’s 2005 Energy Policy Act.)

U.S. Oil Sands (which did not return an interview request) has already dug its shovel into part of 32,000 acres it has leased in the Tavaputs Plateau. The company started a 200-acre test mine and last October it received sign-off from the state to continue its project following approval from the Water Quality Division. The Division’s director, Walt Baker, believed the company didn’t need a groundwater pollution permit. “He concluded that there is no groundwater to pollute in the project site, around 213 acres in the arid high country between Vernal and Moab,” reported Judy Fahys of the Salt Lake Tribune.

But the environmental group Living Rivers disagrees. Ironically, the site of the test mine is referred to on U.S. Oil Sands’ website as PR Spring, the name of a nearby freshwater spring. Additionally, Jeremy Miller reported for High Country News in July 2012 that the company actually plans to use groundwater from the site to supply the necessary water for the process. As his HCNcolleague Stephanie Paige Ogburn wrote in October 2012, “Apparently the groundwater is not too deep to drill into as a water source, but still deep enough to be immune from pollution runoff.” 

The company anticipates that it will produce 2,000 barrels of oil a day once it is ramped up to full production. With a seven-year project lifespan, one estimate puts its contribution to the country’s fuel supply at six hours.  

And the process won’t be easy. Miller describes what it would look like:

Heavy machinery would scour bitumen from the pit around the clock … The sand and mineral fines remaining after the oil has been removed will be combined, shoved back into the pit and covered with topsoil. But processing expands such wastes by as much as 30 percent. The overflow will be dumped into surrounding ravines—a method starkly reminiscent of Appalachia's mountaintop coal mining. And the project will create miles of light pollution, illuminating one of the country's last great "dark" regions.

The company claims the next part of the process makes its version of tar sands mining environmentally friendly by using a citrus-based solvent (although there is much disagreement about this). As Neal Clark of Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance said, “We don’t feel it’s an appropriate use of public lands to vet these unproven technologies that have wide-ranging impacts on air and water quality and habitat to companies that haven’t proven the technology whatsoever.”

But the story doesn’t end with the solvents, as Miller continues:

In order to utilize the solvent, the sands must first be sent through a series of on-site crushers. Hot water is added to the resulting slurry, generating a "froth" of oil, solvent and fine sand particles. This mixture is then passed through a series of separation towers, where the crude oil is isolated. It's then trucked to refineries in Salt Lake City for processing. Unlike conventional light crude oil, the heavy crude generated from PR Spring—like Canada's—requires extra, energy-intensive refining steps to remove impurities, such as sulfur and heavy metals, before it can be turned into anything useful.

State and local governments have largely welcomed the project and the county is quite literally paving the way, turning dirt roads into asphalt to speed things along. But opposition of another sort is mounting.

The Fight

“The kids, bless their hearts, don’t want to file lawsuits, they want to stand in front of bulldozers,” said John Weisheit of Living Rivers. “But that’s cool, I support that.”

Weisheit’s organization, along with the environmental law firm Western Resource Advocates, has been leading the charge in litigation to halt tar sands and oil shale development in the region. While they haven’t had a lot of success in court, with the U.S Oil Sands project they have managed to substantially delay development and the company is still searching for investors. Weisheit considers that a win for his side.

In May, Living Rivers, Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and Rocky Mountain Wild filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the BLM. The groups contest that the government agency failed to consider the impact to endangered species that would result from making 800,000 acres of land available to tar sands and oil shale development.

“PR Springs, that is real wilderness up there,” said Weisheit. “There are roadless areas nearby, bald eagles forage up there, and some golden eagles. Sometimes I see so many I can’t believe it.”

The area is home to deer, elk, bear, and the threatened Mexican spotted owl, and it straddles two critical watersheds, the Colorado River (which 30 million people depend on) and the Green River. Nearby Desolation Canyon and its rivers give refuge to three endangered fish species and PR Springs sits just northeast of Moab, Utah, a destination town for recreation enthusiasts and nature lovers, surrounded by national and state parks of prized beauty.

Activist groups like Before It Starts are mounting education camps at the site and doing direct action, but they know PR Springs is just the tip of the iceberg. Another tar sands project at Asphalt Ridge has also been green-lighted near the town of Vernal, Utah, just to the north.

But the largest deposit of tar sands is further south in the state, in an area known as the Tar Sands Triangle, wedged between Canyonlands National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and the Dirty Devil River Watershed. In essence, it’s prime canyon country. 

And tar sands development would be dwarfed by the impacts of oil shale development.

What’s the price of pursuing these unconventional fuels? Well, the BLM said it would "completely displace all other uses of the land."

Kurt Repanshek, writing in 2010 for National Parks Traveler said, according to the BLM’s own Oil Shale and Tar Sands Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, that the agency believed its plan (now slightly scaled back) would mean that the air nearby could be:

… contaminated with carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants, while air close to the site could be contaminated with benzene, toluene and formaldehyde. More than 100,000 acres of wilderness-quality land could be industrialized, construction of reservoirs would alter natural streamflow patterns, hydrocarbons and herbicides could cause 'chronic or acute toxicity' in wildlife and habitat for 20 threatened or endangered species could be lost.

And that’s coming from the agency giving the go-ahead.

Grand Canyon Trust's McKinnon said he doesn’t believe it’s possible that the already-stretched Colorado River Basin could support that level of industry without “unacceptable impacts.”

“The notion of mining climate disaster fuels in a region that is ground zero for global warming impacts is itself alarming,” said McKinnon. “It’s bad land use policy, it’s bad water policy and it’s bad public policy.”

Tara Lohan, a senior editor at AlterNet, has just launched the new project Hitting Home, chronicling extreme energy extraction. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis, including most recently, Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource. Follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.

  Read Why the U.S. Is Becoming Ground Zero For the Dirtiest Energy [With Slideshow]
  June 25, 2013  

Editor’s Note: Tara Lohan is traveling across North America documenting communities impacted by energy development for a new AlterNet project,  Hitting Home. Follow her trip on Facebook or on Twitter.

Obama’s much anticipated speech on climate change delivered today at Georgetown University in Washington DC was full of highs and lows. Since his election many hoped he’d be a leader on environmental concerns, but the last five years have mostly been disappointing — gains in renewables and fuel efficiency are worth noting, but his allegiance to an “all of the above” energy strategy is foolhardy at best. 

His new plan included three main goals. The first is to cut carbon pollution by directing the EPA “to work closely with states, industry and other stakeholders to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.” This is a noble and necessary goal but will be politically challenging to say the least, even though Obama did his best to shame the GOP and its industry friends. 

The second is to help communities prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate  change — and the extreme weather we’re already seeing. And the third is to be an international leader. His plan calls for America to “help forge a truly global solution to this global challenge by galvanizing international action to significantly reduce emissions, prepare for climate impacts, and drive progress through the international negotiations.” Does this mean that perhaps we’ll stop obstructing international climate talks?

The most notable parts of his speech were where he touched on “controversial” topics such as the Keystone XL pipeline and natural gas. He reaffirmed his commitment to wanting to go with burning “cleaner natural gas instead of dirtier fuel sources.” We can only assume the dirty stuff here is coal, but he tactfully avoided saying so directly. Of course he failed to talk about the dirty and dangerous process of extracting gas via fracking — the technology responsible for our current gas boom that Obama proudly mentioned numerous times.

He touted the jobs that this industry would create, “jobs that can’t be shipped overseas,” but he failed to mention that the product being produced can and will be shipped overseas — energy independence be damned.

It’s hard to imagine that Obama has ever visited with communities who are in the crosshairs of natural gas extraction — a process that has proven already to be anything but clean and safe. And yet Obama promised to “strengthen our position as a top natural gas producer” and even to use our private sector to help other countries “transition to natural gas.” This translates to exporting fracking worldwide — a process already underway in Poland, South Africa, Australia and other countries. The hypocrisy of Obama’s allegiance to the gas industry and his pledge to fight climate change was called out by actor/director Mark Ruffalo, a spokesperson for Americans Against Fracking, who said, “President Obama can't claim to seriously address climate change and expand fracking for oil and gas—that's a stark contradiction.”

There is no question where Obama stands on the issue of fracking, and it should be serious cause for concern. With the Keystone XL pipeline, it’s harder to read the tea leaves. The President said:

Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.

This sounds good, but the tricky part is that the draft environmental impact statement issued by the State Department (although authored by industry) came up with some twisted logic as to why the pipeline wouldn’t in fact increase greenhouse gas emissions. So, if Obama goes with the industry line, then the pipeline approval will be a go. If however, he goes with the scientific evidence and the findings of his EPA, then the plan should be shot down. 

But that then creates another problem — he already OK’d half of the pipeline, from Cushing, Oklahoma to Houston, Texas. And that pipeline is nearly built — done so by taking land via eminent domain from Texas and Oklahoma landowners, who (like Julia Trigg Crawford and Michael Bishop) are still fighting like hell to halt construction on their properties. So, if he finds the northern half is an environmental threat — what about the southern half?

Obama’s speech will likely be met with cheers and jeers, even in the environmental community. But it seems safe to say that a year of increasing protest against the Keystone XL is paying off — and after multiple actions planned during this FearlessSummer Obama may be feeling even more heat.


Tara Lohan, a senior editor at AlterNet, has just launched the new project Hitting Home, chronicling extreme energy extraction. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis, including most recently, Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource. Follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.

  Read Obama Uses Major Climate Speech to Cheerlead for Natural Gas Industry; Keystone XL Fate Still Undecided
  July 8, 2013  

Full disclosure. I'm greenvesting thousands in solar and other no-brainer renewable energy alternatives, because I want to help save the world from an exponential mass extinction thanks to crap energy policy. 

Sure, some bigshot and small-time "investors" and "innovators" may be in it for the money (see: Anschutz Corporation, below), but these days who cares? Climate change's clock is short. Thankfully, solar, wind and other green power projects are popping even in the most polluted of places.

What brings them all together are the inevitable political and economic compromises born of resource shortages and shared cosmology. For all of our imagined differences, we share the same singular paradise spinning through space. But we're knowingly trashing it at light-speed, when we could be living clean off the sun, sea and wind.

"Civilization has been around for thousands of years," the Solar Energy Industries Association's new spokesveep Ken Johnson told AlterNet. "The idea that we're going to pretty much blow through most of our natural energy resources in a couple hundred years is pretty frightening. What are we going to do about future generations? Just shrug our shoulders and say, Sorry! We enjoyed it while we were here. Good luck, and try burning wood again! That's just not an option."

The solar sector's explosive year so far is one brilliant alternative Johnson is aware of, having migrated to SEIA from the cozy political and industry environs of Capitol Hill, Homeland Security, PhRMA and more. He's following the money like the rest of us. From massive investments from billionaires like Warren Buffet to recent stock-market performances that shame new-school blue-chips like Apple and Google, the renewables sector is on an evolutionary roll, gaining significant momentum across what advertisers like to call Democrat and Republican territories. 

Here's a refresher on the realities of recent green blooms in red states and blue, including some who may be worse polluters than you think, like the so-called Golden State, land of airborne lung death.

1. California

For all of the Golden State's leadership when it comes to pathbreaking the green economy, it remains the United States' most confused paradise. American Lung Association's list of America's most polluted cities scores several California notables across brackets, led by Los Angeles and cities smack dab in the state's breadbasket. California also ranks second in America's highest CO2 emissions, after Texas, which is the worst state in the country. Sure, California's per-capita CO2 emissions are lower than almost every state in the country, but it still annually spews out nearly 400,000 metric tons of CO2 on top of its reigning particle and ozone pollution. As a figurative country within a country, populated by so-called red and blue cities the size of states, California still has a long way to go before it can truly call itself a green state.

But it's on the right track, said Johnson. "We're trending in the right direction. Lancaster, which is under Republican leadership, has mandated solar on all new construction. Palo Alto recently approved contracts which will have the city getting 18 percent of its electricity from solar." 

Ivanpah—billed as "the largest solar plant under construction in the world" by its bankrollers Brightsource, Google and NRG—will bring on hundreds of megawatts of generating capacity. Warren Buffet's twin Solar Star farms in nearby Antelope Valley are together larger than Ivanpah, which is why he doubled down a cool billion to further fund construction. It's no accident that after he did just that, Sunpower, who built his solar stars, watched its stock skyrocket to a 52-week high. (Full disclosure: It's also no accident that I've greenvested in Sunpower since last year.) Because rich and poor alike know that solar is simply a no-brainer.

And yet Ivanpah and Solar Star are within spitting distance of Owens Lake, drained decades ago to create Los Angeles' image industry and unsustainable sprawl. L.A.'s continuing legal battles with Owens Lake over geoengineering's inevitable blowback should be a sobering reminder that Los Angeles and California need to seriously crank up their ambition before the rest of America takes them seriously as scolds.

2. Texas

Ivanpah may be in California, but its behemoth energy co-parent NRG is based in New Jersey and Texas, which annually farts out over 650,000 metric tons of CO2. NRG recently closed a deal to annually provide half of Houston's electricity using solar, which would rule if the state wasn't right behind California in ozone pollution, or well above the national average in per capita CO2 emissions. 

“Houston is already known as the energy capital of the world, but we are committed to becoming the alternative energy capital of the world as well," said Mayor Annise Parker, whose metropolis is now reportedly the largest buyer of municipal renewable power in America. It's almost enough to erase memories of Reliant Energy's sinister role in California's manufactured energy "crisis" or that energy corporation is one of America's worst CO2 emitters.

But Texas is nevertheless leaning green, especially on the municipal level, and it's not alone. "A lot of new solar is going to come online this year," said Johnson. "We've got 30 utility-scale projects under construction around the country. Other areas are watching carefully to see how solar takes hold, but costs to consumers have dropped by more than 40 percent. So solar is rapidly becoming very competitive with traditional energy sources. And we're doing it without adversely impacting the environment. So despite the amazing progress solar has made, its best days are ahead."

3. Iowa

Responsible for some of the nation's lamest Republican leadership and per-capita CO2 emissions, Corn Belt states like Iowa, Indiana and others stick out like a sore dinosaur's thumb when it comes to the so-called red states. But they are making better and better green-state bedfellows, as global warming inevitably dries out their powerhouse farming industries and economies. 

Routinely advertised as America's heartland, Iowa reportedly generates a higher percentage of its energy from wind power than any other state. Along with his cool billion on California solar, Buffet also recently dropped two cooler billions on wind farms in Iowa, the largest investment in economic development in state history. Iowa governor Terry Branstad may be a red-state Republican, but he's still parted ways with the GOP on obvious green-state solutions like wind energy, and it's likely going to take a Democrat with more ambition to beat his environmentally friendly track record.

“The stakes for the wind industry and the country in general will only get worse with delay," warned Iowa's senator Charles Grassley, along with a host of other Republicans evidently hell-bent for greener pastures on the Red State Renewable Alliance's official site. That includes politicians from GOP strongholds like Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and more in fierce favor of the government's Production Tax Credit (PTC), whose subsidies have galvanized the Midwest's renewable energy portfolio, especially in wind. 

It is a supreme green irony, given the region wastes no shortage of hot air when it comes to admitting global warming is actually happening. Whatever works, dude.

4. Colorado

What the PTC is to Midwest wind, the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is to nationwide solar. They serve the same function: Backstopping renewable energy policy and economic investment with the power of the government's purse, which in turn entices greedier private capital off the sidelines. And one state developing clever variations on the ITC is Colorado, which has ridden the fence between being a red or blue state for about as long as the reductive binary metaphor has been in contemporary usage.

"Senator Mark Udall of Colorado recently introduced the Solar Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) Act," explained Johnson. "Today, if you put solar into your business or home, you qualify for the ITC's 30 percent tax credit, but you're not eligible if you pool your resources together as a community. Senator Udall's legislation would allow those who pool their community resources into a solar facility to receive the same tax advantages."

"This bill ensures that all homeowners are eligible for the individual renewable energy tax credit even if they participate in solar farms because their homes are unsuitable for solar panels," Udall said in June. "The SUN Act makes our tax laws fairer and encourages all homeowners to contribute to our nation's pursuit of true energy independence." Whether these homes can continue to stand in a state experiencing some of the most destructive firestorms in the drying state's history—which only promises to get warmer, faster—remains an open question.

Either way, the ITC should remain, explained Johnson.

"Since the ITC went into effect, we've tripled the numbers of jobs in America," he told AlterNet. "Last year alone, investment in solar doubled from $6 billion to $12 billion. The number of businesses has grown from a handful to more than 5,000. Clearly, solar is having a huge impact on the economy; it's one of the fastest growing industries in America."

"All we are asking for is a fair fight when it comes to the energy sector," he added. "The oil and gas industries have enjoyed tax benefits embedded into the code for nearly 100 years. The ITC has only been on the books since 2006. So given a fair playing field, we have clearly demonstrated that solar can compete with any other energy source."

5. Pennsylvania

The less said about Pennsylvania's filthy energy sector, which includes way too much coal and nuclear power, the better. Because it is extensive and tortured, and still annually responsible for over 250 metric tons of CO2, third worst behind California and Texas. Pittsburgh alone is a reigning particle polluter nationwide, so it's nearly safe to say that the state has hardly anywhere to go but up when it comes to being green.

And it's slowly moving that direction. With a steady stream of Appalachian winds at its back, Pennsylvania has over 20 wind power projects online and more on the way. One of red state's few Democratic politicians, state senator John Wozniak recently introduced legislation that would build another farm on state forest land that used to house a strip mine. Wozniak's proposal comes at a crucial time when entrenched Pennsylvania coal interests are wringing their hands over the potential of President Obama's recent climate action speech to throttle environmentally unsustainable coal production.

"We're not going to reopen coal mines," prophesied Jake Smeltz, president of Pennsylvania's Electric Power Generation Association industry group. "We're not going to reconstitute rail lines that deliver coal. We're not going to fire up boilers that have sat unused. When you say goodbye, you really do say goodbye."

Yeah, that's the point. That kind of change could come faster to Pennsylvania if its lowly Republican incumbent governor Tom Corbett loses to a Democratic challenger like John Hanger, former Secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection, who has made industry regulation and renewables a tentpole of his candidacy. He's up against a fellow DEP Secretary in Democrat Kathleen McGinty, meaning the much-needed green-state upgrades that currently red-state Pennsylvania desperately needs could come faster than before.

6. Georgia

And then there is the South, out of which Georgia, spewing out over 170,000 metric tons of CO2 per year, stands pretty firm as a red state suffering from the intensified ravages of global warming, whether that's tornadoes, hurricanes or sea level rise. Perhaps that's why it has jumped more heartily into the renewable energy future other states are already working hard to bring to fruition. 

"With respect to some of the newer places where solar is going gangbusters, Georgia Power's Advanced Solar Initiative, which was approved by the George Public Service Commission late last year, is a good example," Johnson said. "The ASI will drive 90-210mw of new installation in Georgia by the end of 2016." 

Not bad for a state nowhere near the nation's top 25 in installed capacity. Billing itself as "the nation's largest voluntary solar portfolio" may be a stretch—it's still early, after all—but there's nothing wrong with being a bit confident after you've been way too complacent. Especially since Georgia's neighbor Florida, otherwise known as the Sunshine State, is quaqmired in a dirty energy portfolio with zero leadership pointing the way forward. Heavily dependent on coal, nuclear and gas, and in danger of drowning thanks to climate change, much of Florida is stuck in the 20th century and needing inspiration. Maybe it can find some in Georgia.

7. Wyoming

As the home of Dick Cheney, and the highest per-capita CO2 emissions in America (by an unbelievable country mile), Wyoming is about as red as states come, despite its heavily green environs and the fact that it receives more per-capita federal tax dollars nationwide than any other state. With dirty mining and declining agriculture as the prime drivers of its economy, the Equality State, as it is officially known, has a pretty unequal renewable energy portfolio. While it has evidently little problem unearthing death-bringers like coal, methane, oil, gas and even uranium, Wyoming traditionally hasn't been able to muster the same extractive enthusiasm for clean fuels.

But even staunch Wyoming is caving to climate change's new realities. A state with some of the highest wind power potential in America, Wyoming has experienced a land rush in the last few years intent on capitalizing on its dormant renewable market. And while it's been years in the making, the state's massive Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farms are reputed to be the largest in the world. Another Wyoming-based wind project, the Transwest Express, recently released a draft environmental review to build a 725-mile electricity corridor bringing 3,000 megawatts to the desert Southwest and perhaps even California. The fact that it is bankrolled by the Anschutz Corporation—a George W. Bush bankroller that mindlessly lobbied against the Kyoto Protocol and same-sex marriage while defending creationism—might not sit well with the more scientifically inclined Golden State. 

Then again, maybe you should read California's entry again for a sobering refresher on its blue-state credentials. Hopefully, all of the United States will bleed green before the nation bleeds out from a self-inflicted wound brought on by an unsustainable dependence on dirty fuels.

  Read The 7 States Leading the Charge for Clean Energy
  July 12, 2013  

The people are angry. In Turkey, Brazil, and most recently again, Egypt, thousands have taken to the streets to voice their anger and frustration at the lack of social and economic justice. Political and economic elites, working in tandem, have managed to neutralise the aspirations of ordinary people, in part spurring the disenfranchisement driving the protests.   

Whether it is the removal of subsidies protecting the poor against inflation and price shocks in Egypt, or the enormous cost of hosting high profile sporting events in Brazil at the expense of social services, or government plans to commercialise a beloved public park in the heart of Istanbul, the headlong embrace of neoliberal economic policies by governments is likely to cause further dissatisfaction and unrest across the globe.

Neo-liberalism, using a dictionary definition, as a "modern politico-economic theory favouring free trade, privatisation, minimal government intervention, reduced public expenditure on social services etc.," reduces the responsibility of the state while promoting privatisation to favour those with access to resources and influence. It is playing havoc with the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people.  

Despite mainstream perceptions, the sad reality is that free markets don't automatically regulate themselves nor do they naturally respect individual or community rights. In Indonesia, people are choking from fires set by agricultural companies to clear forests to allow mammoth palm oil plantations to flourish. In the United States, popular demands for effective gun control are being blocked by congressmen bankrolled by the arms industry. In Ethiopia, thousands have been displaced through forced villagisation programmes to make way for agricultural companies that want to make land more "productive." In Spain and inGreece, public property such as hospitals and airports are being sold to private players to make the economy more "nimble." In the UK, frustration is mounting about tax evasion by transnational corporations whose turnover exceeds the GDP of many countries, while the average citizen continues to dutifully pay their fair share of taxes.

Around the globe, people are getting increasingly frustrated by governments going out of their way to ensure an enabling environment for big business while making drastic cuts in public spending on social welfare. This is fuelling alienation among electorates, spurring protests. Of great concern, is that those seeking to expose the nexus between governments and big business are being subjected to various forms of persecution with state complicity.

In Cambodia, land rights activists opposing official plans to forcibly acquire land for big companies have been subjected to brutal attacks by security forces and lengthy prison terms. In Honduras, peasant farmers' groups involved in land disputes with companies have been subjected to murderous attacks.  InIndia, peaceful activists ideologically opposed to the government's economic policy have been charged under draconian laws of being members of outlawed terrorist organisations. In Canada, non-profit groups opposed to the conservative government's policy of loosening environmental restrictions to enable extraction of oil and gas from ecologically sensitive zones have been subjected to surveillance and funding cuts, while being accused of being obstructive of the country's economic development.

Widening income inequality

Worryingly, while the power of transnational corporations has expanded exponentially, income and wealth disparities are threatening to tear societies apart. The World Economic Forum's 2013 annual survey of global risks identifies severe income disparity as a key concern likely to manifest itself over the next decade. The International Monetary Fund's Managing Director has admitted that the top 0.5 percent of the globe's population holds 35 per cent of its wealth. Civil society group, Oxfam estimated that in 2012, the world's top 100 billionaires earned enough money to end poverty four times over. CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance has argued in its annual report that the discourse on inequality is becoming commonplace with the 1 percent vs the 99 percent meme entering the mainstream.

But despite the grave warnings from civil society, governments and financial institutions continue to spin arguments about the need to privatise services when they should be focusing on how to make the public sector fit for purpose. Shockingly, during a global economic downturn, political leaders and captains of industry have together managed to subject ordinary people to double jeopardy: having to pay taxes to the state and then having to fork out profit-adjusted higher costs for privatised health, education, public transport, telecommunications, road works, electricity, water supply and so on. These services are indeed governments' responsibility to provide as part of the social contract between citizens and the state.

In the past, the political and economic elite have erroneously sought to deride the occupy movements,indignados and anti-corruption protestors as fringe elements without clear vision or majority support. But with greater numbers of people taking to the streets to voice their dissatisfaction against corruption, environmental degradation and top down austerity policies, decision makers have a reality check staring them in the face. But will they right the ship on neo-liberal economic policies when they are privately profiting from it? Perhaps citizen action will help answer that.

Mandeep Tiwana is a lawyer specialising in human rights and civil society issues and the Head of Policy and Advocacy at CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

  Read Multinational Greed Is Threatening the Stability of Societies Across the Planet
  June 25, 2013  

Jeff Goodell has a must-read piece in Rolling Stone, “Goodbye, Miami: By century’s end, rising sea levels will turn the nation’s urban fantasyland into an American Atlantis. But long before the city is completely underwater, chaos will begin.”

Goodell has talked to many of the leading experts on Miami including Harold Wanless, chair of University of Miami’s geological sciences, department, source of the headline quote. The reason climate change dooms Miami is a combination of sea level rise, the inevitability of ever more severe storms and storm surges — and its fateful, fatal geology and topology, which puts “more than $416 billion in assets at risk to storm-related flooding and sea-level rise”:

South Florida has two big problems. The first is its remarkably flat topography. Half the area that surrounds Miami is less than five feet above sea level. Its highest natural elevation, a limestone ridge that runs from Palm Beach to just south of the city, averages a scant 12 feet. With just three feet of sea-level rise, more than a third of southern Florida will vanish; at six feet, more than half will be gone; if the seas rise 12 feet, South Florida will be little more than an isolated archipelago surrounded by abandoned buildings and crumbling overpasses. And the waters won’t just come in from the east – because the region is so flat, rising seas will come in nearly as fast from the west too, through the Everglades.

Even worse, South Florida sits above a vast and porous limestone plateau. “Imagine Swiss cheese, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what the rock under southern Florida looks like,” says Glenn Landers, a senior engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This means water moves around easily – it seeps into yards at high tide, bubbles up on golf courses, flows through underground caverns, corrodes building foundations from below. “Conventional sea walls and barriers are not effective here,” says Robert Daoust, an ecologist at ARCADIS, a Dutch firm that specializes in engineering solutions to rising seas.

The latest research “suggests that sea level could rise more than six feet by the end of the century,” as Goodell notes, and “Wanless believes that it could continue rising a foot each decade after that.”

Prudence dictates we plan for the plausible worst case. Coastal studies experts told the NY Times back in 2010, “For coastal management purposes, a [sea level] rise of 7 feet (2 meters) should be utilized for planning major infrastructure.”

Unfortunately, sea level rise is already 60% faster than projected. Goodell reports:

“With six feet of sea-level rise, South Florida is toast,” says Tom Gustafson, a former Florida speaker of the House and a climate-change-policy advocate. Even if we cut carbon pollution overnight, it won’t save us. Ohio State glaciologist Jason Box has said he believes we already have 70 feet of sea-level rise baked into the system.

Certainly without sharp cuts in CO2 starting ASAP, Jason Box is correct (see “Manmade Carbon Pollution Has Already Put Us On Track For 69 Feet Of Sea Level Rise”).

So we need a combination of aggressive mitigation combined with massive spending to develop completely new adaptation solutions for Miami to have any serious chance of surviving this century intact.

Sadly, Florida is one of the last places in the country where such action and planning can be expected:

Those solutions are not likely to be forthcoming from the political realm. The statehouse in Tallahassee is a monument to climate-change denial. “You can’t even say the words ‘climate change’ on the House floor without being run out of the building,” says Gustafson. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, positioning himself for a run at the presidency in 2016, is another denier, still trotting out the tired old argument that “no matter how many job-killing­ laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather.” Gov. Rick Scott, a Tea Party Republican, says he’s “not convinced” that global warming is caused by human beings. Since taking office in 2011, Scott has targeted environmental protections of every sort and slashed the budget of the South Florida Water Management District, the agency in charge of managing water supply in the region, as well as restoration of the Everglades. “There is no serious thinking, no serious planning, about any of this going on at the state level,” says Chuck Watson, a disaster-­impact analyst with longtime experience in Florida. “The view is, ‘Well, if it gets real bad, the federal government will bail us out.’ It is beyond denial; it is flat-out delusional.”

Goodell’s whole article is worth reading, not just for the sober view of what South Florida faces but also for the beautiful writing:

When it rains in Miami, it’s spooky. Blue sky vanishes and suddenly water is everywhere, pooling in streets, flooding parking lots, turning intersections into submarine crossings. Even for a nonbeliever like me, it feels biblical, as if God were punishing the good citizens of Miami Beach for spending too much time on the dance floor. At Alton Road and 10th Street, we watched a woman in a Toyota stall at a traffic light as water rose up to the doors. A man waded out to help her, water up to his knees. This flooding has gotten worse with each passing year, happening not only after torrential rainstorms but during high tides, too, when rising sea water backs up through the city’s antiquated drainage system. Wanless, 71, who drives an SUV that is littered with research equipment, notebooks and mud, shook his head with pity.“This is what global warming looks like,” he explained. “If you live in South Florida and you’re not building a boat, you’re not facing reality.”

  Read ‘Miami, As We Know It Today, Is Doomed. It’s Not A Question Of If -- It’s A Question Of When’
  July12, 2013  

WASHINGTON, DC, July 11, 2013 (ENS) – The latest environmental assessment of the controversial TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is flawed because the contractor hired by the U.S. State Department to write the review “lied” on its conflict of interest disclosure form about its past work for TransCanada, finds research released Wednesday by two environmental groups.

The international consultancy Environmental Resources Management was hired by the U.S. State Department in 2012 to write a supplemental assessment of the environmental impact of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

In their research report, Friends of the Earth and the Checks & Balances Project cite the publicly-available conflict of interest disclosure form signed by ERM Senior Associate Partner Steve Koster, PE, which states, “ERM has no business relationship with TransCanada or its affiliates, and in the attached is certifying that no conflict of interest exists for working on this Project.”

“ERM lied again when it said it had no relationship with any business that would be affected by construction of the Keystone XL, which would carry tar sands oil from northern Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast,” Friends of the Earth states in the research report. “In fact, ERM’s own publicly available documents show that the firm has business with over a dozen companies with operating stakes in the Alberta tar sands.”But Friends of the Earth’s review of Environmental Resources Management’s business connections found that, in fact, ERM and TransCanada have worked together at least since 2011 on another pipeline – the Alaska Pipeline Project, a partnership between ExxonMobil and TransCanada designed to connect Alaska’s North Slope natural gas resources to new markets.

Environmental Resources Management, Inc., based in London, UK with 140 offices in 39 countries and territories, was contracted to write the  Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, SEIS, for TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The new 875-mile pipeline would allow delivery of up to 830,000 barrels per day of diluted crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta and the Bakken Shale Formation in Montana and North Dakota to Nebraska for onward delivery to Gulf Coast refineries.

TransCanada has applied for a Presidential Permit which, if granted, would authorize the proposed pipeline to cross the Canada-U.S. border.

The SEIS was required because the State Department’s Final Environmental Impact Statement, FEIS, written by contract consultant Cardno Enterix and issued in August 2011, did not cover a change to the route through Nebraska to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region over the Oglalla Aquifer. In February 2012, this FEIS was  criticized for conflict of interest in a  report by the State Department’s own Inspector General.

“From the beginning, the State Department’s review of Keystone has been plagued by influence peddling and conflicts of interest,” said Ross Hammond, senior campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

“This is more serious. If ERM lied about its relationship with TransCanada, how can Secretary Kerry, President Obama or the American people believe anything the company says about the pipeline’s environmental impact?” said Hammond.

Hammond said ERM’s lies call into question the entire Keystone XL environmental review process.

Friends of the Earth and The Checks & Balances Project have called for an investigation by the State Department’s Inspector General into how ERM was hired given these conflicts of interest.

In the wake of the new evidence that ERM lied on State Department disclosure forms, the groups are asking Secretary of State John Kerry to throw out the ERM study and not allow it to determine the Obama Administration’s decision on whether to issue a pipeline permit.

  Read Keystone XL Environmental Consultant ‘Lied’ About TransCanada Ties
  July 11, 2013  

Economist James K. Galbraith recently addressed an audience in Greece to examine why members of his profession have done such a poor job of diagnosing economic problems and recommending appropriate policy solutions. As he explains, economists dedicated to an outdated model of how the economy functions have promoted national policies focused on austerity, deregulation and privatization, which have failed miserably to address the widespread pain of a global financial crisis. In contrast, economists critical of this view have strongly opposed austerity and have recommend policies that can create a robust economy and society through stabilizing institutions, addressing the burden of debt, restructuring banks, and promoting investment and jobs. Which side has been proven right? The answer, Galbraith argues, is obvious, and it is time for a sea change in economic thinking.

In the wake of a brutal crisis that has now lasted five years, even economists ought to reconsider their ideas. Most other people would do so much more quickly, but we are a very patient and stubborn profession.

The view that was propagated at the time of the crisis was that there was a series of national problems: in the U.S., the subprime mortgage disaster; in Greece, overspending, undertaxing; in Ireland, commercial real estate; in Spain, a residential housing bubble. And somehow, all of these things seemed to come to a head and break out in a crisis at the same time. What a coincidence!

In this view, the crisis was to be corrected by national policies at national scale by the actions of national governments. What policies? Well, the policies were to be the policies they were told to adopt, which in every case were approximately the same: Cut your public sector, raise your taxes, deregulate your markets, privatize, privatize, privatize — that is the new Moses, as is profits.

But while the policy was interpreted by authority, the judgment would be rendered by markets. Good behavior, effective action, would bring back confidence. You must have heard this a thousand times: Confidence would mean interest rates would fall and the credit markets would open. That was the sequence of events. And when that didn’t happen, well there was always an explanation, which was “an inadequate degree of zeal.” 

The failure of the policy could always be remedied by making the policy even more harsh. This is the attitude of the gambler who loses every hand he plays and comes back and doubles his bet. This is what we’re seeing. You can keep that game going for quite some time. You may perhaps be familiar with a phrase attributed to Albert Einstein, which is that insanity consists in always doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

Now, from the beginning, there was a different view. It wasn’t very widely held, but it existed. This view held that the central fact of the crisis was the worldwide collapse of a model of growth fueled by private credit markets. It seemed obvious that this was the case. How could it not be? Everything happened at once. Yes, the collapse originated with the debacle of the U.S. mortgage markets, whose losses had been spread all through Europe by the sale of toxic securities to pension funds and townships and private investors and banks. And Europe and the U.S. are the same investment community. They react the same way when they see a disaster, which is they run for safety. So of course they sold all the weak assets – the sovereign credits of the small countries, and bought the sovereign debts of the big countries. And the interest rates go up on one and down on the other. It’s as obvious as anything in front of you eyes. Did the interest rates on U.S. debt go up because the U.S. had a mortgage crisis? No, they went down. It was a massive, worldwide flight to safety. 

Now, in Europe, this was especially aggravated by institutions that were inadequate to the purpose, that had been badly designed, in many ways, by my generation of economists 30 years ago in a moment when certain ideas were in fashion that held that, well, you know, the principles that everything would be all right if the central bank simply controlled inflation, and all budgets were balanced, and all markets were private. We’ve had a set of ideas which for a decade had been receding around the world — abandoned in Latin America, never adopted in Asia — but still intensely held and advanced by those who had become committed to them many years ago.

On top of that, we’ve had an attitude toward policy which was basically the mentality of a debt collection agency, a mentality of punishment of debtors and reward for creditors that fails to recognize the elementary truth that you can’t have one without the other, that every surplus has a deficit corresponding. So this alternative idea that this was the problem — a worldwide collapse of private credit met by inadequate institutions and hidebound ideas — existed. And five years have gone by, and we can ask: Which interpretation hold up better? We have cases we can look at.  

And in particular — and I’m not one to be a booster of the American experience — but we can compare the U.S. and Europe, and we can see that in the U.S., although there are many problems that remain — unemployment, foreclosures, stagnation — the situation is fundamentally stable. It stabilized some time ago, whereas in Europe it has not. The crisis just gets deeper and deeper. Why is that? It is not because the U.S. instituted and followed a policy of rigorous austerity. It is precisely because we did not.

Yes, we had an expansion package initially in 2009, and that was important. But it was not the fundamental thing. The fundamental thing was that there exists in the U.S. stabilizing institutions that continued to function, that buffered the enormous losses that people suffered in the crisis. What were those institutions? Yes, we propped up the banks, and I’m not particularly proud of that. But that wasn’t the important thing. One of the most important things was that the social insurance mechanisms worked. Social security payments went up. Unemployment insurance applied across the whole country. The health insurance programs, which only apply to part of the population, but nevertheless an important part, continued to function. Disability payments picked up part of the people who had lost their jobs. Food stamps — a very important program — was expanded to cover about 70 million Americans, a very large share of the population.

And all of these things meant that while losses were felt, they were not catastrophic to society. And there’s one other thing almost equally important, and that has to do with debts. It’s just a question of a difference of circumstance. In the U.S., the debts that were at the root of the crisis were primarily household debts. They were mortgage debts, credit card debts — but especially mortgage debts. And with a mortgage debt, over time, one of two things is going to happen. It will be paid, or it will default. Defaulting is a very hard thing, but it gets rid of the debt, and so the debt burden goes down over time. That’s not the case in Europe. The problem is public debt, sovereign debts. And they are perpetual until they are renegotiated — or repudiated, but that, again is a drastic measure. The resolution, in other words, has to be an active, and not a passive process. It’s plain as day.

What are the implications? There must be a European solution, and it must begin with an assessment and a change of ideas. That’s the most important thing. When ideas change, everything else will follow. Policies will follow, and, as needed, institutions will follow after that. Many things could be done under current treaty framework. What are those things?

1. First of all, mutualize the debts and reduce the burden so that we are not working under the pretense that debts that cannot be paid will be paid. They won’t be paid. If the burden of those debts is reduced and they are effectively made the common responsibility of the European community, then they become manageable. Without that, the losses are there in any event.

2. Second part, restructuring the banks. We have to recognize that the model of growth that relied principally on the financial system to generate credit is gone, and it’s not coming back. Having large banking institutions that persist unchanged — what is the point? What purpose do they serve? What social function justifies their charters? If we have a smaller financial sector, then we have a larger employment sector. If the profits are not being drained to the big bankers, they can go to the small businesses. Why is that not a reasonable policy change both in the U.S. and Europe?

3. Third point, release funding for investment and jobs. The mechanisms have been outlined very effectively: Using existing institutions to begin a process of reconstruction and reemployment. Institutions at the continental level can do things that institutions at the national level cannot do.

4. And then there is a fourth point, which, to my mind, becomes increasingly pressing at time goes on. It’s a point which really speaks to the question of whether Europe means anything, as it would speak to the question of whether America means anything. If fact, it did speak to the question of whether America meant anything in the 1930s, when we also faced a crisis that threatened national economic and political existence. Let us recognize that our most pressing task is not to restore economic growth. It’s not to bring us back to some past level of prosperity. We’re very far beyond that. We are facing the threat of dissolution of great nations and social communities. It is an urgent matter to prevent that from happening.

Stabilization, therefore, of society, and stabilization of the human condition have a very important role to play in what me must do. That means stabilizing people’s pensions. Stabilizing unemployment insurance. Stabilizing the basic services —education and healthcare. Adequately insuring bank deposits so as to prevent the cataclysm of an uncontrollable run and shutdown of the payment system. These are things we do for each other, mainly with a device that’s called insurance: social insurance, deposit insurance, health insurance, unemployment insurance. And when we extend that to the whole community — and by this I mean the European community or the American community — we bring our populations together and stop processes that are driving us apart.

It’s seems to me that the objective to articulate is really a very simple one for the time being: It is to stop the path of destruction, to stabilize, to quell panic, to defeat violence, to buy time, frankly — not to solve all problems at once — but to buy time so as to effectively open up the possibility for a new politics based on principles that are not foreign in Europe, but that have been forgotten and submerged in recent years: the principles of solidarity and the spirit of true and effective democracy.

If we can do these things, then perhaps we can begin to face together, on a European basis, on a transatlantic basis, on the basis of our joint values and objectives, the very large and challenging problems that we will continue to face once we have turned a corner, changed our ideas, changed our policies, and have brought this crisis, finally, and long last, to an end.

*This speech has been edited and condensed for clarity.

  Read James K. Galbraith: How to Stop the Path of Economic and Social Destruction
  June 28, 2013  
India’s Coal Reliance And Global Warming Hypocrisy
by Dr EAS Sarma & Shankar Sharma, Countercurrents

An oft repeated statement in recent years is that the continued reliance on coal power is essential to lift the poor people in India from the clutches of poverty. The government and many people in the position of influence have been repeating this statement so often that it seems to be attaining the status of “Goebbels’s Truth”. One such statement has been reported in the article “Indian, U.S. leaders tout 'critical' natural gas partnership” published on May 15, 2013 in ‘Environment & Energy Daily’ and attributed to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He is reported to have said: "If you look at Indian policy, the most important element of it is to get rid of poverty," and "Why would we not be entitled to finance that's available for generating power, as long as you are continuing to burn large quantities of coal?”. This statement,if true, is highly unfortunate at a time when the international scientific community including IPCC body itself is strongly advocating for a low carbon global economy.

Advocacy for coal power against global scientific advice

While drawing the attention of the international community to the possibility and the consequences of a 4°C warmer world, the President of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Yong Kim has said “A 4°C world can, and must, be avoided.” ..and “The World Bank (WB) Group will step up to the challenge.” But he also is reported to have stated subsequently that WB funding should continue in coal power sector to address the issue of energy access for the poor.

The ‘expert group on low carbon strategies for inclusive growth’ which was set up under the Planning Commission of India has in its interim report assumed coal power to be the least cost option, and that the coal power capacity needs to be increased to 230, 000 MW from the present level to address the issue of energy access to all. It states: “… This willrequire an annual coal supply of at least 1,000 million tons, two and a half times the present level. Domestic mining will have to increase considerably otherwise imports willhave to meet a large fraction of coal demand.” The embedded GHG emissions in increasing the installed power capacity by about 120,000 MW have not been discussed in the report.

When the harsh realities of coal power in the true context of global warming and the overall welfare of our communities are objectively reviewed, the hypocrisy behind such statements/reports will become obvious.

The fourth assessment report of IPCC had clearly mentioned that the emissions of the greenhouse gases must fall by 2050 by 50-85% globally compared to the emissions of the year 2000, and that the global emissions must peak well before the year 2020, with a substantial decline after that.It is well known that within the energy sector the largest chunk of emissions in India has been from electricity generation amounting to about 65% of CO2 equivalent in that sector. During the year 2012-13 coal power has contributed to about 75% of the total electricity generated in the country corresponding to a huge percentage of GHG emissions in the sector.

A survey report by Prayas Energy Group released in 2011 has estimated that there are more than580,000 MW capacity coal power plants waiting to be built in the coming years. This is more than 4.7 times of the present coal power capacity of 121,600 MW. In this context it should be clear as to how coal power will continue to be the predominant source of GHG emissions in the country’s share to the global warming. With about 75% of electricity generated in the country coming from coal power, it should not be hard to imagine the vast increase in total GHG emissions in the country, if this humongous amount of coal power capacity is to be added.

With so much of additional coal power capacity in the pipeline, one will shudder to think the consequences of mining, transporting, burning and ash disposal of such vast quantities of coal in addition to the huge increase in total GHG emissions. In the Indian context, which is already a water stressed country, the additional demand for water, people’s displacement, and potential destruction of thick forests, below which about 30% of the country’s coal reserve are known to be located, are all matters for serious concern.

A report of the International Energy Agency has opined that if we want a 50-50 chance of staying below 2° of global warming increase, we have to leave 2/3 of the known reserves of coal, oil and gas underground; if we want an 80% chance, we have to leave 80% of those reserves untouched. In this context the hypocrisy of making tall claims on measures to mitigate global warming on one hand and the patronising the coal power sector on the other hand should become clear.

The IPCC report, ‘Special Report Renewable Energy Sources’, has projected a very critical role for moving away from the overreliance on coal. This report has projected that the renewable energy could account for almost 80% of the world's energy supply within four decades. The report has said that if the full range of renewable technologies were deployed, the world could keep greenhouse gas concentrations to less than 450 parts per million, the level scientists have predicted will be the limit of safety beyond which climate change becomes catastrophic and irreversible. The latest findings have shown that the average daily concentration of atmospheric concentration of CO2 has already crossed the limit of 400 parts per million.

In the context of these facts it is difficult to reconcile Dr. Pachauri’s various statements on global warming as Chairman of IPCC and his latest statement of support to the massive addition of coal power capacity in the country against the sane advice of IPCC itself.

Can coal power really address the issue of poverty?

Whereas the successive governments continue to say that coal capacity addition is necessary to provide electricity to all, and through it to eliminate poverty in our country the reality as seen since independence is vastly different. Whereas the total installed power capacity in the country has increased from about 1,000 MW in 1947 to about 212,000 MW in 2013, and the national per capita electricity has increased from less than 100 kWh in 1947to about 800 kWh in 2013, about 300 Million people in the country have no access to electricity. Despite such massive growth in coal dominated electricity grid about 75 Million families have no electricity at all in 2013 as against the Planning Commission’s target of 30 kWh of electricity per family per month as life line energy by 2012,

The reasons given by the official agencies for not being able supply electricity supply to all is that it is not economical to extend the grid power to all villages. Since coal power is economical only in large size grid connected mode, the hollowness of the claim that coal power is needed to electrify all houses becomes clear. A large number of people are living without electricity even in the close vicinity of coal power plants.

A conveniently hidden fact about coal power is the inherent gross inefficiency associated with the coal power. The losses involved in coal burning, steam making, generating, transmitting and distributing electricity is so high that only about 20% of the coal energy reaches the end consumer in the form of electricity even with the best technologies.

Communities across the globe are getting increasingly concerned on the health effects of coal pollution in the form of toxic mercury, arsenic, smog, soot, and other emissions. According to a recent report from Greenpeace India and Conservation Action Trust coal industry causes roughly 100,000 premature deaths annually in India. It is clear that most of these deaths are amongst the poor. These impacts are simply too high a price to pay for the dirty energy.

So it is anybody’s guess how coal capacity addition can provide electricity to the poor, and through it eliminate poverty.

Can coal power be sustainable?

The state agencies keep saying that coal is abundant in India. Integrated Energy Policy of the Planning Commission in 2006 has said that if the domestic coal production continues to grow at 5% per year, all the total extractable coal reserves will run out in about 45 years. At a break neck speed, during 2005-12, the govt. has cleared more than 160 coal blocks. In the context of Supreme Court’s investigation into ‘Coal gate Scam’ even if we assume that 50% of these coal blocks may get cancelled, the increase in coal extraction rate is likely to reduce the reserve to less than 25 years. India’s domestic coal supply infrastructure has been consistently failing to meet even a week’s demand of coal in most of the power plants.

The vexatious issues of coal import are too many to be wished away easily. The recent case of two large size coal power plants on the West Coast seeking upwards revision of already contracted price for the electricity produced due to changes in Indonesian coal market; reports from Australia that many of their coal mines are facing closure due to drop in coal demand from China; low efficiency of a large number of coal power plants in the country; popular opposition to additional coal power plants etc. are all clear indicators that investments in coal power plants is going to be risky.

Dr.Pachauri has repeated the tired argument that the India should continue to build new dirty coal plants because the US and other developed countries continue "to burn large quantities of coal." His statement does nothing to move us forward in addressing India’s energy deficit or providing power to 300 million rural Indians. It is a known fact that the United States has abandoned 177 coal plants over the past decade largely because they were too expensive and because local communities protested their toxic impacts. Now the country is going even further to retire 55 Gigawatts of existing plants.

The economic, social and environmental concerns associated with other conventional sources such as natural/shale gas, dam based hydro and nuclear are equally serious, if not more, when we look at them from the perspective of overall human welfare. Hence a very diligent and transparent approach is needed in all such cases.

The way forward

India is endowed with a vast potential in renewable energy sources. The ‘expert group on low carbon strategies for inclusive growth’ states that “solar power is one of the critical technology options for India’s long term energy security. Several parts of India are endowed with good solar radiation and deploying solar even on 1 percent of the land area could result in over 500,000 MW of solar power.”

Assuming an average of 1,000 Sq. ft of roof surface area for each of 30% of the houses in the country, the total potential for installing SPV systems on such a total surface can be about 1,000,000 MW @ 1 kW per 100 Sq. ft of roof surface. If even 10% of roof top surfaces in each of the other categories of building are considered for this purpose, the potential is enormous; running to millions of MW. Such a policy can transform our power sector scenario with minimum impacts on the land, water and the general environment.

Other renewable energy sources such as wind and bio-mass too have huge potential, and are much more suitable to Indian way of life than the conventional energy sources.

In this background the statements such as that by Dr. Pauchari’s advocating for more coal power capacity addition can serve only to defend a corrupt sector and its coal gate scandals. We, in India, need to take a much more holistic view of the energy needs of the people vis-à-vis all-round welfare of communities. We should build new clean energy sources regardless of what the West does because it’s the cheapest, cleanest, and best solution for our people. It’s time our ‘leaders’ focused on India’s clean energy future and dropped support for a corrupt dirty coal sector.

Dr EAS Sarma is Former Union Power Secretary

Shankar Sharma is a Power Policy Analyst

  Read India’s Coal Reliance And Global Warming Hypocrisy
  July 9, 2013  
The Social Responsibility Of Scientists
by John Scales Avery, Countercurrents

Ethical considerations have traditionally been excluded from scientific discussions. This tradition perhaps has its roots in the desire of the scientific community to avoid the bitter religious controversies which divided Europe following the Reformation. Whatever the historical reason may be, it has certainly become customary to speak of scientific problems in a dehumanized language, as though science had nothing to do with ethics or politics.

The great power of science is derived from an enormous concentration of attention and resources on the understanding of a tiny fragment of nature; but this concentration is at the same time a distortion of values. To be effective, a scientist must believe, at least temporarily, that the problem on which he or she is working is more important than anything else in the world, which is of course untrue. Thus a scientist, while seeing a fragment of reality better than anyone else, becomes blind to the larger whole. For example, when one looks into a microscope, one sees the tiny scene on the slide in tremendous detail, but that is all one sees. The remainder of the universe is blotted out by this concentration of attention.

The system of rewards and punishments in the training of scientists produces researchers who are highly competent when it comes to finding solutions to technical problems, but whose training has by no means encouraged them to think about the ethical or political consequences of their work.

Scientists may, in fact, be tempted to escape from the intractable moral and political difficulties of the world by immersing themselves in their work. Enrico Fermi, (whose research as much as that of any other person made nuclear weapons possible), spoke of science as “soma” - the escapist drug of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Fermi perhaps used his scientific preoccupations as an escape from the worrying political problems of the ’30’s and ’40’s.

The education of a scientist often produces a person with a strong feeling of loyalty to a particular research discipline, but perhaps without sufficient concern for the way in which progress in that discipline is related to the general welfare of humankind. To remedy this lack, it would be very desirable if the education of scientists could include some discussion of ethics, as well as a review of the history of modern science and its impact on society.

The explosive growth of science-driven technology during the last two centuries has changed the world completely; and our social and political institutions have adjusted much too slowly to the change. The great problem of our times is to keep society from being shaken to pieces by the headlong progress of science, the problem of harmonizing our social and political institutions with technological change. Because of the great importance of this problem, it is perhaps legitimate to ask whether anyone today can be considered to be educated without having studied the impact of science on society. Should we not include this topic in the education of both scientists and non-scientists?

Science has given us great power over the forces of nature. If wisely used, this power will contribute greatly to human happiness; if wrongly used, it will result in misery. In the words of the Spanish writer, Ortega y Gasset, “We live at a time when man, lord of all things, is not lord of himself”; or as Arthur Koestler has remarked, “We can control the movements of a spaceship orbiting about a distant planet, but we cannot control the situation in Northern Ireland.”

To remedy this situation, educational reforms are needed. Science and engineering students ought to have some knowledge of the history and social impact of science. They could be given a course on the history of scientific ideas; but in connection with modern historical developments, such as the industrial revolution, the global population explosion, the development of nuclear weapons, genetic engineering, and information technology, some discussion of social impact could be introduced. One might hope to build up in science and engineering students an understanding of the way in which their work is related to the general welfare of humankind. These elements are needed in science education if rapid technological development is to be beneficial rather than harmful.

As an example of the horrors that have been produced by lack of conscience in the application of science and engineering, one can think of drones, which make the illegal killing of men, women and children in distant countries into a sort of computer game played by operators sitting in the comfort of their Nevada bunkers. Now, apparently, there is a move to make killer robots completely free from human control, as can be seen from the following excerpt from a statement by the Campaign to Ban Killer Robots:

“Over the past decade, the expanded use of unmanned armed vehicles has dramatically changed warfare, bringing new humanitarian and legal challenges. Now rapid advances in technology are resulting in efforts to develop fully autonomous weapons. These robotic weapons would be able to choose and fire on targets on their own, without any human intervention. This capability would pose a fundamental challenge to the protection of civilians and to compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law. “

“Several nations with high-tech militaries, including China, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, are moving toward systems that would give greater combat autonomy to machines. If one or more chooses to deploy fully autonomous weapons, a large step beyond remote-controlled armed drones, others may feel compelled to abandon policies of restraint, leading to a robotic arms race. Agreement is needed now to establish controls on these weapons before investments, technological momentum, and new military doctrine make it difficult to change course.”

“Allowing life or death decisions to be made by machines crosses a fundamental moral line.... The use of fully autonomous weapons would create an accountability gap, as there is no clarity on who would be legally responsible for a robot’s actions: the commander, programmer, manufacturer, or robot itself?... A comprehensive, pre-emptive prohibition on the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons--weapons designed to kill without human intervention--is urgently needed.”

Like doctors, scientists and engineers have life-and-death decisions in their hands. It has been proposed that graduates in science and engineering should take an oath, analogous to that taken by graduating medical students.They should promise never to use their education in the service of war, nor for the production of weapons, nor in any way that might be harmful to society or to the environment.

John Avery received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics from MIT and an M.Sc. from the University of Chicago. He later studied theoretical chemistry at the University of London, and was awarded a Ph.D. there in 1965. He is now Lektor Emeritus, Associate Professor, at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. Fellowships, memberships in societies: Since 1990 he has been the Contact Person in Denmark for Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. He was the Member of the Danish Peace Commission of 1998. Technical Advisor, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988- 1997). Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy, April 2004. He can be reached at

  Read The Social Responsibility Of Scientists
  July 12, 2013  
Alberta Flooding A Climate Change Wake Up Call , Hello, Prime Minister Harper?
by Bill Henderson , Countercurrents

The severe flooding in Southern Alberta should be a climate change wake up call - but only if Canadians and particularly Albertans understand key climate science and choose to be responsible instead of lapsing back into pervasive denial. Action is needed but first Canadians have to wake up to the scale of climate change danger and then choose to consider the scale of mitigation necessary.

No single weather event can be attributed solely to climate change but climate scientists have predicted that increasing temperature due to increasing greenhouse gases will lead to
more extreme weather events. Warmer air holds more water vapour. A warming Arctic is changing northern hemisphere climate patterns : Arctic amplification is altering and meandering  the jet stream . Southern Alberta has experienced two 'hundred year' floods since the turn of the century.

But did you know that the climate change consequences we are living in today are the result of emissions up to about 1980. There are time lags averaging about 40 years between when we burn fossil fuels and actual temperature rise and consequences. There has been to date a .8C rise in global mean temperature.

Global emissions today are twice what they were in the 70s. Our kids are predicted therefor to live in a world with a 2-4C temperature increase. So our actions today are predicted to cause much more extreme weather events by mid-century.

We live in a well governed, technologically advanced, wealthy society; there is now pain and dislocation, but Albertans will survive this years flooding - but floods, heatwaves, violent storms, and drought in 2050 will be far more challenging.

Few in the world share wealthy Canada's capacity to adapt and survive. If you take the time to search for and read the dire predictions of climate change impacts in no nonsense reports compiled by military agencies such as the Pentagon you will begin to understand that the most serious climate change threat to our kids comes from famine and pestilence, death and dislocation, failed states and subsequent warfare, in parts of the world already susceptible and expected to be hit much harder by climate change. Canadians are dependent upon an already stressed global economy. A 2-4C rise in temperature threatens not only this global economy, but civilization itself.  Indeed, more than a 4C rise in temperature and humanity's very existence and everything we know love and care about are at risk from climate change.

We greatly benefit today from both the production and use of fossil fuels but, with time lags, the consequences fall on our descendents in the future. If we were responsible we'd connect the dots and insist upon a proper framework for managing our actions today; we would recognize our obligations to future generations and be pro-active. We wouldn't let the various shades of denial get in the way of doing what is right based upon the best science, the best evidence-based decision making.

Forty years ago those that produced fossil fuels or burned them in their cars and machinery had only a dim awareness of possible climate change consequences. But what about those who still, today, despite the science and evident consequence, advocate for increasing fossil fuel production and use?

Today we have a deep scientific understanding about climate change dangers and needed mitigation. There is a carefully compiled carbon budget : in order to stay below 2C (an internationally agreed precautionary ceiling, Canada is a signator too) at least two thirds of present fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground until used without emissions, coal and the most carbon dirty unconventional oil especially.

But fossil fuel production and consequent emissions continue to rise.

A year ago I wrote a Net op-ed ' Stephen Harper is a Monster '. This wasn't a disgruntled partisan politics slur. The op-ed was an attempt to awaken Canadians to the scale of our PM's cynical criminality: climate change is a crime against innocents that dwarfs the Holocaust. After at least two decades of failure to reduce emissions, our PM and his government are world leaders in trying to expand fossil fuel production and use. Not only has Stephen Harper's government actively subverted multilateral negotiations to reduce emissions, but the central policy thrust of his government is oilsands expansion as Canada's economic engine.

At this crucial time when we need leadership to change direction and escape catastrophe, Stephen Harper doesn't connect the flooding in his Calgary riding with climate change. Although he should have been briefed about the climate change consequences for future generations from expanding fossil fuel production in Canada - coal and proposed liquid natural gas exports to Asia from my province, BC , too - Mr. Harper refuses to even acknowledge, let alone debate, let alone lead in connecting fossil fuel production to climate change.

Albertans aren't bad people punished by God for their bitumen producing sins. Natural disasters can happen to any place and Albertans, like everybody else, are only waking up to the unintended climate consequences of burning fossil fuels. I have a lot of empathy for all concerned including the PM - so many of us are economically dependent upon fossil fuel production, every Canadian in some way, and our governments too - but change we must if we are responsible and recognize the consequences for future generations.

Wake up to the climate change dangers for our kids and do the right thing and choose to be pro-active, a leader, in getting us to a mitigation path to escape catastrophe at mid-century. Be a leader in Calgary and Edmonton, in Mr. Harper and Ms. Redford's ridings, in your own riding and in national campaigns to connect the dots so that every politician in Canada can no longer ignore the climate consequences of policies to increase fossil fuel production.

There are solutions but first of all we must escape denial and business as usual. We must overcome denial and narrow economic self-interest to connect the dots so that we can be responsible and do the right thing and keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Bill Henderson is a frequent contributor to Countercurrents on Climate Change . He can be reached at
bill (at)

  Read Alberta Flooding A Climate Change Wake Up Call , Hello, Prime Minister Harper?
  July 13, 2013  
Air Pollution Takes More Than 2 Million Lives Worldwide Each Year, Estimate Experts
by, Countercurrents

Human-caused outdoor air pollution takes more than two million lives worldwide each year, finds a new study.

The study shows that this has a minimal effect and only accounts for a small proportion of current deaths related to air pollution while it has been suggested that a changing climate can exacerbate the effects of air pollution and increase death rates.

The study, published on July 12, 2013 in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters, estimates that around 470,000 people die each year because of human-caused increases in ozone.

It also estimates that around 2.1 million deaths are caused each year by human-caused increases in fine particulate matter (PM2.5), tiny particles suspended in the air that can penetrate deep into the lungs, causing cancer and other respiratory disease.

Co-author of the study, Jason West, from the University of North Carolina, said: "Our estimates make outdoor air pollution among the most important environmental risk factors for health. Many of these deaths are estimated to occur in East Asia and South Asia, where population is high and air pollution is severe."

The study finds: The number of these deaths that can be attributed to changes in the climate since the industrial era is relatively small. It estimates that a changing climate results in 1500 deaths due to ozone and 2200 deaths related to PM2.5 each year.

Climate change affects air quality in many ways, possibly leading to local increases or decreases in air pollution. For instance, temperature and humidity can change the reaction rates which determine the formation or lifetime of a pollutant, and rainfall can determine the time that pollutants can accumulate.

Higher temperatures can also increase the emissions of organic compounds from trees, which can then react in the atmosphere to form ozone and particulate matter.
"Very few studies have attempted to estimate the effects of past climate change on air quality and health. We found that the effects of past climate change are likely to be a very small component of the overall effect of air pollution," said West.

The researchers used an ensemble of climate models to simulate the concentrations of ozone and PM2.5 in the years 2000 and 1850. A total of 14 models simulated levels of ozone and six models simulated levels of PM2.5.

Previous epidemiological studies were then used to assess how the specific concentrations of air pollution from the climate models related to current global mortality rates.
The researchers' results were comparable to previous studies that have analyzed air pollution and mortality; however, there was some variation depending on which climate model was used.

"We have also found that there is significant uncertainty based on the spread among different atmospheric models. This would caution against using a single model in the future, as some studies have done," added West.

Story Source:
The story is reprinted from materials provided by Institute of Physics (IOP).
Journal Reference:
Raquel A Silva, J Jason West, Yuqiang Zhang, Susan C Anenberg, Jean-François Lamarque, Drew T Shindell, William J Collins, Stig Dalsoren, Greg Faluvegi, Gerd Folberth, Larry W Horowitz, Tatsuya Nagashima, Vaishali Naik, Steven Rumbold, Ragnhild Skeie, Kengo Sudo, Toshihiko Takemura, Daniel Bergmann, Philip Cameron-Smith, Irene Cionni, Ruth M Doherty, Veronika Eyring, Beatrice Josse, I A MacKenzie, David Plummer, Mattia Righi, David S Stevenson, Sarah Strode, Sophie Szopa, Guang Zeng. Global premature mortality due to anthropogenic outdoor air pollution and the contribution of past climate change. Environmental Research Letters, 2013; 8 (3): 034005 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034005
Institute of Physics (IOP) (2013, July 12). Air pollution responsible for more than 2 million deaths worldwide each year, experts estimate. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 13, 2013, from /releases/2013/07/130712084455.htm

  Read Air Pollution Takes More Than 2 Million Lives Worldwide Each Year, Estimate Experts
  July 17, 2013  

The past century’s foolish management of water would not have happened in a steady state economy. But today’s globalized, growth-obsessed economy allows, and even subsidizes, construction firms and power companies to profit by destroying significant water resources that are critical for people’s survival.

Water wars are on the horizon, as massive river engineering schemes, especially in China and Brazil, seek to control the world’s big river basins. International Rivers, a nonprofit organization, has examined the viral spread of dams and water diversions and the harm they cause.

Nation after nation has externalized the costs associated with reckless use of water (a form of cheater economics), and this recklessness increases the likelihood of shortages and ensuing conflicts. Worry about water wars is not exaggerated! In June the front page of the Washington Post carried this headline: “Egypt frets, fumes over Ethiopia’s Nile plan.” The cause of the problem: a giant dam Ethiopia is building (with foreign aid) on the Blue Nile that will remove water historically flowing through Egypt and into the Mediterranean Sea. The article describes the potential for turmoil: “Egyptian military commanders may decide that ‘it is better to die in battle than to die of thirst’.”

Turkey has built massive dams on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, with the result that water flowing from 2003-2009 to Iraq was cut by 80% and to Syria by 40%. Strong evidence supports the contention that Syria’s ongoing civil war sprang from the massive drought that hit in 2006. As tens of thousands of farmers fled to cities to survive, chronic unrest and grievances intensified to the breaking point. Now over 80,000 people have died, billions of dollars have been spent on the war, and still there is no end in sight.

In contrast to a global economy with its head in the sand, a true cost, steady state economy would approach water issues in an entirely different manner. Guiding principles for this economy include:

Making decisions for the long term, not based on quarterly financial returns, and recognizing that healthy river ecosystems are essential for long-term well-being;

Examining the potential consequences of proposed actions on ecosystem health to determine true costs and benefits;

Paying attention to scientific findings about river flows and aquatic life, including new discoveries, such as the disruption of historical hydrological cycles as a result of global warming;

Avoiding actions that will increase tensions surrounding water supplies, especially where the tensions could escalate into armed conflict;

Avoiding overpumping and contamination of ground water to preserve water resource for future generations; and

Preventing greenhouse gas emissions. (Note: dams emit an estimated one fourth of the world’s human-created methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.)

One might mistakenly think that international institutions like the World Bank would promote such sound principles and discourage nations and other institutions from investing in conflict-instigating projects that destroy local food and water resources. However, so outrageous is the World Bank’s new big dam policy that a group of 80 organization leaders and water experts sent a letter of protest to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

The World Bank’s recent action in support of the proposed $40 billion gigantic Inga 3 Dam in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) violates most of the above principles. In a nation like the DRC where less than 10% of the population has electricity, the International Energy Agency has pointed out that the unelectrified areas are best served by mini-grids and off-grid solutions. So much for the goal of poverty reduction where your prime beneficiaries are transnational mining operations!

Will water wars erupt in Asia’s Mekong River Basin, which is shared by ten nations? Major dams planned for the Mekong could destroy the world’s largest inland fishery (relied on by 60 million people), as well as degrade Vietnam’s large rice-growing habitat in the Mekong delta. The great fish legacy is about to be sacrificed to the god of hydropower as new dam building on the mainstem of the river will block out the migratory spawning runs of some 200 species of fish.

River-destroying actions like these are welcome in today’s global economy, but they would never be tolerated in a true cost, sustainable economy. Such an economy would instead select waterless energy solutions in light of growing water shortages and expanding population. Besides being water-free, sources of energy like wind and rooftop solar are better suited to serve poorer communities where there is little hope of stringing enough power lines from big centralized dams or coal plants to reach anything but a fraction of villages.

Now is the time for an energy transition from big dams and other unsustainable projects to decentralized projects that can meet local needs while conserving natural resources. But this transition will only happen if we get to work on a parallel transition: from the globalized, growth-obsessed cheater economy to a sustainable and fair steady state economy.

Brent Blackwelder recently retired as the president of Friends of the Earth where he was renowned for speaking truth to power. He testified in front of the U.S. Congress on pressing environmental issues more than 100 times. He also was a founder of American Rivers, a top river-saving organization. On the economics front, he initiated campaigns to reform the World Bank and succeeded in getting Congress to enact a series of significant reforms directing the Bank to pay more attention to the environment

  Read Water Wars On The Way In Absence Of A Steady State
  July 19, 2013  
85% Of Filipinos Are Feeling The Effects Of Climate Crisis
by, Countercurrents

The informal settlements in urban areas are the worst hit by climate crisis

Climate crisis leads majority of citizens in the Philippines to say they are concerned about global warming while a research finds 80% of rainforests in Malaysia have been degraded by logging that ?contributes? to climate crisis.

A Responding to Climate Change (RTCC) report [1] by Sophie Yeo said:

The impact of climate crisis is a daily reality for 8 out of ten Filipinos, according to a recent survey of 1,800 adults across the Philippines .

In the World Bank commissioned survey, 85% of those questioned said that they were personally feeling the effects of climate change, which are particularly pronounced across South East Asia .

The Philippines are the third most vulnerable country in the world to extreme weather events, such as typhoons, floods, landslides and droughts.

Lucille Sering, the Vice Chairperson of the Climate Change Commission in the Philippines said, ?In the last several years, the country has suffered extreme weather events including long dry spells, heavy rains as well as strong typhoons and floods like those caused by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. ?Even some areas in Mindanao that we used to consider as ?typhoon-free' have recently been hit by very strong typhoons, floods and landslides.?

These problems are aggravated by harmful practices that have led to the destruction of the forests, mangroves and corals, and the deterioration of the environment in general.

The effects are not limited to weather.

According to the survey, climate change was also blamed for poor health, with many blaming the changes for dry skin, malaria and respiratory diseases.

There is a considerable disconnect between the number of people who say they are feeling the effects of climate change, and those who understand the impacts it could have in the future. 14% of Filipinos said they knew ?almost nothing or nothing? about the expected impacts of climate change, while 38% said they knew ?only a little?.

Yet, according to a global report released last month by the World Bank, climate impacts are on course to worsen over the coming decades. In particular, it highlighted that informal settlements, accounting for 45% of the urban population, will be particularly vulnerable to floods due to a poor infrastructure. Agricultural productivity in rural areas will diminish.

Yeb Sano, the Climate Change Commissioner in the Philippines , said that this lack of knowledge comes down to the complexity of the issue.

?Some people might know climate change in terms of mitigation or emissions, some people might know it limited to its impacts and some people might know it based on science,? he told RTCC.

?The survey shows 12% will have extensive understanding ? that number probably represents people who know climate change in its whole spectrum.

?Climate change is basically so complex as a challenge that it would be really understandable if the population has a very small percentage of people who comprehend the concept altogether.?

Residents of urban areas feel the effects of climate change more strongly than their rural counterparts ? 90% in the former compared to 79% in the latter. Understanding of the impacts of climate change is correspondingly higher in urban areas, with 52% saying they have at least a partial but sufficient knowledge, compared to 42% in rural areas.

?Extreme events when they happen do hit urban areas even more profoundly in general than the countryside, because of other factors that aggravate the climate challenge, including poor planning, misguided develop, environmental abuse and just the sheer volume of people who reside in urban centres,? explained Sano.

Those living in rural and coastal communities face threats to their livelihoods. The increasing acidification of the ocean across the whole of South East Asia will place enormous stress on coral reefs by 2050, damaging marine fisheries and tourism. Sano says that anecdotal evidence from farmers suggests that they are confused about when to plant and harvest, due to the rains coming in late.

?Many of the country's poor derive income from agriculture, fishery and natural resources that are vulnerable to climate change,? says Motoo Konishi, the World Bank Country Director for the Philippines .

?Many of them live in danger zones such as waterways, areas that are low lying and flood prone, critical slopes as well as coastal zones, making them vulnerable to sea level rise and extreme weather events like strong typhoons and floods,?

In spite of this, efforts to reform climate change policy are limited in their effectiveness because they are only partially aligned with development plans, according to a recent review of the climate change situation in the Philippines by the World Bank. It suggests that the national, sectoral and local development plans do not fully cohere with the National Climate Change Action Plan.

Sano says, ?We have 130 plus cities here and 1,500 municipalities. A national level of government agency like the Commission cannot practically cater directly, assisting all these local government units, so we need champions and we need communities that can serve as models.

?We are making a lot of headway there and the results are very promising. It's not just on risk assessment. Now they are translating that into actions that they would include as part of their comprehensive development plan.

?It's about answering the question on what kind of development they want, what matters most to them.?

Logging destroyed 80% of Malaysian Borneo 's rainforests

Palm plantation by destroying Malaysia 's rainforests

Another report [2] by Sophie Yeo said:

Borneo 's rainforests are under more threat than previously thought, researchers say, destroying a valuable carbon sink in the Malaysian part of the island.

A research team made up of scientists from three universities used new satellite technology to survey the rainforest. They found that 80% of the tropical landscape had been degraded by logging, largely due to timber or oil palm production.

The high quality images produced by the CLASlite satellite system, developed by Greg Asner and his team at the Carnegie Institution for Science, revealed a large network of logging roads that had been built through the rainforests in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak , which together make up 26% of the island of Borneo .

Philip Shearman, who co-authored the study, told RTCC, ?We found that there are very few areas of rainforest in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak that haven't already been logged or cleared ? we estimate that only about 22% of the land area of Malaysian Borneo is still covered by forests that have not been logged, and that's being conservative.

?The sheer extent of logging, that logging roads penetrate almost the entire area of remaining forests in Sabah and Sarawak may be a surprise to many ? that's because most previous studies have used low resolution imagery to map forests, and you simply can't ?see' logging unless you use high resolution imagery like we did.?

Malaysia 's forests are under threat from rapid deforestation, illegal removal of forest products and encroachment. Its deforestation rate is accelerating faster than in any other tropical country, and between 1990 and 2010, it lost 8.6%, or 1,920,000ha of its forest cover.

Logging on this scale releases vast amount of carbon into the atmosphere, both directly and indirectly. Most of the carbon in the forests is stored in the trees, while collateral damage to other trees and disturbances to the soil also release carbon into the atmosphere.

This can lead to complete clearances of certain areas, leaving it dry and susceptible to fire, which also releases a large amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The slash and burn tactics of the palm oil companies in Sumatra, Indonesia, were responsible for the fires in Indonesia which last month triggered one of the country's highest recorded pollution levels thanks to the haze of carbon dioxide it released into the air.

The roads snaking through the forest identified by the research team means that certain areas become susceptible to repeated bouts of logging over a short period of time. The cutting cycles, says Shearman, are far too short in Malaysia to allow for a full regeneration of the carbon stored in the forest, leading to a progressive loss of additional carbon.

The problems of this are not limited to the carbon emissions. Logging threatens the rich biodiversity of the area, and also the livelihood of the indigenous Penan people living in the Sarawak part of the forest.

?Most of the forests in Sarawak have already been logged, much of it five or six times. What happens is they'll do selective logging, where they go just chop down the biggest trees to start off with, and then they go back and back and back,? Sophie Grig, senior campaigner at Survival International, a charity working for the rights of indigenous people, told RTCC.

?Some of the communities have had their forests logged seven times, until there's nothing left for them. When the logging happens, it opens up the canopy, and then shrub grows as well. For the Penan, really they can't live without their forest so the impact on them is particularly devastating.?

The withdrawing of industrial logging could potentially create a big carbon sink; in theory, logged forests could regenerate in 50-100 years. ?If left alone to grow back, big old trees pull carbon out of the atmosphere, so there is huge potential for Malaysian Borneo to play a major role in mitigating climate change,? says Shearman.

The report added:

Travel across the border to Brunei and the contrast is extreme, as 54% of the forests are untouched by logging.

?It really is quite a difference,? Shearman told RTCC. ?Almost the entire extent of Malaysian Borneo is covered by a dense pattern of logging roads and logging skid trails, but just across the border in Brunei most of the forests remain intact.?

This may be less due a heightened interest in conservation and more because the economy in Brunei is dependent upon oil and gas. Malaysia and Indonesia , however, are reliant on palm oil; according to the Oil Palm Industry Economic Journal, their combined output contributed almost 87% of world production in 2007 and 91% in the world export market.

?Only small areas of intact forest remain in Malaysian Borneo, because so much has been heavily logged or cleared for timber or oil palm production,? says Jane Bryan, the team leader on the project. ?Rainforests that previously contained lots of big old trees, which store carbon and support a diverse ecosystem, are being replaced with oil palm or timber plantations, or hollowed out by logging.?



[2] 18 July 2013 , ?80% of Malaysian Borneo's rainforests destroyed by logging?,

  Read 85% Of Filipinos Are Feeling The Effects Of Climate Crisis
  July 19, 2013  
CO2: The “Invisible Substance”
by Dr Andrew Glikson , Countercurrents

Figure 1 - Carbon pollution: not so invisible

For the last 10 years or so George Orwell's dictum ? those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future ? [1] has been expressed through a small number of people, arguing against long-established basic laws of physics, the principles of climate science and current measurements.

According to the leader of the Australian opposition ? It's a market, a so-called market, in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one " [2].

But perhaps no so invisible? (see Figure 1).

Given major media platforms, the anti-science lobby has (continues to) provide polluting interests and their political mouthpieces with pseudo-scientific excuses allowing an increase carbon emission and lulling populations to a false sense of security (see: Merchants of doubt [3]).

The consequences are upon humanity and nature:

•  CO2 levels have reached record levels of 400 ppm exceeding those of the Pliocene (2.6-5.2 million years ago) within less than a couple of centuries, at an unprecedented rate of 2-3 ppm/year [4] (Figure 2).

•  Since the 19 th century global warming has reached 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures on the continents [5]. Mean temperature higher than 2 degrees Celsius are masked by sulphur aerosols, which already constitute an unintended global geo-engineering measure [6]. Ocean temperatures to 100 meters depth have risen by ~0.4 degrees C [7], which has already resulted in melting of the Arctic summer ice (12.6 to 11 million square kilometer between June 1979 to 2013 [8]) and is driving melting of the Antarctic ice sheet [9].

•  Consequent on the rising CO2 levels ocean acidity has increased by approximately -0.1 pH points [10], placing plankton and corals at risk.

•  Consistent with rising temperatures in the oceans, increased evaporation and consequent precipitation lead to floods and increased heat/energy results in the intensification of hurricanes [11].

•  Rising temperatures over continents have already resulted in increase in heat waves and fires [12], Australia being no exception [13].

Not that the above features too much in the Australian elections, where the reality of climate change has been replaced with the hit-pocket-nerve term ?carbon tax?, ?emission trading scheme? or ?direct action?. In the context of the fast deteriorating global climate, plans by both major parties of 5 percent reduction in emissions relative to 2000 represent no more than climate window dressing.

Nor are coal exports mentioned too often, despite current exports and planned future exports of representing carbon emissions tracking toward an order of magnitude higher than local emissions [14].

According to Dr Adam Lucas of the Science & Technology Studies Program, University of Wollongong , currently Australia (with ~0.3% of the global population) contributes domestic emissions of about 1.8% of global emissions [15]. The total domestic and overseas consumption of Australian coal is responsible for more than 2% of global emissions. Plans to triple or even quadruple coal export volumes over next 10 years would raise Australia's total contribution to global GHG emissions to around 9% to 11% by 2020 [15].

Which places the ? Great moral challenge of our generation ? [16] in perspective.


Fig. 2. Growth in CO2 and CO2 equivalent (CO2+CH4) during the Pleistocene and the Holocene.  







[7] ;



[10] ;


[12] ;






Dr Andrew Glikson

Earth and Paleo-climate science


ANU School of Anthropology and Archaeology,

ANU Planetary Science Institute,

ANU Climate Change Institute,
Honorary Professor, Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence

The University of Queensland
E-mail:   W

  Read CO2: The Invisible Substance
  July 22, 2013  

Earth's ecosystems are collapsing, human and all species' habitats are being lost, and our one shared biosphere is failing and dying. Love of other peoples and species and of nature, truth, justice, and equity are the only lasting basis for global ecological sustainability

Earth is alive – just like the biological patterns found in cells, species, individual organisms, and ecosystems; only at a different scale – and thus can die if boundary conditions for health are exceeded. The biosphere [search] – Earth's thin mantle of life – is collapsing and dying, as ecosystems and climate are being murdered by human industrial growth. Such ecocidal madness, called "development," is hailed as the goal for society when in fact it is ecocide, and can only end in utter social, economic, and ecological collapse. Industrial human development destroys natural ecosystems necessary to maintain a habitable Earth.

Burning fossil fuels and clearing natural ecosystems are industrial ecocide, the furthest thing possible from "development" or any meaningful and lasting human advancement. The global ecological system is being overrun by human industrial growth, which is ravaging ecosystems upon which all life depends. Runaway human exponential growth systematically strips our habitat of life-giving species and ecosystems, and then it fouls and poisons whatever remains.

The problem with climate change and ecosystem loss is that we think we have time, when in fact the biosphere is already well into collapse. The evidence is pouring in that climate change, biodiversity extinction, and terrestrial ecosystem loss already exceed thresholds whereby the biosphere is collapsing. Humanity is already in mid-death swoon, pulling down the biosphere as it annihilates itself, kindred species, and shared habitat. Humanity is like a disease on the planet, consuming life-giving habitats and treating nature as resources to liquidate and consume, after which there can only be collapse and mass death.

Humanity’s wild careening towards apocalyptic global ecosystem collapse is caused by, and is causing, the rise of new fascist and violent governments. The global environment and freedom are collapsing and dying in tandem as the industrial growth machine liquidates ecosystems in the doomed attempt to keep up with the material demands of burgeoning population and the ruling elites’ overconsumption. To maintain the mirage of advancement from ecosystem liquidation, governments strip away liberties and impose fascism, obstructing the necessary social change to sustain ecology.

True peace is not the absence of conflict as enslaved and needlessly dying at your own hand. Peace is rights, equity, justice, jobs, ecological sustainability for which people sometimes must fight. Only a prudent, well-considered revolutionary change of governance that is minimally violent or nonviolent can stop the cycle of big nanny, corporatist government razing the Earth for a few decades of further irrational ecocide.

Continued exponential industrial growth at the expense of ecosystems is impossible. The human family either embraces a steady-state, no-growth economy or faces environmental collapse. In other words, protecting the climate and ecosystems will have an economic cost that eliminates jobs from the ill-gotten fruits of ecocide.

There is something terribly wrong when even the nature protectors are the problem. Greenpeace, Sierra Club, WWF, and third-rate NGOs continue to help log old-growth forest by promoting the Forest Stewardship Council and REDD+ old-growth forest ecocide. Such foundation-fed greenwashers are oblivious to the science that such consumption is never ecologically sustainable, kills species and ecosystems, threatens local livelihoods, and collapses the climate and biosphere. They only care for power, money, and prestige like the rest of the industrial growth machine destroying being.

Technology will never replace ecosystems, and the biosphere cannot be engineered, as it is simply too complex and unpredictable. Such techno-optimism is more of the hubristic, ecocidal disease that got us in this mess of collapsing ecosystems in the first place. Ecosystems – their protection and restoration – are our only hope. To the extent that appropriate technology can assist, fine, but nearly always its unintended consequences cause the very ecological and social problems we seek to overcome.

Either the human family comes together now to protect and restore old-growth forests and end fossil fuel burning, or else our one shared biosphere collapses, and being ends. Perhaps life ends, or some dandelions and rats hold on for a while, but complex life is being lost, and the ability for re-evolution is not assured if global boundary conditions for habitability have been exceeded. To survive and thrive, the human family must immediately focus upon protecting and restoring ecosystems, reducing human population, increasing equity and justice, cutting emissions, growing food ecologically, and loving all life and each other.

Ecology is the meaning of life. Truth, justice, equity and sustainability are the ideals whereby ecology is maintained. As a species, we change and evolve, or we die, perhaps taking down the biosphere and all life with us. A sustainable, decent human future depends on going back to the land, putting a halt to the destruction, and dedicating ourselves to the nurture of ecosystems and each other. True and lasting community advancement and well-being, with local and global ecological sustainability, depend critically upon doing so. Love and ecology – served by truth and knowledge– are the answer.

Dr. Glen Barry is the President and Founder of Ecological Internet (EI). He is recognized internationally by the environmental movement as a leading global visionary, ecological policy critic and public intellectual committed to communicating the severity of global ecological crises - and related justice, rights and equity issues - while actively organizing with others sufficient solutions

  Read Ecocide Is Not Development; Love And Ecology Are The Answer
  July 23, 2013  
Canada recently took over the leadership of the Arctic Council and will be succeeded by the U.S. in 2015. With back-to-back chairmanships, it gives both countries an opportunity to increase cooperation on initiatives that could enhance the development of a shared North American vision for the Arctic. The U.S. has significant geopolitical and economic interests in the high north and have released a new national strategy which seeks to advance their Arctic ambitions. While the region has thus far been peaceful, stable and free of conflict, there is a danger of the militarization of the Arctic. It has the potential to become a front whereby the U.S. and other NATO members are pitted against Russia or even China. In an effort to prevent any misunderstandings, there are calls for the Arctic Council to move beyond environmental issues and become a forum to address defense and security matters.

In May, Canada assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council where they will push for responsible resource development, safe shipping and sustainable circumpolar communities. The Arctic Council is the leading multilateral forum in the region and also includes the U.S., Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Russia. During the recent meetings, members signed an Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic which seeks to improve coordination and planning to better cope with any such accidents. In addition, China, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, along with Italy were granted permanent observer status in the Arctic Council. With the move, China has gained more influence in the region. The potential for new trade routes that could open up would significantly reduce the time needed to transport goods between Europe and Asia. The Arctic is an important part of China’s global vision, as a place for economic activity and a possible future mission for its navy. In order to better reflect the realities of politics in the high north, there are calls to expand the Arctic Council’s mandate to also include security and military issues.

Writing for the National Post, Rob Huebert of the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute explained that, “One issue that has not received much attention is the need to discuss the growing militarization of the Arctic. While the Arctic Council is formally forbidden from discussing military security in the Arctic, the time has arrived to rethink this policy.” He went on to say, “The militaries of most Arctic states are taking on new and expanded roles in the region that go beyond their traditional responsibilities, which may create friction in the region.” Huebert also stressed that, “These new developments need to be discussed to ensure that all Arctic Council member states understand why they are occurring, and increase the confidence of members that these new developments are not about a conflict in the Arctic, but about the defence of core strategic interests.” He further added, “It is easy to see how both the Americans and Russians will become increasingly concerned about the security steps that the other is taking. But now is the time for all to openly discuss these developments so that old suspicions and distrusts do not resurface.”

As part of efforts to strengthen Arctic security cooperation, in June, the Northern Chiefs of Defence Meeting was held in Greenland. It brought together representatives from the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. Gen. Charles Jacoby, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) also attended the event. The second annual gathering was used as an, “opportunity for direct multilateral and bilateral discussions focused on Northern issues. Topics discussed included the sharing of knowledge and expertise about regional operational challenges; responsible stewardship of the North; and the role Northern militaries can play in support of their respective civil authorities.” The Northern Chiefs of Defence meeting has become an essential forum to address common Arctic safety and security concerns.

Ahead of Secretary of State John Kerry's trip to attend the Arctic Council Ministerial Session in May, the White House unveiled a National Strategy for the Arctic Region. It outlined strategic priorities including advancing U.S. security interests, pursuing responsible stewardship and strengthening international cooperation. The document acknowledged competing environmental and economic goals, but in the end sets an aggressive agenda for the exploitation of Arctic oil, gas and mineral reserves. In addition, the strategy recommended enhancing national defense, law enforcement, navigation systems, environmental response, as well as search-and-rescue capabilities in the Arctic. It also builds off of National Security Presidential Directive-66 issued by the Bush administration in 2009. In coordination with the new plan, the U.S. Coast Guard has released their Vision for Operating in the Arctic Region which will work towards improving awareness, modernizing governance and broadening partnerships. According to James Holmes, professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College, the Coast Guard and Air Force could become the military's odd couple in defending America's Arctic front.

Several months back, Congressman Don Young testified in front of Armed Services Committee in support of Alaska national defense priorities. He proclaimed, “We must be able to project power into the Arctic environment and extensive Arctic training is needed to do that.” Some have pointed out that the true nature surrounding U.S. plans to shift additional missile interceptors to Alaska is not to protect against a North Korean threat, but is instead aimed at control over Arctic resources. Meanwhile, there have also been renewed discussions about Canadian participation in the U.S. anti-ballistic missile shield, a move that could damage relations with Russia and China. In order to enhance its presence and security in the Arctic, the U.S. is increasing cooperation with Canada. This includes expanding joint military exercises and intelligence gathering operations in the region. Professor Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research has described Washington’s militarization of the Arctic as part of the process of North American integration.

In December 2012, the U.S. and Canada signed the Tri-Command Framework for Arctic Cooperation which is part of efforts to further merge USNORTHCOM, Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) and NORAD. A press release explained that the framework is designed to, “promote enhanced military cooperation in the Arctic and identify specific areas of potential Tri-Command cooperation in the preparation for and conduct of safety, security and defense operations.” USNORTHCOM, CJOC and NORAD have also pledged to work closer together with regards to planning, domain awareness, information-sharing, training and exercises, capability development, as well as in the field of science and technology. In the coming years, the Arctic will become an even more important part of North American perimeter security.

While the Arctic remains a region of strategic interest to the alliance, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently rejected a direct NATO presence. For a number of years, Norway has been pushing for NATO to increase its focus in the Arctic and have called for more joint northern exercises. Even though NATO has yet to truly define its role in the area, Arctic member countries are stepping up military and naval operations in the high north. In the future, NATO’s mandate could include economic infrastructure and maritime security. It could also serve as a forum for discussing Arctic military issues. Expanding NATO activity in the region might signal the militarization of the Arctic which could raise tensions with both Russia and China.

There are fears that the Arctic could become an arena for political and military competition. With potential new shipping routes and countries further staking their claims to the vast untapped natural resources, defending strategic and economic interests may lead to rivalries in the region. There is also the possibility that conflicts which originate in other parts of the world could spillover and affect the stability of the Arctic.

Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues. Contact: Visit his blog at Be Your Own Leader

  Read U.S. Arctic Ambitions And The Militarization Of The High North


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