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Volume 14 Issue 1 September 2015

Theme for Global Dialogue 2016 and for this month

Global Exhibition 2016 is about Global Community establishing a global action plan for the survival of life on our planet.

SoulLife God
August 2015

Global Exhibition 2016 theme is about Global Community establishing a global action plan for the survival of life on our planet.

Global Exhibition 2016 is about Global Community establishing a global action plan for the survival of life on our planet.
Artwork by Germain Dufour
July 6, 2015
( see enlargement Global Exhibition 2016  establishing a global action plan for the survival of life on our planet )

Promo video of Global Exhibition 2016

mp4 (52 MB) file

Artboards and movies of video found here
 Images in the video


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

John Abraham, Nafeez Ahmed, John Scales Avery(2), Fidel Castro Ruz, Shamus Cooke, Finian Cunningham, Environmental News Service, Pepe Escobar, Global Footprint Network, Jeff Hayward, Bill Henderson, Information ClearingHouse, Sharon Kelly, Michael T. Klare, Tara Lohan, Andrew Moran, Anastasia Pantsios, Dr Gideon Polya, Michael Graham Richard, Thomas Riggins, Jean Shaoul, Robert Walker, Eric Zuesse (2),

John Abraham, Global Warming Is Causing Rain to Melt the Greenland Ice Sheet Global Warming Is Causing Rain to Melt the Greenland Ice Sheet
Nafeez Ahmed, Beyond Extinction - Transition To Post-Capitalism Is Inevitable Beyond Extinction - Transition To Post-Capitalism Is Inevitable
John Scales Avery, The Need For A New Economic System  The Need For A New Economic System
John Scales Avery, The Need For A New Economic System, Part 4 Neocolonialism And Resource Wars  The Need For A New Economic System, Part 4 Neocolonialism And Resource Wars
Fidel Castro Ruz, Reality and Dreams Reality and Dreams
Shamus Cooke, Obama's “Safe Zone” In Syria Will Inflame The War Zone  Obama's “Safe Zone” In Syria Will Inflame The War Zone
Finian Cunningham, Deal or War: Is doomed Dollar Really Behind Obama’s Iran Warning? Deal or War: Is doomed Dollar Really Behind Obama’s Iran Warning?
Environmental News Service, World’s Glaciers Melting Faster Than Ever World’s Glaciers Melting Faster Than Ever
Pepe Escobar, How China And Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington How China And Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington
Global Footprint Network, Humans Have Consumed a Year's Supply of the Planet's Resources in Less Than 8 Months Humans Have Consumed a Year's Supply of the Planet's Resources in Less Than 8 Months
Jeff Hayward, What the World Needs from the Paris Climate Conference What the World Needs from the Paris Climate Conference
Bill Henderson, Renewables And Carbon Pricing Are New Climate Denial Renewables And Carbon Pricing Are New Climate Denial
Information ClearingHouse, Russia and China to stage naval drills in Sea of Japan, train for beach landing Russia and China to stage naval drills in Sea of Japan, train for beach landing
Sharon Kelly, Key Greenhouse Gas Study May Have Systematically Understated Methane Leaks Key Greenhouse Gas Study May Have Systematically Understated Methane Leaks
Michael T. Klare, Big Oil In Retreat Big Oil In Retreat
Tara Lohan, The Big Reason Why America Is Turning to Renewable Energy  The Big Reason Why America Is Turning to Renewable Energy
Andrew Moran, Peter Schiff Says Impending U.S. Dollar Collapse should be Getting Attention, not China’s Devaluation Peter Schiff Says Impending U.S. Dollar Collapse should be Getting Attention, not China’s Devaluation
Anastasia Pantsios, 7 Climate Records Broken in 2014 Reveal Earth Is ‘Gravely Ill’ 7 Climate Records Broken in 2014 Reveal Earth Is Gravely Ill
Dr Gideon Polya, Green Left Pope Francis Demands Climate Action “Without Delay” To Prevent Climate “Catastroph Green Left Pope Francis Demands Climate Action Without Delay To Prevent Climate Catastrophe
Michael Graham Richard, The U.S. Is Now #2 Worldwide In Wind Power With 66 GW The U.S. Is Now #2 Worldwide In Wind Power With 66 GW
Thomas Riggins, Decline Of Earth's Plant Life Threatens Human Life As We Know It Decline Of Earth's Plant Life Threatens Human Life As We Know It
Jean Shaoul, NATO Backs Turkish/US Regime-Change Offensive In Syria NATO Backs Turkish/US Regime-Change Offensive In Syria
Robert Walker, Too Many Humans: Overpopulation Is Bad for People and the Planet Too Many Humans: Overpopulation Is Bad for People and the Planet
Eric Zuesse, Another Big Lie About Ukraine’s War Another Big Lie About Ukraine’s War
Eric Zuesse, Ukraine Bans 14 ‘Artists,' Mainly Russians, As ‘Threat To National Security' Ukraine Bans 14 ‘Artists,' Mainly Russians, As ‘Threat To National Security'


Articles and papers from authors


Day data received Theme or issue Read article or paper
 August 13, 2015
Reality and Dreams

by Fidel Castro Ruz,Information ClearingHouse
The leader of the Cuban Revolution insists that we will never stop struggling for peace and the well-being of all human beings, for every inhabitant on the planet regardless of skin color or national origin.

By Fidel Castro Ruz

August 13, 2015 "Information Clearing House" - Writing is a way to be useful if you believe that our long-suffering humanity must be better, and more fully educated, given the incredible ignorance in which we are all enveloped, with the exception of researchers who in the sciences seek satisfactory answers. This is a word which implies in a few letters its immense content.

All of us in our youth heard talk at some point about Einstein, in particular after the explosion of the atomic bombs which pulverized Hiroshima and Nagasaki, putting an end to the cruel war between the United States and Japan.

When those bombs were dropped, after the war unleashed by the attack on the U.S. base at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Empire had already been defeated. The United States, whose territory and industries remained removed from the war, became the country with the greatest wealth and the best weaponry on Earth, in a world torn apart, full of death, the wounded and hungry.

The Soviet Union and China together lost more than 50 million lives, along with enormous material damage. Almost all of the gold in the world landed in the vaults of the United States. Today it is estimated that the entirety of this country’s gold reserves reached 8,133.5 tons of this metal. Despite that, tearing up the Bretton Woods accords they signed, the United States unilaterally declared that it would not fulfill its duty to back the Troy ounce with the value in gold of its paper money.

The measure ordered by Nixon violated the commitments made by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. According to a large number of experts on the subject, the foundation of a crisis was created, which among other disasters threatens to powerfully batter the economy of this model of a country. Meanwhile, Cuba is owed compensation equivalent to damages, which have reached many millions of dollars, as our country has denounced throughout our interventions in the United Nations, with irrefutable arguments and facts.

As has been expressed with clarity by Cuba’s Party and government, to advance good will and peace among all the countries of this hemisphere and the many peoples who are part of the human family, and thus contribute to the survival of our species in the modest place the universe has conceded us, we will never stop struggling for peace and the well-being of all human beings, for every inhabitant on the planet regardless of skin color or national origin, and for the full right of all to hold a religious belief or not.

The equal right of all citizens to health, education, work, food, security, culture, science, and wellbeing, that is, the same rights we proclaimed when we began our struggle, in addition to those which emerge from our dreams of justice and equality for all inhabitants of our world, is what I wish for all. To those who share all or part of these same ideas, or superior ones along the same lines, I thank you, dear compatriots.

Fidel Castro Ruz

August 13, 2015


  Read Reality and Dreams
 August 14, 2015
Peter Schiff Says Impending U.S. Dollar Collapse should be Getting Attention, not China’s Devaluation

by Andrew Moran, Information ClearingHouse
Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital and bestselling author of “Crash Proof,” believes the impending collapse of the United States dollar should be getting the attention of investors and news outlets and not the devaluation of the Chinese yuan.

Speaking in an interview with Newsmax TV on Tuesday, Schiff explained that the U.S. economy has an abundance of problems but China’s monetary policy. Donald Trump on China’s Devaluation: ‘They’re just destroying us’) isn’t one of them.

The contrarian investor stated that China’s economy isn’t experiencing a freefall and the current devaluation is minuscule. He noted that the yuan’s value has substantially increased over the past several years compared to the U.S. dollar.

“So this move was motivated not by the exchange rate between the yuan and the dollar, but between the yuan and all the other currencies because the dollars is in a bubble right now,” he said. “The dollar is very overvalued … and the dollar is a bubble. This dollar bubble is going to burst.”

He added that the U.S. economy is in a much worse situation right now than the Chinese. This is something, Schiff says, the Federal Reserve will have to admit. He also averred that the Fed won’t raise interest rates this year. Federal Reserve rate hike could cost indebted consumers $9 billion per year) and will have to do another round of quantitative easing.

“That’s going to sink the dollar and then the Chinese are going to have to revalue their currency much higher in the future against the dollar and it’s the dollar collapsing that’s going to hurt the US. Not this recent move by China,” Schiff posited.

The reasons why the U.S. dollar has been trading well since the financial crisis is because of hope, hype and speculation.

Schiff alluded to the immense trade deficit with China, and how China is producing all things the U.S. consumers and can’t produce. On the other hand, however, the U.S. doesn’t produce anything the Chinese want to consume.

Overall, Schiff asserts, the Chinese economy is “far more powerful” and “far more dynamic” than the U.S. economy. This is why the U.S. suffers from massive deficits.

“But people believe in the myth of this US economy, they believe that this bubble is genuine, they made the same mistake in the late 1990s, they made the same mistake right before the financial crisis of 2008. They’re making a mistake again,” said Schiff.

“We’re on the verge of a much worse financial crisis than the one we went through in 2008 and it’s going to take the form of a currency crisis. You’re talking about currency wars. American is going to win the currency war, which is a race to the bottom, and you don’t want to win a currency war because a currency war is different from most wars in that the object is to kill yourself and unfortunately, we’re going to succeed.”

At the time of this writing, the Dow Jones has fallen more than 200 points, while the Shanghai Composite Index has hiccuped just 40 points.

  Read  Peter Schiff Says Impending U.S. Dollar Collapse should be Getting Attention, not China’s Devaluation
 August 16, 2015
Russia and China to stage naval drills in Sea of Japan, train for beach landing

by Information ClearingHouse ,
Russia and China to stage naval drills in Sea of Japan, train for beach landing. Major amphibious assault ship takes part in the Russian-Chinese "Joint Sea-2015" drills in the Mediterranean. International naval drills by the Russian and Chinese navies will be conducted in the Sea of Japan next week. Sailors, marines and naval air pilots of the two countries will be training together in combined operations in an amphibious assault exercise.

A Chinese squadron has left the port of Qingdao in Shandong province on Saturday and headed for Russia’s Vladivostok to take part in the bilateral naval exercise to be held in Peter the Great Bay on August 20-28.

A source close to the operation told Xinhua news agency that the drills "are not targeted at any third party and are not relevant to the regional status quo," stressing that the exercise is part of annual exchange program between Chinese and Russian militaries.


The Chinese task force coming to Vladivostok comprises seven warships, six shipborne helicopters, five warplanes, 21 amphibious vehicles and 200 marines. Russian Pacific Fleet will be represented with up to 20 battleships and support vessels, two submarines, 10 warplanes, nine amphibious vehicles and also 200 marines.

Chinese warships are set to call at Vladivostok port next Thursday, August 20, Xinhua reports. While paying visit to Vladivostok’s harbor, Chinese ships are expected to be opened for civilian visitors.

Russian and Chinese troops, aircraft and vessels will be operating in five combined naval groups and four Air Force groups in Russian territorial waters and in neutral waters of the Sea of Japan.


The Sea of Japan borders four countries Japan, North Korea, South Korea and Russia. So far, the Chinese Navy has not taken part in exercises in this area.

The main declared task of the drills will be practicing protection of naval communications, anti-submarine training, air defense exercise and anti-ship actions.

For the first time ever the naval exercise will include a joint amphibious assault drill.

Naval training of Russian Pacific Fleet and the Navy of the People’s Liberation Army of China is named Joint Sea-2015(II) and will be held off the coast of Primorsky Krai in Russia’s Pacific region, some 650 kilometers from the coast of Japan.

The first, smaller part, of the Joint Sea exercise took place in the Mediterranean on May 11-21 this year.

Chinese missile frigate Linyi during the opening of the Russian-Chinese naval exercise Naval Interaction–2015. © Yulia Kaminskaya / RIA Novosti

Meanwhile, Moscow has agreed to take part in naval military exercises together with its Asia Pacific allies in the disputed South China Sea next May.

READ MORE: Russia will take part in multinational navy drills in disputed South China Sea

“We are strongly in favor for any dispute in South China Sea, in East China Sea, in any sea for that matter, to be resolved on the basis of the international law, including, first of all, the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, on the basis of the declaration signed between China and ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations],” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview to Singapore’s Channel News Asia, in early August.

“On this basis the countries directly involved in any dispute should find mutually acceptable solution without any outside interference,” Lavrov added.

  Read  Russia and China to stage naval drills in Sea of Japan, train for beach landing
 August 16, 2015
Another Big Lie About Ukraine’s War

by Eric Zuesse, Information ClearingHouse
Information Clearing House" - What follows here, about the current U.S. government's lying, is banned by all major news sites in the United States, and by most ‘alternative news’ sites, such as Common Dreams, Alternet, and Truthout (although some of those alt-news sites do issue watered-down reports from Robert Parry and a few other establishment journalists, about related matters):

Vladimir Kornilov posted to his facebook page on August 15th, a terrific question that’s getting increasing attention on other independent websites:

I wonder about this: When the army of the DNI [commonly called Ukraine’s ‘rebels’] are retired Russian military, the West immediately writes about "Russian aggression". And if retired (believe that retired) military mercenaries from the EU are fighting on the side of the APU [commonly called the Ukrainian government], why do the same media not write about "the aggression of the European Union?" 

That’s a great question, because it laser-focuses upon a Big Lie in the Western press regarding the civil war in Ukraine: that the Russian army is itself participating in Ukraine’s civil war (not merely providing professional military advisors to a self-arisen civilian army who are protecting their own families from invasions and basically from a U.S.-sponsored ethnic cleansing campaign by an imposed Ukrainian government in Kiev, which the residents in the separatist region never even had any participation in democratically electing — and, after the man, for whom those residents had actually voted 90%+ in Ukraine’s last genuinely democratic election, was thrown out of office in a violent February 2014 U.S. coup).

The Russian armed forces are not participants in Ukraine’s U.S.-caused civil war: that’s a fact. The allegation to the contrary is a U.S.-Ukrainian government lie — nothing else.

The U.S. Government is simply trying to fool the public into believing that the Ukrainian government’s bombing that area of the former Ukraine doesn’t cause thousands of the residents there to take up arms against those invaders, and against that government — the government which calls all of these residents ‘terrorists.’

Despite the claims by the Ukrainian government and by the American government that placed them into power, the Ukrainian government only wishes  that it were fighting against Russia, and so it is urging the U.S. government and America’s allies to supply more weapons to them so as to enable that to happen. On August 15th, a Ukrainian government site headlined, “Ukrainian army is not ready for war with Russia with the use of aircraft, helicopters and missiles - expert,” and quoted "Director of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament, Valentine Badrak. According to the expert, 'I am still of the opinion that the Kremlin made a bet on the maximum loss of Ukrainian personnel [in the event that Ukraine were to invade Russia — an invasion which some Ukrainian leaders strongly want], but in the final analysis the Kremlin boss can decide on war generation using modern aircraft, helicopters and missile technology.’”

Of course, ever since the war started, the bombs have been dropped by the Ukrainian government’s planes, onto the residents in this area, not by planes on the residents’ side, which has no air force of its own.

On 19 September 2014, I had headlined, "Russia’s Leader Putin Rejects Ukrainian Separatists’ Aim to Become Part of Russia,” and reported that, "The leader of the Ukrainian separatists says that their efforts to get Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to accept their territory as being a part of Russia have been firmly rejected by Putin’s government; and, so, 'We will build our own country.’” And, ever since then, Putin has been very clear in all of his communications with Merkel and other foreign leaders, that Russia would not accept that region as being a part of Russia. He also made clear his reason: He wants the people in that region — who had voted 90%+ for a neutralist person, Yanukovych, to lead Ukraine — to remain within Ukraine’s electorate, so as to provide the necessary moderating element and counterbalance to the rabidly anti-Russian racists that were placed into power in Ukraine (next door to Russia), by Obama’s February 2014 coup

In other words: not only is the Ukrainian government not at war with the Russian government, but Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, is doing everything he can to prevent such a war from occurring.

In fact: Before the United States overthrew and replaced Ukraine’s government in February 2014, in a coup that started being organized in early 2013, Ukraine had no civil war; it was at peace, as it long had been.

Obama destroyed Libya, and also Ukraine, and is now destroying Syria, all in his obsession to conquer Russia, which had helped all three. And, now, Vladimir Putin is demonized by the Western ‘news’ media.

That’s how ‘news’ is being ‘reported,’ in the West. Except for sites like this, which don’t sugar-coat the reality to protect the guilty (and to shift blame to the actual victim).

In fact: the entire case for sanctions against Russia is pure lies.

Please click onto the link here at any point where you want to see the evidence. (For example, here you can listen-in while Obama’s people are actually planning whom to place in charge of Ukraine after their coup will be over. Obama has some nerve, pontificating against Putin, even after such vileness became public.)

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of Christ's Ventriloquists: The Event that Created Christianity.

  Read  Another Big Lie About Ukraine’s War
 August 16, 2015
Deal or War: Is doomed Dollar Really Behind Obama’s Iran Warning?

by Finian Cunningham , Information ClearingHouse

Information Clearing House" - "RT" - US President Barack Obama has given an extraordinary ultimatum to the Republican-controlled Congress, arguing that they must not block the nuclear accord with Iran. It’s either “deal or war,” he says.

In a televised nationwide address on August 5, Obama said: “Congressional rejection of this deal leaves any US administration that is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon with one option: another war in the Middle East. I say this not to be provocative. I am stating a fact.”

The American Congress is due to vote on whether to accept the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed July 14 between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers – the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. Republicans are openly vowing to reject the JCPOA, along with hawkish Democrats such as Senator Chuck Schumer. Opposition within the Congress may even be enough to override a presidential veto to push through the nuclear accord.

In his drastic prediction of war, one might assume that Obama is referring to Israel launching a preemptive military strike on Iran with the backing of US Republicans. Or that he is insinuating that Iran will walk from self-imposed restraints on its nuclear program to build a bomb, thus triggering a war.

But what could really be behind Obama’s dire warning of “deal or war” is another scenario – the collapse of the US dollar, and with that the implosion of the US economy.

That scenario was hinted at this week by US Secretary of State John Kerry. Speaking in New York on August 11, Kerry made the candid admission that failure to seal the nuclear deal could result in the US dollar losing its status as the top international reserve currency.

“If we turn around and nix the deal and then tell [US allies], ‘You're going to have to obey our rules and sanctions anyway,’ that is a recipe, very quickly for the American dollar to cease to be the reserve currency of the world.”

In other words, what really concerns the Obama administration is that the sanctions regime it has crafted on Iran – and has compelled other nations to abide by over the past decade – will be finished. And Iran will be open for business with the European Union, as well as China and Russia.

It is significant that within days of signing the Geneva accord, Germany, France, Italy and other EU governments hastened to Tehran to begin lining up lucrative investment opportunities in Iran’s prodigious oil and gas industries. China and Russia are equally well-placed and more than willing to resume trading partnerships with Iran. Russia has signed major deals to expand Iran’s nuclear energy industry.

American writer Paul Craig Roberts said that the US-led sanctions on Iran and also against Russia have generated a lot of frustration and resentment among Washington’s European allies.

“US sanctions against Iran and Russia have cost businesses in other countries a lot of money,” Roberts told this author.

“Propaganda about the Iranian nuke threat and Russian threat is what caused other countries to cooperate with the sanctions. If a deal worked out over much time by the US, Russia, China, UK, France and Germany is blocked, other countries are likely to cease cooperating with US sanctions.”

Roberts added that if Washington were to scuttle the nuclear accord with Iran, and then demand a return to the erstwhile sanctions regime, the other international players will repudiate the American diktat.

“At that point, I think much of the world would have had enough of the US use of the international payments system to dictate to others, and they would cease transacting in dollars.”

The US dollar would henceforth lose its status as the key global reserve currency for the conduct of international trade and financial transactions.


Former World Bank analyst Peter Koenig says that if the nuclear accord unravels, Iran will be free to trade its oil and gas – worth trillions of dollars – in bilateral currency deals with the EU, Japan, India, South Korea, China and Russia, in much the same way that China and Russia and other members of the BRICS nations have already begun to do so.

That outcome will further undermine the US dollar. It will gradually become redundant as a mechanism of international payment.

Koenig argues that this implicit threat to the dollar is the real, unspoken cause for anxiety in Washington. The long-running dispute with Iran, he contends, was never about alleged weapons of mass destruction. Rather, the real motive was for Washington to preserve the dollar’s unique global standing.

“The US-led standoff with Iran has nothing to do with nuclear weapons,” says Koenig. The issue is: will Iran eventually sell its huge reserves of hydrocarbons in other currencies than the dollar, as they intended to do in 2007 with an Iranian Oil Bourse? That is what instigated the American-contrived fake nuclear issue in the first place.”

This is not just about Iran. It is about other major world economies moving away from holding the US dollar as a means of doing business. If the US unilaterally scuppers the international nuclear accord, Washington will no longer be able to enforce its financial hegemony, which the sanctions regime on Iran has underpinned.

Many analysts have long wondered at how the US dollar has managed to defy economic laws, given that its preeminence as the world’s reserve currency is no longer merited by the fundamentals of the US economy. Massive indebtedness, chronic unemployment, loss of manufacturing base, trade and budget deficits are just some of the key markers, despite official claims of “recovery.”

As Paul Craig Roberts commented, the dollar’s value has only been maintained because up to now the rest of the world needs the greenback to do business with. That dependency has allowed the US Federal Reserve to keep printing banknotes in quantities that are in no way commensurate with the American economy’s decrepit condition.

“If the dollar lost the reserve currency status, US power would decline,” says Roberts. “Washington’s financial hegemony, such as the ability to impose sanctions, would vanish, and Washington would no longer be able to pay its bills by printing money. Moreover, the loss of reserve currency status would mean a drop in the demand for dollars and a drop in willingness to hold them. Therefore, the dollar’s exchange value would fall, and rising prices of imports would import inflation into the US economy.”

Doug Casey, a top American investment analyst, last week warned that the woeful state of the US economy means that the dollar is teetering on the brink of a long-overdue crash. “You’re going to see very high levels of inflation. It’s going to be quite catastrophic,” says Casey.

He added that the crash will also presage a collapse in the American banking system which is carrying trillions of dollars of toxic debt derivatives, at levels much greater than when the system crashed in 2007-08.

The picture he painted isn’t pretty: “Now, when interest rates inevitably go up from these artificially suppressed levels where they are now, the bond market is going to collapse, the stock market is going to collapse, and with it, the real estate market is going to collapse. Pension funds are going to be wiped out… This is a very bad situation. The US is digging itself in deeper and deeper,” said Casey, who added the telling question: “Then what’s going to happen?”

President Obama’s grim warning of “deal or war” seems to provide an answer. Faced with economic implosion on an epic scale, the US may be counting on war as its other option.

  Read Deal or War: Is doomed Dollar Really Behind Obama’s Iran Warning?
 July 20, 2015
Decline Of Earth's Plant Life Threatens Human Life As We Know It

by Thomas Riggins, Informationclearinghouse

A recent scientific study comparing the role of plants in the sustainability of life on Earth and the current rapid destruction of such life has convinced many scientists that human civilization and well-being will be placed in jeopardy. Rain forests and grass lands around the world are being destroyed at an alarming rate to make room for palm oil plantations, commercial crops of no intrinsic value (tobacco), and the practices of illegal logging for the furniture and lumber trades, and industrialized agriculture.

This has led to a massive destruction of the total biomass of the planet all of which is fueled by the immense profits available under capitalism for the private exploitation of natural resources at the expense of sustainable use and of preservation in the interests of environmental conservation for the common good of humanity. The drive for profits is led by major private and state owned capitalist enterprises which, in addition to using the political systems they encounter in many countries to get control of the resources they intend to plunder, also resort to bribery, corruption and other illegal operations in order to attain their ends.

Dr. John Schramski, of the University of Georgia, has recently completed (as lead author) a study of the effects of the over exploitation of Earth’s plant biomass (Science Daily 7/15/15 “Continued destruction of Earth’s plant life places humans in jeopardy”). The rich and diverse animal and plant life of today is the result of several hundred million years of evolution that began when simple one celled organisms developed which were able to chemically change the sunlight they received into useful energy which they could metabolize.

The fact that plants can create their own “food” from sunlight allowed animals to evolve using plants as their source of food: indirectly feeding off of the sun. Dr. Schramski used the laws of thermodynamics (the physics of heat in relation to mechanical energy) to calculate the amount of chemical energy the plant world produces and the amount that humanity is at present consuming or destroying via the reduction of forests and other plant environments.

“You can think of the Earth like a battery that has been charged very slowly over billions of years,” he said. “ The sun’s energy is stored in plants and fossil fuels, but humans are draining energy much faster than it can be replenished.”

In the last 2000 years human activity has reduced half of the battery charge (i.e., the biomass accumulated from living carbon over the last several million years). In just the last one hundred years about ten percent of that biomass was wiped out according to the article. This destruction means the Earth has less and less energy to keep the food webs and “biochemical balances” going upon which we all depend.

Dr. Schramski pointed out that, “As the planet becomes less hospitable and more people depend on fewer available energy options, their standard of living and very survival will become increasingly vulnerable to fluctions, such as droughts, disease epidemics and social unrest.”

If humans survive this accelerated loss of biomass Dr. Schramski, and his co-authors (James H. Brown and David Gattie) predict that our species will have to abandon our current civilization and return to hunting and gathering or simple gardening (i.e., a pre-neolithic life style), as populations will crash and large-scale industrial agriculture will be impossible. [Perhaps the world population, after the die off, will be about what it was in 10,000 B.C. or so (1 to 10 million people).]

Dr. Schramski says,” I’m not an ardent environmentalist; my training and my scientific work are rooted in thermodynamics. These laws are absolute and incontrovertible; we have a limited amount of biomass energy available on the planet, and once it’s exhausted, there is absolutely nothing to replace it.”

The scientists are hopeful that we can take the drastic measures needed to halt this downward spiral to the paleolithic or extinction. “I call myself a realistic optimist. I’ve gone through these numbers countless times looking for some kind of mitigating factor that suggests we’re wrong,” Dr. Schramski said,” but I haven’t found it.”

One glance at the US Congress should give us an idea where we are headed.

Thomas Riggins is the associate editor of Political Affairs online.

  Read  Decline Of Earth's Plant Life Threatens Human Life As We Know It
  23 July, 2015
How China And Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington

by Pepe Escobar, TomDispatch.com , Countercurrents

Let's start with the geopolitical Big Bang you know nothing about, the one that occurred just two weeks ago. Here are its results: from now on, any possible future attack on Iran threatened by the Pentagon (in conjunction with NATO) would essentially be an assault on the planning of an interlocking set of organizations -- the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union), the AIIB (the new Chinese-founded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), and the NDB (the BRICS' New Development Bank) -- whose acronyms you're unlikely to recognize either.  Still, they represent an emerging new order in Eurasia.

Tehran, Beijing, Moscow, Islamabad, and New Delhi have been actively establishing interlocking security guarantees. They have been simultaneously calling the Atlanticist bluff when it comes to the endless drumbeat of attention given to the flimsy meme of Iran's "nuclear weapons program."  And a few days before the Vienna nuclear negotiations finally culminated in an agreement, all of this came together at a twin BRICS/SCO summit in Ufa, Russia -- a place you've undoubtedly never heard of and a meeting that got next to no attention in the U.S.  And yet sooner or later, these developments will ensure that the War Party in Washington and assorted neocons (as well as neoliberalcons) already breathing hard over the Iran deal will sweat bullets as their narratives about how the world works crumble.

The Eurasian Silk Road

With the Vienna deal, whose interminable build-up I had the dubious pleasure of following closely, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his diplomatic team have pulled the near-impossible out of an extremely crumpled magician's hat: an agreement that might actually end sanctions against their country from an asymmetric, largely manufactured conflict.

Think of that meeting in Ufa, the capital of Russia's Bashkortostan, as a preamble to the long-delayed agreement in Vienna. It caught the new dynamics of the Eurasian continent and signaled the future geopolitical Big Bangness of it all. At Ufa, from July 8th to 10th, the 7th BRICS summit and the 15th Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit overlapped just as a possible Vienna deal was devouring one deadline after another.

Consider it a diplomatic masterstroke of Vladmir Putin's Russia to have merged those two summits with an informal meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Call it a soft power declaration of war against Washington's imperial logic, one that would highlight the breadth and depth of an evolving Sino-Russian strategic partnership. Putting all those heads of state attending each of the meetings under one roof, Moscow offered a vision of an emerging, coordinated geopolitical structure anchored in Eurasian integration. Thus, the importance of Iran: no matter what happens post-Vienna, Iran will be a vital hub/node/crossroads in Eurasia for this new structure.

If you read the declaration that came out of the BRICS summit, one detail should strike you: the austerity-ridden European Union (EU) is barely mentioned. And that's not an oversight. From the point of view of the leaders of key BRICS nations, they are offering a new approach to Eurasia, the very opposite of the language of sanctions.

Here are just a few examples of the dizzying activity that took place at Ufa, all of it ignored by the American mainstream media. In their meetings, President Putin, China's President Xi Jinping, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi worked in a practical way to advance what is essentially a Chinese vision of a future Eurasia knit together by a series of interlocking “new Silk Roads.” Modi approved more Chinese investment in his country, while Xi and Modi together pledged to work to solve the joint border issues that have dogged their countries and, in at least one case, led to war.

The NDB, the BRICS' response to the World Bank, was officially launched with $50 billion in start-up capital. Focused on funding major infrastructure projects in the BRICS nations, it is capable of accumulating as much as $400 billion in capital, according to its president, Kundapur Vaman Kamath. Later, it plans to focus on funding such ventures in other developing nations across the Global South -- all in their own currencies, which means bypassing the U.S. dollar.  Given its membership, the NDB's money will clearly be closely linked to the new Silk Roads. As Brazilian Development Bank President Luciano Coutinhostressed, in the near future it may also assist European non-EU member states like Serbia and Macedonia. Think of this as the NDB's attempt to break a Brussels monopoly on Greater Europe. Kamath even advanced the possibility of someday aidingin the reconstruction of Syria.

You won't be surprised to learn that both the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the NDB are headquartered in China and will work to complement each other's efforts. At the same time, Russia's foreign investment arm, the Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), signed a memorandum of understanding with funds from other BRICS countries and so launched an informal investment consortium in which China's Silk Road Fund and India's Infrastructure Development Finance Company will be key partners.

Full Spectrum Transportation Dominance

On the ground level, this should be thought of as part of the New Great Game in Eurasia. Its flip side is the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the Pacific and the Atlantic version of the same, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, both of which Washington is trying to advance to maintain U.S. global economic dominance. The question these conflicting plans raise is how to integrate trade and commerce across that vast region. From the Chinese and Russian perspectives, Eurasia is to be integrated via a complex network of superhighways, high-speed rail lines, ports, airports, pipelines, and fiber optic cables. By land, sea, and air, the resulting New Silk Roads are meant to create an economic version of the Pentagon's doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance” -- a vision that already has Chinese corporate executives crisscrossing Eurasia sealing infrastructure deals.

For Beijing -- back to a 7% growth rate in the second quarter of 2015 despite a recent near-panic on the country's stock markets -- it makes perfect economic sense: as labor costs rise, production will be relocated from the country's Eastern seaboard to its cheaper Western reaches, while the natural outlets for the production of just about everything will be those parallel and interlocking “belts” of the new Silk Roads.

Meanwhile, Russia is pushing to modernize and diversify its energy-exploitation-dependent economy. Among other things, its leaders hope that the mix of those developing Silk Roads and the tying together of the Eurasian Economic Union -- Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan -- will translate into myriad transportation and construction projects for which the country's industrial and engineering know-how will prove crucial.

As the EEU has begun establishing free trade zones with India, Iran, Vietnam, Egypt, and Latin America's Mercosur bloc (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela), the initial stages of this integration process already reach beyond Eurasia. Meanwhile, the SCO, which began as little more than a security forum, is expanding and moving into the field of economic cooperation.  Its countries, especially four Central Asian “stans” (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan) will rely ever more on the Chinese-driven Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the NDB. At Ufa, India and Pakistan finalized an upgrading process in which they have moved from observers to members of the SCO. This makes it an alternative G8.

In the meantime, when it comes to embattled Afghanistan, the BRICS nations and the SCO have now called upon “the armed opposition to disarm, accept the Constitution of Afghanistan, and cut ties with Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist organizations.” Translation: within the framework of Afghan national unity, the organization would accept the Taliban as part of a future government. Their hopes, with the integration of the region in mind, would be for a future stable Afghanistan able to absorb more Chinese, Russian, Indian, and Iranian investment, and the construction -- finally! -- of a long-planned, $10 billion, 1,420-kilometer-long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline that would benefit those energy-hungry new SCO members, Pakistan and India. (They would each receive 42% of the gas, the remaining 16% going to Afghanistan.)

Central Asia is, at the moment, geographic ground zero for the convergence of the economic urges of China, Russia, and India. It was no happenstance that, on his way to Ufa, Prime Minister Modi stopped off in Central Asia.  Like the Chinese leadership in Beijing, Moscow looks forward (as a recent document puts it) to the “interpenetration and integration of the EEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt” into a “Greater Eurasia” and a “steady, developing, safe common neighborhood” for both Russia and China.

And don't forget Iran. In early 2016, once economic sanctions are fully lifted, it is expected to join the SCO, turning it into a G9. As its foreign minister, Javad Zarif, made clear recently to Russia's Channel 1 television, Tehran considers the two countries strategic partners. "Russia,” he said, “has been the most important participant in Iran's nuclear program and it will continue under the current agreement to be Iran's major nuclear partner." The same will, he added, be true when it comes to “oil and gas cooperation,” given the shared interest of those two energy-rich nations in “maintaining stability in global market prices."

Got Corridor, Will Travel

Across Eurasia, BRICS nations are moving on integration projects. A developing Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor is a typical example. It is now being reconfigured as a multilane highway between India and China. Meanwhile, Iran and Russia are developing a transportation corridor from the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the Caspian Sea and the Volga River. Azerbaijan will be connected to the Caspian part of this corridor, while India is planning to use Iran's southern ports to improve its access to Russia and Central Asia. Now, add in a maritime corridor that will stretch from the Indian city of Mumbai to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and then on to the southern Russian city of Astrakhan. And this just scratches the surface of the planning underway.

Years ago, Vladimir Putin suggested that there could be a “Greater Europe” stretching from Lisbon, Portugal, on the Atlantic to the Russian city of Vladivostok on the Pacific. The EU, under Washington's thumb, ignored him. Then the Chinese started dreaming about and planning new Silk Roads that would, in reverse Marco Polo fashion, extend from Shanghai to Venice (and then on to Berlin).

Thanks to a set of cross-pollinating political institutions, investment funds, development banks, financial systems, and infrastructure projects that, to date, remain largely under Washington's radar, a free-trade Eurasian heartland is being born. It will someday link China and Russia to Europe, Southwest Asia, and even Africa. It promises to be an astounding development. Keep your eyes, if you can, on the accumulating facts on the ground, even if they are rarely covered in the American media. They represent the New Great -- emphasis on that word -- Game in Eurasia.

Location, Location, Location

Tehran is now deeply invested in strengthening its connections to this new Eurasia and the man to watch on this score is Ali Akbar Velayati. He is the head of Iran's Center for Strategic Research and senior foreign policy adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Velayati stresses that security in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and the Caucasus hinges on the further enhancement of a Beijing-Moscow-Tehran triple entente.

As he knows, geo-strategically Iran is all about location, location, location. That country offers the best access to open seas in the region apart from Russia and is the only obvious east-west/north-south crossroads for trade from the Central Asian “stans.” Little wonder then that Iran will soon be an SCO member, even as its “partnership” with Russia is certain to evolve. Its energy resources are already crucial to and considered a matter of national security for China and, in the thinking of that country's leadership, Iran also fulfills a key role as a hub in those Silk Roads they are planning.

That growing web of literal roads, rail lines, and energy pipelines, asTomDispatch has previously reported, represents Beijing's response to the Obama administration's announced “pivot to Asia” and the U.S. Navy's urge to meddle in the South China Sea. Beijing is choosing to project power via a vast set of infrastructure projects, especially high-speed rail lines that will reach from its eastern seaboard deep into Eurasia. In this fashion, the Chinese-built railway from Urumqi in Xinjiang Province to Almaty in Kazakhstan will undoubtedly someday be extended to Iran and traverse that country on its way to the Persian Gulf.

A New World for Pentagon Planners

At the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last month, Vladimir Putin told PBS's Charlie Rose that Moscow and Beijing had always wanted a genuine partnership with the United States, but were spurned by Washington. Hats off, then, to the “leadership” of the Obama administration. Somehow, it has managed to bring together two former geopolitical rivals, while solidifying their pan-Eurasian grand strategy.

Even the recent deal with Iran in Vienna is unlikely -- especially given the war hawks in Congress -- to truly end Washington's 36-year-long Great Wall of Mistrust with Iran. Instead, the odds are that Iran, freed from sanctions, will indeed be absorbed into the Sino-Russian project to integrate Eurasia, which leads us to the spectacle of Washington's warriors, unable to act effectively, yet screaming like banshees.

NATO's supreme commander Dr. Strangelove, sorry, American General Philip Breedlove, insists that the West must create a rapid-reaction force -- online -- to counteract Russia's "false narratives.” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter claims to be seriously considering unilaterally redeploying nuclear-capable missiles in Europe. The nominee to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Commandant Joseph Dunford, recently directly labeled Russia America's true “existential threat”; Air Force General Paul Selva, nominated to be the new vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, seconded that assessment, using the same phrase and putting Russia, China and Iran, in that order, as more threatening than the Islamic State (ISIS). In the meantime, Republican presidential candidates and a bevy of congressional war hawks simply shout and fume when it comes to both the Iranian deal and the Russians.

In response to the Ukrainian situation and the “threat” of a resurgent Russia (behind which stands a resurgent China), a Washington-centric militarization of Europe is proceeding apace. NATO is now reportedly obsessed with what's being called “strategy rethink” -- as in drawing up detailed futuristic war scenarios on European soil. As economist Michael Hudson has pointed out, even financial politics are becoming militarized and linked to NATO's new Cold War 2.0.

In its latest National Military Strategy, the Pentagon suggests that the risk of an American war with another nation (as opposed to terror outfits), while low, is “growing” and identifies four nations as “threats”: North Korea, a case apart, and predictably the three nations that form the new Eurasian core: Russia, China, and Iran. They are depicted in the document as “revisionist states,” openly defying what the Pentagon identifies as “international security and stability”; that is, the distinctly un-level playing field created by globalized, exclusionary, turbo-charged casino capitalism and Washington's brand of militarism.

The Pentagon, of course, does not do diplomacy. Seemingly unaware of the Vienna negotiations, it continued to accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons. And that “military option” against Iran is never off the table.

So consider it the Mother of All Blockbusters to watch how the Pentagon and the war hawks in Congress will react to the post-Vienna and -- though it was barely noticed in Washington -- the post-Ufa environment, especially under a new White House tenant in 2017.

It will be a spectacle.  Count on it.  Will the next version of Washington try to make it up to “lost” Russia or send in the troops? Will it contain China or the “caliphate” of ISIS? Will it work with Iran to fight ISIS or spurn it? Will it truly pivot to Asia for good and ditch the Middle East or vice-versa? Or might it try to contain Russia, China, and Iran simultaneously or find some way to play them against each other?

In the end, whatever Washington may do, it will certainly reflect a fear of the increasing strategic depth Russia and China are developing economically, a reality now becoming visible across Eurasia. At Ufa, Putin told Xi on the record: "Combining efforts, no doubt we [Russia and China] will overcome all the problems before us."

Read “efforts” as new Silk Roads, that Eurasian Economic Union, the growing BRICS block, the expanding Shanghai Cooperation Organization, those China-based banks, and all the rest of what adds up to the beginning of a new integration of significant parts of the Eurasian land mass. As for Washington, fly like an eagle? Try instead: scream like a banshee.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times, an analyst for RTand Sputnik, and a TomDispatch regular. His latest book is Empire of Chaos. Follow him on Facebook by clicking here.

  Read  How China And Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington
 29 July, 2015
NATO Backs Turkish/US Regime-Change Offensive In Syria

by Jean Shaoul, WSWS.orgCountercurrents

NATO on Tuesday gave President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan unanimous support for Turkey joining the US-led military offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is being used as a cover to escalate Washington’s intervention against the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The quid pro quo secured by Turkey involves US support for attacks on Kurdish forces that, until last week, were being hailed by Washington, Berlin and other NATO powers as the bedrock of the anti-ISIS struggle.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “We stand in strong solidarity with our ally Turkey… to address instability on Turkey's doorstep and on NATO's border.”

Turkey, which has a 700,000-strong army, the second largest in NATO, is planning to invade Syria, seize territory and establish buffer zones along the Turkish border that will allow its forces to target ISIS militants. Such zones will also provide staging posts against the Syrian Kurdish forces of the Democratic Unity Party and its militia, the Popular Protection Units (PYD/YPG).

They will, in addition, create a safe haven for so-called “moderate” anti-Assad forces armed and financed by the US and its allies, to prepare a drive to overthrow the regime in Damascus, which is allied with Russia and Iran.

The PYD/YPG is allied to Turkey’s outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, and has set up an autonomous region in northeast Syria. Ankara is opposed to a Kurdish autonomous region in Syria, fearing that it could spread to include southeastern Turkey.

While the US had for several years rejected Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) proposals for “no fly zones” in Syria, it has now agreed to “safe zones” that are tantamount to the same thing.

For more than a decade before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US used “no-fly zones” over northern and southern Iraq to keep Iraqi aircraft out of the sky and target Iraqi air-defence systems. Under the cover of establishing similar zones in Libya, supposedly to protect anti-Gaddafi protesters, the US and NATO in 2011 waged an air war and coordinated proxy ground forces to overthrow the regime and ultimately murder its leader.

The latest plans are a blatant attack on Syrian sovereignty and amount to a de facto declaration of war on Damascus. They are part of Washington’s broader strategy of dominating the entire resource-rich Middle East.

Ankara has agreed that the US can use Turkish air bases at Incirlik and Diyarbakir to attack ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. Washington has refused to name the “moderate” forces it is backing in Syria because there are no effective anti-Assad fighting forces other than various Islamist militias, including ISIS and al-Nusra, which is linked to Al Qaeda, as well as the Kurdish militias.

For all its talk of a global war on terror, in its supposed efforts to contain ISIS, the US military will likely provide air cover for Al Qaeda-linked forces on the ground, serving as their de facto air force.

The 90-minute meeting in Brussels was preparation for a full blown NATO war for regime-change in Syria. It was called at Turkey’s request under Article 4 of the NATO Treaty, to enable Ankara to consult with its allies over threats to its security.

Erdoğan said, “At the moment, Turkey has come under attack and is exercising its right to defend itself and will exercise this right until the end.” He added, “there could be a duty for NATO, and we ask NATO to be prepared for this.”

He was referring to the suicide bomb attack in the southeastern and mainly Kurdish town of Suruç last week that killed 32 activists planning to travel to the Syrian city of Kobane and assist in its reconstruction. The Turkish government says the attack was led by ISIS, but ISIS has not claimed responsibility.
The bomb blast in Suruç sparked attacks by the PKK, which were used as a pretext for a government clampdown on internal opposition, including the arrest of over 1,000 suspected members of ISIS, the PKK and leftist groups. In the past few days, five Turkish security personnel and four civilians have been killed in clashes.

On Sunday night, Turkish fighter jets hit PKK targets in northern Iraq. The PKK said the attacks meant the end of the fragile ceasefire agreed in 2013 after 30 years of armed conflict that claimed some 40,000 lives.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, told reporters on Monday that he would explain the security threats facing his country, saying, “We expect solidarity and support from our NATO allies.” He refused to draw any distinction between ISIS and the PKK, saying, “There is no difference between PKK and Daesh [ISIS]. You can’t say that PKK is better because it is fighting Daesh.”

One of the most striking features of the emergency NATO meeting was that all the European powers seem prepared to support Turkey’s plans, which threaten a much wider regional conflagration and an upsurge of internal strife within Turkey itself.

This is despite stated misgivings from Germany, home to nearly four million Turks, including around one million Kurds. Germany said Turkey’s response should be commensurate with the threat it faced and urged that Ankara’s peace process with the Kurds be continued.

This is political cynicism of the highest order, given that Ankara is already waging war against the Kurds. Berlin previously established close links with the KRG in northern Iraq, arming the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga militia and, indirectly, the Syrian Kurds. Germany is also training Peshmerga fighters.

Now it appears that both the European powers and Washington are prepared to ditch the Kurds, their former allies against ISIS, and back Turkey. They evidently believe that Turkey, the 17th largest economy, is a more valuable regional asset in their own endeavours to control the Middle East and out-manoeuvre Russia and China.

For the first few years of the Syrian civil war, Turkey--largely supported by Washington--actively supported ISIS and other Islamist forces in an effort to overthrow Assad, contain the Kurds and prevent the emergence of a Kurdish state in Syria. More recently, and under pressure from the US following the emergence of ISIS as a threat to US interests in Iraq, it moved reluctantly to a low-profile, anti-ISIS approach.

After the US backed away from war against Assad in 2013, Turkey found itself thwarted in its efforts to utilise an alliance with the US to establish itself as the regional power broker. It believes this can now be achieved. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told CNN Monday that the existence of ISIS is the result of international inaction against the Assad regime in Syria.

"Assad lost this legitimacy long before,” he said. “Unfortunately, because of inactivity of the international community, he continued his crimes and he created a power vacuum… Eliminating ISIS is, of course, a strategic objective, but there should be some other elements. We have to have a strategy about the future of Syria."

As well as being shaken by the frequent about-turns in US policy that have destabilised the region, the AKP government faces increasing unrest on the domestic front, with wildcat strikes in the auto industry as the economy stalls after years of rapid growth. There have in addition been large street demonstrations, militant roadblocks and the torching of vehicles, especially in Istanbul and the eastern, mainly Kurdish, provinces.

Having lost its overall majority in the June elections, the AKP has thus far been unable to form a coalition government. A significant element in Erdoğan’s calculations is that he can promote a climate of fear to enable the AKP to secure a parliamentary majority in any new elections.

  Read NATO Backs Turkish/US Regime-Change Offensive In Syria
 July 31, 2015
Obama's “Safe Zone” In Syria Will Inflame The War Zone

by Shamus Cooke, Countercurrents
The road to war is paved with a thousand lies. A fresh fib was tossed on the lie-cluttered war path to Syria, when it was announced that the U.S. and Turkey would create a “safe zone” inside of Syria — supposedly to be aimed against ISIS.

This “safe zone” is a major escalation of war, but it was described in soft tones by the media. In reality a “safe zone” is a “no-fly zone,” meaning that a nation is planning to implement military air superiority inside the boundaries of another nation. It's long recognized by the international community and as a major act of war.  In a war zone an area is made “safe” by destroying anything in it or around that appears threatening.

Turkey has been demanding this no-fly zone from Obama since the Syrian war started. It's been discussed throughout the conflict and even in recent months, though the intended target was always the Syrian government.

And suddenly the no-fly zone is happening — right where Turkey always wanted it — but it's being labeled an “anti-ISIS” safe zone, instead of its proper name: “Anti Kurdish and anti-Syrian government” safe zone.

The U.S. media swallowed the name change without blinking, but many international media outlets knew better.

For instance, the International Business Times reported“ [the safe zone deal]...could mark the end of [Syrian President] Assad

And The Middle East Eyereported...[the safe zone] marks a breakthrough for Turkey in its confrontation with the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria. If the no-fly zone does come into being it will be a body blow for Assad and his supporters”

Even U.S. media outlets acknowledged that the primary goal of Obama's safe zone ally, Turkey, was defeating the Kurdish fighters and the Syrian government, both of whom have been the most effective fighters against ISIS.

Syrian regime change is also the goal of the ground troops who will be filling the void left by ISIS, who The New York Times labeled “relatively moderate Syrian insurgents,” a telling euphemism. The New York Times confirmed the goals of the safe zone allies:“...both the Turks and the Syrian insurgents see defeating President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as their first priority

If the Syrian government wasn't the target of the safe zone, then Syrian government troops would be the ones to control the safe zone post ISIS, as they did before ISIS. And if regime change wasn't the target, then the Syrian government would have been consulted and coordinated with to attack ISIS, since Syria is involved with heavy fighting against ISIS in the same region that the safe zone is being carved out.

These steps weren't taken because the “safe zone” plan is much bigger than ISIS. Obama hasn't detailed who the “relatively moderate” fighters are that will control the safe zone, but it's easy to guess. We only have to look at the Syrian rebels on the ground who are effective fighters and control nearby territory.

The most powerful non-ISIS group in the region recently re-branded itself as the “Conquest Army,” a coalition of Islamic extremists led by Jabhat al-Nusra — the official al-Qaeda affiliate — and the group Ahrar al-Sham, whose leader previously stated that his group was “the real al Qaeda.” The Conquest Army actively coordinates with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and is also populated with U.S.-trained fighters.

These groups share the ideology and tactics of ISIS, the only difference being their willingness to work with the United States and Turkey. It's entirely likely that once the “safe zone” operation starts, many ISIS troops will simply change shirts and join Jabhat al-Nusra, since there is no principled difference.

Obama knows that the foreign ground troops controlling the “safe zone” are targeting the Syrian government; consequently, U.S. military planes will be acting as the de-facto air force for Al-Qaeda against the Syrian government.

Thus, direct military confrontation with the Syrian government is inevitable. President Assad is already attacking ISIS in the area that the U.S.-Turkey alliance wants to make “safe” via its coordinated military operation. Syrian fighter jets will eventually be targeted, since the goal is to allow extremist groups a “safe zone” to continue their attacks on the Syrian government after ISIS is dealt with. This danger was also acknowledged by The New York Times

Whatever the goal, the plan [safe zone] will put American and allied warplanes closer than ever to areas that Syrian aircraft regularly bomb, raising the question of what they will do if Syrian warplanes attack their partners [“relatively moderate rebels”] on the ground.

The answer seems obvious: U.S. and Turkish fighter jets will engage with Syrian aircraft, broadening and deepening the war until the intended aim of regime change has been accomplished.

This is exactly how events developed in Libya, when the U.S.-NATO led a “no-fly zone” that was supposedly created to allow a “humanitarian corridor,” but quickly snowballed into its real goal: regime change and assassination of Libya's president. This epic war crime is still celebrated by Obama and Hillary Clinton as a “victory,” while Libyans drown in the Mediterranean to escape their once-modern but now obliterated country.

If Obama's goal in Syria was actually defeating ISIS, this could have been achieved at any time, in a matter of weeks. It would simply take a serious and coordinated effort with U.S. regional allies, while coordinating with the non-allies already fighting ISIS:

If Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan were involved in the fight on ISIS it would be quickly strangled of cash, guns, and troops, and be massively out-powered. War over.

The only reason this hasn't happened is that the U.S. and its allies have always viewed ISIS as a convenient proxy against Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran, not to mention leverage against the Iran-friendly government of Iraq.

Turkey remains the biggest obstacle to defeating ISIS, since it's been helping it for years. ISIS has long used the Turkish border to escape Syrian government attacks, seek medical assistance, and get supplies and reinforcements. ISIS is so welcomed inside Turkey that ISIS promotes Turkey on social media as the international transit hub for jihadis wanting to join ISIS. Turkish immigration and customs looks the other way as does the Turkish border control.

In discussing the “safe zone,” the U.S. media always ignore the concept of national sovereignty — the basis for international law. The boundaries of countries are sacred from the standpoint of international law. The only just war is a defensive one. When one country implements a no-fly zone in another country, national boundaries are violated and international law is broken by an act of war.

The Obama administration is aware of the above dynamics, but has again tossed caution to the wind as he did in 2013, during the ramp up to its aborted bombing campaign against the Syrian government.  

A U.S.-Turkish no-fly zone will deepen an already regional war: Iran and Hezbollah have recently ramped up direct support of the Syrian government. As Turkish and the U.S. military enter the war space for the first time, confrontation is inevitable. Confrontation is the plan.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action. He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com 
  Read  Obama's Safe Zone In Syria Will Inflame The War Zone
 August 5, 2015
The Need For A New Economic System

by John Scales Avery, Countercurrents



One of the greatest threats to the survival of the human species and the biosphere is catastrophic climate change. Scientists warn that if the transition to renewable energy does not happen within very few decades, there is a danger that we will reach a tipping point beyond which feedback loops, such as the albedo effect and the methane hydrate feedback loop, will take over and produce an out-of-control and fatal increase in global temperature.

In 2012, the World Bank issued a report warning that without quick action to curb CO2 emissions, global warming is likely to reach 4 degrees C during the 21st century. This is dangerously close to the temperature which initiated the Permian-Triassic extinction event: 6 degrees C above normal. During the Permian-Triassic extinction event, which occurred 252 million years ago, 96% of all marine species were wiped out, as well as 70% of all terrestrial vertebrates.

Is a quick transition to 100 % renewable energy technically possible? The remarkable characteristics of exponential growth can give us hope that it can indeed be done, provided that we make the necessary effort.

The Earth Policy Institute recently reported that “Between 2008 and 2013, as solar panel prices dropped by roughly two thirds, the PV installed worldwide skyrocketed from 16,000 to 139,000 megawatts... In its January 2014 solar outlook report, Deutsche Bank projected that 46,000 megawatts would be added to global PV capacity in 2014 and that new installations would jump to a record 56,000 megawatts in 2015.”

An analysis of the data given by the Earth Policy Institute shows that global installed photovoltaic capacity is now increasing by 27.8% per year. Because of the remarkable properties of exponential growth, we can predict that by 2034, the world's installed PV capacity will have reached 47.7 terawatts, more than twice today's global consumption of all forms of energy (provided, of course, that the present rate of growth is maintained).

We can see from this analysis, and from data presented by Lester Brown and his coauthors Janet Larsen, Mathew Roney and Emily Adams, in their recent book “The Great Transition”, that the urgently-needed replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy is technically achievable. But it also requires political will. For example the present rapid rate of growth of global PV capacity was initiated by the German government's enlightened financial policies.

Government measures helping renewables are vital. At present, governments give billions in direct and indirect support of fossil fuel giants, which in turn sponsor massive advertising campaign to convince the public that anthropogenic climate change is not real. Our task, for the sake of future generations, is to provide the political will needed for the great transition.


The wonderful encyclical Laudato Si' of Pope Francis shows us the our moral responsibility for protecting the long-term future of nature and humankind, and it can give us courage as we approach this great and urgent task.

The scientific community is unanimous in telling us that if we do not rapidly switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, there is a danger that global warming will pass a tipping point beyond which uncontrollable feedback loops will lead to drastically increased temperatures, and perhaps a human-caused 6th geological extinction event. An important short video on this danger has been prepared by Thom Hartmann and coworkers, and is available on the following link:

Here is a link to short interview with Sir David Attenborough, which is also very interesting, although he does not mention the worst possibilities:

Is a shift to 100% renewable energy possible?

One answer to the question of whether a shift to 100% renewable energy is possible is that it has to happen during this century because fossil fuels are running out. Within a century or so they will be gone in the sense that they will be much too expensive to be burned. Therefore a shift to 100% renewable energy has to happen within about a hundred years.

The vitally important point is that if the shift does not happen quickly, if we do not leave most of our fossil fuels in the ground instead of burning them, we risk a climatic disaster of enormous proportions, perhaps comparable to the Permian-Triasic thermal maximum. Thus the shift must happen, and will happen. But we must work with dedication, and a sense of urgency, to make it happen soon.

What are the forms of renewable energy?

The main forms of renewable energy now in use are wind power; hydropower; solar energy; biomass; biofuel; geothermal energy; and marine energy. In addition, there are a number of new technologies under development, such as artificial photosynthesis, cellulostic ethanol, and hydrogenation of CO2.

At present, the average global rate of use of primary energy is roughly 2 kilowatts per person. In North America, the rate is 12 kilowatts per capita, while in Europe, the figure is 6 kilowatts. In Bangladesh, it is only 0.2 kilowatts . This wide variation implies that considerable energy savings are possible, through changes in lifestyle, and through energy efficiency.

Solar energy

Biomass, wind energy, hydropower and wave power derive their energy indirectly from the sun, but in addition, various methods are available for utilizing the power of sunlight directly. These include photovoltaic panels, solar designs in architecture, solar systems for heating water and cooking, concentrating photovoltaic systems, and solar thermal power plants.

Solar photovoltaic cells are thin coated wafers of a semiconducting material (usually silicon). The coatings on the two sides are respectively charge donors and charge acceptors. Cells of this type are capable of trapping solar energy and converting it into direct-current electricity. The electricity generated in this way can be used directly (as it is, for example, in pocket calculators) or it can be fed into a general power grid. Alternatively it can be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The gases can then be compressed and stored, or exported for later use in fuel cells. In the future, we may see solar photovoltaic arrays in sun-rich desert areas producing hydrogen as an export product.

The cost of manufacturing photovoltaic cells is currently falling rapidly. The cost in 2006 was $4.50 per peak watt. It is predicted that by 2017, the manufacturing cost will have fallen to $0.36 per watt.

Concentrating photovoltaic systems are able to lower costs still further by combining silicon solar cells with reflectors that concentrate the sun’s rays. The most inexpensive type of concentrating reflector consists of a flat piece of aluminum-covered plastic material bent into a curved shape along one of its dimensions, forming a trough-shaped surface. (Something like this shape results when we hold a piece of paper at the top and bottom with our two hands, allowing the center to sag.) The axis of the reflector can be oriented so that it points towards the North Star. A photovoltaic array placed along the focal line will then receive concentrated sunlight throughout the day.

Photovoltaic efficiency is defined as the ratio of the electrical power produced by a cell to the solar power striking its surface. For commercially available cells today, this ratio is between 9% and 14%. If we assume 5 hours of bright sunlight per day, this means that a photocell in a desert area near to the equator (where 1 kW/m2 of peak solar power reaches the earth’s surface) can produce electrical energy at the average rate of 20-30 We /m2 , the average being taken over an entire day and night. (The subscript e means “in the form of electricity”. Energy in the form of heat is denoted by the subscript t, meaning “thermal”.) The potential power per unit area for photovoltaic systems is far greater than for biomass. However, the mix of renewable energy sources most suitable for a particular country depends on many factors.

Wind energy

Wind parks in favorable locations, using modern wind turbines, are able to generate 10 MWe /km2 or 10 We /m2 . Often wind farms are placed in offshore locations. When they are on land, the area between the turbines can be utilized for other purposes, for example for pasturage. For a country like Denmark, with good wind potential but cloudy skies, wind turbines can be expected to play a more important future role than photovoltaics. Denmark is already a world leader both in manufacturing and in using wind turbines. In the United States, wind power is the fastest-growing form of electricity generation.

The location of wind parks is important, since the energy obtainable from wind is proportional to the cube of the wind velocity. We can understand this cubic relationship by remembering that the kinetic energy of a moving object is proportional to the square of its velocity multiplied by the mass. Since the mass of air moving past a wind turbine is proportional to the wind velocity, the result is the cubic relationship just mentioned.

Before the decision is made to locate a wind park in a particular place, the wind velocity is usually carefully measured and recorded over an entire year. For locations on land, mountain passes are often very favorable locations, since wind velocities increase with altitude, and since the wind is concentrated in the passes by the mountain barrier. Other favorable locations include shorelines and offshore locations on sand bars. This is because onshore winds result when warm air rising from land heated by the sun is replaced by cool marine air. Depending on the season, the situation may be reversed at night, and an offshore wind may be produced if the water is warmer than the land.

The cost of wind-generated electrical power is currently lower than the cost of electricity generated by burning fossil fuels. The “energy payback ratio” of a power installation is defined as the ratio of the energy produced by the installation over its lifetime, divided by the energy required to manufacture, construct, operate and decommission the installation. For wind turbines, this ratio is 17-39, compared with 11 for coal-burning plants. The construction energy of a wind turbine is usually paid back within three months.

Wind energy is currently able to deliver 370,000 megawatts of power, and the global installed wind generating capacity is increasing at the rate of 20% per year.





Biomass is defined as any energy source based on biological materials produced by photosynthesis, for example wood, sugar beets, rapeseed oil , crop wastes, dung, urban organic wastes, processed sewage, etc. Using biomass for energy does not result in the net emission of CO2 , since the CO2 released by burning the material had previously been absorbed from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. If the biological material had decayed instead of being burned, it would have released the same amount of CO2 as in the burning process.

Miscanthus is a grassy plant found in Asia and Africa. Some forms will also grow in Northern Europe, and it is being considered as an energy crop in the United Kingdom. Miscanthus can produce up to 18 dry tonnes per hectare-year, and it has the great advantage that it can be cultivated using ordinary farm machinery. The woody stems are very suitable for burning, since their water content is low (20-30%).

Jatropha is a fast-growing woody shrub about 4 feet in height, whose seeds can be used to produce diesel oil at the cost of about $43 per barrel. The advantage of Jatropha is that is a hardy plant, requiring very little fertilizer and water. It has a life of roughly 50 years, and can grow on wasteland that is unsuitable for other crops. The Indian State Railway has planted 7.5 million Jatropha shrubs beside its right of way. The oil harvested from these plants is used to fuel the trains.

For some southerly countries, honge oil, derived from the plant Pongamia pinnata may prove to be a promising source of biomass energy. Studies conducted by Dr. Udishi Shrinivasa at the Indian Institute of Sciences in Bangalore indicate that honge oil can be produced at the cost of $150 per ton. This price is quite competitive when compared with other potential fuel oils.

Recent studies have also focused on a species of algae that has an oil content of up to 50%. Algae can be grown in desert areas, where cloud cover is minimal. Farm waste and excess CO2 from factories can be used to speed the growth of the algae.

It is possible that in the future, scientists will be able to create new species of algae that use the sun’s energy to generate hydrogen gas. If this proves to be possible, the hydrogen gas may then be used to generate electricity in fuel cells. Promising research along this line is already in progress at the University of California, Berkeley.

Biogas is defined as the mixture of gases produced by the anaerobic digestion of organic matter. This gas, which is rich in methane (CH4 ), is produced in swamps and landfills, and in the treatment of organic wastes from farms and cities. The use of biogas as a fuel is important not only because it is a valuable energy source, but also because methane is a potent greenhouse gas, which should not be allowed to reach the atmosphere. Biogas produced from farm wastes can be used locally on the farm, for cooking and heating, etc. When biogas has been sufficiently cleaned so that it can be distributed in a pipeline, it is known as “renewable natural gas”. It may then be distributed in the natural gas grid, or it can be compressed and used in internal combustion engines. Renewable natural gas can also be used in fuel cells.

Biofuels are often classified according to their generation. Those that can be used alternatively as food are called first-generation biofuels. By contrast, biofuels of the second generation are those that make use of crop residues or other cellulose-rich materials. Cellulose molecules are long chains of sugars, and by breaking the inter-sugar bonds in the chain using enzymes or other methods, the sugars can be freed for use in fermentation. In this way lignocellulosic ethanol is produced. The oil-producing and hydrogen-producing algae mentioned above are examples of third-generation biofuels. We should notice that growing biofuels locally (even first-generation ones) may be of great benefit to smallholders in developing countries, since they can achieve local energy self-reliance in this way.

Geothermal energy

The ultimate source of geothermal energy is the decay of radioactive nuclei in the interior of the earth. Because of the heat produced by this radioactive decay, the temperature of the earth’s core is 4300 degrees C. The inner core is composed of solid iron, while the outer core consists of molten iron and sulfur compounds. Above the core is the mantle, which consists of a viscous liquid containing compounds of magnesium, iron, aluminum, silicon and oxygen.

The temperature of the mantle gradually decreases from 3700 degrees C near the core to 1000 degrees C near the crust. The crust of the earth consists of relatively light solid rocks and it varies in thickness from 5 to 70 km. The outward flow of heat from radioactive decay produces convection currents in the interior of the earth. These convection currents, interacting with the earth’s rotation, produce patterns of flow similar to the trade winds of the atmosphere. One result of the currents of molten conducting material in the interior of the earth is the earth’s magnetic field.

The crust is divided into large sections called “tectonic plates”, and the currents of molten material in the interior of the earth also drag the plates into collision with each other. At the boundaries, where the plates collide or split apart, volcanic activity occurs. Volcanic regions near the tectonic plate boundaries are the best sites for collection of geothermal energy.

The entire Pacific Ocean is ringed by regions of volcanic and earthquake activity, the so-called Ring of Fire. This ring extends from Tierra del Fuego at the southernmost tip of South America, northward along the western coasts of both South America and North America to Alaska. The ring then crosses the Pacific at the line formed by the Aleutian Islands, and it reaches the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. From there it extends southward along the Kuril Island chain and across Japan to the Philippine Islands, Indonesia and New Zealand. Many of the islands of the Pacific are volcanic in nature.

Another important region of volcanic activity extends northward along the Rift Valley of Africa to Turkey, Greece and Italy. In the Central Atlantic region, two tectonic plates are splitting apart, thus producing the volcanic activity of Iceland. All of these regions are very favorable for the collection of geothermal power.

In our present situation, a rapid shift to renewable energy could present the world with many benefits. Ecological constraints and depletion of natural resources mean that industrial growth will very soon no longer be possible. Thus we will be threatened with economic recession and unemployment. A rapid shift to renewable energy could provide the needed jobs to replace lost jobs in (for example) automobile production. Renewable energy is becoming competitive with fossil fuels, and thus it represents a huge investment opportunity.

On the other hand, fossil fuel companies have a vested interest in monitizing the assets that they own, as Thom Hartmann points out in the video mentioned at the start of this essay. Institute Professor Noam Chomsky of MIT also explains this difficulty very well at the start of the following video:

These considerations point to a battle which will have to be fought by the people of the world who are concerned about the long-term future of human civilization and the biosphere, against the vested interests of our oligarchic rulers. This fight will require wide public discussion of the dangers of runaway climate change. At present, our corporate-controlled mass media hardly mention the long-term dangers, such as the methane hydrate feedback loop, so the battle will have to be fought in the alternative media.

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.

  Read  The Need For A New Economic System
 August 6, 2015
Renewables And Carbon Pricing Are New Climate Denial

by Bill Henderson, Countercurrents

Climate change is real, human caused, a danger today as ocean acidification, extreme weather and change of climate patterns, and a profound danger for tomorrow with rising sea levels, abrupt climate change and potential positive feedbacks that could lead to runaway warming.

Climate change is an accidental side-effect of burning fossil fuels that has been allowed to become civilization and maybe even humanity threatening. Lack of mitigation action now sees the suite of climate change dangers building to threaten peace, our economy, our children's future and all we know, care about and love.

We benefit greatly today from the production and use of fossil fuels but the consequences - the disruption, death and loss - predicted by the growing climate science must now convince all but the most myopic deniers that we must quickly stop burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels must stay in the ground - until they can be used safely without increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

No new fossil fuel infrastructure - unless it leads to reduced emissions. A firm, agreed upon schedule to wind down production and use of fossil fuels as quickly as possible, dirtiest first. This is the mitigation path that we must urgently embrace globally because we have put off effective mitigation until we are now deep into dangerous climate change.

But even though there is international agreement to reduce emissions to stay under a 2C guardrail to protect against the worst potential dangers - keeping fossil fuels in the ground (until they can be used safely) and thereby reducing emissions effectively is still not the climate mitigation bottom line.

Instead continuing denial keeps us from real, effective mitigation action. Instead the only mitigation allowed is a slow transition to renewable sources of energy utilizing carbon pricing and decarbonization strategies that do not threaten the present fossil fuel centered economy.

Regulation to limit new fossil fuel infrastructure and wind down present production and use is not even acceptable in debate about effective climate change mitigation strategies. Only a slow transition with continuing unrestricted fossil fuel production and use and which does not threaten needed growth in the already fragile global economy is allowed, and even then this transition can only proceed as fast as renewables can replace fossil fuels in market competitiveness in quantities needed to power the present economy projected into the future.

But the carbon budget science is clear: there is no hope of staying under 2C without urgent and deep emission reduction - emission reduction of a scale not possible in the next two crucial decades within this slow transition conceptualization of climate mitigation.

Renewables and carbon pricing are essential to effective mitigation but advocating for renewables and carbon pricing without regulation to keep fossil fuels in the ground is denial ( implicatory denial instead of the now untenable flat-earth, out right denial of climate change scientific cause and effect).

Advocating for renewables and carbon pricing in this slow transition just wastes very precious time as we pretend that regulated reduction of fossil fuels isn't needed. It is a recipe for continuing emissions leading to a 3-4C rise in temperature in this century and this surely means the death of all we love and care about.

Renewables and carbon pricing without effective regulation to keep fossil fuels in the ground might allow the beginning of this slow transition without endangering investment and jobs and pensions and development, and if it was 1990 this might be the correct mitigation path to advocate for, but with what we know, what the extensive climate change science tells us today, this is denial and we must quickly get past this denial to effective action.

It is negligent and irresponsible to advocate for climate mitigation that does not, can not, reduce emissions of a scale necessary to stay under 2C. Advocating for building renewable capacity and for carbon pricing as if these strategies will lead to more effective action in the future ignores the urgency of deep emission reduction now and the powerful path dependence of the fossil fuel economy. Decarbonization and carbon pricing (as presently conceived) are not effective mitigation strategies; they are a new stage of denial by people who think they take climate change seriously.

We will eventually get to regulating the end of fossil fuel production and use but the longer we wait the more danger there will be from increasing climate change and, in all probably, the needed transition to a new post-carbon socio-economy will be harder and the damage to existing wealth, infrastructure and security more severe.

Do we need a plan for a slow transition to renewables or a plan to get off fossil fuels? Building renewable capacity is not emission reduction if there is no regulated reduction of fossil fuels. Rules for power generation that do not include regulated reduction of fossil fuels just displace fossil fuel use to other jurisdictions.

If, for example, Hansen et el are right and there is even a reasonable probability of a ten foot sea level rise this century which would devastate most of the world's great cities and surely collapse the global economy leaving failed states and war - shouldn't we be far more serious in choosing effective mitigation strategies at this late date instead of continuing to try and shoehorn climate mitigation into business as usual?

Shouldn't there be a much more robust process for planning climate mitigation then just advocacy of half measures in the main stream media where the debate is restricted to what is not economically heretical and is not inclusive, evidence-based and transparent?

Shouldn't those of us who recognize the climate dangers and who know the carbon budget science requiring urgent deep emission reduction stand up, speak up and at least force an open debate about the effectiveness of the slow transition versus regulating the real reduction of emissions by really keeping fossil fuels in the ground?

Bill Henderson is a frequent contributor to Countercurrents on climate change. He can be reached at bill (at) pacificfringe.net

  Read Renewables And Carbon Pricing Are New Climate Denial
 August 7, 2015
Beyond Extinction - Transition To Post-Capitalism Is Inevitable

by Nafeez Ahmed, Medium.com, Countercurrents

In Margaret Atwood’s powerful essay [It’s Not Climate Change It’s Everything Change] on the reality of climate change and its implications for the future of oil-dependent industrial civilization she tells two vastly distinct stories of our future.

The first is a tale of dystopia - a future so bleak, it would make Hollywood moguls looking for the next science fiction blockbuster of action-packed (post)apocalypse salivate with anticipation. Here, Atwood tells a story of human failure: of short-sighted choices based on fatal addiction to business-as-usual, and an egoistic hubris rooted in centuries of globalisation.

In this scenario, we largely ignore the overwhelming evidence of climate change, and the result is that industrial civilization enters a period of protracted collapse, fuelled by accelerating war, famine, and natural disasters.

The second is a vision of utopia—a collectivist dream-world in which everybody works together, harnessing the best of human ingenuity across society, economics, politics and technology, to peacefully restructure the fundamentals of human existence. Here, Atwood tells a story of human success: of far-sighted decisions based on confronting the follies of business-as-usual, and by embracing our unity as a species.

In this scenario, we act on the overwhelming evidence of climate change, and the result is that industrial civilization enters a period of carefully calibrated transition to a techno-utopian post-capitalist, post-materialist infrastructure, avoiding the worst of today’s scientific warnings.

Of course, both these scenarios are extremes, but there is a purpose to such extremes. Atwood uses the power of story to help us awaken to the starkness—and gravity—of the choice we now face: a choice, effectively, between hell and heaven on earth.

And Atwood is spot on when she notes that this is not just about climate change.

The meteoric accumulation of scientific data over the last few decades has increasingly brought home the fact that the climate crisis is a symptom of a deeper, civilizational problem. It is not just that we are completely and utterly dependent on fossil fuels, oil, coal and gas, to do literally anything and everything in our societies—from transport and food, to art and culture.

It is the wider context of that structural dependency: the extent to which cheap fossil fuels enabled the exponential economic growth trajectory that took-off since the Industrial Revolution; the symbiotic relationship between economic growth and the evolution of the banking system, which has been able to flood the world with credit on the back of seemingly endless supplies of cheap oil; the relentless expansion of Anglo-European capitalism through empire and slavery; the transformation and militarization of global capitalism under US dominance, accompanied by ownership and control of much of the world’s land, food, water, mineral and energy resources by a tiny minority of the world’s population; and the subjugation of planetary resources to the endless growth-imperative of that minority, as it seeks, entirely rationally within this structure, to maximize its profits.

The corresponding ecocide that has resulted—with species extinctions now at record levels, and the degradation and destruction of critical eco-systems escalating at unprecedented scales—is not factored into the narrow calculations of quarterly returns by these powerful interlocking corporate and banking conglomerates.

Climate change is merely one symptom of a wider Crisis of Civilization.


Last month I reported exclusively on a new scientific model being developed with support from a UK government task-force at Anglia Ruskin University. The model showed that on a business-as-usual trajectory, industrial civilization as we know it would likely collapse within 25 years due to global food crises, induced by the impacts of climate change in the world’s major food basket regions.

The model showed, however, that this outcome is by no means inevitable—in fact, its creators pointed out that such a business-as-usual trajectory would be unrealistic, as already policy changes have been pursued in response to the 2008 food and oil shocks. Though inadequate, this means that as crises accelerate, they will simultaneously open up opportunities for change.

The question, of course, is whether by then it will be too late.

A widely-reported paper in Science Advances published in June concluded using extremely conservative assumptions that an “exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity” has occurred “over the last few centuries.” The scale of this loss indicates “that a sixth mass extinction is already under way.” Although it is still possible to avoid a loss of critical ecosystem services essential for human survival, through “intensified conservation efforts,” the window of opportunity to do so is “rapidly closing.”

There is much corroborating evidence for these findings. Another study in May found that if global warming continues at current rates, one in six species on the planet will be at risk of extinction:

“Extinction risks from climate change are expected not only to increase but to accelerate for every degree rise in global temperatures. The signal of climate change–induced extinctions will become increasingly apparent if we do not act now to limit future climate change.”

The risk of civilizational collapse—and outright extinction—is perhaps the clearest signal that there is something deeply wrong with the global system in its current form. So wrong, that it is right now on a path to self-annihilation.

War, famine, and social break-down are happening today in the context of escalating, interconnected climate, food and energy crises. The conflicts in the Middle East that are now pre-occupying Western governments were sparked by a cocktail of climate-induced drought, entrenched inequalities, depletion of cheap oil, and political repression.

The spiralling terrorist violence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and beyond—purportedly in the name of religion—is being aggravated by concrete material realities: water scarcity, energy scarcity, and food scarcity.

Which of course should really beg the question: which war are we fighting, and in whose interests?

The world is locked into a clash of civilizations, each side pointing the finger of blame at the other: the Western world’s ‘war on terror’ to crush Muslim barbarians, and the Muslim world’s ‘jihad’ to repel Western empire. Ironically, neither side could exist without the other.

As economic hardships accelerate while the global system continues to unravel, this reactionary violence against the Other is becoming evermore normalized. Communities, searching for somewhere to pin their anxieties, root themselves in simplistic, artificial categories of identity—political identity, religious identity, ethnic identity, national identity.

These identities serve as anchors amidst a maelstrom of intensifying global uncertainty, as well as convenient vindicators of blame against those who stand Outside one’s chosen identity.

But while both sides are consumed with mutual hatred, they are missing the point: the real issue is not a clash of civilizations, but a Crisis of Civilization in its current form.


According to another groundbreaking paper in Science, published earlier this year to little media fanfare, while we are busy fighting each other to death, overconsuming planetary resources and annihilating the very ecosystems we need to sustain long-term human survival, we are in fact contributing to the permanent destabilization of the Earth System (ES).

The new study develops a framework to understand ‘Planetary Boundaries’ (PB) within which can be discerned a “safe operating space” permitting modern societies to evolve.

The study is authored by an interdisciplinary team of scientists from Sweden, Australia, Denmark, Canada, South Africa, the Netherlands, Germany, Kenya, India, the US and the UK. Noting that the 11,700 year long epoch known as the ‘Holocene’ is the only state of the Earth System that definitely supports “contemporary human societies,” the scientists conclude:

“There is increasing evidence that human activities are affecting ES functioning to a degree that threatens the resilience of the ES—its ability to persist in a Holocene-like state in the face of increasing human pressures and shocks. The PB framework is based on critical processes that regulate ES functioning… [and] identifies levels of anthropogenic perturbations below which the risk of destabilization of the ES is likely to remain low—a ‘safe operating space’ for global societal development… Transgression of the PBs thus creates substantial risk of destabilizing the Holocene state of the ES in which modern societies have evolved.”


While much attention has been paid to the new science of impending doom, there has been less focus on the new science of civilizational transition.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from these warning signs is what they tell us about the need not simply for ‘change’, but for fundamental systemic transformation.

The science of impending doom does not prove the inevitability of human extinction, but it does prove the inevitability of something else: the extinction of industrial civilization in its current form.

The endless growth model of contemporary global capitalism is not just unsustainable — it is on track to destabilize the Earth System in a way that could make the planet uninhabitable for society as we know it.

It is not humanity, then, that is doomed—it is industrial capitalism.

The choice before us, then, is whether or not we are willing to give-up fossil-fueled endless material growth.

As much as governments and corporations would like us to remain deluded in the conviction that this choice lies not in our hands, but theirs, the truth is that both are becoming increasingly obsolete as global crises accelerate.

The oil empire is crumbling. The US shale industry is collapsing under ballooning debt and diminishing profitability. Canadian oil and gas firms are “bleeding money” as they experience the biggest drop in profit in a decade. The UK’s oil industry is “close to collapse” according to Robin Allen, head of the Association of UK Independent Oil and Gas Exploration Companies.

The governments that remain beholden to the fossil fuel lobby will die along with these firms.

As they crumble, in their place new post-capitalist, post-materialist ideas, structures, and practices are fast emerging.

One powerful compendium of information on the rise of the new paradigm is a new book by Dr. Samuel Alexander, an environment lecturer at the University of Melbourne, Research Fellow at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, and a co-director of the Simplicity Institute.

“The main issue, however, is not whether we will have enough oil, but whether we can afford to produce and burn the oil we have,” Alexander writes in Prosperous Descent: Crisis as Opportunity in an Age of Limits (2015).

“Just as expensive oil suffocates industrial economies that are dependent on cheap energy inputs to function, cheap oil merely propagates and further entrenches the existing order of global capitalism that is in the process of growing itself to death.”

The death of the age of oil is, therefore, symptomatic of the end of the capitalism itself.

“We cannot merely tinker with the systems and cultures of global capitalism and hope that things will magically improve,” adds Alexander in Prosperous Descent (2015).

“Those systems and cultures are not the symptoms but the causes of our overlapping social, economic, and ecological crises, so ultimately those systems and cultures must be replaced with fundamentally different forms of human interaction and organisation, driven and animated by different values, hopes, and myths.

Uncivilising ourselves from our destructive civilisation and building something new is the great, undefined, creative challenge we face incoming decades—which is a challenge both of opposition and renewal.”

Alexander shows that conventional growth economics in the developed world has become “socially counter-productive, ecologically unsustainable, and uneconomic.” Not only that, but mounting evidence in the form of price volatility, stagnating energy supplies, and the failure to address the instabilities of the global financial system suggest that the world is facing an imminent end to growth, symptomatic of the breaching of planetary boundaries.

In this context, there is a need for what some scholars call “degrowth”—defined as “an equitable downscaling of production and consumption that increases human wellbeing and enhances ecological conditions.”

Degrowth doesn’t mean the end of prosperity, but the end of a particularly parasitical form of economics that is widening inequalities even as it ravages the environment. If we don’t choose this path voluntarily, as a species, Alexander warns, it is likely to be imposed on us in a much more unsavoury fashion by the unsustainability of business-as-usual.

But inasmuch as Alexander rejects a resigned, fatalistic capitulation to inevitable dystopia, he also warns against blind faith in salvation via techno-utopian ingenuity.

Instead, he coins the idea of “voluntary simplicity”—a way of life in which “people choose to restrain or reduce their material consumption, while at the same time seeking a higher quality of life.”


Dr. Alexander shows that voluntary simplicity is the only pathway that avoids civilizational collapse. It does so because it entails the fundamental systemic transformation of civilization—the transition to a way of being which does not eschew technology, but uses the best of human technology to re-wire civilization from the ground up.

At the core of this radical re-wiring is a transformation of the human relationship with nature: moving away from top-down modes of political and economic organization, to participatory models of grassroots self-governance, localized sustainable agriculture, and equity in access to economic production.

This transformation in turn will require and entail a new “aesthetics of existence.” Drawing on the ethical writings of Michael Foucault, Alexander notes that “the self” as we know it today is woven largely from the structures of power in which we find ourselves. As inhabitants of consumer societies, we have internalized mass consumerism, its egoistic values and its reductionist worldview, “often in subtle, even insidious, ways.”

Yet Foucault also showed that “the self” is not just shaped by society, but also acts on and changes itself through “self-fashioning.” What type of person, then, should one create?

“Given that overconsumption is driving many of the world’s most pressing problems, it may be that ethical activity today requires that we critically reflect on our own subjectivities in order to refuse who we are—so far as we are uncritical consumers. This Great Refusal would open up space to create new, post-consumerist forms of subjectivity, which is surely part of the revolution in consciousness needed in order to produce a society based on a ‘simpler way.’”

The post-capitalist, post-materialist societies of the future, thus, represent the emergence of not just a new form of civilization entirely—but a new form of human being, and a new way of looking at, and being in, the world.

This new “self” will be premised on envisioning the inherent unity of the human species, the interdependence of humankind with nature, and a form of self-actualization based on safeguarding, exploring and nurturing that relationship, rather than exploiting it.

Our task today is to accelerate the process of transition to postcapitalism by creating and implementing it here and now, in the bowels of a dying system. We may well fail in doing so—but the point is precisely to broaden the horizons of the present so that we become cognizant of possibilities that lead beyond it, to plant seeds that might blossom in years and decades to come as governments fall and economies rupture.

We need to work together to craft new visions, values and worldviews; to develop new ideals, ethics and structures; to innovate new politics, economics and cultures of resistance and renewal.

Most of all, we need to evolve new stories of what it means to be human. As Atwood shows, we need stories that speak to the human condition, which beckon to a utopian future beyond the constraints of the dystopian present, which can help us reflect on the challenges of today with a view to collectively dream-weave a more meaningful tomorrow.

Whatever choices we make, one thing is certain. Well before the end of this century, our fossil fuel-centric industries will be little more than outmoded relics of an old, defunct civilization.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is an investigative journalist, bestselling author and international security scholar. A former Guardian writer, he writes the ‘System Shift’ column for VICE’s Motherboard, and is also a columnist for Middle East Eye.

He is the winner of a 2015 Project Censored Award, known as the ‘Alternative Pulitzer Prize’, for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian work, and was selected in the Evening Standard’s ‘Power 1,000’ most globally influential Londoners.

Nafeez has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist, Counterpunch, Truthout, among others. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Faculty of Science and Technology at Anglia Ruskin University.

Nafeez is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It (2010), and the scifi thriller novel ZERO POINT, among other books. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.

This story is being released for free in the public interest, and was enabled by crowdfunding. I’d like to thank my amazing community of patrons for their support, which gave me the opportunity to work on this story. If you appreciated it, please support independent, investigative journalism for the global commons via Patreon.com, where you can donate as much or as little as you like.

  Read Beyond Extinction - Transition To Post-Capitalism Is Inevitable
 August 9, 2015
Ukraine Bans 14 ‘Artists,' Mainly Russians, As ‘Threat To National Security'

by Eric Zuesse, Countercurrents
On Saturday, August 8th, Ukraine's Interfax News Service announced that the Security Bureau of Ukraine had just issued, on Friday, a list of 14 ‘artists' (mainly Russian actors) who ‘pose a threat to Ukraine's national security.' The Ukrainian State Film Agency is, under Ukrainian law, now prohibited from authorizing or allowing distribution of their films or other works. These artists are thus officially banned.

The list also includes French actor Gerard Depardieu, and even Russian economist Mikhail Khazin.

Khazin claims that the gold price has been manipulated downward, and that gold is therefore way undervalued. In 2004, he published a book, The Decline of the Dollar Empire and the End of the Pax Americana. 

One of the first things that the United States did after its coup that installed the present Ukrainian regime in February 2014 was to ship all or almost all of the Ukrainian central bank's gold to the U.S. Federal Reserve vault in the Wall Street area. The Ukrainian government has remained silent on the matter, other than to say “there is almost no gold left in the Central Bank vault.” So, this economist, Khazin, isn't only Russian; he alleges that the 36 tons of gold that was transferred to the United States will some day soar in value. The Ukrainian government isn't saying that the gold is in NYC only temporarily; they refuse to answer any questions about it, not even whether it left Ukraine at all.

As I had reported about the gold matter on 12 July 2014: “Immediately [after the coup], the U.S. received a big payoff from [the coup]. A Right Sector official Stepan Kubiv was appointed on February 24th as Chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine, Ukraine's Ben Bernanke. As I have reported on several occasions (here with links to multiple sources), ‘more than 40 heavy boxes' of gold were reported to have been secretly flown from the National Bank of Ukraine to the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank's sub-basement at 33 Liberty Street off Wall Street, in the early morning hours of March 7th. This happened within less than two weeks of the coup. This gold would constitute about $2 billion being paid to the U.S.

The French actor Depardieu was included on the list because Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, had granted him Russian citizenship after Depardieu left France for Belgium when France raised its total tax-rate on him to 87% (according to Depardieu), and because the actor had said, in expressing appreciation of this citizenship, that Putin “has done a lot for Russian culture.” Depardieu said that he felt better about handling the matter this way than if he had taken the more normal path: stashing his money in a foreign tax-haven bank account. According to Britain's Telegraph, “‘I don't need to hide,' he said.” But, as a consequence, his films now won't be able to be seen in Ukraine.

So, a government that has been installed by the United States is banning ‘artists.' It's not the sort of thing the U.S. government pumped to the public before its coup. Here is Victoria Nuland of the U.S. State Department on 13 December 2013 talking about the U.S. government's efforts to establish ‘democracy' in Ukraine. Here she is, two months later, on 4 February 2014, in private, telling America's Ambassador in Kiev whom to install to lead the ‘interim' government after the coup, which occurred 18 days later. (She called her appointee “Yats.” He's still in the same post to which she had him become appointed.) In Brussels on 26 March 2014, a month after Obama's coup in Ukraine, which had overthrown Ukraine's actually democratically elected and legal government, Obama praised “the university student, wrapped in the Ukrainian flag, expressing her hope that ‘every country should live by the law',” and he said (with links added here by me, to his statement):

“Yes, we believe in democracy -- with elections that are free and fair; and independent judiciaries and opposition parties; civil society and uncensored information so that individuals can make their own choices. Yes, we believe in open economies based on free markets and innovation, and individual initiative and entrepreneurship, and trade and investment that creates a broader prosperity. And, yes, we believe in human dignity -- that every person is created equal, no matter who you are, or what you look like, or who you love, or where you come from. That is what we believe. That's what makes us strong

The 14 people who were banned by Obama's government in Ukraine, supposedly do not support the values that he holds (even though they do support the values that he expresses).

Officials of the European Union didn't know that the overthrow was a coup, until right after it had happened; they first learned that it had been a coup, on 26 February 2014. They have, however, consistently stated, and continued to state, that, "The EU is committed to supporting Ukraine in its path towards a modern European democracy."

The new Ukrainian government is doing all they can to achieve U.S. President Obama's objectives. That's why they have banned those 14 ‘artists,' as being ‘a threat to Ukraine's national security.' This is what the U.S. government is now referring to when it espouses ‘democracy.' And, apparently, it's now also what the European Union holds as its ideal. Or, if not as its ideal, then, as its goal. It's where the world is heading, anyway. Or, if not the world, then its aristocracy. This is their ideal, and it's also their actual goal. Their goal-and-ideal is being realized today, in Ukraine, by banning 14 ‘artists.'

Furthermore, those ‘artists' are lucky they're not regular individuals inside Ukraine, who can be simply seized, and eliminated at night. Or bombed, or shelled. No banning of them is necessary. Sometimes, it's even done to terrorize potential ‘terrorists,' or anyone else who rejects Obama's Ukrainian coup. Some survivors of the massacre of Crimeans who were escaping from Ukraine right before the coup were able to tell their accounts on video.

These 14 ‘artists' have it easy.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

  Read  Ukraine Bans 14 Artists, Mainly Russians, As Threat To National Security
  August 9, 2015
The Need For A New Economic System, Part 4 Neocolonialism And Resource Wars

by John Scales Avery, Countercurrents

Hobson's explanation of colonialism

The Industrial Revolution opened up an enormous gap in military strength between the industrialized nations and the rest of the world. Taking advantage of their superior weaponry, Europe, the United States and Japan rapidly carved up the remainder of the world into colonies, which acted as sources of raw materials and food, and as markets for manufactured goods. Between 1800 and 1914, the percentage of the earth under the domination of colonial powers increased to 85 percent, if former colonies are included.

The English economist and Fabian, John Atkinson Hobson (1858-1940), offered a famous explanation of the colonial era in his book "Imperialism: A Study" (1902). According to Hobson, the basic problem that led to colonial expansion was an excessively unequal distribution of incomes in the industrialized countries. The result of this unequal distribution was that neither the rich nor the poor could buy back the total output of their society. The incomes of the poor were insufficient, and rich were too few in number. The rich had finite needs, and tended to reinvest their money. As Hobson pointed out, reinvestment in new factories only made the situation worse by increasing output.

Hobson had been sent as a reporter by the Manchester Guardian to cover the Second Boer War. His experiences had convinced him that colonial wars have an economic motive. Such wars are fought, he believed, to facilitate investment of the excess money of the rich in African or Asian plantations and mines, and to make possible the overseas sale of excess manufactured goods. Hobson believed imperialism to be immoral, since it entails suffering both among colonial peoples and among the poor of the industrial nations. The cure that he recommended was a more equal distribution of incomes in the manufacturing countries.

Colonialisn and the outbreak of World Wars I and II

The First World war broke out almost exactly 100 years ago, and much thought has been given to the causes of this tragic event, whose consequences continue to cast a dark shadow over the human future. When the war ended four years later, ten million young men had been killed and twenty million wounded, of whom six million were crippled for life. The war had cost 350,000,000,000 1919 dollars. This was a calculable cost; but the cost in human suffering and brutalization of values was incalculable.

It hardly mattered whose fault the catastrophe had been. Perhaps the Austrian government had been more to blame than any other. But blame for the war certainly did not rest with the Austrian people nor with the young Austrians who had been forced to fight. However, the tragedy of the First World War was that it created long-lasting hatred between the nations involved; and in this way it lead, only twenty years later, to an even more catastrophic global war, during the course of which nuclear weapons were developed.

Most scholars believe that competing colonial ambitions played an important role in setting the stage for World War I. A second factor was an armaments race between European countries, and the huge profits gained by arms manufacturers. Even at that time, the military-industrial complex was firmly established; and today it continues to be the greatest source of war, together with neocolonialism.

Prescott Bush supported Hitler's rise to power

Prescott Sheldon Bush (1895-1972), the father of George H.W. Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush, actively supported the revival of Germany's armament's industry in the 1930's, as well as supplying large amounts of money to Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party. The following links can give us a picture of his activities:


In his book, “Neocolonialism, The Last Stage of Imperialism” (Thomas Nielsen, London, 1965), Kwamai Nkrumah defined neocolonialism with the following words: “The essence of neocolonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory independent, and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from the outside. The methods and form of this direction can take various shapes. For example, in an extreme case, the troops of the imperial power may garrison the territory of the neocolonial State and control the government of it. More often, however, neocolonial control is exercised through monetary means..."

“ The struggle against neocolonialism is not aimed at excluding the capital of the developed world from operating in less developed countries. It is aimed at preventing the financial power of the developed countries from being used in such a way as to impoverish the less developed.”

The resource curse

The way in which the industrialized countries maintain their control over less developed nations can be illustrated by the "resource curse", i.e. the fact that resource-rich developing countries are no better off economically than those that lack resources, but are cursed with corrupt and undemocratic governments. This is because foreign corporations extracting local resources under unfair agreements exist in a symbiotic relationship with corrupt local officials.

One might think that taxation of foreign resource-extracting firms would provide developing countries with large incomes. However, there is at present no international law governing multinational tax arrangements. These are usually agreed to on a bilateral basis, and the industrialized countries have stronger bargaining powers in arranging the bilateral agreements.

Racism, colonialism and exceptionalism

"What makes America different, what makes us exceptional, is that we are dedicated to act." (Barak Obama, speech, September, 2013)

It seems to be possible for nations, and the majority of their citizens, to commit the worst imaginable atrocities, including torture, murder and genocide, while feeling that what they are doing is both noble and good.. Some understanding of how this is possible can be gained by watching the 3-part BBC documentary, "The History of Racism".

The series was broadcast by BBC Four in March 2007, and videos of the broadcasts are available on the Internet. Watching this eye-opening documentary can give us much insight into the link between racism and colonialism. We can also begin to see how both racism and colonialism are linked to US exceptionalism and neocolonialism.

Looking at the BBC documentary we can see how often in human history economic greed and colonial exploitation have been justified by racist theories. The documentary describes almost unbelievable cruelties committed against the peoples of the Americas and Africa by Europeans. For example, in the Congo, a vast region which King Leopold II of Belgium claimed as his private property, the women of villages were held as hostages while the men were forced to gather rubber in the forests. Since neither the men nor the women could produce food under these circumstances, starvation was the result.

Leopold's private army of 90,000 men were issued ammunition, and to make sure that they used it in the proper way, the army was ordered to cut off the hands of their victims and send them back as proof that the bullets had not been wasted. Human hands became a kind of currency, and hands were cut off from men, women and children when rubber quotas were not fulfilled. Sometimes more than a thousand human hands were gathered in a single day. During the rule of Leopold, roughly 10,000,000 Congolese were killed, which was approximately half the population of the region.

According to the racist theories that supported these atrocities, it was the duty of philanthropic Europeans like Leopold to bring civilization and the Christian religion to Africa. Similar theories were used to justify the genocides committed by Europeans against the native inhabitants of the Americas. Racist theories were also used to justify enormous cruelties committed by the British colonial government in India. For example, during the great famine of 1876-1878, in which ten million people died, the Viceroy, Lord Lytton, oversaw the export to England of a record 6.4 million hundredweight of wheat.

Meanwhile, in Europe,almost everyone was proud of the role which they were playing in the world. All that they read in newspapers and in books or heard from the pulpits of their churches supported the idea that they were serving the non-Europeans by bringing them the benefits of civilization and Christianity. On the whole, the mood of Europe during this orgy of external cruelty and exploitation, was self-congratulatory.

Can we not see a parallel with the self-congratulatory mood of the American people and their allies, who export violence, murder, torture and neocolonialism to the whole world, and who justify it by thinking of themselves as "exceptional"?

Confessions of an economic hit-man

A book by John Perkins, “Confessions of an Economic Hit-Man”, can give us a good understanding of the way in which our present economic system operates to further enrich wealthy nations and impovrish poor ones. Here are some excerpts:

"Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign "aid" organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet's natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization."

"I was initially recruited while I was in business school back in the late sixties by the National Security Agency, the nation’s largest and least understood spy organization; but ultimately I worked for private corporations. The first real economic hit man was back in the early 1950s, Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., the grandson of Teddy, who overthrew the government of Iran, a democratically elected government, Mossadegh’s government who was Time‘s magazine person of the year; and he was so successful at doing this without any bloodshed, well, there was a little bloodshed, but no military intervention, just spending millions of dollars and replaced Mossadegh with the Shah of Iran.”

“At that point, we understood that this idea of economic hit man was an extremely good one. We didn’t have to worry about the threat of war with Russia when we did it this way. The problem with that was that Roosevelt was a C.I.A. agent. He was a government employee. Had he been caught, we would have been in a lot of trouble. It would have been very embarrassing. So, at that point, the decision was made to use organizations like the C.I.A. and the N.S.A. to recruit potential economic hit men like me and then send us to work for private consulting companies, engineering firms, construction companies, so that if we were caught, there would be no connection with the government."

Debt slavery

At the moment, the issue of debt slavery is in the news because of the predicament of Greece and the intended fate of Ukraine, but the problem is a very general one.

If any quantity, for example indebtedness, is growing at the rate of 7% per year, the doubling time is only 9.9 years. At higher rates of interest, the doubling time is still less. If a debt remains unpaid for so long that it more than doubles, most of the repayments will go for interest, rather than for reducing the amount of the debt.

In the case of the debts of third world countries to private banks in the industrialized parts of the world and to the IMF, many of the debts were incurred in the 1970’s for purposes which were of no benefit to local populations, for example purchase of military hardware. Today the debts remain, although the amount paid over the years by the developing countries is very many times the amount originally borrowed.

Third world debt can be regarded as a means by which the industrialized nations extract raw materials from developing countries without any repayment whatever. In fact, besides extracting raw materials, they extract money. The injustice of this arrangement was emphasized recently by Pope Francis in his wonderful encyclical Laudato
Si’ .

Michael Klare's studies of resource wars

Dr. Michalel Klare holds the post of Five Colleges Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College, Amherst College, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has written 16 books exploring the relationship between natural resources and war.

Like Naomi Klein, Prof. Klare believes that the peace movement and the climate movement ought to join forces. In the following excellent short video, he discusses the reason why the the two movements must unite if either is to succeed:

Concluding remarks

From the discussion presented above, we can see that our present economic system produces an endless series of resource-motivated wars. In addition to the enormous suffering, waste, injustice and ecological destruction produced by modern wars, we must recognize that in an era of thermonuclear weapons, war has become prohibitively dangerous. Therefore we need a new economic system.

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. http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/ordbog/aord/a220.htm. He can be reached at avery.john.s@gmail.com

Also Read



  Read The Need For A New Economic System, Part 4 Neocolonialism And Resource Wars
  August 10, 2015
Green Left Pope Francis Demands Climate Action “Without Delay” To Prevent Climate “Catastrophe”

by Dr Gideon Polya, Countercurrents

In stark contrast to the terracidal One Percenters, Pope Francis recognizes a looming climate catastrophe and millions of premature deaths from carbon burning pollutants, demands massive decarbonisation and conversion to renewables starting without delay in the  next few years, rejects Carbon Trading as a dishonest ploy, advocates a fully borne Carbon Price (Carbon Tax) on polluters, proposes boycotts of polluters, condemns loss of biodiversity and advises intergenerational solidarity.

Pope Francis' landmark, faith- and science-informed  Encyclical “ Laudato si” (“Praised be”) runs to over 190 pages and has 246 sections [1] but the science-based,  humane essence for a climate change-threatened world can be summarized by his extraordinary use of some key terms and phrases.

Jesus Christ-informed, science-informed and indeed scientifically- and specifically chemically-trained Pope Francis in his landmark 2015  Encyclical  Letter “Laudato si” shows great moral and  technical  leadership  in stark contrast  to the greed-driven, pro-One Percenter, neoliberal   leadership  of the First World in:

(1) recognizing the worsening existential threat of a man-made climate change “catastrophe” for  the  Biosphere, Humanity, the poor and future generations (Section 4, [1]);

(2) recognizing that millions of  “premature deaths” (avoidable deaths) already occur each year due to pollution and poverty (Sections 20 and 48, [1]);  

(3) demanding urgent action “without delay” to start slashing fossil fuel burning and replacing it with renewable energy  “in the next few years” (Sections 26 and 165, [1]);

(4) asserting that the environmental and social costs of pollution must be “fully borne” by those incurring them (i.e. a full Carbon Price) (Section 195, [1]);  

(5) asserting that a market-based, Carbon Trading,  Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) approach may simply become a “ploy” to permit continuing pollution (Section 171 , [1]);  

(6) advocating individual and collective action through “boycotts” of those responsible for the worsening climate emergency (Section , [1]);

(7) decrying “the loss of biodiversity” and asserting that “we have no right” to do speciescide (Sections 32-42, especially 33, [1]),  and

(8) advocating “intergenerational solidarity” in recognition of the appalling intergenerational injustice  of climate change and environmental degradation  (Section 159, [1]).

These 8 key assertions of Pope Francis are in agreement with expert scientific  opinion as summarized below:  

(1) Re Pope Francis' climate change “catastrophe”, it is now very unlikely that the world will avoid a catastrophic 2 degrees Centigrade temperature rise.  The world may have only 3 years left at current rates of pollution before it exceeds a Terminal Carbon Budget that must not be exceeded  if we are to have a 75% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2C temperature rise [2] , the US used up its “fair share” of this budget in 2014 and a similarly climate criminal Australia used up its fair share of this Terminal Carbon Budget in 2011 [3, 4]. Indeed  paleoclimatologists, climate scientists, glaciologists and ice sheet scientists inform us that over 90% of the extra heat in recent decades has gone into the ocean,  the equilibrium consequence of 400 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere  is a sea level rise of  20 metres,  all Arctic summer sea ice may be gone within a decade,  and the present worsening situation  means a several metre sea level rise in the coming  century with the real threat of non-linear changes, tipping points and relatively sudden catastrophic changes [5, 6]. Increased temperature has already contributed to increased sea level, storm intensity, flooding and droughts i.e. climate catastrophe has already arrived for Island Nations, low-lying mega-delta nations like Bangladesh and desert countries like those of the Sahel, North Africa and the Middle East .

(2) Re Pope Francis' “premature deaths” from poverty and climate change,  the 3 key existential threats facing Humanity are nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty. Nuclear weapons can destroy all of Humanity with a nuclear terrorist rogue states now including  (upper estimates of numbers of warheads in brackets) the  US (7,315), Russia (8,000), Apartheid Israel (400), France (300), UK (250), China (250), Pakistan (120), India (100), and North Korea (less than 10) [7]. Already each year about 0.5 million people die  from climate change [8], and   7 million die from air pollution [9]. In prosperous, educated, advanced  Australia  about 100 people die annually  from heat stress and about 10,000 die from carbon burning pollutants, the breakdown being 5,000 (coal burning) ,  2,000 (vehicle exhaust) and 3,000 (other burning) [10].  Poverty kills and each year about 17 million people (half of them  children) die avoidably (prematurely) from deprivation or deprivation–exacerbated disease and  1.5 billion people have died thus since 1950 [11]. 10 billion people may perish prematurely (avoidably) this century, or an average of 100 million dying thus each year, if climate change is not requisitely addressed   [12].

(3)  Re Pope Francis' proposed massive decarbonisation commencing “without delay” and “in the next few years”, the world has already effectively run out of time to avoid a plus 2 degrees Centigrade catastrophe [2-6]. The World  needs to (a) change societal philosophy to one of scientific risk management, biological sustainability and Christ-like social humanism,  with complete cessation of species extinctions, and  zero tolerance for lying; (b) urgently reduce atmospheric CO2  to a safe, pre-Industrial Revolution level of about 300 ppm CO2 as recommended by leading climate and biological scientists [13, 14]; and (c) effect a rapid switch to the best non-carbon and genuinely renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tide and hydro options that are currently roughly the same market price as coal burning-based power and much cheaper if the true cost of coal burning is “fully borne”) and to energy efficiency, public transport, needs-based production, re-afforestation and return of carbon as biochar to soils coupled with correspondingly rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning, deforestation, methanogenic livestock production and population growth (the latter being disputed by Pope Francis) [15-20]. Unfortunately greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and atmospheric CO2 are remorselessly increasing, and World Bank  analysts have recently re-assessed the World's  annual GHG pollution as 50% bigger than hitherto thought, with livestock contributing  over 50% of the bigger figure  [16]. In exact agreement with Pope Francis' call for urgent action “without delay”, the Synthesis Report of the 2,500-delegate March 2009 Copenhagen Scientific Climate Change Conference concluded that “Inaction is inexcusable” [21] and a 2010 Open Letter by 255 members of the US National Academy of Sciences, including 11 Nobel Laureates, concluded: “Delay is not an option” [22].

(4) Re Pope Francis' “fully borne”  Carbon Price, Dr Chris Hope from 90-Nobel-Laureate University of  Cambridge, UK,  estimates a damage-related Carbon Price of $150-$250 per tonne CO2-equivalent [23] whereas in  coal- and gas-rich Australia the Labor Opposition proposes a derisory, ETS-based  Carbon Price of $7 per tonne CO2-equivalent and the “No Carbon Tax” Coalition Government insists on $0 per tonne CO2-equivalent, with both supporting unlimited coal, gas and iron ore exports that will see world-leading per capita GHG polluter Australia exceed the whole World's 2010-2050 Terminal Carbon Budget by a factor of 3 [24]. Applying a Carbon Price of US $200 per tonne CO2-equivalent, the World has an historical Carbon Debt of $540 trillion that is increasing at $20 trillion each year, and Australia has a Carbon Debt of $11 trillion that is increasing at $600 billion per year (increasing at about $60,000 each year per head for under-30 year old Australians) [3].

(5) Re Pope Francis' dismissal of Carbon Trading as a neoliberal “ploy”,  the Cap and Trade, Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) approach (supported by the pro-fossil fuels Australian Labor Opposition and  many in the pro-fossil fuels Australian Coalition Government) has been empirically unsuccessful, is accordingly counterproductive,  currently applies to only 12% of World GHG pollution, and is fraudulent in that it involves rich countries selling licences to pollute the one common atmosphere and ocean of all peoples [25]. Effective legislative actions to stop GHG pollution would involve tough laws  to stop climate crimes [26, 27] and effective market actions would involve  divestment from fossil fuels [28].

(6) Re Pope Francis' assent to “boycotts”, people who care for Humanity, the Biosphere and future generations must (a) inform everyone they can, and (b) apply Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all those disproportionately  involved in GHG pollution and the effective climate change denialism of climate change inaction. There is now massive global divestment in fossil fuels to avoid  both Climate Genocide [12] and investment yielding unusable “stranded assets” [28]. Boycotts , Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) were effective against the minority Apartheid regime in South Africa and are currently being  applied worldwide against the ongoing Palestinian Genocide by nuclear terrorist Apartheid Israel that has largely ethnically cleansed Palestine of Christian Palestinians and ethnically cleansed 90% of the land of Palestine  [29, 30].

(7) Re Pope Francis'  decrying the “loss of biodiversity”, it is estimated that the rate of species extinction is now 100-1,000 times greater than normal [31]. Life on Earth exists in defiance of the second Law of Thermodynamics that states that the entropy (or “disorder”) of the universe inevitably increases – but highly ordered life decreases entropy by feeding on free energy from the inanimate world.  The fundamental  dichotomy of “Beauty”  and “truth” was succinctly stated by British poet John Keats in the conclusion to his poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn”: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty," – that is all/  Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”. We simply cannot destroy things of beauty that we cannot replace. From an agnostic and secular Humanist  perspective, if  we have any “purpose” at all it is to defy the Second Law of Thermodynamics and  promote and preserve the Beauty and Truth of evolving, self-aware, and self-replicating  matter. The ongoing speciescide and ecocide are akin to egregious blasphemy and presage a catastrophic omnicide and terracide in an ongoing,  greed-driven, neoliberal War on Terra. Indeed the immense destructive impact of Humanity on the Biosphere has led scientist to describe the present era as the Anthropocene.

(8) Re Pope Francis' call for “intergenerational solidarity”, an extraordinary aspect of the continuing climate crime by the remorselessly greedy One Percenters is that the Biosphere that belongs to present and future generations is being  stolen for wilful destruction (speciescide, ecocide, omnicide and terracide) from future generations, this constituting egregious  intergenerational theft, intergenerational inequity and intergenerational injustice [26, 27]. The  huge historical   Carbon Debt from a global Carbon Economy can be obtained by an appropriate  Wealth Tax [32]. Ongoing GHG pollution must stop if we are to return atmospheric CO2 concentration to a safe 300 ppm CO2 from the present dangerous and damaging 400 ppm CO2 (as advocated by numerous scientists [18]) - and this means that the full, damage-related  cost of  ongoing GHG pollution must be “fully borne” by the polluters as recommended by Pope Francis  [1, 33]


Pope Francis' “Laudato si” is a landmark, faith-, science- and humanity-informed call to urgent  global action on climate change for Humanity and the Biosphere [1, 33].  Pope Francis recognizes a looming climate “catastrophe” and “millions of premature deaths” from carbon burning pollutants,  demands massive decarbonisation and conversion to renewables starting “without delay” and “in the  next few years”, rejects Carbon Trading as a dishonest “ploy”, advocates a “fully borne” Carbon Price (Carbon Tax) on polluters, proposes “boycotts” of polluters, condemns “loss of biodiversity” and advises “intergenerational solidarity”. 

In contrast to Pope Francis' science-informed agenda to seriously address man-made climate change, world leaders are paying lip-service to the worsening climate emergency and offering  “too little too late”. Thus US President Obama has a Clean Power Plan involving “32% off 2005 coal plant pollution by 2030”. However, while Obama recognizes the seriousness of man-made climate change and pollution-based premature deaths (avoidable deaths), he deceptively and mendaciously offers too little too late by 2030 – in effect,  a derisory  5% reduction in overall greenhouse  gas (GHG) pollution in 2030 [34].

Pope Francis' position on climate change has been described as “Green Left” by both a supporter,  Professor Robert Manne,  writing in The Monthly [35],  and by a detractor, Paul Kelly, writing  in The Australian newspaper of the neoliberal, pro-war, extreme right-wing and effective climate change denialist Murdoch media empire [36]. In the current circumstances in which over 7 million people already die each year from climate change and air pollution [8, 9] and 17 million die annually from deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease [11], “Green Left' is a badge of honour and humanity.  

It is now very likely that it is too late to avoid a catastrophic plus 2 degrees Centigrade temperature rise, but we are all obliged to do everything we can to make the future “less bad” than it otherwise will be for the Biosphere, our children and future generations. There are many things that decent folk – and especially young people - can do to help save Humanity,  the Biosphere and the Planet [37, 38] but chief among these are to (a) inform everyone they can, (b)  urge and apply Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all those climate criminal  people, politicians, parties, companies,   corporations and countries disproportionately complicit in the worsening climate crisis and climate change inaction, and (c) support Green Left politicians who want major action now and in Green Left Pope Francis' words “without delay”.

  Read  Green Left Pope Francis Demands Climate Action “Without Delay” To Prevent Climate “Catastrophe”
 August 12, 2015
The U.S. Is Now #2 Worldwide In Wind Power With 66 GW

by Michael Graham Richard, Treehugger.com, Countercurrents

Lately, most of the attention in the clean energy sector has been directed at solar, and for good reason. We're literally in the middle of an energy revolution, and I believe that solar will take over the world over the coming decades. But wind power keep chugging along, with prices falling over time - though not as dramatically as solar - and installed capacity going up. Every new turbine that goes up will keep producing clean power for decades to come at very little cost (basic maintenance, no fuel costs unlike fossil fuel power plants). In a manner of speaking, we are planting the seeds of tomorrow's greener future.

GWEC/Screen capture

Above you can see world wind power stats since 1997. While the annual installed capacity has been bouncing around a bit, the cumulative numbers (in red) show a pretty smooth ride upward. In 1997, 1.5 GW of new capacity was considered a lot, while last year we saw over 51 GW being added!

So the global numbers are nice, but how has wind power been doing lately in the U.S.? Glad you asked! The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has just released a report about this very thing.


DOE wind power report 2014/ DOE/Public Domain

The graph above shows similar data to the previous two graphs for global wind power, but combined into one. The blue bars show new additions each year, and the yellow line shows cumulative capacity. After a tough year in 2013, 2014 goes back up some to 4.8 GW of new wind power capacity.

Cumulative U.S. wind power capacity stood right under 66 GW at the end of 2014. This is enough to meet 4.9% of end-use electricity demand in an average year, so there's still a lot of work to be done.


DOE wind power report 2014/ DOE/Screen capture

This graph shows new electricity-generating capacity additions. You can see that in recent years both wind and solar are starting to be a much larger portion of the total. Last year, wind power represented 24% of U.S. electric-generating capacity additions, and since 2007, it has represented 33% of the total.


DOE wind power report 2014/ DOE/Public Domain

Here we break it down by countries. As you can see, China is the clear leader when it comes to wind power these days. Germany is doing well too - better than the U.S. despite being a smaller country - but in the next table below, you can see that the U.S. still ranks above Germany in total cumulative wind power capacity.


DOE wind power report 2014/ DOE/Public Domain

In my opinion it's a shame that the U.S. is so far behind China when it comes to wind power despite being a much richer country. The country should aim for clean energy leadership; it requires upfront investment, but infrastructure projects create jobs, and once they are built, we can benefit from them for decades with low-cost clean energy.

  Read  The U.S. Is Now #2 Worldwide In Wind Power With 66 GW
  August 13, 2015
Big Oil In Retreat

by Michael T. Klare, Countercurrents

The plunge of global oil prices began in June 2014, when benchmark Brent crude was selling at $114 per barrel. It hit bottom at $46 this January, a near-collapse widely viewed as a major but temporary calamity for the energy industry.  Such low prices were expected to force many high-cost operators, especially American shale oil producers, out of the market, while stoking fresh demand and so pushing those numbers back up again.  When Brent rose to $66 per barrel this May, many oil industry executives breathed a sigh of relief.  The worst was over.  The price had “reached a bottom” and it “doesn't look like it is going back,” a senior Saudi official observed at the time.

Skip ahead three months and that springtime of optimism has evaporated.  Major producers continue to pump out record levels of crude and world demand remains essentially flat. The result: a global oil glut that is again driving prices toward the energy subbasement.  In the first week of August, Brent fell to $49, and West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark for U.S. crude, sank to $45. On top of last winter's rout, this second round of price declines has played havoc with the profits of the major oil companies, put tens of thousands of people out of work, and obliterated billions of dollars of investments in future projects. While most oil-company executives continue to insist that a turnaround is sure to occur in the near future, some analysts are beginning to wonder if what's underway doesn't actually signal a fundamental transformation of the industry.

Recently, as if to underscore the magnitude of the current rout, ExxonMobil and Chevron, the top two U.S. oil producers, announced their worst quarterly returns in many years.  Exxon, America's largest oil company and normally one of its most profitable, reported a 52% drop in earnings for the second quarter of 2015.  Chevron suffered an even deeper plunge, with net income falling 90% from the second quarter of 2014.  In response, both companies have cut spending on exploration and production (“upstream” operations, in oil industry lingo).  Chevron also announced plans to eliminate 1,500 jobs.

Painful as the short-term consequences of the current price rout may be, the long-term ones are likely to prove far more significant.  To conserve funds and ensure continuing profitability, the major companies are cancelling or postponing investments in new production ventures, especially complex, costly projects like the exploitation of Canadian tar sands and deep-offshore fields that only turn a profit when oil is selling at $80 to $100 or more per barrel.

According to Wood Mackenzie, an oil-industry consultancy, the top firms have already shelved $200 billion worth of spending on new projects, including 46 major oil and natural gas ventures containing an estimated 20 billion barrels of oil or its equivalent.  Most of these are in Canada's Athabasca tar sands (also called oil sands) or in deep waters off the west coast of Africa.  Royal Dutch Shell has postponed its Bonga South West project, a proposed $12 billion development in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nigeria, while the French company Total has delayed a final investment decision on Zinia 2, a field it had planned to exploit off the coast of Angola.  “The upstream industry is winding back its investment in big pre-final investment decision developments as fast as it can,” Wood Mackenziereported in July.

As the price of oil continues on its downward course, the cancellation or postponement of such mega-projects has been sending powerful shock waves through the energy industry, and also ancillary industries, communities, and countries that depend on oil extraction for the bulk of their revenues. Consider it a straw in the wind that, in February, Halliburton, a major oil-services provider, announced layoffs of 7% of its work force, or about 6,000 people.  Other firms have announced equivalent reductions.

Such layoffs are, of course, impacting whole communities.  For instance, Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, the epicenter of the tar sands industry and not so long ago a boom town, has seen its unemployment rate double over the past year and public spending slashed.  Families that once enjoyed six-digit annual incomes are now turning to community food banks for essential supplies.  “In a very short time our world has changed, and changed dramatically,” observes Rich Kruger, chief executive of Imperial Oil, an Exxon subsidiary and major investor in Alberta's tar sands.

A similar effect can be seen on a far larger scale when it comes to oil-centric countries like Russia, Nigeria, and Venezuela.  All three are highly dependent on oil exports for government operations.  Russia's government relies on its oil and gas industry for 50% of its budget revenues, Nigeria for 75%, and Venezuela for 45%.  All three have experienced sharp drops in oil income.  The resulting diminished government spending has meant economic hardship, especially for the poor and marginalized, and prompted increased civil unrest.  In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has clearly sought to deflect attention from the social impact of reduced oil revenue by ­whipping up patriotic fervor about the country's military involvement in Ukraine.  Russia's actions have, however, provoked Western economic sanctions, only adding to its economic and social woes.

No Relief in Sight

What are we to make of this unexpected second fall in oil prices?  Could we, in fact, be witnessing a fundamental shift in the energy industry?  To answer either of these questions, consider why prices first fell in 2014 and why, at the time, analysts believed they would rebound by the middle of this year.

The initial collapse was widely attributed to three critical factors: an extraordinary surge in production from shale formations in the United States, continued high output by members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) led by Saudi Arabia, and a slackening of demand from major consuming nations, especially China.

According to the Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy, crude oil production in the United States took aleap from 5.6 million barrels per day in June 2011 to 8.7 million barrels in June 2014, a mind-boggling increase of 55% in just three years.  The addition of so much new oil to global markets -- thanks in large part to the introduction of fracking technology in America's western energy fields -- occurred just as China's economy (and so its demand for oil) was slowing, undoubtedly provoking the initial price slide.  Brent crude went from $114 to $84 per barrel, a drop of 36% between June and October 2014.

Historically, OPEC has responded to such declines by scaling back production by its member states, and so effectively shoring up prices.  This time, however, the organization, which met in Vienna last November, elected to maintain production at current levels, ensuring a global oil glut.  Not surprisingly, in the weeks after the meeting, Brent prices went into free fall, ending up at $55 per barrel on the last day of 2014.

Most industry analysts assumed that the Persian Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, were simply willing to absorb a temporary loss of income to force the collapse of U.S. shale operators and other emerging competitors, including tar sands operations in Canada and deep-offshore ventures in Africa and Brazil.  A senior Saudi official seemed to confirm this in May, telling the Financial Times, “There is no doubt about it, the price fall of the last several months has deterred investors away from expensive oil including U.S. shale, deep offshore, and heavy oils.”

Believing that the Saudi strategy had succeeded and noting signs of increasing energy demand in China, Europe, and the United States, many analysts concluded that prices would soon begin to rise again, as indeed they briefly did.  It now appears, however, that these assumptions were off the mark.  While numerous high-cost projects in Canada and Africa were delayed or cancelled, the U.S. shale industry has found ways to weather the downturn in prices.  Some less-productive wells have indeed been abandoned, but drillers also developed techniques to extract more oil less expensively from their remaining wells and kept right on pumping.  “We can't control commodity prices, but we can control the efficiency of our wells,” said one operator in the Eagle Ford region of Texas.  “The industry has taken this as a wake-up call to get more efficient or get out.”

Responding to the challenge, the Saudis ramped up production, achieving a record 10.3 million barrels per day in May 2014.  Other OPEC members similarly increased their output and, to the surprise of many, the Iraqi oil industry achieved unexpected production highs, despite the country's growing internal disorder.  Meanwhile, with economic sanctions on Iran expected to ease in the wake of its nuclear deal with the U.S., China, France, Russia, England, and Germany, that country's energy industry is soon likely to begin gearing up to add to global supply in a significant way.

With ever more oil entering the market and a future seeded with yet more of the same, only an unlikely major boost in demand could halt a further price drop.  Although American consumers are driving more and buying bigger vehicles in response to lower gas prices, Europe shows few signs of recovery from its present austerity moment, and China, following a catastrophic stock market contraction in June, is in no position to take up the slack.  Put it all together and the prognosis seems inescapable: low oil prices for the foreseeable future.

A Whole New Ballgame?

Big Energy is doing its best to remain optimistic about the situation, believing a turnaround is inevitable. “Globally in the industry $130 billion of projects have been delayed, deferred, or cancelled,” Bod Dudley, chief executive of BP, commented in June.  “That's going to have an impact down the road.”

But what if we've entered a new period in which supply just keeps expanding while demand fails to take off?  For one thing, there's no evidence that the shale and fracking revolution that has turned the U.S. into “Saudi America” will collapse any time soon.  Although some smaller operators may be driven out of business, those capable of embracing the newest cost-cutting technologies are likely to keep pumping out shale oil even in a low-price environment.

Meanwhile, there's Iran and Iraq to take into account.  Those two countries are desperate for infusions of new income and possess some of the planet's largest reserves of untapped petroleum.  Over the decades, both have been ravaged by war and sanctions, but their energy industries are now poised for significant growth.  To the surprise of analysts, Iraqi production rose from 2.4 million barrels per day in 2010 to 4 million barrels this summer.  Some experts are convinced that by 2020 total output, including from the country's semiautonomous Kurdistan region, could more than double to 9 million barrels.  Of course, continued fighting in Iraq, which has already lost major cities in the north to the Islamic State and its new “caliphate,” could quickly undermine such expectations.  Still, through years of chaos, civil war, and insurgency, the Iraqi energy industry has proven remarkably resilient and adept first at sustaining and then boosting its output.

Iran's once mighty oil industry, crippled by fierce economic sanctions, has suffered from a lack of access to advanced Western drilling technology.  At about 2.8 million barrels per day in 2014, its crude oil production remains far below levels experts believe would be easily attainable if modern technology were brought to bear.  Once the Iran nuclear deal is approved -- by the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese, even if the U.S. Congress shoots it down -- and most sanctions lifted, Western companies are likely to flock back into the country, providing the necessary new oil technology and knowhow in return for access to its massive energy reserves.  While this wouldn't happen overnight -- it takes time to restore a dilapidated energy infrastructure -- output could rise by one million barrels per day within a year, and considerably more after that.

All in all, then, global oil production remains on an upward trajectory.  What, then, of demand?  On this score, the situation in China will prove critical.   That country has, after all, been the main source of new oil demand since the start of this century.  According to BP, oil consumption in China rose from 6.7 million barrels per day in 2004 to 11.1 million barrels in 2014.  As domestic production only amounts to about 4 million barrels per day, all of those additional barrels represented imported energy.  If you want a major explanation for the pre-2014 rise in the price of oil, rapid Chinese growth -- and expectations that its spurt in consumption would continue into the indefinite future -- is it.

Woe, then, to the $100 barrel of oil, since that country's economy has been cooling off since 2014 and its growth is projected to fall below 7% this year, the lowest rate in decades.  This means, in turn, less demand for extra oil.  China's consumption rose only 300,000 barrels per day in 2014 and is expected to remain sluggish for years to come.  “[T]he likelihood now is that import growth will be minimal for the next two or three years,” energy expert Nick Butler of the Financial Times observed.  “That in turn will compound and extend the existing surplus of supply over demand.”

Finally, don't forget the Paris climate summit this December.  Although no one yet knows what, if anything, it will accomplish, dozens of countries have already submitted preliminary plans for the steps they will pledge to take to reduce their carbon emissions.  These include, for example, tax breaks and other incentives for those acquiring hybrid and electric-powered cars, along with increased taxes on oil and other forms of carbon consumption.  Should such measures begin to kick in, demand for oil will take another hit and conceivably its use will actually drop years before supplies become scarce.

Winners and Losers

The initial near collapse of oil prices caused considerable pain and disarray in the oil industry.  If this second rout continues for any length of time, it will undoubtedly produce even more severe and unpredictable consequences. Some outcomes already appear likely: energy companies that cannot lower their costs will be driven out of business or absorbed by other firms, while investment in costly, “unconventional” projects like Canadian tar sands, ultra-deep Atlantic fields, and Arctic oil will largely disappear.  Most of the giant oil companies will undoubtedly survive, but possibly in downsized form or as part of merged enterprises.

All of this is bad news for Big Energy, but unexpectedly good news for the planet. As a start, those “unconventional” projects like tar sands require more energy to extract oil than conventional fields, which means a greater release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Heavier oils like tar sands and Venezuelan extra-heavy crude also contain more carbon than do lighter fuels and so emit more carbon dioxide when consumed. If, in addition, global oil consumption slows or begins to contract, that, too, would obviously reduce carbon dioxide emissions, slowing the present daunting pace of climate change.

Most of us are used to following the ups and downs of the Dow Jones Industrial Average as a shorthand gauge for the state of the world economy.  However, following the ups and downs of the price of Brent crude may, in the end, tell us far more about world affairs on our endangered planet.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What's Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @mklare1.

Copyright 2015 Michael T. Klare

  Read  Big Oil In Retreat
  July 14, 2015
Global Warming Is Causing Rain to Melt the Greenland Ice Sheet

by John Abraham, The Guardian, AlterNet

Greenland, one of the largest ice sheets in the world, is melting. In fact, it is melting ahead of schedule as the world warms. Scientists are working hard to deepen their understanding of this ice sheet’s behavior so that we can predict how fast and how much of the ice sheet will melt in the coming decades and centuries.

It might seem obvious that in a warming world, the Greenland ice sheet will melt. But, what seems obvious and simple can be more complex when investigated more deeply. With respect to Greenland, it is expected that warmer temperatures increase melting but warmer temperatures can also mean more snowfall, as there is more moisture in warm air which can then fall as snow. So, it has been a question of which of these two competing processes would win out. Would Greenland get smaller because of melting or would it grow as more snow fell?

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Over the past few years, the verdict has become clear. The Greenland ice sheet is losing mass at an increasing rate. In fact, Greenland currently contributes twice as much as the Antarctic to rising sea levels.


Extent of surface melt over Greenland’s ice sheet on July 8 (left) and July 12 (right), 2012. For several days this month, Greenland's surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations. Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland, from its thin, low-lying coastal edges to its two-mile-thick center, experienced some degree of melting at its surface, according to measurements from three independent satellites analyzed by NASA and university scientists. (image: NASA)

A new study, just published in Nature Geoscience, makes an important new contribution to our understanding of the forces at play in Greenland. Dr. Samuel Doyle and an international team captured the wide-scale effects of an unusual week of warm, wet weather in late August and early September, 2011. They found that cyclonic weather led to extreme surface runoff – a combination of ice melt and rain – that overwhelmed the ice sheet’s basal drainage system. This drive a marked increase in ice flow across the entire western sector of the ice sheet that extended 140 km into the ice sheet’s interior. According to Dr. Doyle:

It wasn’t just rainfall. We saw 10 to 15 percent of the total annual surface melt occur in this event in late summer 2011. When this water reached the bed, the ice sheet lifted up and moved faster towards the sea.


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The cyclonic weather system delivered heat and rain to the western edge of the Greenland ice sheet and under these warm, wet, cloudy conditions the way that the ice sheet receives energy for melt is very different to that under the more typical clear sky conditions. As we all know from a cloudy day, clouds block a certain amount of sunshine, but under certain conditions they can absorb the outgoing longwave radiation and re-radiate it back to the surface. This is why a cloudy night is often warmer than when the sky is clear. The same thing happens on the ice sheet.

In fact during the August 2011 weather event, melt continued throughout both day and night creating exceptionally high daily melt totals for this time of year. Moisture in the atmosphere also reduces the rate at which the air cools as it rises over the ice sheet, allowing warm temperatures and therefore melt and rain to attain abnormally high elevations. The heat released by condensation and by rain refreezing in the snowpack enhanced melt even further.


Ice sheets contain a record of hundreds of thousands of years of past climate, trapped in the ancient snow. Scientists recover this climate history by drilling cores in the ice, some of them over 3,500 meters (11,000 feet) deep. These photographs show experimental drilling on the Greenland Ice Cap in summer 2005. (images: Reto Stöckli/NASA GSFC)

Even given these factors, the water runoff from melt and rain did not exceed mid-summer peak values when ice flow was relatively slow. This is because the ice sheet’s drainage system continually adapts to melt inputs: in mid-summer an efficient drainage system forms and the ice sheet can easily accommodate high water inputs. This isn’t the case in late summer though, as the drainage system rapidly freezes shut when air temperatures fall below zero. Dr. Doyle told me:

The late-summer timing was critical. The event occurred after the end of the melt season and the ice-sheet’s drainage system had started to close down. In this state the ice sheet’s drainage system just couldn’t cope.

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Professor Alun Hubbard added:

It is like an urban sewerage system that is temporarily overwhelmed by an intense rain-storm. The ice sheet plumbing – literally a network of pipes, cavities and channels - gets backed up by the sheer quantity of runoff draining into it, leading to flooding and high water pressures, which literally lifts the ice sheet up off its bed, reducing basal friction and sending it on its way.

If the precise timing of rainfall/melt events is critical to the ice sheets flow response, predicting the future of the Greenland ice sheet may therefore be a more difficult task than was originally thought. After all, weather is notoriously difficult to predict. Hubbard concluded:

The jury is out as to whether the ‘rainfall’ event identified in our study has a lasting influence on the evolution of the Greenland ice sheet. Just as in many regions of the planet, observed climate warming doesn’t just mean hotter summers and milder winters; it’s more complex than that and more often it means more intense storm events at unusual times of the year.

So why do we care about this? Well, in a warming world, we expect, and are already observing, increases in warm, wet weather in place of snowfall, so the effect the authors find may be more important if predicted changes in Greenland’s climate are realized.

Professor Jason Box summed it up:

We’re seeing that warm wet weather that is increasing with climate change is driving more melt of the Greenland ice-sheet than we thought. And worryingly, this melt is reaching higher elevations on the ice sheet.

The influence of such intense rainfall events has not, until now, been considered in assessments of the melt and flow response of any ice sheet. This is an important omission because cyclonic conditions are predicted to increase in the future, therefore likely playing an increasing role in driving ice mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet.


Monthly smoothed (purple) and unsmoothed (blue) values of the total mass (in Gigatons, Gt), of the Greenland ice sheet from GRACE March 2002-September 2012.

Since the 1980s when rainfall measurements began in the west Greenland town of Kangerlussuaq, the focus of the study, the proportion of precipitation now falling as rainfall rather than snow has both increased and extended into the late summer and autumn in line with increased circulation and moisture availability within a warmer, more energetic atmosphere.

The future of Greenland will have a significant influence on sea level rise. Current IPCC predictions of up to about a meter of sea level rise by 2100 are likely underestimates; many cryosphere experts think we could have even more than this sea level rise. Dealing with a changing climate will therefore present significant social and economic problems. For instance, 150 million people around the world currently live within 1 meter of sea level. What happens when coastal communities are displaced by rising waters?

Let’s anxiously await the next results from this important research project.


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Dr. John Abraham is a professor of thermal sciences. He researches in climate monitoring and renewable energy generation for the developing world. His energy development work has extended to Africa, South America and Asia.

  Read  Global Warming Is Causing Rain to Melt the Greenland Ice Sheet
  July 23, 2015
What the World Needs from the Paris Climate Conference

by Jeff Hayward, Rainforest Alliance, AlterNet

The U.N. climate conference, to be held in Paris in December, represents the culmination of decades of complex climate negotiations that began in 1992. The COP21, as the conference is known, may well be the endgame — our last, best chance to achieve a global, legally binding climate agreement.

We desperately need one in order to curb fossil fuel emissions, put a price on carbon, and drive investments in climate-smart practices and technologies. But a Paris treaty must take a much bolder approach than simply reducing fossil fuel emissions. In most of the world — nearly 60 developing countries — deforestation and agriculture generate far more greenhouse gas emissions than the burning of fossil fuels.

How land is used — agriculture, forestry and other land-altering activities like suburban sprawl and mining — is therefore a key piece of the climate puzzle. Land use accounts for nearly a quarter of global GHG emissions, including approximately 10 percent from clearing forests for crops and grazing and another 10 – 12 percent from conventional methods of tilling the soil, raising livestock, applying chemical fertilizers and burning fields. These emissions could be greatly reduced through more sustainable practices.

Our decisions regarding land use have lasting and profound consequences. Reckless development can lead to major carbon emissions, while smart conservation strategies create important opportunities to fight global warming. Healthy forests and ecosystems actually pull carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in trees, plants and soil. Forests have the potential to capture and store 10–14 percent of gross carbon emissions from the atmosphere, while the land sector as a whole could sequester more than 25 percent.

At this juncture, the world needs developing countries with intact tropical forests to make a huge, positive contribution to fighting climate change by conserving their workhorse ecosystems. This despite the fact that developed countries like the United States are among the world’s biggest polluters, past and present; for example, the average per capita carbon emissions in Latin America are about one-seventh of U.S. per capita emissions.

Yet while tropical forests in the global South store the most carbon and harbor the most biodiversity in the world, they’re also under the greatest pressure to be cleared for timber and agriculture to meet the rising demands of our growing global population. And these regions tend to suffer the most from the impacts of global warming, such as climate-related diseases and extreme weather.

Previous COP meetings have foundered over the injustice of this asymmetry between developing countries and developed countries. Yet although this issue is still important, it is no longer as divisive as it once was. There’s now broad consensus that we must fight climate change with everything we’ve got, and forward-thinking land use is one of our most powerful tools. The major role forests play in climate protection is now so widely acknowledged that hundreds of major companies have promised to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains (meaning that they’ve pledged to stop sourcing materials from suppliers who cut forests down). Many have signed onto pledges like the New York Declaration on Forests or the Consumer Goods Forum. Of course, there’s much more to protecting forests than simply making a “deforestation-free” declaration, but it is encouraging to see these companies taking action.

COP21 must build on this momentum by defining exactly how to cut emissions and sequester carbon on farmland and forestland. The challenge is for world leaders to find a way forward that balances food security and social and economic impacts — including the livelihoods and rights of people in developing countries — with the demands of a population that is expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050.

To fight climate change effectively through land use, we will have to apply a full range of sustainability strategies beyond “zero-deforestation,” including climate-smart agriculture, increased yields and livelihoods for farmers on existing cropland (so they don’t resort to clearing more forest), and economic incentives to keep forests standing. We must also protect water and non-forest ecosystems. Finally, we have to restore lands degraded by irresponsible farming and livestock production. Concerted efforts in these areas could sequester more carbon — but more importantly, they are essential to protecting whole landscapes of viable, interdependent ecosystems.

Better land use is mission-critical for building a sustainable and just global economy — and imperative for protecting the world’s rapidly disappearing forests, habitats and species, and as well as to reducing emissions. One of the more hopeful aspects of COP21 is that the delegates heading to Paris recognize this. This time around, land use issues are likely to be consensus-builders instead of deal-breakers.


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Jeff Hayward is the director of Rainforest Alliance’s climate program. He will lead a Rainforest Alliance delegation to work on land use issues at the COP21 meeting in Paris in December 2015.

  Read  What the World Needs from the Paris Climate Conference
  July 20, 2015
7 Climate Records Broken in 2014 Reveal Earth Is ‘Gravely Ill’

by Anastasia Pantsios, EcoWatch, AlterNet

The annual State of the Climate report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and American Meteorological Society assembles climate studies and reports from the previous year in one package. The 25th annual report is out and the news isn’t good: indicators of climate change show up everywhere.

Click on image to enlarge: Geographical distribution of notable climate anomalies and events occurring around the world in 2014. (image: NOAA State of the Climate report)

“Most of the dozens of essential climate variables monitored each year in this report continued to follow their long-term trends in 2014, with several setting new records,” the report said.

A lot of the 292-page study is highly technical as it incorporates the work of more than 400 scientists analyzing everything from temperatures to precipitation to extreme weather events to ice melt all over the world. But one of the main conclusions of the report is how much things are changing and how quickly.

Perhaps Jeff Severinghaus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography provides the best takeaway from the report, saying, if this is Earth’s annual checkup, “the doctor is saying ‘you are gravely ill.'”

Here are seven climate records broken in 2014:

1. Hottest Year: Records for the hottest temperature were set around the world with the highest average global surface temperature since record-keeping began, according to four separate analyses. Records were shattered everywhere. Europe and Mexico had their warmest years ever, while Argentina and Uruguay had their second hottest years and Australia its third warmest after enduring all-time record heat in 2013. Africa and Asia also had above-average temperatures.


This table lists the global combined land and ocean annually-averaged temperature rank and anomaly for each of the 10 warmest years on record. (Chart: NOAA)

“Warmer-than-average conditions were present across much of the world’s land and ocean surfaces during 2014,” the report said. “These contributed to a global average temperature that was the highest or joint highest since records began in the mid-to-late 1800s. Over land surfaces, Eurasia and western North America were particularly warm, while noticeable cold was felt in eastern North America, which suffered several Arctic cold-air outbreaks in early 2014. The frequency of warm extreme temperatures was above average for all regions apart from North America.”

2. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Driving those temperature increases were all the major heat-trapping greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, which reported record high atmospheric concentrations. Carbon levels at Mauna Loa stayed above 400 ppm from April through June, and globally the average was 397.2ppm. Methane concentrations rose as well, with an increase that’s bigger than the average annual increase of the past decade.

3. Sea Surface Temperature: The average sea surface temperature globally was the highest on record, with especially warm temperatures in the western Atlantic and central and northeast Pacific. While this didn’t drive an El Niño event in 2014, scientists expect one to arrive in 2015.

4. Ocean Temperature: The heat content of the ocean’s waters also set a record, reflecting the fact that the oceans absorb more than 90 percent of the heat trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere by greenhouse gases. As greenhouse gases rise, therefore, so do ocean temperatures.


Ocean heat content each year since 1993 compared to the 1993-2013 average (dashed line) from a variety of data sources. Exact estimates differ among data sets, but they all show the same upward trend. Graph adapted from Figure 3.7 in State of the Climate in 2014.

5. Sea Level Rise: Sea levels are setting records too. Sea levels are now about 67 millimeters, or about 2.6 inches, higher than they were in 1993. Factors contributing to this rise include the melting of glaciers and other sea ice, the fact that water expands as it warms and melting land ice flowing out to sea.


(Click to enlarge) Global sea level each year since 1993 compared to the 1993 average (dashed line). Graph adapted from Plate 1.1x in State of the Climate in 2014.

6. Greenland Ice Melt: The Greenland ice sheet was above average in its rate for melt for 90 percent of the regular melt season. It hit a record low for August in how much of the sun’s energy is reflected off its surface. Melting darkens the ice sheet’s surface, making it less able to reflect the sun’s energy.


a) Map of Greenland Ice Sheet surface albedo for summer (June to August) 2014, relative to the summer average 2000-2011, b) Average surface albedo of the whole ice sheet each summer since 2000, and c) Average surface albedo of the ice sheet each August since 2000. Image courtesy: American Meteorological Society

7. Antarctic Ice Melt: Antarctic sea ice set a different record—for highest sea ice extent, which has broken records three years running. One possible reason for that is changing wind patterns, scientists say. Without land to block it as in the Arctic, ice near land blows out to sea, exposing open water, which then freezes. While it might sound counterintuitive to the idea of a warming planet, it’s indicative of  potentially climate change-driven atmospheric shifts.

“As we step into the next quarter-century of this report’s life, we look forward to seeing our Earth science disciplines grow to meet the challenges associated with documenting the evolving state of our planet’s climate system in this series,” says the report. “These challenges are not just in observing and documenting, but in connecting: across the climate system’s several major components and associated myriad sub-components, the time scales and observing practices related to these, and the possibilities of satellite-era Big Data with the longevity and purpose of more traditional observations.”


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Anastasia Pantsios is an Akron, Ohio-based writer, researcher and photographer who has covered hard news with a focus on election and women’s issues, music, the arts and culture.

  Read  7 Climate Records Broken in 2014 Reveal Earth Is ‘Gravely Ill’
  August 4, 2015
Too Many Humans: Overpopulation Is Bad for People and the Planet

by Robert Walker, Population Institute, AlterNet

The ability to space or prevent a pregnancy can make all the difference in the world to girls and women. That does not require much explanation. Reproductive choice, however, is also a potential game changer for developing countries. That’s because rapid population growth is a challenge multiplier that can impede efforts to reduce poverty, alleviate hunger, boost educational attainment, manage water scarcity, improve basic services, and prevent environmental degradation. 

Thanks to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a great deal of progress has been made in improving lives in the developing world over the past 15 years. Substantial gains have been made in alleviating poverty, reducing the incidence of hunger and malnutrition, and improving conditions for the poorest of the poor. By far, however, the biggest gains have been made in countries with relatively low fertility rates. In countries where fertility rates remain very high, progress has been slow and, in a few cases, nonexistent. 

Last month, the Population Institute released a first of its kind report titled, “Demographic Vulnerability: Where population growth poses the greatest challenges.” The report identifies and ranks the 20 developing nations facing the greatest demographic challenges with respect to hunger, poverty, water, environment and political instability. South Sudan topped our list of the most vulnerable. The others in the top ten include Somalia, Niger, Burundi, Eritrea, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Sudan. In many of these countries, conflict is impeding the ability of their governments to meet the needs of a growing population. In others, widespread corruption or climate change will create obstacles to progress. In a few of them, water scarcity is already a major concern.

Even if fertility rates continue to decline, population in almost all of the countries profiled in our report will likely double in the next 35 years. Three of the countries on our list — South Sudan, Niger, and Zambia — will likely triple their population by midcentury. 

The best way to understand the scope of these demographic challenges is to look at some of the individual countries profiled in our report.

Niger, which we ranked third for demographic vulnerability, also ranks number one in the world for poverty. Because child hunger and malnutrition are chronic in many parts of the country, Niger is heavily dependent upon emergency food aid for its survival. The Population Reference Bureau, however, projects that Niger’s population will rise from 18.2 million today to 68 million over the next 35 years.

Burundi, which we ranked third for demographic vulnerability, was afflicted by a brutal civil war from 1993 to 2006 and experts are concerned that recent election disputes could trigger a full-scale resumption of hostilities. According to the 2014 Global Hunger Index, Burundi was the hungriest nation in the world. Its population, however, is projected to increase from 10.5 million in 2014 to 26.7 million by 2050.

Yemen, which ranked ninth in our survey, is one of the most water stressed countries in the world, and the civil war that is now engulfing the country is exacerbating the escalating water crisis. Experts say that Sanaa, the capital city, could run out of water within a decade, but Yemen’s population is expected to increase from 26.6 million to 38.3 million over the next 35 years. Yemen, one of the poorest, hungriest and conflict-afflicted countries in the world, faces a very uncertain future.

Reproductive freedom in these countries is not just a moral imperative; it’s a humanitarian imperative. Gender inequality and child marriage practices in many of these countries deny women the ability to decide for themselves how many children they will have and when. As a result, women are unable to plan their pregnancies and their families face an uphill struggle in their efforts to improve their lives.


Nearly a decade ago the United Nations set 2015 as the target year for achieving the MDG 5(b) goal of providing universal access to family planning and other reproductive health services. That goal, unfortunately, has not been met. In fact, the number of women in the developing world who want to avoid a pregnancy, but who are not using a modern method of contraception, remains essentially unchanged from a decade ago. The latest estimate is 225 million women. As a consequence, fertility rates in developing countries remain high and global population projections are steadily increasing.

World population today is 7.3 billion, but the U.N. last week projected that population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. That’s about 600 million higher than the projection that was made just six years ago.  And virtually all of that added population growth is occurring in the poorest of the developing nations.

Unless more is done by the U.S. and other donor countries to educate girls, empower women, and boost support for family planning services and information, the U.N.’s goal of ensuring that all women have access to reproductive health services will not be met anytime soon. Fertility rates, as a result, will remain high, and dreams of eliminating poverty and hunger will remain elusive.

Reproductive choice can be a game changer for developing countries struggling to escape poverty and hunger, but only if we make reproductive freedom a reality.


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Robert Walker is the president of the Population Institute, an international 501(c)(3) nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. The Institute seeks to promote universal access to family planning information, education and services.

  Read  Too Many Humans: Overpopulation Is Bad for People and the Planet
 August 12, 2015
World’s Glaciers Melting Faster Than Ever

by Environmental News Service, AlterNet

The current rate of glacier melt around the world is unprecedented in recorded history, new research by the World Glacier Monitoring Service demonstrates.

Based at the University of Zurich, the World Glacier Monitoring Service compiles the results of worldwide glacier observations in annual calls-for-data from its national correspondents in more than 30 countries.

The current database contains more than 5,000 measurements of glacier volume and mass changes since 1850 and more than 42,000 front variations from observations and reconstructions reaching back to the 16th century.

The service has published its new comprehensive analysis of global glacier changes in the Journal of Glaciology.

In this study, observations of the first decade of the 21st century were compared to all available earlier data from in-situ, air-borne, and satellite-borne observations and to reconstructions from images and written sources.

“The observed glaciers currently lose between half a meter and one meter of its ice thickness every year – this is two to three times more than the corresponding average of the 20th century,” explains Michael Zemp, director of the World Glacier Monitoring Service and lead author of the study.

“Exact measurements of this ice loss are reported from a few hundred glaciers only. However, these results are qualitatively confirmed from field and satellite-based observations for tens of thousands of glaciers around the world.”

The study shows that the long-term retreat of glacier tongues is a global phenomenon.

Intermittent re‐advance periods at regional and decadal scales are normally restricted to a subsample of glaciers and have not come close to achieving the Little Ice Age maximum positions reached between the 16th and 19th century, the study concludes.

Glacier tongues in Norway have retreated by some kilometers from its maximum extents in the 19th century. The intermittent re-advances of the 1990s were restricted to glaciers in the coastal area and to a few hundred meters.

The study indicates that the intense ice loss of the past two decades has resulted in a strong imbalance of glaciers in many regions of the world.

“These glaciers will suffer further ice loss, even if climate remains stable,” said Zemp.

The World Glacier Monitoring Service is hosted at the Department of Geography of the University of Zurich. It is co-financed by the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology MeteoSwiss within the framework of GCOS Switzerland.

In close collaboration with the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center and the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space initiative, the WGMS runs the Global Terrestrial Network for Glaciers in support of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.


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  Read  World’s Glaciers Melting Faster Than Ever
  August 6, 2015
Key Greenhouse Gas Study May Have Systematically Understated Methane Leaks

by Sharon Kelly, DeSmogBlog, AlterNet

A widely cited study on the amount of methane leaking from oil and gas sites, including fracked wells, shows signs of a major flaw, a newly published peer-reviewed paper concludes.

“The University of Texas reported on a campaign to measure methane emissions from United States natural gas production sites as part of an improved national inventory,” researcher Touché Howard wrote in a paperpublished today in the journal Energy Science & Engineering. “Unfortunately, their study appears to have systematically underestimated emissions.”

The University of Texas study, the first in a 16-part research series backed by the oil and gas industry and the Environmental Defense Fund , had been hailed as “unprecedented” when it was published in October 2013. The drilling industry and its supporters cited it as clear-cut evidence that methane leaks were lower than previously believed and falling further due to new technology.

The study's key contribution to the science on methane leaks was that researchers were allowed to access to oil and gas wells, including 27 wells where fracking was underway, and test individual pieces of equipment. “This is actual data, and it’s the first time we’ve had the opportunity to get actual data from unconventional natural gas development,” Mark Brownstein, an Environmental Defense Fund associate vice president,

But the problem stems from the tool that the University of Texas study used to collect its data – which can malfunction when leaks are spewing at high rates. The “University of Texas study underestimates national methane emissions at natural gas production sites due to instrument sensor failure,” Mr. Howard, who invented the basic technology used by that instrument, wrote.

How big could the resulting problem be? “Over 98 percent of the [methane] inventory calculated from their own data and 41 percent of their compiled national inventory may be affected by this measurement failure,” the new paper concludes. Correcting that data isn't a realistic possibility, since erroneous readings could have been off by a small amount or as much as 100-fold.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas which warms the climate 86 times more than an equal amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the first two decades after it leaks – and if enough methane leaking from the nation's oil and gas sites, burning natural gas could be worse for the climate than burning coal. Studies of methane leaks nationwide have come to conclusions that suggest very different leakage rates – some that could suggest gas could be a better fuel for the climate than coal, and others that suggest that using gas over coal for electricity could quickly move the climate from the frying pan into the fire.

The $18 million 16-part research seriesaims to provide a comprehensive national leakage rate that policy-makers can rely on – which is why the new evidence that a major part of their research relies on problematic data is so important.

“If Howard's right, we'll need to review other emission estimates used in EPA inventories,” Robert Jackson, an earth science professor at Stanford University who studies methane leaks, told Inside Climate News. “We need to sort this out as quickly as possible.”

Mr. Howard's paper does not prove that the UT study understated the amount of methane that leaked at those wells, but it describes several red flags that strongly suggest that tool malfunctions led to problems.

“That such an obvious problem could escape notice in this high profile, landmark study highlights the need for increased vigilance in all aspects of quality assurance for all [methane] emission rate measurement programs,” his newly published paper concludes.

A Problem of Measurement

The University of Texas study used three Bacharach brand meters, which generally cost around $20,000 each, to collect its data. The meters are not only sometimes used to measure leaks reported to the EPA by drillers, but they're also used by the industry to identify what leaks are most serious and merit the fastest repairs.

Back in March, a peer-reivewed paper published in the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association and also co-authored by Mr. Howard, concluded that the Bacharach meter has a troubling flaw. The meter relies on two different sensors – a sensitive one to sniff out small leaks and a more powerful one to measure leaks with higher amounts of methane. The meter is designed to switch from one sensor to the other when methane leaks rise – but it turns out that something can go wrong in that handoff, the researchers found.

That problem can cause the Bacharach meter to provide erroneously low readings. “[W]e've never seen it get stuck in the high range – it's always comes back down to the low range and to zero,” Mr. Howard told DeSmog.

Mr. Howard, who currently works as a firefighter, holds the patent for the technology underlying the Bacharach meters but was not directly involved in developing the Bacharach meter (nor is he a direct competitor for Bacharach, as he does not market other similar meters, though he does use a custom-built version for his own sampling work).

“In the [University of Texas] pneumatic study, as part of testing their Hi-Flow, I discovered that one of the meters they were using to measure emissions from pneumatic devices was measuring a factor of three too low,” Mr. Howard said.

That discovery drove him to take an even closer look – and he found evidence that the data reported by the University of Texas was likely affected by the faulty switchover between sensors. The data itself seem to show patterns that suggest low readings came from a problem meter, not low actual leak rates – and those patterns held true even when taking into account how new technology or different state regulations could have made leak rates fall.

The University of Texas researchers had tried to catch potential errors by adding tracers to the gas – but Mr. Howard noticed some inconsistencies between the tracer readings and the methane readings that corroborated the idea that the meters had malfunction.

The lead researcher on the University of Texas, Dr. David Allen, has served since 2002 on the EPA's Science Advisory Board and this year completed a two year term as its chair. He rejected Mr. Howard's conclusion that the data collected could have been flawed.

“There may be issues with some of these instruments, but we tested our instruments pretty thoroughly and when we went out into the field we had multiple instruments, all of which gave us information,” he told The New York Times.

After the March paper showing the Bacharach potential for erroneous readings was published, Mr. Allen authored a reply comment noting that they did find issues with one of the three meters used, but that the issue “did not significantly impact” their conclusions.

The stakes in this debate are enormous. The natural gas industry is the largest source of methane emissions in the country – and for the past decade, a shale gas rush has swept across the U.S., creating a vast new network of wells, pipelines, compressor stations, and storage facilities.

If natural gas leaks at more than 2.7 percent overall, any climate change benefit gained by switching away from coal for electricity generation and burning natural gas instead will be lost.

For that reason, debates over leakage rates are raging.

The University of Texas study concluded that 0.42 percent of natural gas could be expected to leak during well completions – a number that would be consistent with EPA's official but controversial estimate that 1.5 percent of natural gas leaks overall, after accounting for leaks from places like pipelines (the agency’s own Inspector General called a closer review of that figure).

The University of Texas study's finding had been cited in many publications as evidence that fears were overblown.

“Natural-gas drilling sites aren't leaking as much methane into the atmosphere as the federal government and critics of hydraulic fracturing had believed, according to the first study of emissions at multiple drilling sites,” the Wall Street Journal reported when the University of Texas research was released.

“The industry has led efforts to reduce emissions of methane by developing new technologies and equipment, and these efforts are paying off,” Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs for the American Petroleum Institute, said at the time. “This latest study shows that methane emissions are a fraction of estimates from just a few years ago.”

“The reason the Environmental Defense Fund wanted this study done is precisely so that unassailable data, rather than mere estimates, could become part of the debate over fracking,” wrote New York Times columnist and shale gas supporter Joe Nocera. “You can’t have sound regulation without good data.”

But right from the start, the University of Texas conclusions came under fire, in part because it was funded by the industry and the sites selected were chosen by drillers.

More importantly, however, flyovers of oil and gas sites have repeatedly found much higher methane levels in the atmosphere than would be predicted if readings on the ground were comprehensive – levels far higher than the 2.7 percent threshold.

A 2013 study in Utah's Uinta basin found leak rates between 6 and 12 percent.

Last year, NASA researchers found a methane plume over New Mexico, where over 4,000 natural gas wells have been drilled, that the agency

A 2014 study in northeastern Colorado similarly found roughly triple the amount of methane that on-the-ground tests would predict. “These discrepancies are substantial,” lead author Gabrielle Petron, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, told GeoSpace.

Voluntary Regulations?

As the scientific debate continues, policy-makers are facing tough calls about whether natural gas can help wean the country off of coal – or whether relying on that gas will only make things worse for the climate.

Currently, the Obama administration relies on the voluntary participation of oil and gas companies in a program called the Natural Gas STAR program to reduce emissions. That program, which operates on the logic that companies can save money by capturing leaks since they can then sell that gas instead of wasting it, has had a poor track record. Less than one percent of oil and gas producers and operators have decided to participate in that program. It prevented 24 million tons of CO2 equivalent from leaking in 2013 – out of 182 trillion tons that leaked out that year.

Yesterday, the Obama administration announced a Clean Power Plan designed to tackle greenhouse gas emissions over all. But much remains unclear about how that plan will address methane leaks.

A White House statement on that plan emphasized voluntary leak controls. “EPA and other agencies are taking actions to cut methane emissions from oil and gas systems, landfills, coal mining, and agriculture through cost-effective voluntary actions and common-sense standards,” the administration wrote.

As the scientific debate over leakage rates slowly continues to unfold, some argue that action on methane leaks is needed now, regardless of the precise degree that natural gas pollution stacks up against coal.

David Doniger, head of the climate policy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council told the Washington Post last year, that regulating methane would be “the most significant, most cost-effective thing the administration can do to tackle climate change pollution that it hasn’t already committed to do.”


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Sharon Kelly is an attorney and freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia. She has reported for The New York Times, National Wildlife, Earth Island Journal, and a variety of other publications. Prior to beginning freelance writing, she worked as a law clerk for the ACLU of Delaware.

  Read  Key Greenhouse Gas Study May Have Systematically Understated Methane Leaks
  August 13, 2015
Humans Have Consumed a Year's Supply of the Planet's Resources in Less Than 8 Months

by Global Footprint Network, AlterNet

In less than eight months, humanity has used up nature’s budget for the entire year, with carbon sequestration making up more than half of the demand on nature, according to data from Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think tank with offices in North America, Europe and Asia. 

Global Footprint Network tracks humanity’s demand on the planet (Ecological Footprint) against nature’s ability to provide for this demand (biocapacity). Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Earth Overshoot Day has moved from early October in 2000 to August 13th this year.

The costs of this ecological overspending are becoming more evident by the day, in the form of deforestation, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The latter will significantly amplify the former, if current climate models are correct. Consequently, government decision-makers who factor these growing constraints in their policy making will stand a significantly better chance to set their nation’s long-term economic performance on a favorable track.

“Humanity’s carbon footprint alone more than doubled since the early 1970s, when the world went into ecological overshoot. It remains the fastest growing component of the widening gap between the Ecological Footprint and the planet’s biocapacity,” said Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network and the co-creator of the Ecological Footprint resource accounting metric. “The global agreement to phase out fossil fuels that is being discussed around the world ahead of the Climate Summit in Paris would significantly help curb the Ecological Footprint’s consistent growth and eventually shrink the Footprint.”

The carbon footprint is inextricably linked to the other components of the Ecological Footprint — cropland, grazing land, forests and productive land built over with buildings and roads. All these demands compete for space. As more is being demanded for food and timber products, fewer productive areas are available to absorb carbon from fossil fuel. This means carbon emissions accumulate in the atmosphere rather than being fully absorbed.

A Second Chance

The climate agreement expected at the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) 21 this December will focus on maintaining global warming within the 2-degrees-Celsius range over pre-Industrial Revolution levels. This shared goal will require nations to implement policies to completely phase out fossil fuels by 2070, per the recommendations of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), directly impacting the Ecological Footprints of nations. . 

Assuming global carbon emissions are reduced by at least 30 percent below today’s levels by 2030, in keeping with the IPCC’s suggested scenario, Earth Overshoot Day could be moved back on the calendar to September 16, 2030 (assuming the rest of the Footprint would continue to expand at the current rate), according to Global Footprint Network.

This is not impossible. In fact, Denmark has cut its emissions over the last two decades at this rate: Since the 1990s, it reduced its carbon emissions by 33 percent. Had the world done the same (while not changing the rest of the Footprint), Earth Overshoot Day would be on October 3 this year.

This is not to say that Denmark has already reached a sustainable Ecological Footprint. Humanity would require the resources of nearly 3 planets if everyone lived like the Danes, which would move Earth Overshoot Day to May 8.


Business as usual 

By contrast, business as usual would mean using the resources equivalent to two planets by 2030, with Earth Overshoot Day moving up on the calendar to the end of June.

This projection assumes that biocapacity, population growth and consumption trends remain on their current trajectories. However, it is not clear whether a sustained level of overuse is possible without significantly damaging long-term biocapacity, with consequent impacts on consumption and population growth. 

Tipping Point

“We are encouraged by the recent developments on the front line of renewable energy, which have been accelerating worldwide, and by the increasing awareness of the finance industry that a low-carbon economy is the way of the future,” said Wackernagel. “Going forward, we cannot stress enough the vital importance of reducing the carbon footprint, as nations are slated to commit to in Paris. It is not just good for the world, but increasingly becoming an economic necessity for each nation. We all know that the climate depends on it, but that is not the full story: Sustainability requires that everyone live well, within the means of one planet. This can only be achieved by keeping our Ecological Footprint within our planet’s resource budget.”

Additional Resources: 

More on Earth Overshoot Day:  www.overshootday.org

To calculate your own personal Ecological Footprint, and learn what you can do to reduce it, go to: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/calculator

Free Public Data Package (Ecological Footprint Data on 182 countries): www.footprintnetwork.org/public2015


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  Read  Humans Have Consumed a Year's Supply of the Planet's Resources in Less Than 8 Months
  August 10, 2015
The Big Reason Why America Is Turning to Renewable Energy

by Tara Lohan, The Nation, AlterNet

Deborah Lawrence had been watching a once-empty parking lot near Midland-Odessa, Texas, fill up with idled drilling rigs usually at work plumbing for oil in the nearby Permian Basin. In January she noticed 10 rigs, then 17 a few weeks later. As winter turned to spring, the number climbed to 35.

That trend has continued across the country. By the end of July, the nationwide rig count had slipped 54 percent since the same time a year ago, indicating distress in the oil and gas industry. The most obvious culprit is the precipitous drop in crude prices. But the trouble goes deeper, as Lawrence knows — and she isn’t just a casual observer. Lawrence is a former Wall Street financial consultant who now runs the Energy Policy Forum, helping to identify and analyze trends in the industry.

Right now, our fossil-fueled energy path has us on a roller-coaster ride and we are plunging, white knuckled. Production in the United States from the exploitation of shale oil (or tight oil), which accounts for 45 percent of the country’s oil production, will take a hit if prices continue to remain well below the $100 mark. Tens of thousands of jobs have already been cut, and some debt-laden companies may go belly up.

This is the narrative that has been seizing headlines, but it’s not the whole story of what’s going on in our energy economy. While shales were booming and then busting, solar and wind have been surging. Renewables have been relegated to the sidelines of our energy priorities, a small blip in our electric generating capacity each year, but that is changing. How fast it happens could be enough to rock the boat in a major way.

The fact that we should be moving to more renewable energy and using less oil is no secret. Scientists have repeatedly warned that if we continue to burn fossil fuels with our current abandon, we risk catastrophic climate impacts, some of which we are already beginning to see. Instead, they caution, much of our oil, gas, and coal reserves should stay in the ground.

But as long as fossil fuels remain cheap (ignoring externalities), and energy companies reap big profits from them, we will keep drilling and mining and burning — global catastrophe be damned.

If science and good sense aren’t enough to make us shift course, perhaps economics will. We’ve long heard that we must choose between jobs and the environment. Or between economic growth and clean energy. But more and more, it is looking like fossil fuels are the economic deadweight and renewables are finally ready for a seat at the table.

The Plunge

The U.S. boom in the production of oil and gas in the past seven years has been largely driven by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) of rock formations known as shale plays. But the growth may not be as long-lived as advertised.

For starters, there’s good evidence to suggest that the amount of economically recoverable reserves of both shale oil and gas are not as much as previously hyped.

J. David Hughes, a geoscientist and fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, who spent 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada, found that while short-term production of shale oil and gas is undoubtedly significant, the long-term view shows that the growth is not sustainable. His research reveals production peaking in both shale oil and gas in most of the significant plays in the United States by 2020.

The next problem facing the industry is the price tag of its operations. The costs to drill and complete a shale well can range from $6 million to $8 million or more a well — depending on the play and the number of drilling stages.

Production on shale wells also declines very quickly. For shale oil, the three-year average well decline rate in most major U.S. plays falls between 60 and 91 percent. Around half of all the oil that will be produced from these wells will come in the first three years. For shale gas, the three-year average well decline rate is between 74 and 82 percent.

This means that in order to maintain or increase production, you have to keep a frenetic pace of new drilling — what Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist David Fridley likened to being on an “accelerating treadmill.” The drilling frenzy that has characterized the shale boom caused a spike in production, contributing to a global glut, which has resulted in falling prices. It’s a vicious circle, and one that was hard to make economical even when crude was selling for $100 a barrel.

When prices dropped earlier this year to around $50 a barrel, things became more dire for the shale industry, and they haven’t greatly improved in the last six months. Despite briefly reaching around $63 a barrel in late spring, prices have fallen again. “For the past five years we’ve been told we’re going to be energy independent and we will have all this oil and we’re going to export gas to Europe and we’re going to export gas to Asia, and it’s just not going to happen,” said Fridley.

Overproduction, combined with declining consumption, has resulted in plummeting crude prices in the past year. It’s the same script that occurred just a few years earlier, when shale gas prices bottomed out in the United States.

So what’s the industry to do?

Investor Jeremy Grantham, the founder of GMO, a Boston-based money manager, wrote in the financial publication Barron’s, “Almost no new drilling programs will be initiated at current prices except by the financially desperate and the irrationally impatient, and in three years over 80 percent of all production from current wells will be gone!”

Given the costs of drilling and completing wells, and the number needed to keep production growing, companies must have lots of cash to stay on the treadmill. And that may become harder and harder for many to do.

The Energy Policy Forum’s Lawrence has been comparing the financials of some of the industry’s top companies for years; she found that they lack free cash flow.

“They were spending a lot in capital expenditures — the money needed to drill and complete the wells,” she said. “And that was growing every year while the money they were actually making, the cash that was left over at the end of the day, was deteriorating. It was never positive.”

Lawrence crunched the numbers on more than 20 U.S. shale operators and found that the companies had been cash-flow-negative since 2009. As Alberta Oil Magazine reported, “In 2013, U.S. onshore oil producers outspent their operating cash flow by a ratio of two-to-one.”

The record-high production boom we’ve witnessed has been sustained by companies taking on high levels of debt, including $120 billion in high-risk, high-yield bonds. JPMorgan’s estimate of the default rate for these junk bonds is nearly 4 percent this year and will be a whopping 20 percent next year, if crude prices remain around $65 a barrel.

This may mean lights out for a number of debt-laden companies. Some will go out of business, while others may be gobbled up by larger corporations. Expect lots of consolidation and cherry-picking of assets by the big players. Giants like Chevron and Exxon Mobil will likely make out well, but they aren’t the only ones. “It will be fantastic for the investment banks, because they will make a fortune off of fees,” says Lawrence.

Those who won’t make out well, however, include more than just the debt-heavy industry players. It could be you. “A lot of pension funds invest in energy stocks, and the energy stocks have just gotten creamed,” says Lawrence. “They haven’t had good share returns. You’re going to see that reflected in your portfolio.”

Despite the bad news on shales, Lawrence sees a lot of good economic news when it comes to renewable energy.

“I have this feeling that we are on the cusp of a new energy paradigm and things are changing so rapidly,” says Lawrence. “I think you’re going to see a lot of disruption in the next five to 10 years, and I don’t think the oil and gas industry really thinks it’s coming.”

Install, Baby, Install

In March the Texas city of Georgetown announced plans to ditch gas and coal for electricity generation in favor wind and solar. The city’s spokesperson told the press it was “primarily a price decision,” and the Texas Tribunereported that the switch allowed Georgetown to “lock in cheaper electricity” and “hedge against any future spikes in coal or natural gas prices.”

If you don’t closely track the energy markets, you may be surprised to know that generating electricity from wind and solar is cost competitive in some places in the United States already — and getting close in many others. Globally, renewables could even become the top source of electricity in just 15 years, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.

Renewables still account for a small percentage of overall U.S. electricity generation — 13 percent for all renewables, with wind at 4.4 percent and utility-scale solar at less than 1 percent. But some states are showing that much greater exploitation of renewables is indeed possible. Iowa got 27 percent of its total electricity from wind in 2013, and last year California became the first state to get more than 5 percent of its electricity from utility-scale solar.
In the past seven years, wind and solar capacity in the United States has tripled, and new capacity has favored renewables. In 2014 wind and solar made up 55 percent of new electric generating capacity in the United States. By comparison, natural gas was 42 percent. The other new sources — coal, nuclear, and oil — were all under 1 percent.

Currently, the federal government allows a 30 percent investment tax credit for solar, but it is set to expire at the end of 2016, at which point it will decline to 10 percent. A report from Deutsche Bank says that even without additional subsidies, solar is already cost competitive in 14 states. If the credit is renewed and costs for solar continue to fall as predicted, then we could see solar electricity as cheap as average electricity bill prices in 47 states within the next two years, according to Deutsche Bank’s report. If the credit is not renewed, we could still see 36 states at grid parity.

“Gone are the days when solar panels were an exotic plaything of Earth-loving rich people,” Tom Randall writes for Bloomberg Business. “Solar is becoming mainstream.”

One of the things driving that growth is that costs are falling and the products are getting better. Solar and wind, points out Lawrence, are technologies and not fuels, and as such they typically become cheaper with scale and time.

Even more promising, while prices are declining in these industries, the number of people employed has skyrocketed. The Solar Foundation reports that jobs in the solar industry grew by 86 percent in the past five years. As of 2013, according to industry estimates, there were 143,000 solar jobs and more than 50,000 in wind in the United States.

For wind and solar, falling prices means more jobs. Lawrence likens it to what economists call a virtuous circle: “A recurring cycle of events, the result of each one being to increase the beneficial effect of the next.”

It’s the exact opposite of the shale industry’s vicious circle, where high production results in plunging prices, followed by thousands of layoffs.

“The self-styled ‘shale revolution’ was built on the back of very expensive oil and gas prices,” writes Lawrence. “Shales need very high prices to work. While high prices are great for oil and gas balance sheets, they cannot help but translate into more expensive products and services overall in the economy. It does not benefit all. It benefits only a few.”

The Path Forward

While there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about future prospects for renewables, we have a long way to go, and it’s not smooth sailing by any stretch. We’re talking about disrupting a system where the entrenched interests are some of the wealthiest companies in the world.

In the United States, the best way to aid continued growth for renewables, the industry says, is to lock in federal support that investors and businesses can count on. The investment tax credit for solar that Congress can renew at the end 2016 is one example. For wind it’s the production tax credit (PTC), which dates back to 1992. In the past 23 years Congress has let the PTC expire a total of six times and has also elected to renew it six times. The results, as you can imagine, were a series of ups and downs for wind installation. “Industry needs confidence,” said Tom Kiernan, the CEO the American Wind Energy Association. “It needs multi-year extensions for as long as possible.”

There are other hurdles. Conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have helped launch attacks against state-level regulations such as the Renewable Energy Standards. In the last few years more than a dozen state-level bills have been introduced attacking those standards, but so far Ohio has been the only state to sign one into law. More successful at discouraging the growth of renewables have been utilities like Pella Electric Cooperative in Iowa, which will start tacking $85 a month to the bills of homeowners who install solar or wind systems. In Arizona, fees for homeowners installing solar may rise from $5 to $21 a month, although the utility (Arizona Public Service) originally proposed a hike as high as $100 a month.

At the most basic level, the country has yet to go all in on a commitment to supporting renewables, but economics may just push us there anyway. A new report from Citigroup dismissed ideas that cheap oil prices would negatively impact renewables, arguing instead said that a combination of “economic competitiveness, energy security, and environmental goals” would quickly drive the global push for more renewables.

The price volatility in the oil and gas market is not going away anytime soon. And coal, still the biggest sources of U.S. electricity generation overall, has suffered a one-two punch from natural gas and renewables. From 2010 to 2014, coal’s net generation of electricity fell by 14 percent. The U.S. coal industry is now deemed in “structural decline,” and there doesn’t seem to be any way up.

Coal’s fall and the oil industry’s latest stumble with shales reveal more cracks in the fossil-fuel industry’s once impenetrable wall of dominance. But the biggest threat to the industry will likely come soon, as the global community gets serious about tackling climate change. Our future energy plans will be contingent on how this plays out politically and economically.

The fossil-fuel divestment movement is gaining strength, and the idea of “stranded assets” is moving closer to economic reality. In March, the Bank of England warned insurers that policy changes addressing climate change could threaten investments in fossil fuels. And MSCI, one of the world’s top stock-market index companies, reported that investors who have divested from coal, oil, and gas over the past five years are now outperforming those who haven’t.

“Climate change can no longer be discounted in any future energy business model,” writes author and resource expert Michael Klare. “Whether Big Oil is ready to admit it or not, alternative energy is now on the planetary agenda and there’s no turning back from that.”

This December, when international climate talks resume in Paris for the next installment of the United Nations Climate Change conference, we will see just how serious governments really are about commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This year, at least, the United States is willing to play. The Obama administration has already noted that Washington has a plan to reduce emissions up to 28 percent below 2005 levels in the next 10 years.

From a scientific standpoint, the results from Paris may be too little, too late, even if big polluters like the United States can make good on new commitments. And political will is only one part of the puzzle. Numerous voices have called for a rethinking of our cultural and economic norms that drive perpetual growth.

“Because of our endless procrastination, we also have to pull off this massive transformation without delay,” writes author Naomi Klein in her newest book, This Changes Everything. “Is it possible? Absolutely. Is it possible without challenging the fundamental logic of deregulated capitalism? Not a chance.”

Fridley, the scientist from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has also called for a deeper conversation on what a path to renewables would look like. Most of the focus has been on how to use renewables to fill our electricity needs, but this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the energy we use in our highly industrialized lives.

Globally, electricity accounts for only about 20 percent of our final energy consumption, says Fridley, and even if we hit 50 percent renewables for electricity, we still have only addressed about 10 percent of how much energy the world consumes.

“Yes, we can have a renewable world, but it’s not really going to look like the world we have today,” says Fridley. “It could be a better world to live in, it could be a much worse world to live in, depending on many of the decisions we make in the next decade or two.”

Tara Lohan is a freelance writer and former senior editor at AlterNet. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis, including Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource. Follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.

  Read  The Big Reason Why America Is Turning to Renewable Energy




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