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Volume 9       Issue 1    January  2011
Politics and Justice without borders

Theme this month
From Montreal Kyoto Protocol to Copenhagen Summit to Cancun Agreements
From Montreal Kyoto Protocol to Copenhagen Summit to Cancun Agreements
( see enlargement  From Montreal Kyoto Protocol to Copenhagen Summit to Cancun Agreements)

Table of Contents

This is the way     Message from the Spiritual Leader of the Global Community
Message from the Editor    GIM  Message from the Editor
Politics and Justice without borders: what we stand for Politics and Justice without borders: what we stand for
Message from the President of Global Parliament, the Federation of Global Governments    Message from the President of Earth Government
History of the Global Community organization, Earth Government and the Federation of Global Governments History of the Global Community Organization and Interim Earth Government Since its beginning in 1985, many accomplishments can be claimed by the Global Community: History of the Global Community organization and Earth Government
The Global Community days of celebration or remembering during the year
A reminder of her passing away. Virginie was a great global citizen, and we all owe her something that's forever. GIM  Message from the Editor
Life Day Celebration on May 26. Participate. Life Day Celebration May 26. Participate.
Participate now in Global Dialogue 2011, no fees  Participate now in Global Dialogue 2011
Global Dialogue 2011 Introduction Global Dialogue 2011 Introduction
Global Dialogue 2011 Program  Global Dialogue 2011 Program
Global Dialogue 2011 OVERVIEW of the process   Global Dialogue 2011 OVERVIEW of the process
Global Dialogue 2011 Call for Papers Global Dialogue 2011 Call for Papers

We seek more symbiotical relationships with people and organizations We seek more symbiotical relationships
Note concerning personal info sent to us by email Note concerning personal info sent to us by email
We have now streamlined the participation process in the Global Dialogue We have now streamlined the participation process in the Global Dialogue


GIM daily proclamations main website

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

Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, Medea Benjamin, Steve Connor, Stan Cox, Environment News Service, Tina Gerhardt, Ronit Herzfeld, Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, Mariam Khan, Tara Lohan, Bill McKibben, Dr. Charles Mercieca, Matthew Nasuti, Madeline Ostrander, Shefali Sharma, Tom Whipple

Rosemary Ahtuangaruak Shell’s Arctic Drilling Will Destroy Our Homeland And Culture Shell’s Arctic Drilling Will Destroy Our Homeland And Culture
Medea Benjamin Reading the Coca Leaves: Climate Change, Cancun and Bolivia Reading the Coca Leaves: Climate Change, Cancun and Bolivia
Steve Connor Crop Failures And Drought Within Our Children's Lifetimes Crop Failures And Drought Within Our Children's Lifetimes
Stan Cox Catastrophic Blizzards, Heat Waves and Floods: Global Warming or Just Crazy Weather? Catastrophic Blizzards, Heat Waves and Floods: Global Warming or Just Crazy Weather?
Environment News Service Melting Glaciers to Bring Floods and Drought Melting Glaciers to Bring Floods and Drought
Tina Gerhardt Baby Steps Made at Climate Summit Pale in Comparison to the Change Needed Baby Steps Made at Climate Summit Pale in Comparison to the Change Needed
Ronit Herzfeld Vision: Can Human Beings Drop Their Divisive, Reactionary Thinking and Move to a Higher Level? Vision: Can Human Beings Drop Their Divisive, Reactionary Thinking and Move to a Higher Level?
Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development Himalayan Glaciers Melting At Alarming Rates Himalayan Glaciers Melting At Alarming Rates
Mariam Khan Spirituality Spirituality
Tara Lohan A 2,000 Mile Pipeline of the World's Dirtiest Oil to Run Through 6 U.S. States A 2,000 Mile Pipeline of the World's Dirtiest Oil to Run Through 6 U.S. States
Bill McKibben Everything Is Negotiable, Except With Nature Everything Is Negotiable, Except With Nature
Dr. Charles Mercieca The Golden Rule: Basic Link of all Religions The Golden Rule: Basic Link of all Religions
Matthew Nasuti United Nations Silent As NATO Destroys Potentially Thousands Of Afghan Homes United Nations Silent As NATO Destroys Potentially Thousands Of Afghan Homes
Madeline Ostrander Maude Barlow: A Healthy Environment Should Be a Human Right Maude Barlow: A Healthy Environment Should Be a Human Right
Shefali Sharma The Climate Deal That Failed Us The Climate Deal That Failed Us
Tom Whipple The Peak Oil Crisis: The Future Of Government The Peak Oil Crisis: The Future Of Government

Research papers and articles on global issues for this month
 Date sent  Theme or issue  Read
 December 16, 2010   Everything Is Negotiable, Except With Nature
by Bill McKibben, Countercurrent,

You can’t bargain about global warming with chemistry and physics

The UN’s big climate conference ended Saturday in Cancún, with claims of modest victory. "The UN climate talks are off the life-support machine," said Tim Gore of Oxfam. “Not as rancorous as last year’s train wreck in Copenhagen,” wrote the Guardian. Patricia Espinosa, the Mexican foreign minister who brokered the final compromise, described it as "the best we could achieve at this point in a long process."

The conference did indeed make progress on a few important issues: the outlines of financial aid for developing countries to help them deal with climate change, and some ideas on how to monitor greenhouse gas emissions in China and India. But it basically ignored the two crucial questions: How much carbon will we cut, and how fast?

On those topics, one voice spoke more eloquently than all the 9,000 delegates, reporters, and activists gathered in Cancún.

And he wasn’t even there. And he wasn’t even talking about climate.

Barack Obama was in Washington, holding a press conference to discuss the liberal insurgency against his taxation agreement with the Republicans. He said he’d fought hard for a deal and resented the criticism. He harked back to the health-care fight when what his press secretary had called the “professional left” (and Rahm Emanuel had called “retards”) scorned him for not winning a “public option.” They were worse than wrong, he said; they were contemptible, people who wanted to “be able to feel good about ourselves, and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are.” Consider Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he continued: when he started Social Security it only covered widows and orphans. Medicare, at its start, only helped a relative few. Sanctimonious purists would have considered them “betrayals of some abstract ideal.” And yet they grew.

It was powerful and interesting stuff, especially coming from a man who ran on abstract ideals. (I have t-shirts on which are printed nothing but his name and abstract ideals.) I don’t know enough about health-care policy or tax policy to be sure whether he’s making a good call or not, though after listening to much of Bernie Sanders's nearly nine-hour near-filibuster I have my doubts.

I do know the one place where the president’s reasonable compromises simply won’t work -- a place where we have absolutely no choice but to steer by abstract ideals. That place is the climate.

The terms of the climate change conundrum aren’t set by contending ideologies, whose adherents can argue till the end of time about whether tax cuts create jobs or kill them. In the case of global warming, chemistry rules, which means there are lines, hard and fast. Those of you who remember your periodic table will recall how neat that can be. There’s no shading between one element and the next. It’s either gallium or it’s zinc. There’s no zallium, no ginc. You might say that the elements are, in that sense, abstract ideals.

So are the molecules those elements combine to form. Take carbon dioxide (CO2), the most politically charged molecule on Earth. As the encyclopedia says: “At standard pressure and temperature the density of carbon dioxide is around 1.98 kg/m3, about 1.5 times that of air. The carbon dioxide molecule (O=C=O) contains two double bonds and has a linear shape.” Oh, and that particular molecular structure traps heat near the planet that would otherwise radiate back out into space, giving rise to what we call the greenhouse effect.

As of January 2008, our best climatologists gave us a number for how much carbon in the atmosphere is too much. At concentrations above 350 parts per million (ppm), a NASA team insisted, we can’t have a planet “similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” We’re already past that; we’re at 390 ppm. Which is why 2010 will be the warmest year on record, almost a degree Celsius above the planet’s natural average, according to federal researchers. Which is why the Arctic melted again this summer, and Russia caught fire, and Pakistan drowned.

So here’s the thing: Just as in Copenhagen, Obama’s delegation in Cancún has been arguing for an agreement that would limit atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to 450 parts per million, and the cuts they’ve been proposing might actually produce a world of about 550 parts per million.

Why have they been defying the science? The answer isn’t complicated: because it’s politically difficult. As chief negotiator Todd Stern said last year in Copenhagen, “We’re very, very mindful of the importance of our domestic legislation. That’s a core principle for me and everyone else working on this. You can’t jeopardize that.”

In other words, if we push too hard the Senate will say no, and the oil companies will be really, really pissed. So we’ll take the easy way. We’ll negotiate with nature, and with the rest of the world, the same way we negotiate with the Republicans.

It’s completely understandable; in fact, it’s even more understandable now that the GOP has increased its muscle in Congress. In that context, even the tepid text drafted in Cancún goes too far. Four Republican Senators sent Obama a letter earlier this month telling him to stop using any foreign aid funds to tackle climate change. If I were Obama I’d want to make some kind of deal, and consider any deal as the start down a path to better things.

The problem, again, is the chemistry and the physics. They don’t give us much time, and they’re bad at haggling. If we let this planet warm much longer, scientists tell us that we’ll lose forever the chance of getting back to 350. That means we’ll lose forever the basic architecture of our planet with its frozen poles. Already the ocean is turning steadily more acidic; already the atmosphere is growing steadily wetter, which means desertifying evaporation in arid areas and downpour and deluge elsewhere.

Political reality is hard to change, harder than ever since the Supreme Court delivered its Citizens United decision and loosed floods of more money into our political world. But physics and chemistry are downright impossible to shift. Physics and chemistry don’t bargain. So the president, and all the rest of us, had really better try a little harder. The movement we’ve launched at 350.org has spread around the world, but it needs to get much stronger. Because this one time, in the usually messy conduct of human affairs, reaching an abstract ideal is our only hope.

Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and founder of 350.org. His latest book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. He recently was awarded the prestigious Puffin Prize. To listen to a TomCast audio interview in which McKibben discusses various kinds of global-warming denial, click here or, to download it to your iPod, here.

  Read Everything Is Negotiable, Except With Nature
 December 13, 2010   The Climate Deal That Failed Us
by Shefali Sharma, Countercurrent,
Think Forward

“History will be the judge of what has happened in Cancun.” These are the last lines of the Bolivian Government’s press release yesterday about the outcome of the climate negotiations here in Cancun. The talks ended here today after two weeks of negotiations by a 192 governments. It is a deal that will be remembered by our future generations as one that killed the climate treaty, unless we radically change course.

Witnessing standing ovations and applause in the closing hours over negotiating texts that basically kill the Kyoto Protocol and make emissions reductions voluntary for all governments fills me with a profound sense of disillusionment (you can view the final plenaries here). Disillusionment at the utter lack of leadership exhibited by virtually every government except Bolivia and disillusionment at the role that many environmental and development groups played in legitimizing these governments’ actions.

The compromise arrived at Cancun was a coup for the United States. The U.S. came in with nothing to offer in terms of binding commitments to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and yet managed to effectively push for voluntary targets. The source of these targets is the “Copenhagen Accord” that President Obama negotiated by cornering a few key countries in a back room in the last hours of the climate negotiations a year ago.

“There is only one way to measure the success of a climate agreement, and that is based on whether or not it will effectively reduce emissions to prevent runaway climate change. This text clearly fails, as it could allow global temperatures to increase by more than 4 degrees, a level disastrous for humanity,” says Bolivia.

Sadly, Bolivia was set up as the scapegoat at the meeting—portrayed as the only country standing in the way of multilateralism and progress on a climate deal. “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” they said.

Manufacturing Consensus

This scapegoating is nothing new. I have witnessed it in the WTO where governments, under great pressure by powerful countries like the United States and the EU, are too afraid to speak out or too keen to be seen as constructive actors on the geopolitical theater. And theater it was last night—as country after country—applauded the President of the COP, for her “open and transparent” process and a successful outcome. Yet in reality, we all knew that the deal had been negotiated behind closed doors by a handful of countries. At times, there were 50 countries in a room somewhere in the conference complex.

But we did not know where and we did not know what they were negotiating. Civil society, unlike other UN negotiations, was not allowed in any of the drafting groups. And what governments drafted did not even seem to appear in the texts crafted by the Chairs of the two negotiating tracks of the climate talks.

In the closing hours of the COP, Bolivia made strong statements that it did not agree to the outcome and that there was no consensus. In the UN, all countries must agree and have “consensus” before a treaty or a deal is adopted. In Cancun, the deal was ceremoniously gaveled as agreed.

For civil society organizations, Cancun must be a wake up call for serious reflection. How have we been complicit in an outcome that has ultimately not respected the science of global warming? Worse still, some have applauded an outcome that lets industrialized countries off the hook from legally binding and mandatory targets to reduce GHGs—something they agreed to when they signed the Kyoto Protocol.

The 20th anniversary of the birth of the Climate Treaty is 2012 and the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Let's ensure that by the time we get there, we have managed to shift the fundamental elements of what was agreed here in Cancun towards a much more accountable framework to address climate change.

Shefali Sharma is Senior Program Officer at IATP and blogged from Cancun the day after the UN climate talks concluded.

  Read The Climate Deal That Failed Us
 December 9, 2010   The Peak Oil Crisis: The Future Of Government
by Tom Whipple ,
Falls Church News-Press

We are trapped in a very complex civilization that is rapidly losing the sources of energy and numerous other raw materials that built and maintained it

In case you missed it, a couple of weeks back the International Energy Agency in Paris got around to disclosing that the all-time peak of global conventional oil production occurred back in 2006. Despite that fact that this declaration was tantamount to announcing the end of the 250-year-old industrial age, few in the mainstream media noted the event and it was left to obscure corners of cyber space to ponder the meaning of it all.

It is also worth noting that oil is back in the vicinity of $90 a barrel and even Wall Street economists, who are paid to be eternally optimistic, are starting to talk about oil going for$110-120 a barrel in the next year or so.

In the meantime, the talking heads, pundits and even hard-headed reporters chatter on about the slow but persistent economic recovery that is supposed to be taking place. As the effects of last year's near-trillion dollar stimulus start to be felt, every statistical twitch upward is hailed as proof that normalcy will soon return. Realists, however, call this twitching "bottom-bouncing" and are convinced that far worse is yet to come.

As we all know by now, a new crowd has descended on Washington vowing to make everything right again by cutting taxes, reducing the size and the role of some parts of the government. Above all the folks are committed to getting government regulation off our backs so that free enterprise, the entrepreneurial spirit, merchant capitalism, or what have you can flourish as it did in the past.

What all those calling for reduced government fail to grasp, however, is that 200 years of cheap abundant fossil fuel energy has transformed this country into something completely different. Take food as an example, 200 years ago, some 90+ percent of us were involved in its raising or otherwise procuring food -- or we would simply not eat. Now, thanks to cheap fossil fuels, less than 3 percent of us are engaged in agricultural endeavors and I suspect only a fraction of our "farmers" still have all the requisite skills to feed themselves and their families in the style to which they have become accustomed. Take away the diesel for the tractors and farming is going to become mighty different. Has anyone yoked an ox lately?

In short, 200 years of abundant energy have allowed us to build an extremely complex civilization based on dozens of interrelated systems without which we can no longer live - at least not in the style to which we have become accustomed. Food production and distribution, water, sewage, solid waste removal, communications, healthcare, transportation, public safety, education --- the list of systems vital-to-life and general wellbeing goes on and on.

Those who believe that ten years from now we will be able to get along with much reduced government have little appreciation of how modern civilization works or how bad things are going to get as fossil fuel energy fades from our lives. The notion is absurd that we are in the midst of a routine downturn in the business cycle which can be cured by Keynesian stimulus favored by the Democrats or tax cuts favored by the Republicans.

While no one can foretell the future in detail, every now and again a window opens that allows a general outline of coming events to emerge. For example, in the years leading up to the Second World War one did not have to be clairvoyant to appreciate that a great disaster was about to befall.

Although few recognize how precarious the situation is, we are trapped in a very complex civilization that is rapidly losing the sources of energy and numerous other raw materials that built and maintained it. In America today we have millions un- and under-employed and that is certain to grow into the tens of millions before the decade is out as our politicians horse-trade tax cuts for billionaires in return for extensions of unemployment benefits. The good news is that this phase of the great transition from the industrial age to that which will follow cannot last much longer for events are moving too fast.

Whether one likes it or not, the size and complexity of the coming transition will be so great and unprecedented and there will be so much at stake that only governments will have the authority and power to cope with the multitude of problems that are about to emerge. Be it heresy in some as yet unknowing circles; all this is going to require a massive transfer of resources from private hands to public ones. Take something as simple as jobs. If anyone thinks the employment situation is difficult, wait a few years until the very high priced motor fuels makes discretionary car travel unaffordable. Millions upon millions of jobs in the retail, travel, hospitality, recreational, and dozens of other industries will be lost.

The current efforts by various levels of government to stimulate job creation or save people from home foreclosures will prove to be ridiculously inadequate. A completely new paradigm of what we do to sustain life is going to have to emerge or things will become far worse than most of us have ever known. Modern civilization simply cannot stand a situation in which a substantial share of its people is destitute. The potential for social disorder is too great.

If current trends continue, somewhere in the next five years a critical mass of us will realize that new foundations for civilization, and new ways of life must be found and implemented if we are going to survive with a modicum of comfort, economic, and political stability. Until then there will be many false prophets calling for a return to a civilization which is no longer possible.

Tom Whipple is a retired government analyst and has been following the peak oil issue for several years.

  Read The Peak Oil Crisis: The Future Of Government
 December 8, 2010   Himalayan Glaciers Melting At Alarming Rates
by Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development , Countercurrent,

Cancun, Mexico, December 7, 2010 – Concern for high-mountain regions of the world is rising, according to a new report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today, which states that the Himalayas and many other glaciers are melting quickly, threatening lives by flooding, and by reducing the region’s freshwater supply. The findings of the report, “High mountain glaciers and climate change” were announced during the UN climate meetings in Cancun, where negotiators are working towards an agreement to reduce climate emissions.

The new UNEP data underlines the urgent need for climate action that will produce quick results – a topic addressed by a separate event today in Cancun, hosted by UNEP and the Federated States of Micronesia, a country calling for a fast-action work program to protect its low-lying islands and other vulnerable countries from climate change impacts.

The panel of scientists and policymakers, including UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, and Mexican Nobel Laureate Mario Molina, emphasized the need to address non-CO2 climate forcers like black carbon soot, methane, tropospheric ozone, and HFCs to achieve fast mitigation.

Black carbon, a particulate aerosol produced from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass burning, directly contributes to glacial melt by settling on snow and ice, which darkens the surface and then absorbs the heat instead of reflecting it.

“The Himalayan glaciers are the main freshwater source for hundreds of millions of people across several countries,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Fast mitigation of black carbon soot and other non-CO2 forces are the best hope to avert disaster.”

Because these non-CO2 climate warming agents are short-lived in the atmosphere compared to CO2, which can remain for hundreds to thousands of years, reducing them can buy critical time to make aggressive cuts in CO2 emissions.

Added Zaelke, whose organization focuses on the non-CO2 issue and is attending the meetings in Mexico: “Reducing CO2 is essential and we can’t lose that focus, but these are complementary measures that are within easy reach. We would be guilty of Planetary malpractice to waste this opportunity.”

Achim Steiner stated that reducing the non-CO2 forcers “can buy back some of the time” the world has wasted by not addressing CO2 earlier.

Press release online: http://igsd.org/news/documents/PR_glacierreport-cancunsideevent_7Dec2010.pdf

  Read Himalayan Glaciers Melting At Alarming Rates
 December 5, 2010   United Nations Silent As NATO Destroys Potentially Thousands Of Afghan Homes
by Matthew Nasuti , Countercurrent,

NATO officials confirmed to this reporter that they routinely destroy Afghan homes, businesses and other structures that may be linked to the Taliban, but they refuse to provide any statistics as to how many have been destroyed. The Washington Post and The New York Times indicate that the practice is widespread and they have confirmed that whole villages have been leveled. (These field reports are referenced at the end of this article.) In June, 2010, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights, Richard Falk publicly condemned the Israeli Government for its destruction of Palestinian homes. In contrast, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, and the U.N.’s Special Representative in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, have been deplorably silent regarding similar actions by UN-supported NATO forces in Afghanistan.

This is what we know. NATO soldiers in Afghanistan operates under the acronym "ISAF" ISAF troops have the authority to destroy any structure in Afghanistan which they believe is being used to store weapons or narcotics, or which may be booby-trapped with explosives. The standard seems to be that any home can be destroyed with artillery or air strikes as long as there is some suspicion regarding it. The rationale for the destructions is that searching potentially booby-trapped homes is too dangerous a task.

There are at least six problems with this ISAF policy:

1. Under the Annex to the Hague Convention, Chapter 1, Article 23(g), Occupying Powers cannot destroy enemy property unless it is "imperatively demanded by the necessities of war." Pursuant to the Geneva Convention of 1949 (Geneva IV), Section 111, Article 53, occupying powers are prohibited from destroying any civilian personal property unless it is "absolutely necessary." International occupational law is dominated by the requirement of military necessity and suspicions do not constitute such necessity; nor do tips from informants. Homes cannot be destroyed just because they might possibly pose a risk to troops searching the home. If the ISAF policy was lawful, its officials would be citing the Hague and Geneva IV language and would be detailing how international standards are being met. The fact that they do not, speaks volumes.

In the past, ISAF officials have denied that they are an occupying power in Afghanistan, pointing to the existence of the democratically elected Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai. While ISAF officials pay lip service to the illusion of the Afghan Government’s "sovereignty," they have repeatedly confirmed that President Karzai lacks the authority to issue them orders, including an order to end the night raids by special operations troops. The NATO/Karzai Lisbon Agreement of 2010, states that control of Afghanistan will be turned over to President Karzai by 2014. Thus, it is undisputed that NATO is an occupying power.

One of the shameful consequences of NATO’s irresponsible refusal to publicly accept its occupying power status is that NATO/ISAF officials can claim that they are not required to comply with Articles 50, 55 and 59 of Section III of the Geneva IV Convention. Those articles obligate NATO to educate all war orphans and feed the civilian population (which it is not doing - 1/3 of the Afghan population is malnourished according to the U.N.’s Food Programme); and NATO is obligated to assign sufficient forces to protect the Afghan population (which it has not done). The requirement of an occupying power to ensure public safety is also a mandate of the Annex to the Hague regulations (See Article 43).

2. ISAF claims it only destroys "abandoned" homes, but it does not define the term. For example, if the occupants have gone to visit a relative, apparently ISAF personnel can consider the home to be abandoned.

3. ISAF claims that it does not bomb a home without first using a loud speaker to tell occupants to leave. The problem is that occupants, especially children, may be too scared to leave. Elderly or hearing impaired occupants might not even hear the announcement. It is not known how many civilian casualties have occurred as a result.

4. ISAF will not admit to the scope of the destructions. There may be hundreds or even thousands of homes that have been destroyed. ISAF refuses to release the apparently embarrassing statistics. In contrast, Israel is condemned if it destroys a single Palestinian home.

5. ISAF vaguely claims that it compensates homeowners, but those statements are suspect. The ISAF Internet website makes no mention of a claims process. How is the Afghan homeowner to know that he or she can even file a claim? There is no transparency. ISAF has refused to release its claims rules or statistics. It may be that 10,000 homes have been destroyed, but only 200 claims filed, with only 50 having been paid. The statistics may very well reveal that the claims process is a farce. In such a situation, the ISAF destructions are almost certainly fueling the insurgency.

6. Finally, ISAF has no verification process for its suspicions. For example, the Israeli Defense Forces know whether explosives were actually in a home they destroy because their armored bulldozers set off the charges. ISAF, by contrast, uses air strikes and artillery to destroy homes, therefore it never knows whether it made a mistake. It may be that 95% of the ISAF home destructions have been unjustified. Such reckless destructions would only be aiding Taliban recruitment.

Regarding all of this, the United Nations is nowhere to be seen. Its arbitrary outrage regarding home destructions remains focused solely against Israel. Serbian officials, who lack influential supporters on the Security Council, are not permitted to violate the Rules of War, but NATO officials can do so with impunity. The same silence emanates from the International Committee of the Red Cross’ President Jakob Kellenberger and his 15-member ICRC Assembly.

Despite a century of efforts to fashion international laws regarding the conduct of warfare, might always manages to triumph over the rule of law and "victors" always seem to decide what is justice. Obeying the rules of war is not simply a moral imperative; it almost always makes good military sense. The irony in Afghanistan is that these seemingly arbitrary and unnecessary home destructions may be fueling the insurgency. If that is the case, NATO may also be destroying its own exit strategy.

Additional Sources of Information: New York Times: "NATO is Razing Booby-Trapped Afghan Homes" November 16, 2010. Washington Post: "U.S. Operations in Kandahar Push Out Taliban" October 25, 2010.

.Note: This reporter contacted NATO’s Headquarters in Kabul and submitted ten questions to its press office regarding the destruction of Afghan homes. He received a somewhat vague response which did not address most of the questions. The response was marked "FOUO" (for official use only) and no specific permission was given to print the response, so it was not included.

Kabul Press would welcome a substantive ISAF response to this article and would print such in its entirely.

  Read United Nations Silent As NATO Destroys Potentially Thousands Of Afghan Homes
 December 4, 2010   Crop Failures And Drought Within Our Children's Lifetimes
by Steve Connor , Countercurrent,
The Independent

Children today are likely to reach old age in a world that is 4C warmer, where the 10,000-year certainties of the global climate can no longer be relied on, and widespread crop failures, drought, flooding and mass migration of the dispossessed become a part of everyday life.

This dire scenario could come as early as the 2060s - well within the lifetime of today's young people. It could mark the point when, for the first time since the end of the Ice Age, human civilisation has to cope with a highly unstable and unpredictable global climate.

A series of detailed scientific assessments of this possible "four-degree world", published today, documents for the first time the immense problems posed if the average global temperature rises by 4C above pre-industrial levels - a possibility that many experts believe is increasingly likely.

The international climate negotiations which resume this week in Cancun, Mexico, are aimed at keeping global temperatures within the "safe" limit of a 2C increase. But many scientists believe that, based on current trends, a rise of 3C or 4C is far more likely.

The greatest concern is that a 4C increase in global average temperatures - a temperature difference as great as that between now and the last Ice Age - would create dramatic transformations in the world, leading to water shortages, the collapse of agriculture in semi-arid regions and triggering a catastrophic rise in sea levels in coastal areas.

One of the studies, led by scientists from the Met Office's Hadley Centre, predicts that, unless there is a concerted international agreement to curb dramatically the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, a 4C warmer world is virtually inevitable by the end of this century. This critical threshold could, however, be reached within just 50 or 60 years based on other factors, such as human interference with natural feedback cycles that accelerate global warming, and the sensitivity of the climate to man-made carbon-dioxide emissions.

"Most emissions scenarios have a chance that take us past the four-degree point by the end of the 21st century, but it is down to the strength of the feedbacks and the sensitivity of the climate as to when this actually happens. It's certainly not outrageous to say it could happen in the 2060s," said Richard Betts, the lead author of the Hadley Centre study, published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

Of equal concern to scientists is the speed of climate change. A second study in the series found that a global temperature rise of between 2C and 4C could be so rapid that it would coincide with the expected peak in global population, which is expected to reach nine billion by 2050 before it begins to fall.

This would mean that the problems of water shortages and food production caused by climate change will occur at precisely the same time as the world is having to cope with feeding the greatest number of people in its history. A slower rate of climate change, on the other hand, will see the highest temperature increases occurring after the global population has peaked.

Niel Bowerman of Oxford University, who led the study into the rate of climate change, said it highlighted the urgency of having emissions peak in coming years. "Our study shows we need to start cutting emissions soon to avoid potentially dangerous rates of warming within our lifetimes, and to avoid committing ourselves to potentially unfeasible rates of emissions reduction in a couple of decades time," he added.

  Read Crop Failures And Drought Within Our Children's Lifetimes
 November 23, 2010   Shell’s Arctic Drilling Will Destroy Our Homeland And Culture
by Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, Countercurrent,

This week families across the country will be celebrating Thanksgiving—sharing food and telling stories. Here is my story about our food and culture that would be destroyed if Shell Oil gets the permit to drill for oil in our homeland—the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

Since 1986 I lived in Nuiqsut, an Inupiat community on the Beaufort Sea coast of Arctic Alaska. In 1991 I graduated from the University of Washington Medex Northwest Physician Assistant program and was employed as a health aide in Nuiqsut for 14 years. Nearly 8 years ago I helped to found REDOIL (Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands) to represent my interests.

I have raised my family in Nuiqsut. I have one daughter, four sons, two granddaughters, and four grandsons. I live a very traditional lifestyle—hunting, fishing, whaling, gathering, and teaching our family and community members the traditional and cultural activities as my elders taught me. We hunt and eat various birds, including ptarmigan, ducks and geese; fish, including char, salmon, whitefish, dolly varden, grayling, pike, trout, and cisco; land mammals, including caribou, moose and muskox; and marine mammals, including bearded seals, walrus, beluga and bowhead whales. We harvest berries, plants roots and herbs. We work together in harvesting plants and animals.

We have extensive sharing traditions that unite our families and communities. Other communities share their harvest with my family and we share our harvest with others. These sharing patterns have given us much of the variety of foods that we eat. We also share our harvest with those in need.

My mother taught me the land hunting skills that she learned from her parents and family. Other family members taught me how to hunt whales and other marine mammals. I have family ties that bind me to Nuiqsut and other communities in the Arctic, and exposure to hunting and gathering is an important part of these ties.

Whales Give Us Food and Bind Our Communities

Inupiat communities across the Arctic coast of Alaska primarily depend on Bowhead whales for subsistence food and our culture is tied intimately with the whales and the sea. Nuiqsut whalers hunt for bowhead whales in the Beaufort Sea during the fall. We await the migration of the whales from Camden Bay for this hunt. The crews go to Cross Island in August. My sons help the crews with their preparation. My ex–husband has gone whaling from Cross Island with his uncle a few times.

Community prayer after a Bowhead whale hunt, Beaufort Sea coast, Kaktovik, Alaska. Photo by Subhankar Banerjee, 2001.

There is a feast in the village after a successful whale hunt. Everyone is invited to the captain’s home to eat whale meat and other food, tea and coffee. I have participated in several of these feasts in Nuiqsut. These feasts are a time of celebration, when stories are told about the hunt.

We have a unique sharing system to divide the harvested whale among the crew striking the whale and the crews helping to land and butcher the whale. The whalers also set aside a portion of the whale meat to share with those in need. Part of the catch is saved for feasting. We share the feast three times during a year, at the blanket toss—a traditional celebration during the summer, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sharing of the whale binds our communities. Whale meat feeds families throughout the long, dark winter, and provides nourishment, warmth and fuel for our daily activities during the Arctic winter.

The foods we eat are important to our lives and health. We have activities associated with our harvesting throughout the year, such as skin sewing, sinew preparation, and craft making. The teaching of the activities and stories continues throughout the year with each generation sharing family hunting stories.

Shell’s Drilling Plan Will Affect Wildlife That We Depend On For Survival

Shell’s proposals to drill for oil and gas in the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea are detrimental to the traditional and cultural activities of our family and village. We depend on traditional foods that migrate through both Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Any harm from Shell’s activities to our resources, including bowhead whales, seals, fish and caribou, threatens our food and our health.

I am concerned that Shell’s exploration drilling, icebreaking, aircraft and helicopter flights, and other noisy activities in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas will keep whales from their feeding areas or otherwise harm them. Any changes in the whale populations could affect our hunting. We educate our families that a whale hunt must be respectful and quiet. If the noise from Shell’s drilling and icebreaking causes whales to be farther offshore, I am concerned that this would place more wear on our equipment and put the whalers at greater risk. We have been taught not to put things in the water that may cause the whales to turn away from the hunting grounds. I fear that water discharges from drillships or the presence of drilling muds in the water where Shell conducts its activities could cause whales to avoid our hunting grounds.

If the whale hunts are less successful, I fear that the community will suffer, as it has in the past during times of shortage. To give an example, in the early 1990s there was seismic activities and exploration drilling in Camden Bay that severely affected our whaling. The following winter, I heard of an unusually high rate of domestic violence in Nuiqsut and increases in suicide attempts and in suicides. I heard of and witnessed increases in drug and alcohol use as well. As a community health aid, I listened to people’s stories of how difficult it was to hunt without success. That winter was the worst I spent as a community health aide and the experience prompted me to speak out at meetings about oil development.

We also depend on caribou for our subsistence food. I am concerned that helicopters and aircraft associated with Shell’s offshore drilling will affect caribou along the coast, and make the caribou avoid hunting areas, including traditional migratory routes and areas used for insect relief.

Due to ongoing oil development on land caribous are already affected. We have a hunting cabin 8 miles from Nuiqsut. This cabin is across the river from the Alpine oilfield, and the activity levels around the cabin are so high that we travel up fish creek and other tributaries, away from the cabin, in order to hunt geese and caribou. I feel that the overflights have caused the caribou to avoid the area near our hunting cabin. My second youngest son was brought to the same area where his dad hunted his first caribou. My son shot a caribou there, but the wounded animal fled from a helicopter that was flying overhead, and moved into a water filled gravel pit, created for development of the Alpine oilfield, and drowned where we could not get to it. The loss of that caribou eliminated my son’s desire to attempt to hunt for the rest of the summer.

Oil and Gas Activities Threaten Our Traditional Way Of Life

I embrace the traditional and cultural activities that I learned from my elders and extended family members. Sharing and passing these traditions onto my children, grandchildren and families is very important to me. I fear that industrial oil and gas activities, including those put forward in Shell’s drilling plans, are changing our natural environment and thereby affecting my ability to live, share, and pass on our traditional way of life. Increased contact with unnatural activities causes a cascade of reactions. Taking the next generation hunting and fishing in areas that now feature signs and sounds of industrial activity—gravel placement, flight activity, personnel activity—is not the same.

I have seen first hand how the Alpine oilfield affected our cultural camp at Nigliq and on the Colville River. There is a growing need to work in cultural camps that teach the next generation our hunting traditions. But teaching the young harvesters our traditions is getting harder because of oil and gas development that drives animals away from our camp. For example, the caribou herds are kept miles away by traffic, including freighter flights, helicopters, and airboats. When industrial activities that conflict with traditional and cultural activities are permitted to dominate our landscape, traditional usage of the areas that has persisted for generations loses out to expanding oil and gas infrastructure.

The disconnect between our concerns and continual government permitting of oil and gas activities in our region is stark. Generations of our people have discussed and put together comments, mitigation measures, restrictions, and prevention attempts. Yet the government has not prevented the loss of traditional and cultural activities, impacts that the Council on Environmental Quality for the Bush administration told us were illegal. State and Federal Governments push the permitting process without looking at the losses created for us. We pushed for deferral and permanent restrictions of industrial activities during our whaling at Cross Island and we were kept out of meetings that changed these discussions. That also was illegal, yet the Obama administration has only allowed industrial activities to continue. National Marine Fisheries Service has stated that oil and gas activities should be postponed until baseline data could be obtained. Yet no new information exists to guide decisions. We fought for restrictions that were not honored.

Words on papers create real loss to our stomachs and the rest of the process of sharing, teaching, celebrating, and learning. Hotdogs offered by industry in their meetings cannot replace the loss of our traditional and cultural foods and activities.

When Will The Government Honor Our Concerns?

Rosemary Ahtuangaruak testifies at Secretary Salazar’s hearing on 5–Year Offshore Oil Leasing, Anchorage, Alaska, April 2009

Earlier this month there were federal government hearings in several Inupiat communities including Barrow, Kotzebue, Point Hope, Point Lay and Wainwright to hear our concerns about Shell’s Arctic drilling. I attended the hearing in Barrow, where I’ve been living since May of this year. We had about 60 people attend the Barrow hearing and overwhelmingly the statements were in opposition to Shell’s drilling plan. The hearing showed the continued concerns of the lack of ability to respond to a spill, lack of taking the concerns of the people into meaningful consultation, the lack of willingness to protect our traditional and cultural activities, and the continued stress and strain this is causing to our people. The risks of the process stay with us and the benefits are taken elsewhere. None of it is worth the risk to harvesting, sharing, celebrating, consuming, teaching, constructing crafts, preparing foods, planning, feasting, dancing, and singing.

Oil companies have a long tradition of making promises and then breaking them by cutting costs to increase profits. Recently I read about a detailed study reported in The New York Times that concluded, “Arctic is not ready for such deep–sea drilling operations.” This is very worrisome for me. But I don’t need to know this from The New York Times—I live here in the Arctic and I know how dangerous it would be to drill for oil in the frozen Arctic Seas.

We want to be Inupiat into the future not just residents in an industrialized area destroyed by Shell’s offshore oil drilling. Our animals, land and seas in the Arctic are already severely stressed by climate change. We don’t want Shell’s dangerous offshore drilling to add to our difficulties. I urge President Obama to hear our concerns and deny Shell the permit to drill for oil in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

Rosemary Ahtuangaruak is an Inupiaq activist. She is a graduate of the University of Washington Medex Northwest Physician Assistant Program. She has fought tirelessly for the health and protection of her people and of the Arctic’s unparalleled wilderness that has sustained her culture for thousands of years. Rosemary is a former mayor of Nuiqsut and currently serves on the board of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, the regional tribal government for the North Slope, and is an executive council member of the Alaska Inter–Tribal Council. She received the 2009 Voice of the Wild Award from the Alaska Wilderness League. She is a founding board member of REDOIL (Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands).

Copyright 2010 Rosemary Ahtuangaruak

This article was first published in climatestorytellers.org and reposted here with the kind permission of its editor Subhankar Banerjee.

  Read Shell’s Arctic Drilling Will Destroy Our Homeland And Culture
 December 17, 2010   The Golden Rule: Basic Link of all Religions
by Dr. Charles Mercieca
Global Peace Movement

President, International Association of Educators for World Peace
International Association of Educators for World Peace
Dedicated to United Nations Goals of Peace Education,
Environmental Protection, Human Rights & Disarmament
Professor Emeritus, Alabama A&M University
Hon President & Professor, SBS Swiss Business School, Zurich

The Golden Rule: Basic Link of all Religions , December 17, 2010. The Golden Rule: Basic Link of all Religions Download full WORD document by author The Golden Rule: Basic Link of all Religions
  Read The Golden Rule: Basic Link of all Religions
 December 11, 2010   Reading the Coca Leaves: Climate Change, Cancun and Bolivia
Medea Benjamin, AlterNet,

On the way to participate in a rally organized by the international peasant group Via Campesina in Cancun, a Bolivian indigenous farmer took some coca leaves out of his hand-woven satchel and pressed them into my hand. "You will need these during the climate talks in Cancun to keep you from getting tired or hungry," he insisted. "Pachamama -- mother earth -- gives us these leaves. She takes care of us if we take care of her." Bonding as we chewed the bitter leaves together, the wizened Bolivian farmer shared his hopes that the negotiators would listen to his president, Evo Morales, and come up with an accord that would allow the world to live in harmony with nature.

The climate agreement that was ultimately hashed out in Cancun did not reflect the viewpoint of Bolivia's indigenous community, their President Evo Morales, or Bolivia's passionate UN negotiator, Pablo Solon. The Bolivian government and its grassroots allies wanted a binding agreement that would force significant reductions in greenhouse gases. They wanted an agreement that respected indigenous rights. They wanted an agreement grounded in a new concept -- the rights of nature -- that acknowledges that she who gives us life and abundance (and coca leaves) has as much right to exist as humans.

Many mainstream environmentalists were quick to defend the Cancun agreement, insisting that that a weak agreement is better than nothing, since it allows the international process to go forward and allows activists to keep fighting for better outcomes in the future rounds, including at next year's talks that will take place in Durban, South Africa. No agreement, they suggest, would have stopped the process cold.

But we should be clear that the minimalist agreement from Cancun is totally inadequate to address the climate crisis. It acknowledges that deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required, but does not set binding targets. This is due, in large part, to the refusal of the United States -- from the time of the Kyoto Accords -- to agree to mandatory cuts.

The agreement sets up a much-needed Green Climate Fund to help poor nations obtain clean technologies but does not lay out clear sources of financing or how the fund will be controlled. The governments agreed to give an interim trustee role to the World Bank, a move that angered groups in the global south that have suffered at the hands of Bank and activists who have opposed the Bank on a policy level.

The agreement embraces a policy on "deforestation mitigation" known as REDD, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. This gives polluters in the north a chance to buy carbon credits for protecting forests in the global south. Bolivia, and most organizations on the ground and in the streets of Cancun for the past two weeks, object to REDD on the grounds that it commodifies the forests of the global South, endangers indigenous control over the forests and their right to livelihood, and allows northern polluters to keep polluting. Bolivian negotiator Pablo Solon said handing out carbon credits for protecting forests makes it easier for industrialized nations to achieve their emissions reductions targets without taking domestic action to rein in greenhouse gases. "We want to save the forest, but not save developed countries from the responsibility to cut their emissions," Solon said.

At the 11th hour, the negotiators -- desperate for an agreement -- were annoyed at what they saw as Bolivia's obstructionism. "The experts that know about climate change know that we are right," Solon insisted. "This agreement won't stop temperature from rising by 4 degrees Celsius, which is just not sustainable. But they just want an agreement, any agreement, so they are pushing this through." While inside the confines of Cancun's Moon Palace Bolivia was left isolated, outside Bolivia was seen as the superhero standing up for the poor, the indigenous communities, and the rights of nature. 

Addressing a news conference in Cancun on December 9, Bolivian President Evo Morales -- himself an indigenous former coca farmer -- made some dire forecasts. "We came to Cancún to save nature, forests, planet Earth, not to convert nature into a commodity or revitalize capitalism with carbon markets." He predicted that without strong, mandatory emissions reductions, the world's governments would be "responsible for ecocide".

I think Evo and my Bolivian coca farmer friend would agree that if we are to avoid ecocide, we cannot rely on government officials meeting in plush golf resorts. Instead, the solutions will come from organic farmers and social entrepreneurs. They will come activists who confront corporate polluters. They will come from passionate environmentalists putting even more pressure on their governments. They will come from those fighting for climate justice on their communities around the globe. Ultimately, they will come from a grassroots global movement steeped in the values of mother nature.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK:Women for Peace.
  Read Reading the Coca Leaves: Climate Change, Cancun and Bolivia
 December 13, 2010   Vision: Can Human Beings Drop Their Divisive, Reactionary Thinking and Move to a Higher Level?
Ronit Herzfeld , AlterNet,

Why does so much of our political and social discourse devolve into extreme positions with little or no ability for each side to hear the other?  Why are we continually reacting to conflict in the same unproductive or destructive ways? Given the multitude of challenges facing us and our planet, it’s time to break this reactive and futile cycle.  As Albert Einstein so eloquently observed, “A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.” The urgency of finding that “new type of thinking” cannot be overstated.

As a psychotherapist and a human rights activist working for over twenty-five years with thousands of people on four continents, I witness these patterns of reactive behavior everywhere; and I have become intimately aware of their underlying causes. Gratefully, I have also seen our great capacity to break through these destructive patterns when provided with the necessary knowledge and tools.  We can move past divisive obstructions when we become mindful of what is blocking us, and step up to the next level of our evolution – awareness.

Recently, neuroscientists have shed more light on our physiological mechanisms and have helped to explain why our conflicts can become so intractable.  Advancements in brain scanning technology have revealed that many of our adult emotions, thoughts and actions arise from neural pathways that were created and deeply ingrained in us when we were young children.

Ninety percent of human-brain growth occurs in the first five years of life.  During this critical developmental period, life experiences determine how the millions of neurons in the human brain connect. These connections form the structure of our brains, which in turn create our minds.  Hence, our early life experiences shape our minds and define our individual beliefs and values — who we are.  While genetics plays a significant role, our experiences are responsible for how the genes are expressed, because our experiences actually shape our brain structure.

As we continue to grow, our tendency is to filter new information and experiences through our initial sets of beliefs and values.  We develop patterns in our brains that determine how we perceive and respond to our world. These patterns are relatively fixed and will tend to stay that way unless and until repeated new experiences restructure the brain, and thereby change the mind. For example, if a child is raised by racist parents, his brain structure becomes wired to think and feel racism.  The child’s view can change, however, if he is actively exposed to tolerance.
By adulthood, our worldview is so fixed that most people don’t even know that there is another way to be.  We become emotionally attached to our points of view, since they represent and order our reality. Our egos may perceive any challenge as life threatening. When in conflict, our defense mechanisms trigger, and negate or deflect opposing points of view in order to maintain our own reality. For example, many dismiss those who hold creationist beliefs as uneducated or irrational, while Creationists, in turn, label Evolutionists as heretics.  Few among either group engage in objective inquiry to understand the other. In fact, our differences are due to the fixed nature of our brains.  This set pattern is the primary source of our divisive conflicts.

To further complicate matters, these unconscious tendencies to feel threatened leave many people open to manipulation by the demagogues of the day.  The results of the recent elections are a perfect example. Driven by irrational fear, millions of citizens were led to vote against their own interests, prompting confused, frustrated and angry reactions from the other side. 

Since rational arguments do not assuage fear (because fear trumps our higher reasoning) continuing to get angry and frustrated at people and dismissing them as irrational or stupid does not change the landscape or serve us as a whole.  It only leads to a perpetual reactive pattern, one that does not allow for new creative solutions.

So how do we move forward?

The answer lies in the brain’s ability to restructure itself when consistently stimulated by new experiences. This relatively new finding has revitalized neuroscience medicine.  Through implementing certain rigorous and intense physical rehabilitation practices, for example, stroke victims and those with traumatic brain injuries have been able to successfully repattern the neurons in their brains. Many patients return to optimum physical health. On the mental health side, studies on long-term meditation practices have shown that mindfulness also changes the brain’s structure, shifting people to become more clear, peaceful and compassionate.

These new findings can now be useful for all of us. By becoming more mindful, we are able to intercept our habitual thought patterns, disconnect from our emotional attachments to our points of view, objectively examine and test our views’ validities in larger contexts, and override these patterns with other perspectives if necessary.  The more aware we become in our daily lives, the better able we are to catch our early preprogrammed patterns and replace them with more constructive approaches to our conflicts.

How can we apply this ability to help us on a collective level? How can our greater awareness reduce the divisiveness and reactivity of others? There is no quick fix here! However, continuing to meet others on their levels of reactivity only serves to fuel the cycles and gets us nowhere.   Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  The only solution is for more and more of us to try and understand the role we play in perpetuating the cycle, and become aware of how we can respond differently to conflict.

Too often, one side pulls and the other side pulls harder, hence, we devolve to extremes, and conflict becomes unhealthy.  Awareness of reactivity gives us the ability to stop pulling blindly, and pause long enough to evaluate the bigger picture so that we may address our conflicts from broader perspectives.  The great conflict-resolution expert, Bill Ury, calls this The Third Side. With awareness of how this system operates in ourselves, we can create more balanced, constructive responses that do not drive the other side further into their entrenched beliefs and away from our common goals.

In my practice, I have experienced great success with these awareness techniques, particularly when working with warring couples. I help them to become aware, and to rewire their early childhood patterns. Breakthroughs in neuroscience have given me a deeper understanding of why my practices work, and have inspired me to create a tool that can affect these changes and reach many more people.
This tool is an iPhone application called AWARENESS, which randomly intercepts users several times a day and asks them what they are feeling in the moment; and then follows up by also asking them to document what they are doing while they are present to their emotions. Based on their answers, the app treats users to a brief video meditation exercise.  This momentary interruption, repeated over time, begins to recondition the users’ minds to become more aware of their emotional states and helps them release those emotions more constructively.  Over time and with dedicated use, this tool can free us from our reactive patterns and helps us become more objective so that we are better able to generate new creative responses.

AWARENESS is the first tool in what I hope will be a new frontier for forwarding humanity’s consciousness. We need neuroscientists, biologists, social scientists and technology experts to collaborate on developing new tools and practices that can be applied in various ways to free us from our reactive patterns.

At this juncture of human evolution, it is incumbent on us to step out of our habitual counter-productive patterns and create new, out of the box solutions.  This will require a willingness to challenge our preexisting perceptions and open our minds to the higher level of thinking that Albert Einstein called for so many years ago.  When we know what we are up against, we humans have demonstrated an indomitable and awe-inspiring ability to step up and triumph over the most difficult of challenges.  For the sake of future generations, we now need to find constructive ways to transcend our differences.

  Read Vision: Can Human Beings Drop Their Divisive, Reactionary Thinking and Move to a Higher Level?
 December 12, 2010   Baby Steps Made at Climate Summit Pale in Comparison to the Change Needed
Tina Gerhardt, AlterNet,

Cancún, Mexico - As the sun rose over Cancún early Saturday morning, an agreement was reached at the COP 16. Nations lauded the work of the Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Mexican President of the COP 16, and Mexican President Felipe Calderon. They received a standing ovation at the end of the plenary.

Some touted the last minute agreement, arguing that it had reignited the UNFCCC process. Others argued that while it might have saved the UNCCC process, it had not saved the climate. And yet another group pointed out the myriad ways that the new Cancún Agreement had trammeled numerous tenets of the UNFCCC, as texts emerged through back room negotiations, and were thus not inclusive and transparent. Moreover, Bolivia's refusal to sign on to the agreement were overrun, thwarting the stipulated consensus decision-making process.

So what does the new Cancún agreement contain? How does it compare with the Kyoto Protocol? With the Copenhagen Accord? And how are various nations, nation groups and NGOs responding to it?

The UNFCCC negotiations in Cancún sought to achieve three goals: 1. to establish greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions reductions commitments; 2. To secure funding and technology from developed countries for developing countries, to help them adapt to climate change; and 3. To decide on a method for monitoring, reporting and verifying (MRV) the agreed upon targets. So how did nations do on these three goals?

In essence, the Cancun Agreement agreed to emissions reductions of 25 to 40 percent based on 1990 levels by 2020; it secured emissions reductions commitments from both developed and developing nations; it set up a climate fund but did not establish new funding; it worked to smooth the way for technology transfer; and it set up mechanisms to ensure transparency in reporting and monitoring.

Gordian Knot

The final days of the COP 16 were marked by a stalmate between those countries who were supportive of extending the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Accord. The Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012, puts the burden on developed nations, such as the U.S., to make emissions reductions. Nation groups, such as the G77, Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the European Union (EU) - in other words the majority of the countries -- sought to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.

The work of the Mexican negotiating team was thus clearly to cut through what U.S. climate negotiator Todd Stern referred to as the "Gordian Knot" of those who wanted to extend Kyoto and those who were keen to implement the Copenhagen Accord.

The Mexican delegates decided that the best method for making progress on the matter was to invite a handful of countries to participate in negotiations. Figueriedro of Brazil and Christopher Huhn of the United Kingdom led the negotiations and, according to Stern, "about 12 countries," which included "both major and minor countries" took part in the discussions, held during the last day of the summit and lasting about twelve hours. They were responsible for drafting the new agreement, which was then brought to the two working groups for discussion.

This meeting was not the only backroom meeting of select countries convened to address particular matters and it was these backroom deals that angered Bolivia so much because it violated the UNFCCC's guiding principles of inconclusiveness and transparency. Bolivia argued that in form, agreements put forward for discussion had to come through the UNFCCC's two working groups and not emerge through backroom discussions.

Other countries decided that making progress, any amount of progress, took precedence. They feared that not having any results emerge from this year's summit would put the entire UNFCCC process into question. And they argued it would do even less to avert climate change.

Cancún Agreement -- Mitigation and Emissions Reductions

What does the Cancún Agreement achieve? First, it's important to know that it is not a legally binding international agreement. It does, however, pave the way for a global treaty to be agreed upon and implemented. This work will undoubtedly form the centerpiece of next year's summit.

In terms of mitigations or action needed to avert climate change, the Cancún agreement explicitly states that emissions should not allow temperature increases to rise above 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a temperature that is commonly agreed by the worldwide scientific community as the threshold above which the consequences of climate become irreversible.

Hedegaard touted the inscription of the 2.0 maximum in the agreement, stating "for the first time, the pledges 2.0 is acknowledged in a UN document and the pledges are documented; and we acknowledge that we are not there yet." 

The door has been left open for a review to bring the limit down to 1.5 degrees. Many African nations have called for a 1.5 degree limit, since temperature disproportionately affects the region: a 2.0 degree temperature increase elsewhere equals a 3.0 temperature increase in Africa.

Additionally, the Cancún agreement seeks emissions reductions of 25-40 percent from 1990, which is in agreement with what the worldwide scientific community has called for. The agreement seeks commitments from all nations, that is, from both developed and developing nations.

In this way, it brings together the Kyoto Protocol, which sought commitments from developed nations and was signed onto by 37 nations, and the Copenhagen Accord, which sought commitments from developing nations and had 55 signatories.

Since the Copenhagen Accord commitments were entirely voluntary and neither the Copenhagen Accord nor the Cancún Agreement is legally binding, these pledges at present cannot be enforced. This remains to be worked out.

Earlier this year, countries were asked to submit commitments for the Copenhagen Accord by January 31, 2010 and appear as the Accord's Appendix I. A list of countries and their commitments can be found here.

The reduction commitments made in the Copenhagen Accord are thus now anchored in the COP framework and part of the UNFCCC process. Their inclusion was of keen interest to the United States, which has been working tirelessly over the last year for their recognition and implementation.

Stern acknowledged that there were "quite different views with respect to the anchoring of pledges of the Copenhagen Accord." Many nations opposed their inclusion, since the Copenhagen Accord was a backroom deal that did not emerge from the working groups.

Countries are to develop low carbon development plans and strategies and decide how best to implement them. For developed nations, the options can include market mechanisms. For developing nations, mitigation will be matched by funding and technology.


The negotiations also sought to secure funding, in order to help developing nations adapt to the consequences of climate change, which disproportionately hit them harder. The commitments from Copenhagen were repeated: $30 billion dollars in fast track funding for three years, 2010-2012; and $100 billion in long-term funding to be raised by 2020.

The Cancún Agreement establishes a Green Climate Fund under the Conference of the Parties, which will be run by a board consisting of equal representation from developed and developing countries. It will not be run by the World Bank, which was of concern particularly to developing nations, who have often had negative experiences with the World Bank.

Mark Stevenson of the AP challenged U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern in a press conference to explain how the agreement was a success in terms of funding: "You have started a Green Fund with no funding ... How can you call this a success? Could give us a small resume of what additional funding the United States pledged here in Cancún?"

Stern responded that "we do have new funding. We are part of the fast start pledge from last year, which carries for three years. The first year was 2010, then there's 2011 and 2012." Yet his answer belies the problem: funding from last year is not quite new funding.

A Technology Executive Committee and a Climate Technology Center and Network were also set up. They are intended to help transfer technology from developed nations to developing nations, in order to help the latter address and adapt to climate change. Discussions were stuck on questions of patents involved in international technology transfers.

Enforcing Pledges

Lastly, the Cancún Agreement negotiated a way to monitor, report and verify (MRV) pledges made. Having transparency in this area was particularly important to the United States. Developed nations are to report their emissions inventories annually and developing nations are to report their inventories every two years.


Additionally, the UN program to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation was going to go ahead. The controversial program ostensibly seeks to curb emissions from deforestation by providing developing nations with financial aid, if they do not chop down their forest. Trees soak up C02 emissions when standing, but inversely when chopped down release them into the air.

Opponents argue that rampant abuses exist, since the program does not provide enough oversight. A key tenet of the agreement coming out of the World People's Conference on Climate Change, convened by President Evo Morales in Bolivia in April, opposed REDD. Numerous NGOs participating in this year's COP 16 took a stance against REDD through actions and panels. Forested areas are mostly inhabited by indigenous peoples, who are therefore impacted intensely.


Bolivian lead climate negotiator Pablo Solón refused to sign on to the agreement, saying it condemns humankind to 4.0 temperature increases and would doom millions living in the most impoverished and vulnerable nations. COP 16 President Espinosa overrode his protests, stating that she would note his concerns but that the consensus process did not allow one person to hold up the support of the other countries.

Response from NGOS

Friends of the Earth International called the agreement a slap in the face, and warned that it could still lead to a temperature rise of 5C. "In the end, all of us will be affected by the lack of ambition and political will of a small group of countries. The US, with Russia and Japan, are to blame for the lack of desperately needed greater ambition," said Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth's international director.

Rose Braz, from Center for Biological Diverstiy, said: "While the Cancun agreement moves the process forward, it doesn't move the process forward boldly or quickly enough. In Cancun, led by the U.S., countries refused to even acknowledge the gap between the cuts pledged in Copenhagen and the cuts to global warming pollution science requires, let alone establish a concrete process to close that huge gap. Today, the planet remains on a course for warming of over 3.5º C (6.3º F) -- a truly horrifying prospect."

On Friday, NASA announced that 2010 is set to be the warmest year on record. The next Conference of the Parties is scheduled to take place in Durban, South Africa, from 28 November to 9 December 2011.


Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist and academic, who has covered international climate change negotiations, most recently in Copenhagen and Bonn. Her work has appeared in Alternet, Grist, In These Times and The Nation.
  Read Baby Steps Made at Climate Summit Pale in Comparison to the Change Needed
 December 3, 2010   Catastrophic Blizzards, Heat Waves and Floods: Global Warming or Just Crazy Weather?
Stan Cox, AlterNet,

Officially it's not even winter yet, but freakish 60-mile-an-hour blizzards and frigid temperatures have already walloped the Pacific Northwest, while record a-foot-in-a-day snows hit the Northern Plains and Rockies. With improbable weather becoming routine, forecasters may be in for another wild ride this winter.

There's no way of knowing exactly when or where extreme cold or heavy snow is going to hit during the next three months, but the forecast does call for a 100 percent chance of someone -- most likely a Republican who wants to gut environmental regulation -- seizing on such weather as proof that the planet isn't warming.

Last February, as the snow just kept piling up in Washington, D.C., Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and his family built an igloo down the street from the Capitol and labeled it "Al Gore's new home." And the Virginia Republican Party ran TV ads telling viewers to call legislators who supported climate-change legislation "and tell them how much global warming you get this weekend. Maybe they'll come help you shovel."

Of course, the "Snowmageddon" jokesters had no way of knowing at the time that within less than five months the snowshoe would be on the other foot. By early July, with much of North America broiling in record-shattering heat, most climate-change holdouts were keeping a low profile. (But not Inhofe, who defiantly lectured a sweating ABC News team, "We're in a cycle now that all the scientists agree is going into a cooling period.")

Meanwhile, some environmental groups pointed to the blistering July temperatures as confirmation that we've headed over the cliff of global climate change. The National Wildlife Foundation rushed out a report supplement titled "Extreme Heat in Summer 2010: A Window on the Future," filling it with pictures of sweating city-dwellers and hot-colored charts. The Natural Resources Defense Council put out a press release in which its climate-center director announced, "Welcome to what might be termed 'the dark side of climate change.'"

Back in the 1990s, the major environmental groups made a decision not to highlight extreme weather events as early signs of global warming. Should they have stuck to that policy? When heatwaves, droughts and floods are exhibited as evidence of climate disruption, does it make it that much easier for people like Inhofe to whip up more confusion the next time a winter storm hits? Is there any cool-headed way to talk about the crazy climate of recent years?

The odds on odd weather

Given the complexity of climate science, it's not surprising that the best way to get the attention of the media and the public is to talk about exceptional weather that's happening right now rather than the bigger threat of long-term climate disruption. But that makes life difficult for those who study climate for a living.

One such researcher is Katharine Hayhoe, an associate professor at Texas Tech University. She sees a clear necessity to come back hard against fatuous arguments that, she says, go something like, "Well, you know, temperatures are cooling in the month of September in Erie, Pennsylvania, so how can the planet be warming?" But, she warns, climate scientists have to be careful themselves not to go beyond the data: "It is very tempting to seize on a single dramatic event, but we have to stay true to what we know, to stick to terms like 'consistent with' and 'risk of.'"

In public statements, most climate scientists are indeed careful to stress that we cannot draw conclusions from individual extreme weather events. But Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, is now thinking such caution may have gone too far.

He says many of his colleagues, weary of being attacked by people like Inhofe, tend to "jump too soon," starting their responses to reporters by discounting the relevance of individual weather events. But by understating the links, he believes, they are "erring in the opposite direction," which in itself can be misleading. "Statistics show very much that these events really are part of bigger trends," he stresses.

To illustrate, Mann uses a metaphor popular among climate researchers these days: "Suppose you're betting on dice, but that someone had replaced the five on this particular die with a second six. If you don't know this, you might get cheated out of a lot of money. But when you demand your money back, can you point to any one roll of that die that you can prove lost you money? No, you can't." But, he says, it's a fact that the size of your losses is a direct result of the change in the die.

Similarly with the Earth's atmosphere, he says, statistics tell us that shifts in climate have contributed to extreme weather: "As the numbers start piling up, you can say that the numbers have been shifted by climate change. A 1,000-year event becomes a 30-year event."

To follow year-to-year climatic trends through the centuries before weather data were being recorded, scientists like Mann can use indicators like tree rings. But it is usually impossible, he says, to detect trends in shorter-term climatic extremes that occurred in the distant past.

On the other hand, daily weather data that have been recorded for 50, 100, or more years in many places can tell us a lot about extremes. And, says Mann, "When extreme events that actually occurred are the ones you'd expect based on climate-change models, you have a lot more confidence."

"If we were seeing a lot of longer, more intense cold periods, we'd all be scratching our heads. But when you confirm what the hypothesis proposed, you have an increased degree of confidence."

And confidence is increasing. Last year, 15 climate scientists published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that contained this straightforward statement, based on the most recent Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): "It is now more likely than not that human activity has contributed to observed increases in heat waves, intense precipitation events, and the intensity of tropical cyclones."

Furthermore, even on a warming planet, regions with traditionally cold winters will still have plenty of below-freezing weather; when that cold air combines with moist air masses (in a generally warmer atmosphere that's able to carry more water vapor than it used to), a lot of moisture can suddenly get dumped in the form of snow.

Hayhoe helped write a June 2009 report published by the U.S. Global Change Research Program finding that the share of precipitation falling as snow rather than rain is increasing in the northeastern United States. Furthermore, said the report, "Heavy snowfall and snowstorm frequency have increased in many northern parts of the United States." Six months later, with the northern and middle Atlantic coast paralyzed by record snowfall, Hayhoe and her co-authors could be even more confident that the trend they had observed was not a mirage.

But if climate models project with some assurance that present and future emissions of greenhouse gases will lead to rapid warming of the atmosphere and extreme weather, is it even necessary to continue digging into past climate and weather records for evidence of change? Do historical studies add any useful information as we plan for the future?

Sixteen scientists who contributed to a 2008 report for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program stressed that while the past does not hold all the answers, it is important to learn what it can tell us. The first step, they explain, is "detection" -- establishing that changes have occurred in some type of extreme, say heat waves, over time. Then comes the second step, "attribution":

Attribution further links those changes with variations in climate forcings, such as changes in greenhouse gases, solar radiation, or volcanic eruptions ... Attribution often uses quantitative comparison between climate-model simulations and observations, comparing expected changes due to physical understanding integrated in the models with those that have been observed.

Such a comparison can be seen in graphs plotted by University of Oklahoma researchers. In them, an index including several kinds of extreme climate events can be seen increasing over recent decades in a way that can't be explained by natural variation. But when greenhouse emissions are included in climate models, observation and theory align very well.

When extreme heat becomes routine

If last summer's brain-cooking heat seemed to be unusually persistent, it wasn't just your fevered imagination. Weather records show that occurrences of two-day and three-or-more-day-long runs of exceptionally high temperatures have been increasing steadily since 1960. The trend toward more extra-hot days, and especially extra-warm nights, has been strongest, as we'd expect, in urban areas where concrete and asphalt trap heat and vegetation is sparse. But rural areas and suburbs have also seen increases.

A half-century ago, record high and record low temperatures occurred at approximately the same rate in the United States. Now record highs are happening at least twice as often as record lows, and the ratio might be as high as four-to-one.

One link between heat waves and human-induced warming of the atmosphere is simply a matter of statistics. Daily temperatures are distributed like most phenomena, in a bell-shaped curve, with most readings heaped up in the middle, near the average for the date, and the rarer extremes tapering away in both directions as "tails." As the earth warms, that curve tends to shift to the right, toward higher temperatures, with its right tail leading the way.

Even if the bell curve stays exactly the same shape as it moves, a small shift can lead to many more heat waves. Notes Michael Mann, "The one-degree Celsius increase we have seen in average temperature, for example, appears to be leading to a doubling of the rate at which record-breaking temperatures occur." That happens because as the curve moves right, the "fatter" part of the tail moves into "extreme" territory. The graph below, by IPCC via the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, illustrates the effect of the shift:

But there may be more to the story. The monster heat wave that killed tens of thousands of Europeans in 2003 was off the charts -- impossible to explain by a simple shift in the bell curve, according to a Swiss climate team. The group reported a few months after the disaster that even considering the increase in average temperatures in Europe from 1990 to 2003 -- but assuming no change in the shape of the curve -- a heat wave like that of 2003 could be expected to occur only once every 46,000 years.

The fact that the 2003 event really did happen led them to search for other explanations in greenhouse climate models. Those models, they discovered, predict a large increase not only in average temperature but in variability as well -- a flattening of the bell curve like the one illustrated in the IPCC graph below -- that would make killer heat waves much more common in, say, Switzerland.

Indeed, the Swiss scientists' models suggest that in Central Europe "toward the end of the century -- under the given scenario assumptions -- about every second summer could be as warm or warmer (and as dry or drier) than 2003."

While not as wildly unpredictable as Europe '03, the 2010 killer heat wave in Russia went well beyond anything else yet experienced and might also be an indicator of a flattening bell curve.

"The heat in Russia and the floods in Pakistan in the past year were not just weather flukes," adds Mann. Greenhouse models, he points out, projected that sinking dry air would migrate from northern Africa and southern Europe toward Central Europe and Russia in summer, and that moist air would move north from the tropical Indian Ocean toward subtropical Pakistan. "Those events were part of a larger circulation pattern," he says.

Extreme rains, extraordinary snow

In recent years, precipitation patterns appear to have gone haywire, not just in Pakistan but on every continent. Katharine Hayhoe has seen this up close: "In the five years I've lived in West Texas, we've had a 111-day rainless stretch -- the longest ever recorded -- and two '100 year' rainfalls" -- ones so heavy that such an event occurs only once per century on average.

"But," she says, "it all makes sense from a basic physics perspective. The atmosphere is holding more water vapor. Storm systems, when they come, have more to work with."

Warmer air is capable of holding more water vapor than is cooler air. As a consequence, the concentration of moisture in the atmosphere also has been increasing since the '60s, both in the United States and across the globe. A comprehensive 2007 study led by Katharine Willett, now at Yale University, concluded that the increases in humidity observed planet-wide can be attributed to human influence and that natural forces alone cannot explain the change.

With more moisture in the air, an increasing proportion of precipitation is coming in the form of more intense rainstorms around the world. Over the past 30 years, the southeastern United States has seen simultaneous increases in droughts, wet years, and strong rainstorms. These big swings in precipitation are related to the continuing rise in Atlantic Ocean surface temperatures and the increasing variability of those temperatures. The ocean temperature increase has been attributed to greenhouse emissions; the degree to which emissions affect variability in surface temperatures is less well understood.

Numbers of years with extremely high snowfall totals have declined since the 1950s over much of the country. That was to be expected, because with climate change, weather cold enough for snow is now even more rare in warm regions like the Southeast.

However, extremes follow a different pattern from totals. There has been a slight upward trend in strong snowstorms over the past century in the United States. What part of that trend you see depends on where you live. Warmer areas of the country are seeing fewer big snowstorms, but the upper Midwest and the Northeast are getting hit with more of them.

Meanwhile, that most media-friendly of all extreme weather phenomena, the hurricane, is probably also the least informative when it comes to the climate debate. Authored by a group of hurricane experts, a paper published earlier this year by Nature Geoscience (subscription) examined all existing evidence of links between greenhouse emissions and Atlantic tropical cyclones.

In contrast to the IPCC report that had concluded it is "more likely than not" that humanity's emissions have influenced tropical cyclone activity, this study found that "despite some suggestive observational studies, we cannot at this time conclusively identify" a human fingerprint on the increasing intensity of tropical cyclones. However, "a substantial human influence on future tropical cyclone activity cannot be ruled out...."

No news is bad news

Whatever happens on the ground, in the sea and in the atmosphere in coming decades, it is very likely that public discussion of the climate will tend to focus on events like heat waves, floods and storms more than on the invisible, and ultimately more important, transformation of the planet-wide climate.

In a 2007 essay, Andrew Revkin of the New York Times explained why storms make headlines but climatic disruption does "not constitute news as we know it":

... the incremental nature of climate research and its uncertain scenarios will continue to make the issue of global warming incompatible with the news process. Indeed, global warming remains the antithesis of what is traditionally defined as news...Journalism craves the concrete, the known, the here and now and is repelled by conditionality, distance, and the future.

But could it be that the kind of energetic public discussion we saw following last winter's Snowmageddon can actually help remedy the situation, by introducing more people to the complex forces that are taking our climate on this wild ride? Do more people now know, for example, that if there is extraordinary weather again this winter, it can be entirely consistent with what we'd expect when living in a warmer, moister atmosphere? Will more of us see in next summer's heatwaves the roll of loaded dice?

When I asked Michael Mann those questions, he chuckled. "Well, yes, I hope the past year has provided a learning opportunity" for Americans.

But will we actually learn from it? On that question, Mann -- who makes his living estimating statistical confidence -- did not seem very confident at all.

  Read Catastrophic Blizzards, Heat Waves and Floods: Global Warming or Just Crazy Weather?
 December 9, 2010   Melting Glaciers to Bring Floods and Drought
Environment News Service, AlterNet,

Climate change is causing mass loss of glaciers in high mountains worldwide. Within a few decades, melting glaciers could leave arid areas such as Central Asia and parts of the Andes even drier as the ice melts into water and flows downhill, causing disastrous floods in the lowlands, finds a new report by the UN Environment Programme presented today at the UN climate talks in Cancun.

Compiled by UNEP's Polar Research Centre GRID-Arendal and experts from research centers in Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America, the report says the larger glaciers may take centuries to disappear but many low-lying, smaller glaciers, which are often crucial water sources in dry lands, are melting much faster.

Glacial melt will change the lives of millions as over half of the world's population lives in watersheds of major rivers originating in mountains with glaciers and snow.

Glaciers in Argentina and Chile, followed by those in Alaska and its coastal mountain ranges, have been losing mass faster and for longer than glaciers in other parts of the world, finds the report, "High Mountain Glaciers and Climate Change - Challenges to Human Livelihoods and Adaptation."

The third fastest rate of loss is among glaciers in the northwest United States and southwest Canada.

Melting more slowly are glaciers in the high mountains of Asia, including the Hindu Kush region of the Himalayas, the Arctic and the Andes.

Europe's glaciers had been growing since the mid-1970s, but they began to lose mass around the year 2000, the report shows.

"These alarming findings on melting glaciers underline the importance of combating climate change globally. It sends a strong message to us as politicians and climate negotiators in Cancun," said Norway's Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim.

Solheim announced today that Norway will fully fund, with more than US$12 million, the five-year Hindu-Kush-Himalayas Climate Impact Adaptation and Assessment Programme from 2011.

"People in the Himalayas must prepare for a tough and unpredictable future. They need our committed support," said Solheim. "Therefore, Norway will fully fund the brand new five-year program. We see this program as a potent mix of solid climate science, promising intra-regional cooperation and concrete adaptation projects on the ground."

The initiative will be carried out by the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development and UNEP-Grid Arendal.

Overall, the trend is shrinking glaciers, but greater precipitation in some places has increased the mass and the size of glaciers in western Norway, New Zealand's South Island and parts of the Tierra del Fuego in South America.

"Accumulation of science shows us a clear general trend of melting glaciers linked to a warming climate and perhaps other impacts, such as the deposit of soot, reducing the reflection of heat back into space," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said today.

"This report underlines a global trend, observed over many decades now in some parts of the globe, which has short and long-term implications for considerable numbers of people in terms of water supplies and vulnerability," he said.

In dry regions of Central Asia, Chile, Argentina and Peru, where there is little rainfall and precipitation, receding glaciers will have much more impact on the seasonal water availability than in Europe or in parts of Asia, where monsoon rains play a much more prominent role in the water cycle, the report finds.

Some areas are experiencing contradictory effects, according to the report. In smaller areas of Asia's Karakoram range, for example, advancing glaciers have crept over areas that have been free of ice for 50 years. But in Asia's Tianshan and Himalayan mountain ranges, glaciers are receding, and some are shrinking rapidly, causing glacial lakes to burst.

"Without doubt the main driving force behind the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers and formation of the catastrophic Glacial Lake Outburst Floods is warming due to climate change," said Madhav Karki, deputy director general of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.

"The risk to lives and livelihoods in the fragile Hindu Kush Himalayan region is high and getting higher," said Dr. Karki, expressing thanks to the Norwegian government for its funding of the new adaptation program. "Immediate action by the global community on launching long-term adaptation and resilience-building programs is urgently needed."

In the last 40 years, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods, often called GLOFs, have been increasing, not only in China, Nepal and Bhutan, but also more recently in Patagonia and the Andes.

Five major GLOFs took place in April, October and December 2008 and again in March and September 2009 in the Northern Patagonia Icefield in Chile. On each occasion, the Cachet 2 Lake, dammed by the Colonia Glacier, released around 200 million tonnes of water into the Colonia River. The lake has since rapidly refilled, suggesting high risk of further GLOFs.

There has been a near doubling in the frequency of GLOFs in the Yarkant region of Karakoram, China since 1959, attributed to the warming climate.

In the Lunana region of Bhutan on October 7, 1994, the glacial lake Luggye Tsho burst. The ensuing GLOF, which contained an estimated 18 million cubic meters of water, debris and trees, swept downstream killing more than 20 people, and travelled over 204 kilometers.

"When glaciers disappear, people, livestock, birds and animals will be forced to move," says one of the report's editors, Christian Nellemann of the UNEP/GRID-Arendal research center in Norway. "But ironically, a lot of people die in deserts also from drowning, when increasingly unpredictable rains cause flash floods."

"The impact of floods was brought into sharp relief in Pakistan in August 2010. As of November 2010, over six million people were still being affected by this disaster, with many displaced and housing, livelihoods, crops and livestock lost," said Steiner in his introduction to the report.

Siphoning off the water from overflowing lakes is one adaptive action, successfully carried out at lakes in Peru's Cordillera Blanca. Similar projects have been carried out in the Tsho and Thorthormi Glaciers in Nepal and Bhutan but the cost and technical challenges in remote locations can be high.

The report recommends:

  • Strengthening glacial research and trans-national collaboration with emphasis on mass calculation, monitoring and particularly the effects of glacial recession on water resources, biodiversity and availability downstream.

  • Improved modeling on precipitation patterns and effects on water availability in particular in mountain regions of Asia and Latin America.

  • Prioritizing support to and development of adaptation to water-related disasters.

  • Prioritizing programs and support to development and implementation of adaptation strategies for too much and too little water including strengthening the role of women.

  • Urgently supporting the implementation and improvement of both small and large-scale water capture and storage systems and improving efficiency of current irrigation systems through the use of green technology and agricultural knowledge.

"If the world is to decisively deal with climate change, we must also address the need for programmes targeted towards adaptation strategies to build long-term resilience. Local people are already having to make tough decisions and choices as the climate around them changes," said Steiner. "It is time for and governments and the international to step up action on cutting emissions and supporting adaptation. This meeting in Cancun is the next opportunity to fast track a response."

  Read Melting Glaciers to Bring Floods and Drought
 December 6, 2010   A 2,000 Mile Pipeline of the World's Dirtiest Oil to Run Through 6 U.S. States
Tara Lohan , AlterNet,

The notorious tar sands in Alberta, Canada have long been a source of contention for environmentalists, and rightfully so: Due to the destruction wrought by extracting the oil from the sands and the carbon-intensive refinement processes, this oil is often considered the dirtiest on earth. And we're about to have 900,000 barrels of it flowing through the US every day, through the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. That is, unless Obama takes the advice of the No Tar Sands campaign, and shuts it down.

The Huffington Post has the details:

The pipeline would run from Canada through six US states, to Gulf Coast refineries. Activists are concerned that public water supplies, crops, and wildlife habitats will be at risk when 900,000 barrels a day of dirty oil are transported across our country's heartland.

According to the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund, the President and US Department have the power to require an additional Environmental Impact Assessment. Members of Congress and the EPA have already requested this measure be taken.

The ad campaign will feature TV ads on CNN, MSNBC, and Comedy Central ... The No Tar Sands Oil Campaign is sponsored by an overwhelming number of groups, including Corporate Ethics International, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and Rainforest Action Network.

The fact that this tar sands oil pipeline is something of a harbinger for things to come makes the campaign all the more urgent: As oil stores around the world dry up and offshore drilling becomes more and more dangerous, we'll see more reliance

on harmful tar sands oil

. But instead of continually ratcheting up the risks associated with squeezing every last drop of oil out of the planet, perhaps it's time to take a stand -- and tell the administration to start seriously supporting clean forms of energy.

By Brian Merchant | Sourced from Treehugger

Posted at December 6, 2010,

  Read A 2,000 Mile Pipeline of the World's Dirtiest Oil to Run Through 6 U.S. States
 December 5, 2010   Maude Barlow: A Healthy Environment Should Be a Human Right
Madeline Ostrander, AlterNet

In most legal systems, you have a right to freedom of speech or religion, but you don’t have a right to breathe clean air or drink safe water.

Maude Barlow—author, activist, and former senior advisor on water to the United Nations—believes that those rights should be recognized. This past summer, she helped engineer a landmark victory: The U.N. formally adopted a resolution recognizing the human right to water (though the United States abstained).

Now, Barlow is part of an international movement—of governments, scientists, and activists—working to bring a focus on environmental rights to the ongoing United Nations climate negotiations. This week, she is attending the United Nations climate meeting in Cancún, Mexico.

The negotiations are thus far getting scant press attention, but thousands of people from all over the world are turning out in Cancún to voice their political views and hold alternative meetings and demonstrations outside the U.N. conference. Early this week, the international grassroots organization La Via Campesina led Barlow and hundreds of other grassroots leaders on a tour across the Mexican countryside to witness how climate change is already affecting rural communities. The tours converged in Mexico City where a few thousand people held a march to the Zócalo, the city’s central plaza.

Activists in Cancún and Mexico City are rallying behind the idea of environmental rights. Many support a document called the “People’s Agreement on Climate Change,” which includes a “Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.” It’s an idealistic name for a proposal that would sound either visionary or improbable, or both—if not for the fact that the declaration represents the work of representatives from 56 countries and of tens of thousands of people who attended a climate conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia, last April. The document declares that everybody has rights to basics like clean water and clean air, but it also says something even more extraordinary: that the planet’s ecosystems themselves have rights.

It’s unlikely that the Cochabamba proposals will end up in any formal agreements to emerge from Cancún. But the idea of environmental rights is taking hold. In September 2008, Ecuador formally recognized the rights of nature in its new constitution. In the United States, a handful of local governments have passed resolutions recognizing that nature has rights, including, recently, the city of Pittsburgh.

Maude Barlow spoke with me on the phone from Cancún about how the concept of environmental rights might influence climate negotiations.

Madeline Ostrander: You worked hard on promoting the notion that we have a basic human right to water. What happens when we start talking about other environmental issues in terms of human rights?

Maude Barlow: There's no such thing as human rights if we don't protect the Earth that gives us life and if we don't start having respect for other species and for air and water and soil.

Take water, for example, because it's dear to my heart. We've seen water as a resource for our convenience, pleasure, and profit. So, we do whatever we want with it, thinking it's in unlimited supply. We dump poisons into it. We move it from where it is needed for the functioning of healthy hydrologic cycles to where we want it. We dump it into the ocean as waste. We have this worldview that water, air, and ecosystems are merely here to serve us.

That has simply got to end—that notion that that's why the Earth has been put here. There's a new, deep humility that's required of humanity if we’re going to change the tide.

MO: How has the U.N. resolution that recognizes the right to water helped the environmental movement internationally?

MB: The point to the right to water declaration was to link human rights to the Earth. People keep saying, “Well, did anything change the next day for people without water?”

And I say, “Yeah, actually.” I don't mean literally that someone who didn’t have water one day got it the next, but now we have a tool. We now have a binding resolution from the U.N. General Assembly that says that drinking water and sanitation are a fundamental human right. It's a clear, clean statement. It says to governments that you cannot use the water primarily as an economic resource. You now have to see it as a fundamental human right, and your priorities must be to serve the most vulnerable people. We're going to use it as a tool in Canada because our First Nations communities still don't have decent drinking water. Our federal government has abdicated its responsibility to those communities.

MO: Why are the statements about the rights of Earth that emerged from the Cochabamba Agreement so important?

MB: The Cochabamba People’s Agreement is rooted in the notion of social and climate justice, and it questions the whole concept of growth, unregulated trade, and market capitalism.

It says, yes, of course, there’s a place for the economy and trade, but they must serve humanity and communities. It rejects climate offsets very clearly. It talks about the injustice of the Global North to the Global South—that the countries that are feeling the worst impact are the ones that have done the least [to contribute to climate change]. It's based on the notion of human rights and justice and the rights of nature. I don't think it's radical at all in terms of what the world needs, but it's radical compared to the Copenhagen Accord.

I think the most important thing about the Agreement is that, at its core, it says we can't continue with the current policies that dominate, for instance, the G20. On one hand, our governments are saying that they care about the climate and the environment, and then on the other hand, they are promoting international trade and policy agendas that are just devastating to the world. The Cochabamba Agreement says that it's not possible to either cut greenhouse gas emissions or deal with any other crises that are facing humanity and the Earth without challenging the system. That's the motto of our movement: Change the system, not the climate.

MO: Do you still hope that the Cochabamba statement on the rights of Earth will have an influence on climate negotiations?

MB: I think it will, but probably not here. The powerful governments, the Western governments, have decided to put a damper on expectations for this round of negotiations in Cancún. And most of them don't have any intention of honoring very deep commitments. I certainly know Canada doesn't, I don't think the U.S. or Japan does.

That doesn't mean the Cochabamba Accord doesn't matter. The difference between this year and last is that our movement is getting stronger. They expected something like 7,000 to 8,000 people to attend the conference in Bolivia, and 30,000 of us descended on Cochabamba. It was really a wonderful and important gathering. While it may not produce results at the Cancún summit, I think the Cochabamba Accord is the guiding principle for our movement.

MO: What is it your best hope for the Cancún negotiations?

MB: My best hope is not that they come out with a deal; it's that they don't come out with a bad deal. The whole issue of forest restoration—that is a wonderful concept in theory, but the way it's being actualized is really dangerous. It's being used as an offset. You can legally offset your pollution by planting a monoculture forest somewhere that's going to be cut down in 10 years. That offset will allow you to continue bad practices.

I'm worried that they are going to make progress on things that do not fundamentally change or challenge the current system. And then they'll say, "Look how far we've come." When, in fact, it will be steps in the wrong direction. That is my biggest fear.

My biggest hope is that this movement of ours is getting stronger and stronger and that we're being listened to. We have had a number of wins in a number of countries recently and there’s a movement, for instance, from some of the Latin American countries that have endorsed this notion of the rights of nature.

That's not a case of giving up on the U.N. process. I want to be really clear that I think it's the only legitimate process we have. It takes forever. Democracy is slow and plodding and can drive you crazy. But it's the only international process that isn't, yet, driven by corporations. We're really worried that the big countries will say, “We're going to turn [the negotiations] over to the G20.” I think that would be a disaster. It would leave the countries that are suffering the most without restitution.

MO: You've just spent the last few days traveling with activists across the Mexican countryside. How do you think the Mexican perspective might influence the climate movement or the negotiations?

MB: Well, I have long wanted the water movement and the climate movement to get together because I think they should be the same movement.

The tours [led by La Via Campesina] brought members of the international community and Mexicans into local villages and towns throughout Mexico to learn about what's happening on the ground. The idea was, you're really not going to know this in your head; you're going to know it in your heart. We came into communities, and we saw the actual reality of people's lives.

Everybody kept hearing about water. The first face of climate change is the water crisis. People are feeling the water crisis desperately now, in community after community. Maybe a Canadian gold mine has dumped cyanide into the water, and it's poisoned. Maybe a big hydroelectric dam paid for by the World Bank has cut off an entire river. People start to put it together—their own crisis, the fact that they can't grow food any more in their local community, the fact that somehow they have to find the money for bottled water because their kids should not be drinking the local water, the fact that they've lost their local water rights and the best water is being guaranteed to corporations or tourism. This isn't a kind of esoteric thing anymore. This is suddenly real, this understanding of how climate connects to the water crisis and to corporate control.

MO: And the tours ended in a demonstration in Mexico City?

MB: The demonstration was wonderful, it was peaceful, it was joyous. It ended with a declaration of solidarity with all of the international and domestic people there.

Very exciting, very moving, and I think you are going to see a most exciting set of meetings here, and protests, and life coming off the ground here in Cancún.

Madeline Ostrander interviewed Maude Barlow for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Madeline is YES! Magazine's senior editor.
  Read Maude Barlow: A Healthy Environment Should Be a Human Right
 December 5, 2010   Spirituality
by Mariam Khan,
Global File,
Pakistan Peoples Party
Human Rights WING
Inspired Sisters Pakistan
Phone in Pakistan: 011923125545997
Email: mariam.inspiredsisters@gmail.com
My efforts on search for the ways out of the system crisis of the modern civilization, establishment of supremacy of spirituality and culture and conducting the Global Working Meeting for the purpose of building up a Global Peaceful Community , that taking into consideration its goals and objectives, have occupied the epochal, global place ,surpassing many forums and meetings of political leaders , representatives of the world financials and business elite over the past few dozens of years.

The strength of my Mind , the kindness of Heart, the sense of belonging and responsibility for the future of the earth civilization cause deep admiration being for many people the the torch of Humanism and Compassion, lighting up with the light of hope the modern global society, which plunges into darkness of egoism, lust for money and excessive communism more and more.

Mankind's global problem can be resolved neither by force of arms, nor by force of money , nor by force of law, since they cannot make Man more merciful, compassionate, sympathetic , humane , kind and just both in relations between people, countries and nations, and with regard to Nature and Enjoinment.

It is more and more evident that global problems of the modern world are of an ideological character, and their solution is beyond the limits of the beliefs of anthropocentrism, anthropomorphism and anthropomechism which has been formed for the last 3-4 millenniums and which remains the same nowadays.

Over the past century and a half , the mankind has been waging an 'officially declared war' against Nature and its spiritual constituent, in which the Mankind is doomed to imminent failure accompanied with irretrievable losses, sufferings and severe ordeals…

Both scientific disciplines, world confessions and political leaders, aristocracy of talent and science elite of the mankind formed in the Eneolithic and Iron ages,
Is it impossible to achieve this goal?
Is it impossible for the mankind to get out of the modern crises?

May be the answer lies somewhere in round aboutof the Spiritualism.. totally detached of physical component.

Spiritualism is actually a love for all of the nature, it includes the touch and warmth of human beings those care for all and those are not like cold like machines. this touch and warmth is getting out of our lives and things are getting towards worst rather than good. lets go over what we have achieved in the name of civilization over the years. This may rightly be called as the biggest paradox of our times.

"we have taller buildings but shorter tempers
wider freeways but narrow view points
we spend more but have less
we buy more, but we enjoy less
we have bigger houses and smaller families more conveniences, but less time
we have more degrees, but less judgment, more experts less solutions
more medicines but less wellness
we have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values
wetalk too much, love seldom and hate too
we have learned how to make a living, but not a life
we have added years to life, not life to years"

The history of Indian subcontinent is full of such examples where spiritual personalities of the society actually practiced and worked for a just and peaceful society. These figures were not preaching any specific religion but they preached love for humanity and nature, just and peace for every body. What has happened in our society is that we are gradually taking away all of the above components of a peaceful and tolerant society from our lives and as a result we are left with hunger, ignorance, conflicts, disrespect and every nuisance that you think of. So if we want a peaceful and just society we shouldn't separate spirituality from the civilization.

Necessity of transition from culture to a deeper nation of spirituality as a category of cognition and understanding of the modern world is quite evident.

During times of intense emotional, mental or physical stress man searches for transcendent meaning, often times through nature or a set of philosophical beliefs.

Where spirituality is normally sought through religious experiences, tapping the hidden abilities of man, the return are disastrous. Therefore the social factor has already been sorted out. Ironically, in an effort to acquire tranquility and inspiration man surrenders his soul to meditation, mind control, that is infact lie in serving the humanity, in comforting the suffered and the painful, lending hand to the left alone entities in consoling down the shattered souls.. And this is exactly where we are putting our efforts into and seeking yours aswell.

I am giving you my fully support to this World Forum Of culture , and trying to do my bit in its work as a participant.

I am here as the voice of my poor people in Pakistan. Our country is facing bad times and I wish one day with the support of you all ,we will achieve to create peace, stability , livelihood and harmony. Please Raise your hands to pray to God almighty for the betterment of my people. I can't see my poor people hungry, shelter less , dying with the lack of Medicines , less education, child labor…..

I want my country to become a Welfare State one day, No woman would not sell her just to feed her baby, no man would commit suicide because of unemployment, . I want them to be as a true Muslims, as a true Human beings. Pray for the dream to come in to reality one day.

With deep appreciation and support,
Mariam Khan,
Inspired sisters
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