Category Archives: Environment

Stephen Hawking: This Is The Most Dangerous Time For Our Planet

Stephen Hawking writes for The Guardian:

Image result for planet earthAs a theoretical physicist based in Cambridge, I have lived my life in an extraordinarily privileged bubble. Cambridge is an unusual town, centred around one of the world’s great universities. Within that town, the scientific community that I became part of in my 20s is even more rarefied.

And within that scientific community, the small group of international theoretical physicists with whom I have spent my working life might sometimes be tempted to regard themselves as the pinnacle. In addition to this, with the celebrity that has come with my books, and the isolation imposed by my illness, I feel as though my ivory tower is getting taller.

So the recent apparent rejection of the elites in both America and Britain is surely aimed at me, as much as anyone. Whatever we might think about the decision by the British electorate to reject membership of the European Union and by the American public to embrace Donald Trump as their next president, there is no doubt in the minds of commentators that this was a cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders.

It was, everyone seems to agree, the moment when the forgotten spoke, finding their voices to reject the advice and guidance of experts and the elite everywhere.

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EU Energy Targets Will ‘Increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions’

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Insurge Intelligence:

The European Commission has announced its new blueprint to phase out coal and energy inefficiencies, while supporting clean energy — but a coalition of civil society groups warns that the revised EU Renewable Energy Directive is fatally flawed.

And guess why? Because certain industries are not going to let go of their profits.

The campaign groups — Global Forest Coalition, Woodland League, Econexus, Biofuelwatch, Transnational Institute, NOAH, Corporate Europe Observatory, and Amis de l’Afrique Francophone-Bénin — point out that in the EU energy plan, bioenergy and waste account for some two-thirds of all energy classed as ‘renewable’. Most of this ‘bioenergy’ will also come from burning wood, both in power stations and for heating.

However, scientific studies increasingly prove that big bioenergy projects produce more greenhouse gases even than traditional fossil fuels.

According to Biofuelwatch, the EU’s cavernous demand for wood to burn for energy is directly tied to the acceleration of logging, land-grabbing from indigenous peoples in countries like Brazil and Ghana, and the conversion of more forests, farmland and grasslands into monoculture tree plantations. This has endangered biodiversity and caused “added harm to forests and people.”

Meanwhile, a new report by the conservation group Birdlife reveals that masses of protected forest areas across Europe are being felled to provide wood for the burgeoning biomass industry.

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Europe’s Green Energy Policy is a Disaster for the Environment

Michael Le Page reports for New Scientist:

Biofuels or fossil fuels?The European Union’s proposals for revising its renewable energy policies are greenwashing and don’t solve the serious flaws, say environmental groups.

The EU gets 65 per cent of its renewable energy from biofuels – mainly wood – but it is failing to ensure this bioenergy comes from sustainable sources, and results in less emissions than burning fossil fuels. Its policies in some cases are leading to deforestation, biodiversity loss and putting more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than burning coal.

“Burning forest biomass on an industrial scale for power and heating has proved disastrous,” says Linde Zuidema, bioenergy campaigner for forest protection group Fern. “The evidence that its growing use will increase emissions and destroy forests in Europe and elsewhere is overwhelming.”

On 30 November the European Commission unveiled a draft “clean energy” package for the period up to 2030. On the surface, these proposals address some of the issues with existing renewable energy policies.

But environmental groups who have been analysing the proposals say that the changes will make little difference.

“It’s almost worse than doing nothing,” says Sini Erajaa, the bioenergy policy officer for BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, who describes the changes as greenwashing.

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Frightened By Donald Trump? You Don’t Know The Half Of It

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Image result for trump swampYes, Donald Trump’s politics are incoherent. But those who surround him know just what they want, and his lack of clarity enhances their power. To understand what is coming, we need to understand who they are. I know all too well, because I have spent the past 15 years fighting them.

Over this time, I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.

I first encountered the machine when writing about climate change. The fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed incomprehensible until I realised they were fake: the hatred had been paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded by oil and coal companies.

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Jill Stein on Trumping Climate Change

Afshin Rattansi speaks to U.S. Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein on her hopes and fears for the environment when President Trump moves into the White House. (Going Underground)

Noam Chomsky: If Donald Trump Becomes U.S. President…

Acclaimed public intellectual Noam Chomsky gave a talk at Concord University on 23rd February 2016 where he answered a question regarding Donald Trump becoming American President and what it means for the world. (Concord University West Virginia)

Pentagon Video Warns of “Unavoidable” Dystopian Future for World’s Biggest Cities

Nick Turse reports for The Intercept:

The year is 2030. Forget about the flying cars, robot maids, and moving sidewalks we were promised. They’re not happening. But that doesn’t mean the future is a total unknown.

According to a startling Pentagon video obtained by The Intercept, the future of global cities will be an amalgam of the settings of “Escape from New York” and “Robocop” — with dashes of the “Warriors” and “Divergent” thrown in. It will be a world of Robert Kaplan-esque urban hellscapes — brutal and anarchic supercities filled with gangs of youth-gone-wild, a restive underclass, criminal syndicates, and bands of malicious hackers.

At least that’s the scenario outlined in “Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity,” a five-minute video that has been used at the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations University. All that stands between the coming chaos and the good people of Lagos and Dhaka (or maybe even New York City) is the U.S. Army, according to the video, which The Intercept obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.

The video is nothing if not an instant dystopian classic: melancholy music, an ominous voiceover, and cascading images of sprawling slums and urban conflict. “Megacities are complex systems where people and structures are compressed together in ways that defy both our understanding of city planning and military doctrine,” says a disembodied voice. “These are the future breeding grounds, incubators, and launching pads for adversaries and hybrid threats.”

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Instead of Trump’s Wall, Why Not a Binational Border City?

Tanvi Misra reports for City Lab:

Donald Trump keeps talking about the big, beautiful wall he’s going to erect on the U.S.-Mexican border. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton wants to build bridges—metaphorical ones, that is.

Mexican architect Fernando Romero has taken a more literal approach to Clinton’s proposition. He’s long been a proponent of “building bridges,” and believes that boundaries are obsolete. “With technology, those borders are just becoming symbolic limits,” he recently told Dezeen Magazine. “The reality is that there exists a very strong mutual dependency of economies and trades.” That’s why he has now designed a master plan for a walkable, super-connected metropolis straddling the U.S.-Mexico border.

Back in the early 2000s, Romero’s architecture firm conceptualized a tunnel-like “Bridging Museum” in the Rio Grande Valley, which would act as “both a funnel and a window between the borders.” But his vision for a utopian border city, on display at the London Design Biennale, is much more complex and detailed.

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Is the Bayer-Monsanto Merger Too Big To Succeed?

David Francis writes for Foreign Policy:

Image resultIt took $66 billion — the largest all-cash transaction in history – for German biotech giant Bayer to win control over Monsanto, the global seed market leader. The takeover creates a very unique — and to some, very unsettling — kind of corporate beast, one tasked with feeding billions as temperatures rise and farmlands shrink.

If the merger goes through — and that’s a very big if, given that both EU and American regulators are likely to carefully scrutinize the deal — the new firm would corner more than a quarter of the world market for seeds and pesticides. In the United States, it would control some 58 percent of cottonseed sales. According to Vox, the new company would be the largest agribusiness in the world, selling 29 percent of the world’s seeds and 24 percent of its pesticides.

That puts one firm in a pole position to influence, and potentially control, how the world feeds itself. Regulators are likely to investigate whether the merged company will be too big and able to squeeze farmers and shoppers at the price register. And it comes as the rest of the agribusiness industry is also consolidating, in part to counteract slumping commodity prices due to the economic slowdown in China, which trickles down and forces farmers to spend less on supplies.

The specter of greater market power for firms that make the seeds that many poor farmers need to buy each spring before planting is sparking panic in the developing world.

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Heroin, Nazis, and Agent Orange: Inside the $66 Billion Merger of the Year

Lydia Mulvany reports for Bloomberg:

Image result for monsanto bayer historyTwo giants of the farming and chemical industries agreed to merge Wednesday in a $66 billion deal: the U.S.’s Monsanto and Germany’s Bayer, the original maker of aspirin. It’s the year’s biggest deal and will create the world’s largest supplier of seeds and farm chemicals, with $26 billion in combined annual revenue from agriculture. If the merger goes through, it will combine two companies with a long and storied history that shaped what we eat, the drugs we take and how we grow our food.

Bayer: Then & Now

Two friends making dyes from coal-tar started Bayer in 1863, and it developed into a chemical and drug company famous for introducing heroin as a cough remedy in 1896, then aspirin in 1899. The company was a Nazi contractor during World War II and used forced labor. Today, the firm based in Leverkusen, Germany, makes drugs and has a crop science unit, which makes weed and bug killers. Its goal is to dominate the chemical and drug markets for people, plants and animals.

Monsanto: Then & Now

Monsanto, founded in 1901, originally made food additives like saccharin before expanding into industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals and agriculture products. It’s famous for making some controversial and highly toxic chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls, now banned and commonly known as PCBs, and the herbicide Agent Orange, which was used by the U.S. military in Vietnam. It commercialized Roundup herbicide in the 1970s and began developing genetically modified corn and soybean seeds in the 1980s. In 2000, a new Monsanto emerged from a series of corporate mergers.

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Fast Fashion Is Creating an Environmental Crisis

Alden Wicker reports for Newsweek:

09_09_OldClothes_05[…] Picture yourself with a trash bag of old clothes you’ve just cleaned out of your closet. You think you could get some money out of them, so you take them to a consignment or thrift store, or sell them via one of the new online equivalents, like ThredUp. But they’ll probably reject most of your old clothes, even the ones you paid dearly for, because of small flaws or no longer being in season. With fast fashion speeding up trends and shortening seasons, your clothing is quite likely dated if it’s more than a year old. Many secondhand stores will reject items from fast-fashion chains like Forever 21, H&M, Zara and Topshop. The inexpensive clothing is poor quality, with low resale value, and there’s just too much of it.

If you’re an American, your next step is likely to throw those old clothes in the trash. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 84 percent of unwanted clothes in the United States in 2012 went into either a landfill or an incinerator.

When natural fibers, like cotton, linen and silk, or semi-synthetic fibers created from plant-based cellulose, like rayon, Tencel and modal, are buried in a landfill, in one sense they act like food waste, producing the potent greenhouse gas methane as they degrade. But unlike banana peels, you can’t compost old clothes, even if they’re made of natural materials. “Natural fibers go through a lot of unnatural processes on their way to becoming clothing,” says Jason Kibbey, CEO of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. “They’ve been bleached, dyed, printed on, scoured in chemical baths.” Those chemicals can leach from the textiles and—in improperly sealed landfills—into groundwater. Burning the items in incinerators can release those toxins into the air.

Meanwhile, synthetic fibers, like polyester, nylon and acrylic, have the same environmental drawbacks, and because they are essentially a type of plastic made from petroleum, they will take hundreds of years, if not a thousand, to biodegrade.

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Why Did Hillary Clinton Tap a Pro-TPP, Pro-KXL, Pro-Fracking Politician to Head Her Transition Team?

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to David Sirota, senior editor for investigations at the International Business Times, about Hillary Clinton announcing former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as the head of her transition team. (Democracy Now!)

Hillary Clinton Picks TPP and Fracking Advocate To Set Up Her White House

Zaid Jilani and Naomi LaChance report for The Intercept:

Two big issues dogged Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primary: the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP) and fracking. She had a long history of supporting both.

Under fire from Bernie Sanders, she came out against the TPP and took a more critical position on fracking. But critics wondered if this was a sincere conversion or simply campaign rhetoric.

Now, in two of the most significant personnel moves she will ever make, she has signaled a lack of sincerity.

She chose as her vice presidential running mate Tim Kaine, who voted to authorize fast-track powers for the TPP and praised the agreement just two days before he was chosen.

And now she has named former Colorado Democratic Senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to be the chair of her presidential transition team — the group tasked with helping set up the new administration should she win in November. That includes identifying, selecting, and vetting candidates for over 4,000 presidential appointments.

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Deadly Bacteria Spread across Oceans as Water Temperatures Rise

Umair Irfan reports for Scientific American:

Deadly bacteria are spreading through the oceans as waters warm up, and are increasing infection risks, according to a new study.

Multiple species of rod-shaped Vibrio bacteria live in the world’s oceans, and their populations rise and fall based on many different variables, changing the likelihood of making people sick.

report published yesterday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesexamined the role of the changing climate in Vibrio infections.

In the United States, Vibrio bacteria cause about 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths each year. The species that causes the devastating diarrheal disease cholera, Vibrio cholerae, is responsible for up to 142,000 deaths around the world annually, according to the World Health Organization.

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The Global Impact Of Air Conditioning: Big And Getting Bigger

Lucas Davis reports for IFL Science:

image-20160722-26808-1q32c0t.jpgWith a heat wave pushing the heat index well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) through much of the U.S., most of us are happy to stay indoors and crank the air conditioning. And if you think it’s hot here, try 124°F in India. Globally, 2016 is poised to be another record-breaking year for average temperatures. This means more air conditioning. Much more.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), Paul Gertler and I examine the enormous global potential for air conditioning. As incomes rise around the world and global temperatures go up, people are buying air conditioners at alarming rates. In China, for example, sales of air conditioners have nearly doubled over the last five years. Each year now more than 60 million air conditioners are sold in China, more than eight times as many as are sold annually in the United States.

This is mostly great news. People are getting richer, and air conditioning brings great relief on hot and humid days. However, air conditioning also uses vast amounts of electricity. A typical room air conditioner, for example, uses 10-20 times as much electricity as a ceiling fan.

Meeting this increased demand for electricity will require billions of dollars of infrastructure investments and result in billions of tons of increased carbon dioxide emissions. A new study by Lawrence Berkeley Lab also points out that more ACs means more refrigerants that are potent greenhouse gases.

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Nature Videos Make Prisoners Less Violent

Coby McDonald reports for PopSci:

Prison cell at Pelican Bay State Prison with projected bird images on the wall. Imprisonment in America often means complete seclusion from nature. Take the case of the maximum security inmates at Snake River Correctional Institution in Oregon: they spend 23 hours a day locked in 7 X 12 foot concrete cells. The only windows face inside the unit. Four or five times a week they can spend an hour in an exercise yard that is about twenty times smaller than a basketball court. From the yard, prisoners can glimpse the sky—the only “nature” they ever see. And this is typical.

Of course, prisons weren’t designed for comfort, and one could argue that access to nature is one of many pleasures that convicted criminals forfeit. But mental illness is a growing problem in prisons, the impacts of which society at large bears when inmates are released. Solitary confinement (a staple of maximum security units) has been shown to cause mental health issues, or when preexisting, exacerbate them. And it turns out that isolation from other human beings might not be the only factor. Researchers in the field of ecopsychology believe that nature deprivation can also damage mental well-being.

That concept resonated with the administrators at Snake River who were struggling to address violence and suicide among their most troubled inmates. The superintendent of the prison, Mark Nooth, encouraged his staff to explore novel solutions.

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Is the World More Dangerous Now Than Ever?

Eric Dietrich Ph.D. writes for Psychology Today:

Eric DietrichSteven Pinker’s excellent 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why violence has declined, upsets many people.  They believe that the world is more dangerous — now than ever before.  And they believe it is dangerous to go around saying that the world isn’t more dangerous now.  They are wrong, according to Pinker.  And this is because of human psychology.  There is, here, a fascinating story to tell about us and our fears.

Some readers might not want to tackle the hefty Better Angels, from cover to cover, it is almost 800 pages long.  Never fear: Pinker has in several places provided good synopses of his research and conclusions.  One can google “Pinker, safer world,” or read this or this or this.

[…] Our current world is the safest time in all of human history.  In his Wall Street Journal article, Pinker sums this up his conclusions: “Violence has been in decline for thousands of years, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in the existence of our species.”  Hallelujah!

Nevertheless we Americans do fear (and not just Americans).  Few will relax and rejoice upon learning of Professor Pinker’s data-driven conclusions about the decline of violence.  Many will find his conclusions unbelievable (partly because we are a nation that doesn’t like or trust science).  In fact, we know that there is an entire political campaign for the U. S. presidency based on fear of increasing violence: The campaign of Mr. Trump.

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Oil Industry CEO Claims Democrats Have Done More For Oil

Lincoln Brown reports for Oil Price:

Mike Sheffield PioneerWith the Republican National Convention set to wrap up on Thursday, and the Democratic National Convention getting ready to kick off in Philadelphia next week, one prominent oil executive is noting that the industry has fared better under Democrats than Republicans.

Scott Sheffield, CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources, says that he has noticed the trend during his 42 years in the business.

That may sound strange considering the two parties’ diverse platforms when it comes to energy. The Republican party is touting deregulation and has said that it does not support the Paris Climate Accords. Going a few steps further, the party has plans to defund renewable energy, and open public lands and the outer continental shelf to drilling. Additionally, the party also wants to leave the regulation of fracking and drilling to the states, and increase oil and gas exports.

Conversely, the Democrats are calling for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and oppose the expansion of oil and gas production. They also want to phase down energy production on public lands. The party supports the inquiries into the alleged “climate change cover-up” by Exxon Mobil, and wants to see the nation using only renewable energy by the middle of the century.

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Does Exxon Have a Constitutional Right to Deny Climate Change?

Natalie Schreyer reports for Mother Jones:

Does Exxon Mobil have a constitutional right to sow doubt about climate science? That’s the subject of a high-stakes legal battle playing out between dozens of state attorneys general, members of Congress, corporate executives, and activists.

Last fall, investigations by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times revealed that the oil giant has decades of internal documents showing that its own scientists and executives knew fossil fuels contributed to climate change. Publicly, the company argued that the threats posed by global warming were far from certain, presumably as part of an effort to fight off regulations.

The revelations have sparked a barrage of legal actions. The attorney generals of Massachusetts, California, and New York launched investigations of Exxon, while Democratic AGs from other states have expressed their support. Some have drawn parallels to the tobacco industry’s deception on the dangers of smoking. Exxon has countered that the investigations are unconstitutional and has filed motions asking courts to block the subpoenas. “This…is about freedom of political speech,” the company recently argued in the Massachusetts case.

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While No One Was Looking, The Obama Administration Approved Fracking In The Gulf Of Mexico

Samantha Page reports for Think Progress:

The Gulf of Mexico has been struggling with the pollution from offshore oil drilling for a long time, a struggle that was dramatically highlighted by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill six years ago.

But now it has come to light that the oil industry is conducting offshore fracking in the Gulf, which is even more dangerous than conventional oil drilling, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The group received copies of more than a thousand fracking permits from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) following a court order.

Under the Obama administration, between 2010 and 2014, more than 1,200 permits to frack in the Gulf were approved through a largely rubber-stamp process, the Center for Biological Diversity said. The EPA, which does not permit offshore drilling, has meanwhile allowed fracking companies to dump their wastewater directly into the ocean, with little to no environmental review and no system of water monitoring.

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EU Referendum: The Shocking Waste of Cash Even Leavers Won’t Condemn

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Do the Leave campaigners care about the misuse of public money? No. How do I know? Because they have scarcely mentioned the European Union’s great bonfire of banknotes. You know, the item that accounts for roughly 40% of the EU budget, or £42bn a year, almost all of which is wasted. You don’t know? I rest my case.

I’m talking about farm subsidies. If the Brexiters have raised the subject at all, it’s only to assure recipients that these vast sums will continue to be extracted from taxpayers’ pockets if Britain leaves. Some – such as Theresa Villiers and Owen Paterson – have suggested that the great giveaway of public funds could even be increased.

The leaders of the remain campaign are no better: George Osborne, while ripping down essential public services, has warned that if the UK votes out, this outrageous provision of unearned income might dry up. We should stay in Europe, he told the press in Northern Ireland, to ensure that brimming buckets of public money – £3bn a year in the UK – continue to be dispensed.

They would more accurately be described as land subsidies, as they are paid by the hectare. The more land you own or lease, the more public money you are given, so the richest people in Europe clean up. And not just in Europe: Russian oligarchs, Saudi princes and Wall Street bankers have bought up tracts of European farmland, thus qualifying for the vast sums we shovel into their pockets. Why is no word raised against these benefit tourists?

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The Doomsday Clock: Nuclear Weapons, Climate Change, and the Prospects for Survival

An excerpt from Noam Chomsky’s latest book, Who Rules the World?, recently appeared at TomDispatch:

In January 2015, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced its famous Doomsday Clock to three minutes before midnight, a threat level that had not been reached for 30 years. The Bulletin’s statement explaining this advance toward catastrophe invoked the two major threats to survival: nuclear weapons and “unchecked climate change.” The call condemned world leaders, who “have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe,” endangering “every person on Earth [by] failing to perform their most important duty — ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization.”

Since then, there has been good reason to consider moving the hands even closer to doomsday.

As 2015 ended, world leaders met in Paris to address the severe problem of “unchecked climate change.” Hardly a day passes without new evidence of how severe the crisis is. To pick almost at random, shortly before the opening of the Paris conference, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab released a study that both surprised and alarmed scientists who have been studying Arctic ice. The study showed that a huge Greenland glacier, Zachariae Isstrom, “broke loose from a glaciologically stable position in 2012 and entered a phase of accelerated retreat,” an unexpected and ominous development. The glacier “holds enough water to raise global sea level by more than 18 inches (46 centimeters) if it were to melt completely. And now it’s on a crash diet, losing 5 billion tons of mass every year. All that ice is crumbling into the North Atlantic Ocean.”

Yet there was little expectation that world leaders in Paris would “act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe.” And even if by some miracle they had, it would have been of limited value, for reasons that should be deeply disturbing.

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Too Hot For War: Now Will Our Politicians Take Climate Change Seriously?

Richard Galustian writes for The Ecologist:

HMS Dragon's Lynx helicopter fires infra red flares during an exercise over a Type 45 destroyer of the kind that won't work in warm seas. Photo: Dave Jenkins / Defence Images via Flickr (CC BY-SA).Western governments may be dithering over taking action over climate change, but their defence chiefs think differently – at least regarding changing weapons systems to suit rising world temperatures.

Major defense companies are studying the retro-fitting and upgrade of armaments, power plants and platforms to cope with rising temperatures amid predictions the world’s hot spots are getting hotter on land and on sea.

The world’s defence chiefs are particularly concerned with two zones in particular, the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf. Both seas are shallow and therefore absorb more heat than the great oceans and certainly the world’s seas.

And rising temperatures are already making themselves felt. Some of a group of six British Royal Navy Type 45 destroyers, costing $1 billion each, have stopped operating in the Persian Gulf because the sea was too hot, with water temperatures rising above 90 degrees fahrenheit (32.2C).

The issue saw Royal Navy staff questioned on 2nd June by the UK’s Commons Defence Committee as to why their Type 45 destroyers keep losing power. The response was that the ships’ turbines overheated resulting in massive technical failures that can slow the ships to a crawl.

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Leaked TTIP Documents Cast Doubt on EU-US Trade Deal

Arthur Neslen reports for The Guardian:

Talks for a free trade deal between Europe and the US face a serious impasse with “irreconcilable” differences in some areas, according to leaked negotiating texts.

The two sides are also at odds over US demands that would require the EU to break promises it has made on environmental protection.

President Obama said last week he was confident a deal could be reached. But the leaked negotiating drafts and internal positions, which were obtained by Greenpeace and seen by the Guardian, paint a very different picture.

“Discussions on cosmetics remain very difficult and the scope of common objectives fairly limited,” says one internal note by EU trade negotiators. Because of a European ban on animal testing, “the EU and US approaches remain irreconcilable and EU market access problems will therefore remain,” the note says.

Talks on engineering were also “characterised by continuous reluctance on the part of the US to engage in this sector,” the confidential briefing says.

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Former Shell Chief: Half of World Proved Oil Reserves Do Not Actually Exist

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

An extensive new scientific analysis published in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy & Environment says that proved conventional oil reserves as detailed in industry sources are likely “overstated” by half.

According to standard sources like the Oil & Gas Journal, BP’s Annual Statistical Review of World Energy, and the US Energy Information Administration, the world contains 1.7 trillion barrels of proved conventional reserves.

However, according to the new study by Professor Michael Jefferson of the ESCP Europe Business School, a former chief economist at oil major Royal Dutch/Shell Group, this official figure which has helped justify massive investments in new exploration and development, is almost double the real size of world reserves.

Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIRES) is a series of high-quality peer-reviewed publications which runs authoritative reviews of the literature across relevant academic disciplines.

According to Professor Michael Jefferson, who spent nearly 20 years at Shell in various senior roles from head of planning in Europe to director of oil supply and trading, “the five major Middle East oil exporters altered the basis of their definition of ‘proved’ conventional oil reserves from a 90 percent probability down to a 50 percent probability from 1984. The result has been an apparent (but not real) increase in their ‘proved’ conventional oil reserves of some 435 billion barrels.”

Global reserves have been further inflated, he wrote in his study, by adding reserve figures from Venezuelan heavy oil and Canadian tar sands – despite the fact that they are “more difficult and costly to extract” and generally of “poorer quality” than conventional oil. This has brought up global reserve estimates by a further 440 billion barrels.

Jefferson’s conclusion is stark: “Put bluntly, the standard claim that the world has proved conventional oil reserves of nearly 1.7 trillion barrels is overstated by about 875 billion barrels. Thus, despite the fall in crude oil prices from a new peak in June, 2014, after that of July, 2008, the ‘peak oil’ issue remains with us.”

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The Problem With Hillary Clinton Isn’t Just Her Corporate Cash, It’s Her Corporate Worldview

Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything, writes for The Nation:

Clinton_Goldman_Blankfein_rtr_imgThere aren’t a lot of certainties left in the US presidential race, but here’s one thing about which we can be absolutely sure: The Clinton camp really doesn’t like talking about fossil-fuel money. Last week, when a young Greenpeace campaigner challenged Hillary Clinton about taking money from fossil-fuel companies, the candidate accused the Bernie Sanders campaign of “lying” and declared herself “so sick” of it. As the exchange went viral, a succession of high-powered Clinton supporters pronounced that there was nothing to see here and that everyone should move along.

The very suggestion that taking this money could impact Clinton’s actions is “baseless and should stop,” according to California Senator Barbara Boxer. It’s “flat-out false,” “inappropriate,” and doesn’t “hold water,” declared New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman went so far as to issue “guidelines for good and bad behavior” for the Sanders camp. The first guideline? Cut out the “innuendo suggesting, without evidence, that Clinton is corrupt.”

That’s a whole lot of firepower to slap down a non-issue. So is it an issue or not?

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U.S. Navy Secretly Conducting Electromagnetic Warfare Training on Washington Roads

Dahr Jamail reports for Truthout:

(Photo: Olympic Park Road via Shutterstock; Edited; LW / TO)Without public notification of any kind, the US Navy has secretly been conducting electromagnetic warfare testing and training on public roads in western Washington State for more than five years.

An email thread between the Navy and the US Forest Service between 2010 and 2012, recently obtained via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Oregon-based author and activist Carol Van Strum in November 2014, revealed that the Navy has likely been driving mobile electromagnetic warfare emitters and conducting electromagnetic warfare training in the Olympic National Forest and on public roads on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula since 2010.

[…] As Truthout previously reported, the Navy itself has produced a medical study showing that exposure to electromagnetic radiation causes a myriad of human health problems, including corneal damage, tubular degeneration of testicles, brain heating, sterility, altered penile function, death, cranial nerve disorders, seizures, convulsions, depression, insomnia, chest pain, and even sparking between dental fillings.

Other reports by the US Air Force, NASA, medical doctors and scientific publications confirm these and other deleterious health effects that would result from the Navy’s electromagnetic weaponry arsenal, in addition to large-scale negative impacts on birds, aquatic life and other biota.

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The Clinton-Backed Honduran Regime Is Picking Off Indigenous Leaders

Greg Grandin writes for The Nation:

Berta_Caceres_otu_imgHillary Clinton will be good for women. Ask Berta Cáceres. But you can’t. She’s dead. Gunned down yesterday, March 2, at midnight, in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca, in Honduras.

Cáceres was a vocal and brave indigenous leader, an opponent of the 2009 Honduran coup that Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, made possible. In The Nation, Dana Frank and I covered that coup as it unfolded. Later, as Clinton’s emails were released, others, such as Robert Naiman, Mark Weisbrot, and Alex Main, revealed the central role she played in undercutting Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president, and undercutting the opposition movement demanding his restoration. In so doing, Clinton allied with the worst sectors of Honduran society.

[…] Since Zelaya’s ouster, there’s been an all-out assault on these decent people—torture, murder, militarization of the countryside, repressive laws, such as the absolute ban on the morning-after pill, the rise of paramilitary security forces, and the wholesale deliverance of the country’s land and resources to transnational pillagers. That’s not to mention libertarian fantasies, promoted by billionaires such as PayPal’s Peter Thiel and Milton Friedman’s grandson (can’t make this shit up), of turning the country into some kind of Year-Zero stateless utopia. (Watch this excellent documentary by Jesse Freeston on La Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguán Valley.)

Such is the nature of the “unity government” Clinton helped institutionalize. In her book, Hard Choices, Clinton holds up her Honduran settlement as a proud example of her trademark clear-eyed, “pragmatic” foreign policy approach.

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Dark Money: Jane Mayer on How Koch Brothers and Billionaire Allies Funded Rise of the Far Right

Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak to Jane Mayer, reporter for the New Yorker and author of a new book: Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. In the book, Mayer traces how the Kochs and other billionaires have leveraged their business empires to shape the political system in the mold of their right-wing agenda. (Democracy Now!)

Untouchable Big Oil Threatens All Life On Earth

In this episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin looks at how all life on Earth is threatened by catastrophic climate change and Big Oil (the main culprit) is so powerful that the U.S. government is setup to serve it, rather than regulate it. The episode includes interview with Antonia Juhasz and Greg Palast. (The Empire Files)