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 on: Today at 07:50 AM 
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U.S. News..

Even President Obama is freaking out about these fracking earthquakes

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
11 Feb 2016 at 08:00 ET                   

President Obama signed an executive order last week that has gone largely unnoticed by the corporate media. The order amended the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977 which was originally intended “to reduce the risks of life and property from future earthquakes” in all 50 states. This was before hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” became a common practice for oil and natural gas drilling. Since fracking has become more popular, earthquakes have increased from single digits in the early 2000s to 584 quakes in 2015 alone.

Cushing, Oklahoma might be home to fewer than 10,000 people but it has an exponentially higher quantity of gallons of oil. The only place in the United States that has a larger supply of oil is the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The massive tanks are so large that some can fit a Boeing 747 inside of them. The city has so much oil that it “props up the $179 billion in West Texas Intermediate futures and options contracts traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange,” according to a Bloomberg Business report. While the area has always been a potential threat for terrorism, as any federal facility, the oil tanks in Cushing face another major threat: earthquakes.

While the earthquakes in Oklahoma rarely spike above 5.0 on the Richter scale, the frequency and increase in severity could lead to instability in the structures that store and help transport oil. That presents an entirely new threat to these federal facilities.

President Obama’s executive order gives these federal buildings “owned, leased, financed, or regulated by the Federal Government” 90 days to comply with heightened structural requirements. The order acknowledges minimum standards that are already in place, but seems to believe they aren’t sufficient:

    “The Federal Government recognizes that building codes and standards primarily focus on ensuring minimum acceptable levels of earthquake safety for preserving the lives of building occupants. To achieve true resilience against earthquakes, however, new and existing buildings may need to exceed those codes and standards to ensure, for example, that the buildings can continue to perform their essential functions following future earthquakes.”

The executive order doesn’t attribute the cause of the earthquakes or make any move to work toward preventative measures to reduce quakes, rather it only deals with stabilizing structures to withstand them as the ground continues to shake. Earthquakes in Oklahoma have not only increased in number but they are also slowly increasing in strength as well with many rating 3.0 or higher on the Richter scale around the area of the oil tanks.

In 2014, Oklahoma was the most seismically active in the lower 48 states with three times as many as California. The state gathered a group of experts to help compile a report on the status of the most earthquake-vulnerable buildings, bridges, access ramps and other structures. But the experts were too fearful of their own liability in outlining what was safe and what wasn’t. The report was stalled when the legislature failed to pass a bill absolving them from responsibility if a building they said was safe actually did collapse. Today there is no effort nor plan in place to address the safety of any of the state’s buildings or bridges in a year where the state is projected to reach over 900 earthquakes.

“We have a lot of stuff out there that wasn’t designed for earthquakes, and we need to figure out where that is and develop our mitigation plans,” said Jim Wilkinson, executive director of the Central United States Earthquake Consortium told “We need to be in a position to respond as effectively and immediately as possible. … Right now we are not in Oklahoma.”

If the safety of roads, bridges and buildings aren’t enough, homeowners are furious with the damage they’re seeing to their property. To make matters worse, they’re unable to get financial relief from their insurance policies. Those applying for claims to their homeowner’s insurance are denied 9 out of 10 times. Oklahoma Representative Mike Shelton has proposed bills in the state legislature over the last several years to help Oklahomans with insurance problems surrounding the increase in Oklahoma quakes and the damage they’re causing. “They’re buying bogus policies,” he told Raw Story before remarking that his bills keep getting shot down by the legislature.

“My district was the most seismic place in the state back in 2009,” Shelton said explaining how he got involved in the earthquake problem. “They were happening in Jones, Oklahoma. It didn’t happen in other places until 2011 when it hit Prague. Then everyone started talking about it, but even then we knew what was causing it.”

The Oklahoma Supreme Court decided a case last year that allowed for lawsuits to move forward against oil companies that allegedly are responsible the quakes with their fracking. It wasn’t long before a small group of citizens became the first to file a class action lawsuit against 12 oil companies for damage sustained from the earthquakes.

Shelton says that such damage is one of the greatest tragedies that will come from ignoring the quake problem early on. “Oklahomans are going to have to foot the bill for the higher cost in building, the higher cost of insurance, the higher cost for everything that now must be done,” he explained. “People don’t realize the overall impact of what we’ve done to our state and the land. It’s unfortunate that taxpayers and homeowners and families will have to foot the bill for the sake of oil and gas companies.” He went on to say that he understands the importance of the oil and gas industry as job creators but that there must be a way that the state can protect jobs as well as citizens and property.

While state and federal buildings are the concern of the government, Shelton intends to introduce an amendment that will ask for a tax credit for citizens that bought earthquake insurance but are being denied. The uphill battle Shelton faces, however, is that Oklahoma is in a projected $1.2 billion budget shortfall after overspending with tax credits to businesses and high-income wage earners and gas prices fell.

“I understand the state is broke,” Shelton acknowledged. “But the fact of the matter is, the people of Oklahoma are doing everything they can to protect their homes. For many, it’s their biggest investment in their lives.” He said that his parents are a good example of everyday homeowners who can’t afford to pay a 20 percent premium to file a claim to their insurance due to being on a retiree’s fixed income. “It’s a tragedy. If only we had been more responsible and stopped ignoring facts of what was going on many of our citizens wouldn’t have had to buy an insurance policy for insurance policies.”

Shelton continued saying that the situation was forced on Oklahomans by the current Fallin/Lamb administration and the state’s legislature. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s office declined to comment when contacted.


House passes bipartisan bill requiring faster federal response to Flint-like water disaster


The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday easily passed a bill requiring federal environmental regulators to act faster when lead contamination is found in drinking water.

The bill passed 416-2. It was crafted by Michigan Representatives Dan Kildee, a Democrat, and Fred Upton, a Republican, in the wake of Flint’s drinking water crisis.

The measure requires the Environmental Protection Agency to notify the public when concentrations of lead in drinking water rise above mandated levels and to create a plan to improve communication between the agency, utilities, states, and consumers.

In 2014, under a state-appointed emergency manager, Flint, a city of 100,000, switched water supplies to the Flint River, from Detroit’s system as part of a plan to save money in the poverty-stricken city.

The more corrosive river water leached lead from aging pipes. Thousands of children are believed to have ingested dangerous levels of lead, a toxin that can harm brains and cause other health problems.

The bill “wouldn’t have prevented Flint, but it would have caught it far sooner,” Kildee, who is from Flint, said after the vote. The measure must be passed by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama before becoming law.

Other measures in Congress to provide Flint with millions of dollars in aid to deal with the crisis face an uncertain future. Kildee has also introduced a bill to provide about $700 million in federal aid, with a match in funding from Michigan. That and other measures languished as Democrats and Republicans struggled to agree on where the funds would come from.

The Department of Agriculture said on Thursday it would temporarily allow Michigan to use funds from its Women, Infants and Children program for low income citizens to conduct lead testing. The department estimated some 3,800 people could get tested in this way.


Meet The One Hundred Billionaires Who Are Trying To Buy The White House

By John Lundin

A small group of billionaires is trying very hard to buy the presidency. They want to buy the White House from it's rightful owners - you and me.
Meet The One Hundred Billionaires Who Are Trying To Buy The White House

A small group of billionaires is trying very hard to buy the presidency. They want to buy the White House from it’s rightful owners – you and me.

A recent analysis of campaign finance data by Politico has found that the top 100 donors to the presidential race have spent $195 million on their preferred candidates — that’s compared to the $155 million spent by the smallest 2 million donors. In other words, 100 rich people have more purchasing power than 2 million non-rich people combined. As The New York Times found last year, just 158 mega-donors paid for half of all early campaign donations.

While these sobering figures are hardly cause for celebration, there is one silver lining: Judging from where the billionaires are putting their money, it’s not likely to get them much. The top recipient of billionaire bucks was none other than Jeb Bush, who is currently leading the field only in the race for last place. Jeb’s flailing campaign was the recipient of $49 million from donors on Politico’s list. They appear to be getting zilch in return.

In case you think this is a only a Republican problem, GOP candidates aren’t the only ones taking money from the rich: Hillary Clinton was the second largest beneficiary of billionaire bucks.

Clinton’s super PAC allies are assiduously courting wealthy liberals as they gird for a potentially protracted fight for the Democratic nomination against the unexpectedly vigorous insurgent campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has decried super PACs and has relatively little support from them. While super PACs supporting Clinton in 2015 raised $55 million ― $38 million of which came from top donors on POLITICO’s list, including $8 million from the fifth biggest donor, New York financier George Soros ― they have struggled to win support from other top Democratic donors.

And who are these billionaires who are trying to purchase our next president? It will probably come as no surprise that they are overwhelmingly white and male. The top donors, Dan Wilks and his brother Farris, made a fortune in hydraulic fracking, $15 million of which they donated to Ted Cruz. Cruz also took huge amounts from New York hedge fund tycoon Bob Mercer (No. 2 on Politico’s list), Texas energy man Toby Neugebauer (No. 4) and Illinois manufacturers Dick and Liz Uihlein (No. 6).

Oddly, the notorious Koch brothers were nowhere on Politico’s list. Although they reportedly plan to spend nearly $900 million on the presidential race — more than either the Republican or Democratic parties — the Kochs have yet to endorse a candidate for the primary. And should Donald Trump win the primary, that $900 million could go unspent: While the Kochs might not love any of the candidates, there is one they clearly loathe.

But for now, Jeb! Bush is clearly in the lead for mega-dollar donors. And when Bush drops out of the race – which he will – all that money will get refocused somewhere. Rubio? Cruz? Who knows?

What is clear is that in the race for the biggest donors, there are about 300 million other Americans who will pay the price: each and every one of us.


Bernie Sanders Leads Senate Democrats In Condemning Historic Mistreatment Of Obama

By Jason Easley

Ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) led Democrats in condemning the historic mistreatment of President Obama and his budget.
Bernie Sanders Leads Senate Democrats In Condemning Historic Mistreatment Of Obama

The ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) led Democrats in condemning the historic mistreatment of President Obama and his budget.

In a letter to Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Sanders and the Democrats wrote:
We write to express our dismay over your decision to not hold a hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget request. This will be the first time in the Budget Committee’s history that no such hearing has taken place.

Each year, the President submits to Congress a budget request for the upcoming fiscal year. This request includes multiple policy proposals that deserve full and fair consideration by the Congress. Inviting the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to testify on the President’s budget allows this committee to explore those proposals. It also provides the committee with the opportunity to ask the administration about how it is carrying out existing policies.

The President’s budget is more than a political document; it is the compilation of the opinions of experts from throughout the government who are carrying out policies and programs created by Congress. It is based on their individual and collective judgment on what items require more funding, and where savings can be found. Declining to give the President’s budget a hearing is disrespectful to all of the hard work that went into producing this expansive document.

The Budget Committee has an important institutional role, and fulfilling it requires coordination between the executive and legislative branches.

As you recall, in February 2004, all Senate office buildings closed because of the presence of the toxin ricin in a Senate office. Even so, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on the President’s budget request using the House Budget Committee’s hearing room. Even under those extraordinary circumstances, the committee carried out its duties.

This year, with no unusual circumstances to prevent us from doing our work, we have been provided with no reasonable explanation for the decision not to hold a hearing.

Furthermore, this decision runs counter to repeated calls by the majority for regular order in the Senate. Instead, we are faced with overt partisanship when we should be addressing important issues that face our country.

Although we will have disagreements regarding the budget the committee will produce, we fully expect the majority will want its proposal to get a full and fair hearing, and we are committed to taking part in that process.

The budget is a serious matter and requires the engagement of Congress and the President. For that reason, we are disappointed and dismayed that you have declined to provide a forum at which we as members of the Budget Committee can learn more about the President’s budget.

The letter was also signed by Democratic budget committee members Sens. Debbie Stabenow (MI), Ron Wyden (OR), Patty Murray (WA), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Mark Warner (VA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Tim Kaine (VA), and Independent Angus King (ME).

If George W. Bush got a budget hearing in 2004 when the Senate was under chemical attack, there is no reason outside of partisan politics for President Obama’s budget to be denied the same courtesy. Democrats are rightly outraged over the treatment of the President.

The Senate Democratic letter was more civil that the House Democrats’ letter on the refusal of Republicans to give the President’s budget a hearing, but it was an equally devastating indictment of the ugly disrespect that Obama has had to put up with from his political critics while in office.

In a political environment where Donald Trump proves that political civility is dead on a daily basis, the American people deserve better than the Republican Party’s constant insulting of the nation’s Commander In Chief.


Donald Trump’s Fake Presidential Campaign Is About To Crash And Burn

By Jason Easley

Donald Trump's presidential campaign is showing signs of crashing and burning as the billionaire is refusing to spend money on a real campaign operation.
Donald Trump’s Fake Presidential Campaign Is About To Crash And Burn

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is showing signs of crashing and burning as the billionaire is refusing to spend money on a real campaign operation.

Politico detailed Trump’s refusal to spend money to get out the vote:

He remains the favorite to win Tuesday night’s primary, though Republicans in the state expect he will fall short of the 20-plus point lead he has touted on the stump. And that’s at least partly due to a refusal to invest in analytics and organizational capacity on the ground — a structural deficit he suffers beyond New Hampshire.

“Folks inside the tent have said worryingly that Trump is charting his own course,” said one New Hampshire Republican.


This comes in addition to complaints that Trump refused additional infrastructure investments and had moved only one paid organizer into New Hampshire to supplement the team.

In lieu of any announcement of a major funding boost for its New Hampshire get-out-the-vote operation, Trump’s team has hustled this week to dispel the widespread assessment that its penny-pinching candidate was at a disadvantage here.

Trump has no pollsters, field organization, analytics team, or get out the vote operation. The Donald Trump presidential campaign is nothing more that free television appearances and public opinion polls. Donald Trump’s campaign is based on attention-getting mega rallies and gobbling up free media on cable news. There is no actual operation in place to convert the people who say they support Trump into actual voters on election day.

What happened in Iowa was not an isolated incident. Ted Cruz out organized Trump and won the caucuses. Donald Trump is so far ahead in the New Hampshire polling that he is expected to win the state, but no one should be surprised if he gets out-hustled on the ground again, and his margin of victory is much smaller that the polls suggest.

Donald Trump has revealed a flaw in the public opinion polls. The people who are being polled are influenced by what they see on television. News networks are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy with their polling. The networks are addicted to Trump. They give him endless coverage. These same networks poll the voters who say that they support Trump, which leads to a cycle of Trump getting, even more, attention. What’s missing in the media echo chamber is real life voters who show up to support the candidate.

Trump is trying to win the Republican nomination on the cheap. He doesn’t want to spend the money that is required to turn supporters into voters. In real world terms, Trump is going to under perform against the polling. He will probably win New Hampshire, but his margin likely won’t be as big as the polling suggests.

The Donald Trump presidential campaign is a mirage. Without a real organization behind it, the Trump campaign will crumble. Attendance for Trump’s rallies is on the decline. The actual nuts and bolts evidence on the ground suggests that Trump is trending downwards.

If Trump does manage to win the Republican nomination, his lack of resources and organization will lead to an epic crash and burn in the general election. Donald Trump is trying to con his way into the White House. Trump isn’t running a campaign for president, and his refusal to spend money on what it takes to win is what will lead to his eventual downfall.


Bernie Sanders’ Wife Defends Hillary Clinton After Trump Calls Her Evil

By Jason Easley

In an interview on MSNBC, Jane Sanders defended former Sec. of State Clinton after Donald Trump called her evil.

Earlier in the interview, Jane Sanders called Hillary Clinton a great first lady and put her in the same category as Eleanor Roosevelt.

Mrs. Sanders was asked by Andrea Mitchell if she agreed with Trump that Hillary Clinton is evil. She answered, “No, No. Absolutely not. We’ve known Bill and Hillary for years. And we’re not friends, but colleagues. That has no place in politics today, I don’t think, Bernie doesn’t think. We think that the most important thing we can do is to lead by example, to treat others as we would have them treat us, and I hope that it is reciprocal. We’re not going to play that game.”

The answers by Jane Sanders demonstrated that the Sanders campaign isn’t going to go down the negative path and that there is a basic unity and decency in the Democratic primary contest that is always there no matter how contentious the debate becomes.

One can disagree with Clinton or Sanders on policy, but they are not evil people. Unlike Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Clinton and Sanders have never suggested killing journalists, or bringing back torture as policy options if they are elected. The Democratic candidates have never jeopardized the lives of citizens by closing down a bridge as an act of political revenge (Chris Christie), committed credit card fraud with the party’s card (Marco Rubio), kept a woman in a vegetative state alive for political gain (Jeb Bush), or campaigned on the a claim that he once beat someone with a hammer (Ben Carson).

The Democratic campaigns aren’t going to be tossing around adjectives like evil to describe each other. There is a decency on the Democratic side that is non-existent among the Republican candidates, and when it comes time to vote in November, the smart money is on voters selecting decency over the Republican Party’s rampant insanity.

 on: Today at 07:32 AM 
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Auschwitz guard to be tried over 170,000 concentration camp deaths

Former Nazi SS officer Reinhold Hanning, 94, accused of being accessory to murder of Jews at second world war camp

Associated Press in Detmold
Thursday 11 February 2016 08.07 GMT

A 94-year-old former Auschwitz guard is to go on trial in Germany over the murder of 170,000 people during the second world war.

Former SS Sgt Reinhold Hanning served in the death camp when hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were gassed. He is charged with being an accessory to their murder.

Hanning maintains he served in a part of the Auschwitz complex where no gassings were taking place.

Prosecutors argue that all guards helped the camp function, and that during the so-called “Hungarian action” in 1944 almost all were called upon to help deal with the vast numbers of people arriving at the complex in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Leon Schwarzbaum, a 94-year-old Auschwitz survivor from Berlin, is scheduled to testify on Thursday, the opening day of the trial in the west German city of Detmold. It is unclear whether Hanning will first make a statement.

 on: Today at 07:29 AM 
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Nato sends patrol to eastern Med to combat people smuggling

Small, German-led naval force ordered to the Aegean sea to begin mission ‘without delay’

Thursday 11 February 2016 12.15 GMT

Nato is to intervene in Europe’s migration crisis for the first time, with a naval patrol ordered immediately to the eastern Mediterranean to combat people smugglers.

Nato planes will also begin carrying out surveillance and intelligence gathering missions, monitoring the flow of migrants and working alongside coastguards in Greece and Turkey.

The alliance was responding to a joint request from Greece, Turkey and Germany. Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary-general, said a small German-led naval force in the Mediterranean is to be ordered to the Aegean to begin the mission “without delay”.

“This is about helping Greece, Turkey and the European Union with stemming the flow of migrants and refugees and coping with a very demanding situation,” Stoltenberg said.

“This is not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats,” he added. “Nato will contribute critical information and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks.”

Greece and Turkey had objected to the prospect of having one another’s navies operating in their respective waters, but Stoltenberg said this stumbling block has been overcome.

At present the patrol consists only of three ships. Stoltenberg said several member states have offered to send reinforcements.

Defence ministers from the 28 countries in the US-led alliance agreed in principle to the mission and have asked officials to look at a variety options for establishing patrols along the Turkish and Greek coasts and other smuggling routes.

“There is now a criminal syndicate which is exploiting these poor people,” the US defence secretary, Ash Carter, told a Nato press conference in Brussels. “Targeting that is the greatest way an effect could be had.”

Earlier this week, the International Organisation for Migration said 409 people have died so far this year trying to cross the sea to Europe, and that nearly 10 times as many refugees and migrants crossed in the first six weeks of 2016 as in the same period last year.

There have been concerns that a strong naval presence might encourage more people to attempt to reach Europe, as there would be a greater chance of being picked up in the event of boats sinking.

People smugglers in Libya told the Guardian last year that an increased military presence in the Mediterranean would not act as a deterrent.

Nato involvement is an admission that the European Union, which is responsible at present for dealing with the influx of migrants, is struggling to cope with the numbers travelling by sea.

The alliance already has a strong naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean to help protect Turkey from any incursions from Syria.

 on: Today at 07:25 AM 
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Tidal lagoon technology gets multimillion-pound boost

Gupta family’s investment of around £10m will finance development of the technology in the UK and India
Artist’s impression of the Tidal Lagoon Power wall at Swansea Bay.

Press Association

The development of tidal lagoon schemes has received a boost with a commitment of millions of pounds to the technology in the UK and India.

The investment by the Gupta family, thought to be around £10m, will give it a substantial stake in Tidal Lagoon Plc, a holding company set up to finance the development of full-scale tidal lagoons to generate clean power in the UK and abroad.

It comes as Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd, which set up Tidal Lagoon Plc, awaits a government decision on subsidies for the world’s first lagoon project in Swansea Bay, a proof-of-concept scheme to harness renewable energy from the power of the tides.

Last month, the prime minister, David Cameron, said his enthusiasm for tidal lagoon technology was “reduced” by the costs.

But Tidal Lagoon Power argues the first project in Swansea Bay would open the way for five other schemes around the coast, with lower costs due to economies of scale, that could meet 8% of the UK’s electricity demand for 120 years.

Proposed schemes at Cardiff and Newport would provide around 4GW of power capacity and generate £10bn of capital investment, the company said.

The move by the Gupta family is part of a wider strategy by its global energy and commodities company SIMEC to develop renewable energy worldwide, and use innovative technologies to provide low-cost power to energy-intensive industries including steel.

Gupta family representative Sanjeev Gupta said: “We are very pleased to invest in this ambitious and innovative enterprise that promises to provide low-carbon, baseload energy and drive economic renewal through the development of a high-value supply chain that will create thousands of new jobs.”

The move will also lead to the creation of a joint venture between SIMEC and Tidal Lagoon Power to develop large-scale tidal lagoons in India, with the first feasibility studies carried out in the Gulf of Khambhat, Gujurat, in western India.

 on: Today at 07:23 AM 
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Swansea tidal energy scheme faces 'disastrous setback' from government review

Plans to generate energy from Swansea Bay lagoon are further delayed as UK energy minister announces wider review of the sector

Wednesday 10 February 2016 17.31 GMT

The future of a revolutionary plan to generate electricity from a lagoon in Swansea Bay has been thrown into further doubt after the UK government unveiled plans for a six-month review of the wider tidal power sector.

The promoters of the £1bn plan, Tidal Lagoon Power, said it welcomed any extra focus on this type of renewable energy but needed a final decision from ministers on its south Wales project within six weeks.

The government has been in negotiations with Tidal Lagoon Power for more than a year and has repeatedly failed to meet company expectations about when it would agree a final subsidy necessary to make the project commercial.

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokeswoman said talks would continue with Tidal Lagoon Power but there would be no final decision on Swansea Bay aid till the review ended in the autumn.

Energy minister Lord Bourne argued that government still needed to make sure that tidal power was in the interest of the country and household energy consumers.

“Tidal lagoons on this scale are an exciting, but as yet an untested technology. I want to better understand whether tidal lagoons can be cost-effective, and what their impact on bills will be - both today and in the longer term.

“This review will help give us that clarity so we can determine what role tidal lagoons could have as part of our plans to provide secure, clean and affordable energy for families and businesses across the country.”

The move followed comments by David Cameron that his enthusiasm for Swansea Bay had been “reduced” over affordability issues despite the scheme being contained within the Conservative party’s election manifesto.

Critics said the review was another disastrous setback but Tidal Lagoon Power put a brave face on the announcement saying it was a “clear signal” that ministers could see the advantage of this innovative technology.

But the company is sticking to its view that Swansea Bay needs agreement on subsidies within four to six weeks regardless of the wider review.

“We will be pushing for government support to demonstrate the potential of tidal lagoon power by giving the goahead for the Swansea Bay project, thereby avoiding the still birth of a game-changer for UK energy and UK industry,” said Mark Shorrock, the chief executive of Tidal Lagoon Power.

A spokesman for the company said it would be a waste of time to have a review without a prototype at Swansea Bay going ahead in the meantime. He declined to say whether the scheme would be shelved if the six-week deadline was not met.

Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, said he feared the government planned to dump the scheme.

“I said that the tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay is a litmus test of this government’s position on green energy, and the environmental and economic case for this project is clear. I am concerned that this review could just be used as a smokescreen to try and justify even more cuts to the green energy sector.”

 on: Today at 07:21 AM 
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Fund managers who ignore climate risk 'could face legal action'

Pension and investment fund managers have a duty to reduce the risk global warming poses to the world economy, green law firm warns

Wednesday 10 February 2016 18.00 GMT

Pension and investment fund managers who ignore the risks of climate change face the prospect of legal action, according to financial and legal experts.

Global warming poses a systemic risk to the world economy and could significantly cut the value of investments, the experts argue, so those with fiduciary responsibility have a duty to act to reduce that risk, or be taken to court.

“Clients of investment firms and beneficiaries of pension funds might have a legal case to bring if those who manage money for them stand idly by as emissions erode the value of their stock,” said Howard Covington, the former CEO of a £20bn asset management company and a trustee of environmental law organisation, ClientEarth. “We are currently exploring such a possibility.”

James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth, said: “To produce a wholesale change in attitude, a court ruling on the obligations of fiduciary investors to control systemic climate risk will probably be needed. Because of the uncertainties in estimating future climate damage, this will not be an easy case to bring. But we anticipate that such a case will ultimately succeed.”

ClientEarth successfully sued the UK government in 2015 over illegal levels of air pollution. It has also helped investors file shareholder resolutions at the annual meetings of major mining companies demanding more transparency on the risks of climate change to their businesses.

But Covington said: “It would be fair to say that not a lot of progress has been made with this kind of engagement. It requires investors to put their heads above the parapet, but most investors like a quiet life.”

In an article published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, Covington, Thornton and Oxford University professor of energy economics, Cameron Hepburn, say that investors will be crucial in ensuring the largely voluntary climate change deal sealed in Paris in December is implemented.

“Investors will play a major part, either voluntarily or because they will be forced by the courts to meet their legal obligations to manage climate risk,” they argue.

The authors say that dangerous climate change could damage the global economy by, for example, droughts and heatwaves that lead to famines which in turn lead to migrations of millions of people. They estimate there is a 5% chance of global investment portfolios being reduced by 10% - $7tn - in coming decades, a level of risk and exposure that is routinely declared and acted on by big companies today.

Prof Hepburn said: “The risk exceeds the legal test of materiality and should be too large to ignore. In practice most investors neglect it entirely.”

The team estimate publicly listed companies - largely owned by investment and pension funds - account for about a quarter of global emissions. The investors can reduce the risk of climate change by demanding action to cut carbon emissions from the companies they have stakes in and shifting investment from fossil fuel companies to green companies, the authors say.

The Guardian has revealed previously the high exposure of many pension funds to coal, oil and gas companies, whose value could plummet if most fossil fuel reserves are left in the ground, as is needed to tackle global warming.

But Covington said the financial risks of climate change are systemic. “There has rightly been a lot of attention on fossil fuel companies, but that is just the supply side,” he said. “There is also the demand side - all the users of fossil fuels - and there is plenty they could do to employ more efficient processes to limit emissions, so it goes right across the full spectrum of companies.”

“This expert view from ClientEarth is a wake up call to trustees and investment professionals,” said Mark Campanale, founder of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a thinktank that has highlighted the risks that action to cut emissions poses to fossil fuel companies, a view backed by the Bank of England and World Bank. “If investors cannot demonstrate that they’ve considered the key risks, ClientEarth have laid out the basis for a legal challenge.

Campanale said the legal risk for fund managers is particularly high for those investing in fossil fuels. “If investors throw the hard-earned cash of pension fund members at the fossil fuel industry right now - knowing it is in steady but clear decline - then no one should be surprised that they face the possibility of being sued.”

 on: Today at 07:18 AM 
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Sea-level rise 'could last twice as long as human history'

Research warns of the long timescale of climate change impacts unless urgent action is taken to cut emissions drastically
Plastic waste near Dakar, Senegal. Around two-thirds of the national population lives in the Dakar coastal area, which is threatened by sea-level rise.

11 February 2016 16.00 GMT

Huge sea-level rises caused by climate change will last far longer than the entire history of human civilisation to date, according to new research, unless the brief window of opportunity of the next few decades is used to cut carbon emissions drastically.

Even if global warming is capped at governments’ target of 2C - which is already seen as difficult - 20% of the world’s population will eventually have to migrate away from coasts swamped by rising oceans. Cities including New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Calcutta, Jakarta and Shanghai would all be submerged.

“Much of the carbon we are putting in the air from burning fossil fuels will stay there for thousands of years,” said Prof Peter Clark, at Oregon State University in the US and who led the new work. “People need to understand that the effects of climate change won’t go away, at least not for thousands of generations.”

“The long-term view sends the chilling message of what the real risks and consequences are of the fossil fuel era,” said Prof Thomas Stocker, at the University of Bern, Switzerland and also part of the research team. “It will commit us to massive adaptation efforts so that for many, dislocation and migration becomes the only option.”

The report, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, notes most research looks at the impacts of global warming by 2100 and so misses one of the biggest consequences for civilisation - the long-term melting of polar ice caps and sea-level rise.

This is because the great ice sheets take thousand of years to react fully to higher temperatures. The researchers say this long-term view raises moral questions about the kind of environment being passed down to future generations.

The research shows that even with climate change limited to 2C by tough emissions cuts, sea level would rise by 25 metres over the next 2,000 years or so and remain there for at least 10,000 years - twice as long as human history. If today’s burning of coal, oil and gas is not curbed, the sea would rise by 50m, completely changing the map of the world.

“We can’t keep building seawalls that are 25m high,” said Clark. “Entire populations of cities will eventually have to move.”

By far the greatest contributor to the sea level rise - about 80% - would be the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet. Another new study in Nature Climate Change published on Monday reveals that some large Antarctic ice sheets are dangerously close to losing the sea ice shelves that hold back their flow into the ocean.

Huge floating sea ice shelves around Antarctica provide buttresses for the glaciers and ice sheets on the continent. But when they are lost to melting, as happened the with Larsen B shelf in 2002, the speed of flow into the ocean can increase eightfold.

Johannes Fürst, at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany and colleagues, calculated that just 5% of the ice shelf in the Bellingshausen Sea and 7% in the Amundsen Sea can be lost before their buttressing effect vanishes. “This is worrying because it is in these regions that we have observed the highest rates of ice-shelf thinning over the past two decades,” he said.

Avoiding the long-term swamping of many of the world’s greatest cities is already difficult, given the amount carbon dioxide already released into the atmosphere. “Sea-level rise is already baked into the system,” said Prof Stocker, one of the world’s leading climate scientists.

However, the rise could be reduced and delayed if carbon is removed from the atmosphere in the future, he said: “If you are very optimistic and think we will be in the position by 2050 or 2070 to have a global scale carbon removal scheme - which sounds very science fiction - you could pump down CO2 levels. But there is no indication that this is technically possible.” A further difficulty is the large amount of heat and CO2 already stored in the oceans.

Prof Stocker said: “The actions of the next 30 years are absolutely crucial for putting us on a path that avoids the [worst] outcomes and ensuring, at least in the next 200 years, the impacts are limited and give us time to adapt.”

The researchers argue that a new industrial revolution is required to deliver a global energy system that emits no carbon at all. They conclude: “The success of the [UN climate summit in] Paris meeting, and of every future meeting, must be evaluated not only by levels of national commitments, but also by looking at how they will lead ultimately to the point when zero-carbon energy systems become the obvious choice for everyone.”

“We are making choices that will affect our grandchildren’s grandchildren and beyond,” said Prof Daniel Schrag, at Harvard University in the US. “We need to think carefully about the long timescales of what we are unleashing.”

 on: Today at 07:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Global warming: uneven changes across planet

With greater melting of the sea ice, polar bears (above, off northern Alaska in 2007) find hunting for prey hard.

Wednesday 11 February 2016 21.30 GMT

Less than 2C of global warming for the Earth, the target agreed by leaders at the COP21 climate conference in Paris last November, doesn’t really sound too ambitious. In fact, many of us would welcome an extra couple of degrees warmth. So what is all the fuss about?

Unfortunately the warming would not occur evenly around the world. A study published recently in Nature shows what 2C of warming – a rise, of this level, above the pre-industrial global mean surface temperature – might really feel like and which regions may be hit hardest.

Some of the regional hot spots cited are the Mediterranean countries, Brazil and the US, where 2C of global warming could translate into local temperature increases of more than 3C. But the region expected to suffer most is the Arctic, where night-time temperatures are predicted to soar by 6C.

“Some countries are much more exposed than others,” says Rob Wilby, from Loughborough University.

The Earth has already warmed by an average of 1C, and the uneven nature of this warming is becoming clear with Arctic regions already beyond the 2C mark. Meanwhile, climate models suggest that the Mediterranean could pass the 2C level once global temperatures have risen by 1.4C.

Oceans, which cover 70% of the planet, warm much more slowly than land and are partly responsible for the uneven pattern of warming. Local factors, like loss of heat-reflecting snow in the Arctic, make a difference, too.

And it isn’t just temperature: changes in rainfall are also expected to be unequally distributed, with most land areas getting more of a dousing, according to the researchers. “Recent flooding episodes in the UK give us an insight into just how vulnerable we are,” says Wilby.

 on: Today at 07:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
US clean power plan setback 'will not affect Paris climate change deal'

Politicians, businesses and campaigners from other countries rally to support Barack Obama after supreme court puts US flagship climate plan on hold

Wednesday 10 February 2016 17.27 GMT

The US commitment to cutting carbon emissions under the landmark Paris agreement remains unaffected by the setback delivered to President Obama’s climate plans by the country’s supreme court, the White House has said.

Politicians, businesses and green campaigners from other countries rallied to the support of the president after the US supreme court put a temporary freeze on new rules to clean up coal-fired power plants, the centrepiece of Obama’s climate plan. They insisted that the Paris commitments on tackling emissions would be enforced.

Miguel Arias Canete, the EU’s climate change commissioner, said: “We have confidence in all countries to deliver on what they promised. The EU will continue to lead by example and enshrine its targets into law. I will meet the US climate envoy Todd Stern next week in Brussels and hope to better understand the potential implications of the court decision.”

Lord Stern, one of the world’s foremost economists on climate change, said: “It is perhaps no surprise that vested interests have united against the clean power plan.”

He warned: “We have to recognise that delay is dangerous and faltering by the US risks being amplified elsewhere. While this is a setback, it does not change the profound attractiveness to the United States of the transition to low-carbon economic growth, and a world that is cleaner, safer and more prosperous.”

Bas Eickhout, spokesman for the European Green MEPs, said: “This is unexpected but does not change the growing global momentum to shift away from fossil fuels. The US administration played an important role in the Paris deal and it is clear they will want to continue with their implementation of the clean energy plan.”

President Obama’s strong stance on climate change had “rightly won support internationally”, added Lisa Nandy, the UK’s shadow energy and climate secretary. “There is such strong public support within the US for Obama’s efforts on climate change that I think this ruling will prove to be only a very temporary issue. The supreme court has already upheld the authority of America’s Environmental Protection Agency to limit carbon from power stations.”

Under the proposed “clean power plan” rules, the US Environmental Protection Agency was empowered to force coal-fired power stations to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about a third by 2030. The new rules, which have been years in the making, in the face of strong opposition from some states and businesses, mark the first nationwide limits on CO2 from fossil fuel power generation in the US.

The White House said the 5-4 supreme court decision to put the new rules on hold was only a “bump in the road” and a “temporary procedural issue”. A senior official from the Obama administration assured journalists: “The Paris agreement and the implementation of that is going forward and I don’t think this will affect that much one way or another.”

“Our international partners understand the US system is one where rules get challenged and there is litigation. They are aware of that,” he added.

On 22 April, the UN wants world leaders to gather in New York to formally sign the Paris agreement and bring it into operation. The White House official said the “stay” ordered by justices on the EPA rules would be unlikely to affect US participation.

Many overseas observers blamed vested corporate interests and Republicans hostile to climate action for the setback.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace Uk, said: “The hardline climate sceptic Republicans and their corporate backers from the big utilities will use all their power and money to try to thwart Obama’s attempts to kick start a renewable energy revolution. We can only hope this is a last desperate throw of the dice as coal continues to slide down the power league table.”

Craig Bennett, UK chief executive of Friends of the Earth, said: “It’s no surprise that following the historic yet inadequate outcome of the Paris climate talks the old world order is fighting to maintain the incumbent dirty energies of yesteryear. They may succeed in slowing things down a little but they won’t stop humanity from taking its next big step forward to live free from polluting fossil fuels.”

However, the US Chamber of Commerce, the country’s main business lobby, called the supreme court decision “a stunning rebuke” to the Obama administration, and called into further question US ability to deliver on the climate promises made at Paris.

“The implications of this decision are likely to extend well beyond the United States and call into question the durability of the Obama administration’s pledge to the United Nations to slash US net greenhouse gas emissions 26%-28% by 2025 from the 2005 level,” a blogpost from the Chamber’s thinktank said.

“We estimate that the shortfall would expand from the current range of 45%-49% to a range of 60%-63% — that’s more of a chasm than a gap. At the Paris climate talks in December, administration officials, who should have known better, spent considerably energy assuring anyone who would listen that the clean power plan was legally unassailable.”

Although the court ruling was on a procedural issue, dealing with states coming forward with plans for the implementation of the EPA rules, it was a sign of the attitude of many of the justices towards Obama’s move, said Dirk Forrister, chief executive of the International Emissions Trading Association.

“Despite this ruling, the 2022 enforcement date remains unchanged at this stage. The decision just suspends temporarily the legal obligation for states to submit their implementation plans. While the ruling is procedural and not a direct comment on the substance of the rule, it shows that the court has some reservations about the rule.”

Reuters reported that shares in US coal companies jumped when the supreme court ruling was announced. Peabody Energy shares leapt 10.7%, Cloud Peak Energy shares by 18.7%, and Consol Energy by 3.9%.

 on: Today at 07:06 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Primates in pictures: US photographer's stunning portraits of endangered species


A selection of photographer Joel Sartore’s images of monkeys, taken from his ambitious, decade-long Photo Ark project.

Click to view this remarkable pictures:

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