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 on: Nov 26, 2015, 09:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Cop shoots and kills Delaware man’s dog — as it runs away from him

The sickness of the USA cops doesn't stop at killing black people, it also includes innocent animals ..

Free Thought Project
25 Nov 2015 at 21:41 ET                   

Smyrna, DE — Heavily militarized officers from the Delaware State Police and the Smyrna Police Department were allegedly executing a search warrant Friday night when they burst into the home of Mark Reedy.

The raid was captured on Reedy’s in-home security camera and the video was uploaded to Facebook over the weekend.

As the video begins, we can see the dog run up to the door barking and wagging his tail.

“State police, search warrant!” yell the cops behind their body-length military shield.

As the dog sees the shield and the gun he becomes startled and runs away. When the dog runs out of frame, it is clear that he posed no threat to the ten men in full body armor.

One cop can be heard saying, “less lethal up,” in a likely attempt to prevent his fellow officers from killing the innocent animal. However, at least one cowardly officer couldn’t wait to pull the trigger with real bullets, and a few seconds later a gunshot rings out and the dog is dead.

Reedy was not home at the time of the raid and when he returned, he found a horrific scene. Police had taken the body of his dog, left the blood puddle, and cut holes in the walls in a likely attempt to recover the bullet fragments that could be used against them in criminal proceedings.

Reedy then discovered that officers tried to break into his gun safe using his screwdrivers.

“I want to know who the genius was that came up with the plan to break into a gun safe with a screwdriver. Not the sharpest tool in the shed,” said Reedy describing the downright futile decision to breach a Champion gun safe with a flat tip screwdriver.

The blog Puppycide DB reports,

    In a series of posts to his Facebook page, Mark Reedy described how Delaware police entered his home twice – the first time without a warrant. According to Reedy, the first search occurred 11/19/15 when he was not at home. Delaware State Police called Reedy to schedule an interview, and shortly after ending the call with police, Reedy received a notification from his home security company that an un-authorized person had entered his house.
    Reedy’s whereabouts are currently unknown as he did not immediately respond to our request for comment, nor have we heard from the Deleware state police.

Below is the disturbing video showing the cowardly actions of Delaware’s finest. Please share this story to show the dastardly lows to which police in America will stoop as they “fear for their safety.”

Click to watch the sickness of USA cops:

 on: Nov 26, 2015, 08:00 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Laos totals the cost of climate change: record floods, drought and landslides

Extreme weather risks the food security of thousands of Lao villages. At the COP 21 talks, will rich countries honour their pledge of $100bn a year by 2020 to help?

Wednesday 25 November 2015 10.33 GMT

Namai village in remote, mountainous central Laos has seen immense change in just 20 years. Its isolation only ended when a road was pushed up the valley in 2003, and electricity came several years later.

Today Namai villagers mostly have televisions and refrigerators but they, and thousands of other communities, face a new set of problems that are forcing them to develop in ways they never imagined.
As waves crash ever closer to our doors in Grenada, will Paris talks stem the tide?

“Since 2000 it has definitely been getting hotter,” says San Sayyachan, a young teacher, during a meeting of 40 people last month in the village’s Buddhist temple, restored with help from former Namai residents living in Japan. “We are seeing many new cattle diseases. Our buffaloes are dying faster. We get sore throats and dengue. Our children have colds and diarrhoea more.”

Ka Soukhamay, a mother-of-three, says: “There are fewer fish in the river. We can no longer drink water from the river. The rivers flood at different times. The water comes higher and the water quality is lower.”

Some villagers link Namai’s troubles to deforestation, others blame a nearby dam, which they say has affected river flows. Yet more say growing rice with pesticides has made the river water undrinkable.

But the villagers are unanimous in saying that the greatest threat facing Namai now is natural disaster – in the form of cyclones, storms, floods and drought. Over the past 10 years, say village leaders, they have seen record floods, droughts and landslides, which have thrown their lives into turmoil.

“In the past, we would get floods perhaps once every three years,” says farmer Link Vorvong Xay. “This year, it has already flooded three times. The rises [in the river levels] come at different times of the year and more quickly than they used to. In the past, it always started raining in June and ended in October. Now the rains start in August and they have not ended yet. The rains are heavier and changing.”

Many villagers say they have lost most or all of their rice crops and have had to find other work to survive. Some grow cucumbers to be sold in the capital, Vientiane; others have taken up weaving.

Similar stories are being told across Laos and in neighbouring countries. In Phong Soung province, villagers report disruptions to harvests or planting seasons, rising temperatures, infestations of insects, and livestock diseases.

“The rice does not grow so well. We have had to replant. We are seeing more insects, which damage the rice. There is a pattern emerging of extreme weather. We realise that erratic temperatures have increased,” says Boumlouay Vongsay, in Phonbong village.

Lao scientists agree with the villagers. “Temperatures are definitely rising. The rains are certainly later and sometimes heavier. Rice is the staple crop, and climate change risks the food security of thousands of villages,” says Chay Bounphanousay, deputy director of Laos’s National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute, where scientists and growers are working to develop new rice varieties that can withstand drought, floods and heat waves.

Every 1C increase in temperature, Bounphanousay says, can result in a 10% decrease in rice yield.

In Laos, as in other countries in south-east Asia, only 13%-14% of food is grown on irrigated land – meaning more droughts can have a devastating effect. At the same time, villagers are losing, through neglect, hundreds of their 14,000 traditional rice varieties, some of which have traits that may be ideal for breeding into new “climate-proofed” varieties.

“We have many drought-tolerant varieties, but only one flood-tolerant one. We are crossing them with other varieties,” says Bounphanousay, adding that farmers need to adapt and use more diverse seeds.

“We are going to communities all over Laos, setting up schools of 20 to 30 farmers, helping them to choose varieties that are suitable for them. In the north, they are having more landslides, in the south there is more flooding.”

Bounphanousay, herself a farmer, set up the first national gene bank and says she is encouraging villages to set up their own seed banks, and advising them to cut back on pesticides and adopt more agroecological practices to adapt to the erratic weather.

She recommends that farmers use the system of rice intensification (SRI), which needs less water and fewer inputs and has been shown to improve yields significantly. “SRI has great potential. You need to work harder, but it can increase yields,” she says.

International groups, working with local Lao partners, are now helping villagers to adapt on a community level in various ways, but the scale of what is needed for the tens of thousands of communities in the country and across the region is immense, Oxfam said in a May report, Harmless Harvest.

In neighbouring Vietnam, farmers who use SRI have increased their income by $200 per hectare. This has encouraged others to start applying SRI principles in their farms, the report says. “By 2011, more than 1 million farmers [in Cambodia], equivalent to around 10% of the national farming population, were adopting this approach. According to the government, SRI principles are now being applied in 16% of rice lands in the northern part of Vietnam and 6% of total rice lands in the country. Farmers report that they were able to increase yield by as much as 68%.”

But adaptation to climate change requires more than training. Farmers need early warning systems and accurate climate information to help them better anticipate extreme weather events, says Oxfam. Countries need investment in technology, communications, infrastructure, institutions, training and outreach, among many other things.

“Rainfall in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam has been below average since 2009, resulting in droughts, lower yields and more pest and disease infestations,” say the authors. “Damages to agriculture wrought by disasters like these cost billions of dollars. Early warning systems, localised weather forecasting and climate data collection would save many a harvest from being submerged.”

The Asian Development Bank has estimated the adaptation cost for agriculture and coastal areas in just Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia to be $5bn per year by 2020. Expanded to all developing countries, the cost would run to hundreds of billions of dollars.

“Climate change adaptation is coming at high costs, especially to the rural poor,” says Ibrahim Thiaw, deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme. The UNEP Adaptation Gap Report, released in December 2014, estimated that the cost of climate adaptation would be as much as $150bn a year. Others have suggested much more.

So far less than $5bn has been allocated to climate adaptation, by Oxfam’s estimate. But at the UN climate negotiations in Paris next week, developing countries will be holding rich countries to their pledge, made in 2009, to mobilise $100bn a year by 2020.

The Paris talks are likely to hinge not on the figure, which is broadly agreed by rich countries, but on whether rich countries pay a fair share of the money needed by developing countries to adapt. This, say many developing countries, should be calculated on the historical emissions of rich countries and their ability to assist poorer nations financially.

When these factors are taken into acount, the burden falls mainly on the US and Europe, whose emissions since the Industrial Revolution have been the greatest. According to ActionAid, the US should increase grants to $67.5bn a year and the EU to $36.9bn.

“Up to now, rich nations have been sitting around plucking numbers out of thin air to pretend to deal with the climate crisis,” said ActionAid senior policy analyst Brandon Wu. “Meanwhile, people in poor countries are already battling its vicious storms.”

 on: Nov 26, 2015, 07:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Somaliland crushed by drought: 'We need what all humans need'

They eke out an existence in the face of myriad humanitarian, environmental and political challenges. Now people in rural Somaliland face a debilitating drought that threatens to change their way of life forever

Wednesday 25 November 2015 13.10 GMT

Hassan Haji Towakal has lived in one of the world’s toughest environments for 80 years. He has seen many droughts, but the recent prolonged lack of rainfall is the worst he has experienced in Somaliland, the breakaway country situated in Somalia’s relatively peaceful northern corner.

The drought, which has left roughly 240,000 people without enough food and killed between 35% to 40% of Somaliland’s precious livestock, has also made Haji Towakal question the future of pastoralism – the only life he has known.

“I do not have livestock now. The drought is still here … I am struggling but I don’t have any answers. People were always busy herding livestock. They would come to the town to buy and sell, but now they are not in a good shape,” he said.

Wearing a black waistcoat and clutching a blue and white walking stick, he sits on a plastic chair in the village of Gargara, a cluster of flimsy shelters fashioned from branches and sticks, and a few low stone buildings.

Gargara is about a three-hour drive on bone-jangling tracks from the capital, Hargeisa, but it might be on another planet.

Hargeisa is a sprawling mix of pastel coloured, one-storey shops, new estates of smart bungalows, and busy green stands where men cluster to buy the mild stimulant khat as goats and camels wander by. Gargara has wells – which is why about 1,000 people have come here over the past five years – but little else.

Somaliland is a textbook example of how tackling climate change and attaining sustainable development – as defined by the global goals adopted in New York this September – are two sides of the same coin.

Caught as it is in the political tailwind of efforts to end the crisis in Somalia, where al-Shabaab militants are still fighting African peacekeepers and the government, the country is still struggling for international recognition. But in rural areas, the state is barely real even to its own people.

Only about one-third of the population has access to safe drinking water. Life expectancy in the country, which has a population of approximately 3.5 million people, is just 53 years for men and 56 for women. Across Somalia as a whole, only about 33% of people have access to electricity.

The World Bank has estimated that gross domestic product for Somaliland was $1.4bn (£930m) in 2012, giving the country GDP per capita of just $347. That makes Somalilanders the fourth poorest people in the world, just ahead of the populations of Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi. Somaliland relies mainly on livestock exports and remittances from overseas. Foreign investors are still wary because of the unresolved political situation.

Conversations with pastoralists in Gargara and other nearby villages make it clear that drought places an unbearable burden on people who already tick all the humanitarian needs boxes.

“Water is a basic need for humans and every living thing. It is something that is general and personal. All communities need it, whether it comes from shallow wells or any water assistance,” Haji Towakal says.

The arrival of so many displaced people has strained existing resources, creating tension locally. Save the Children is building new wells on the outskirts of the village to provide free water to the displaced people, but other concerns need addressing.

“I have in mind so many things,” Haji Towakal says. “Children should be sent to school on proper scholarships, and learn income-generating skills. Each one should get money to study for business to gain a better livelihood. I need cash for my children. I need health for my family.

“There is no hospital here. There is a health centre but it does not support us. It doesn’t have drugs. There are nurses but no one assists them for payments or restocking. It’s there as a premises but it is not functional.”

Omar Osman Farah, a 62-year-old wearing a white koffia, pulls up a chair beside Haji Towakal.

“We need what all humans need. Latrines are very important. We need health. The displaced people need shelter. They need education and schools,” he says.

    Now, my life is full of worry. I don't like staying here but I have to. I won't go back without something to go back to
    Sahel Siyal Mohamed

The displaced people live in cramped domed huts – branches, thatching and cloth placed over a frame of sticks – close to the village. Many have been here for five years, since the rains started to fail and their villages ran out of water.

Sahel Siyal Mohamed, 26, tells of her journey from the village of Biyo Cade, three years ago. She walked with her two-year-old son on her back, while her three-year-old boy walked by her side, clutching her hand. It took two days.

“It was full of struggle … You tell your children they just need to sleep. We got tired a lot.”

From 60 sheep and goats, she now has just three sheep and two goats. She has tried to make a new life in Gargara by selling tea, but the villagers are now too poor for such purchases.

“If you try to cook food to sell, there is no market. You end up eating it yourself,” she says as her two-year-old daughter squirms in her lap. “Now, my life is full of worry … I don’t like staying here but I have to. I won’t go back unless there is something to go back to.”

In a report this month, the World Bank said as many as 100 million people globally could slide into extreme poverty because of rising temperatures. The bank said efforts to stabilise climate change should incorporate strategies to eradicate poverty, and called for social safety nets and universal healthcare for poor people.

At the weekend, before UN talks begin in Paris to agree a global deal to limit climate change, action/2015 campaign members will participate in global climate marches to put pressure on politicians to agree a deal that will accelerate action and ensure no individual is left behind.

Abdikarim, nine, might be forgiven for feeling he has already been forgotten. He and his family left their village, Faahiye, for Gargara five years ago. They used to have 200 animals. Now they have 10.

He doesn’t go to school; only about half of children between six and 13 go to primary school in Somaliland. He herds goats, fetches water for his mother, Shukri, and amuses himself with stones – the only plaything in a place where footballs are a luxury too far. But dreams, however unrealistic, cost nothing.

“I want to be a minister, of education. A lot of people came here advocating for education. I would like to have a school here,” he says. There is a school in Gargara, but there is not enough room, and not enough teachers for all the new arrivals, and many cannot afford the fees.

“I am just disappointed all the time,” says Abdikarim.“I ask God all the time to bring more rain. I get thirsty. When I am thirsty, I can’t walk, I can’t do anything. I just sit down.”

 on: Nov 26, 2015, 07:55 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
World Bank calls for $16bn in order to help Africa weather the effects of climate change

Africa climate business plan, emphasising clean energy, efficient farming and urban protection, will be launched by World Bank chief at Paris climate talks

Wednesday 25 November 2015 16.35 GMT

The World Bank has devised a $16bn (£10.6bn) strategy designed to help Africa adapt to climate change and prevent millions of people from sliding into poverty.

By fast-tracking clean energy, efficient farming and urban protection, the measures promise to greatly increase renewable energy across the continent, bolster food production and lead to the planting of billions of trees. It is also hoped that the scheme will improve life in cities and reduce poverty, migration and conflict.

The continent of nearly 1 billion people, which emits just 3% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, will be affected more than anywhere else by even the smallest rise in global temperatures, said Jim Yong Kim, the bank’s president, who will launch the Africa climate business plan at the UN climate talks in Paris next week.

According to the bank, Africa needs to spend $5-$10bn a year immediately to adapt to a 2C warming, rising to $20-$50bn by 2050, and close to $100bn if temperatures increase by 4C.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is highly vulnerable to climate shocks, and our research shows that could have far-ranging impact on everything from child stunting and malaria to food price increases and droughts,” said Kim.

Even if warming does not exceed 2C, sub-Saharan Africa can expect large increases in poverty and malnutrition, the bank said in its report. But if temperatures rise 3-4C, which they are on course to do by the end of the century if no action is taken, heat extremes could affect 70%–80% of Africa’s land area in the summer months, and much of southern and central Africa would be at risk of severe drought.

African cities are expected to be disproportionately affected. “The problem will affect a growing number of people, as the urban population of Africa is estimated to rise from its current level of 472 million to 659 million by 2025 and 1 billion by 2040. The poor will be especially hard hit,” said the bank.

“Dakar experiences recurrent flooding; the 2009 floods affected almost 360,000 people and caused $100m in damages and losses. Recurrent floods in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, cause on average $7m in damages and losses a year. By 2025, about 66 new cities will be added to the 81 cities currently in the medium-city range. This group of cities needs support to enhance their capacity to manage climate-related risks.”

The bank proposes that $500m be spent on projects to reduce deforestation and increase wildlife protection in 14 countries. It also aims to restore up to 100m hectares (247m acres) of degraded and deforested land by 2030. Much of the money needed would come from carbon funds and initiatives expected to be finalised at the Paris talks.

Another $2.5bn should be spent in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria on irrigation, dams, and large-scale flood protection projects, the bank proposes. This, it hopes, could protect and provide electricity to 3 million people.

In the Zambesi basin, countries like Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe would share $3.6bn in investments in hydropower, water transfers, irrigation and flood control.

A further $2bn is earmarked for 20 unnamed cities to improve transport and protection against natural disasters.

Nearly $8bn would be spent on solar energy by 2024, both for cities connected to the grid and off-grid communities, under the terms of the plan. It could include funds to build concentrated solar power stations, as well as money to expand the growth of mini grids and wind power.

At present, 600 million people and 10 million small and medium-size enterprises in sub-Saharan Africa still do not have a connection to the electricity grid.

Once one of the world’s largest investors in coal power, the bank now says it plans to develop renewable energy urgently in Africa, with dams planned in Cameroon and west Africa.

“Hydropower currently provides 24% of sub-Saharan Africa’s power needs, and there is potential to increase this share to 40% over the coming years. Some 50GW of hydropower could be developed immediately, at costs of $0.01–$0.08/kWh. These prices make hydropower the lowest cost, largest scale renewable energy resource currently available to the region – with potential for transformative, growth-inducing developmental impacts,” says the report.

The bank will also back and extend existing plans to increase food production. “More efficient livestock systems would increase protein availability while reducing emissions per kilogramme of meat or dairy produced. Conservation agriculture techniques would protect soils from wind and water erosion. Weather information and early warning systems would enable farmers to take better decisions, reducing risk and protecting yields in uncertain climate and weather conditions.”

Because millions of people depend on rain-fed agriculture or live in drought-prone zones in urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa, climate change is intimately linked to poverty levels, said the report.

“Climate variability is already exacting a heavy toll on development; future change may have catastrophic impacts, as drought, floods, and storm surges could push millions of people into poverty and prevent millions of others from emerging from it,” it says.

The new funds will go some way to compensate for the fact that Africa has largely missed out on receiving funds from the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism: only about 2% of the 7,000 projects funded by the CDM were on the continent.

Of the $16.1bn that the bank wants to raise, roughly $5.7bn is expected to come from the International Development Association (IDA), the arm of the World Bank Group that supports the poorest countries.

About $2.2bn is expected from climate finance instruments including Climate Investment Funds, the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility. A further $2bn will be delivered through bilateral and multilateral sources, while $3.5bn is anticipated from the private sector. An estimated $0.7bn will come from domestic sources. An additional $2bn is still to be sourced.

Makhtar Diop, the bank’s vice president for Africa, said the plan set out a clear path for investment in the continent’s urgent climate needs, and to fast-track the required finance.

“While adapting to climate change and mobilising the necessary resources remain an enormous challenge, the plan represents a critical opportunity to support a priority set of climate-resilient initiatives in Africa.”

 on: Nov 26, 2015, 07:53 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Ecuador eco-tour shows positive effects of mangrove replanting in face of El Niño

Near the resort of Bahía de Caráquez, a community project has restored mangrove forests – and may help save it from one of the strongest ever El Niños

Thursday 26 November 2015 13.35 GMT

The canoe sliced through the water and along a quiet, narrow tunnel enclosed by mangrove trees. As the craft slid past the spindly tree trunks and roots sticking several feet out of the water, tour guides pointed out ibis, herons and small red crabs hidden among the foliage.

Leading this tour was Francisco Reyes Mera, a former fisherman who helped found a group to restore the ravaged mangrove forests in his community. The result is the expansion of Isla Corazón, a naturally heart-shaped mangrove island in the estuary of the Rio Chone on Ecuador’s Pacific coast. The island is just outside Bahía de Caráquez, a resort-city where visitors come to enjoy the beach, surf and fill up on seafood. The town declared itself an eco-city in 1999, and eco-tourism sites such as Isla Corazón are popular destinations.

The Rio Chone was once thick with mangroves, creating prime habitat for the fish, wild shrimp, crabs and molluscs that the fishermen relied on. In the 1970s and 80s the bulk of the forests were ripped out, however, and replaced by shrimp farms, precipitating an economic boom but eliminating the storm-buffering effects, erosion control and wildlife habitat provided by the mangroves. Various studies have reported that somewhere between 75% to 90% of the mangroves in the estuary were removed during the shrimp farm explosion.

The community paid the price in 1997-98, when El Niño brought months of heavy rain, provoking massive mudslides, filling the river with silt and sweeping away entire neighbourhoods. In the aftermath, a group of fishermen led by Reyes Mera began planting mangroves to protect their land and livelihood. “What choice did we have?” he says. “We just started planting.”

At the time, there were only 53 hectares of natural forest remaining at Isla Corazón. Since then, the community’s efforts have contributed to over 500 hectares more, and the group teamed up with Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment to make the island an officially protected wildlife refuge in 2002.

During the tour, the canoe emerged from the mangrove tunnel to the river on the south side of the island, where a strong smell of guano and muted squawking announced a large colony of frigate birds living in the trees. The black and white seabirds circled over the river looking for fish, and perched with their wings spread wide and hooked beaks agape. Other species, including brown pelicans and cormorants, also rested among the leaves.

The tour concluded with a short hike down a wooden platform built into the island, and back into the centre of the forest. Reyes Merea handed out mangrove seeds for the guests to launch into the mud, where they will start to root in about 45 days – and contribute to the ongoing restoration of the environment.

Today, with the region bracing itself for the first strong El Niño since the 1998 disaster, the mangroves are more important that ever. The forests are still nowhere near their historic levels, and nearby towns remain vulnerable, but hopefully the mangroves will absorb some of the damage. “We’re worried for the community,” Reyes Mera says, “but the forests will be fine.”

 on: Nov 26, 2015, 06:23 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
US predicts Paris climate talks will benefit from lessons of past mistakes

White House officials say Obama is determined to take lead on climate change during talks set to begin on Monday with bilateral meeting with China

26 November 2015 12.00 GMT

Lessons from past failures will help push nations towards a robust climate change agreement that will push down greenhouse gas emissions, the White House has predicted.

The US has promised to take a leadership role during next week’s talks in Paris, with Barack Obama arriving on Sunday night for a number of high-level meetings designed to spur early momentum.

The UN talks start on Monday and will run until 11 December, with 138 heads of state expected to attend.

Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping on Monday morning that will send a “strong message to the world of their shared commitment to combat climate change and see a strong agreement reached”, according to Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications at the White House.

Following the meeting between the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, the US president will have one-on-one dialogues with French president François Hollande and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

The following day, Obama will meet with leaders of low-lying island nations, such as the Marshall Islands and Kiribati, that are particularly vulnerable to climate change and are keen to see wealthy nations part with the $100bn in climate finance promised at the 2009 Copenhagen talks. He will then return to the US.

White House officials said that the president was determined to show leadership on the issue of climate change as it posed a “clear and present threat” to US national security and an “existential challenge” to developing nations that will bear the brunt of extreme weather events and food insecurity caused by warming temperatures.

Rhodes said the Paris talks will be approached differently to Copenhagen, which is widely viewed as a hastily patched-together failure.

“By the time [Obama arrived in Copenhagen] things had already unravelled and then had to be put back together,” he said. “The goal here is to give a push with heads of state at the beginning of the process and then allow [secretary of state John] Kerry and others to finalise the details.”

The White House anticipates the talks will help meet an internationally agreed target of keeping global warming below a 2C compared with pre-industrial times, even though current emissions reduction pledges amount to warming of around 2.7C. Periodic reviews of emissions cuts beyond Paris will help meet this goal, officials said.

“The stars are more aligned to reach agreement than I have ever seen before,” said Todd Stern, the US chief negotiator. “There is no comparison between Paris and Copenhagen in 2009. We have this opportunity, this moment. Countries are going to have to be willing to depart from some of their fixed positions to seek common good. We can get this done. We will get his done.”

Stern, the US’s long-standing special envoy on climate change, said that he envisaged “normal” problems over striking a deal in Paris that was fair to all countries and which reflected different countries’ abilities to make emissions cuts.

“We have a situation where 60-65% of emissions come from developing countries,” he said. “That’s a good thing. It means that developing countries are developing. But you cannot solve climate change on the back of the 35%.

“You cannot ask countries to act in ways that are inconsistent with their growth imperatives. Countries need to act in a way that they think they can manage. We can’t just say to developed countries that ‘this is your burden’.”

White House officials said they are consulting members of the Republican-controlled US Congress over the talks but would not be drawn on whether the Paris agreement will need approval from the Senate, as treaties normally do.

Kerry has said that the mix of binding and non-binding elements of the deal – emissions cuts will require “transparency and accountability” but will not be legally binding according to the White House – means it doesn’t fit the standard definition of a treaty.

In a bid to generate further momentum for the Paris talks, the White House announced on Monday that federal agencies will further slash their own output of greenhouse gases. The US government, one of the largest emitters in the country, now has an emissions reduction target of 41.8% from 2008 levels by 2025.

This target, a slight upgrade on targets first announced in March, will encompass the 360,000 buildings and 650,000 fleet vehicles operated by US government agencies. Nasa will invest in renewable energy and will cut energy consumption at the Johnson Space Center in Houston by 17% through a new heat and power system. Other actions include a cut in petrol use by the Department of Homeland Security and an expanded solar energy array for the Department of Energy.

However, Obama’s Republican opponents in Congress continue to oppose key elements of the US’s plan to tackle climate change, as well as providing climate finance for developing countries.

A senior Republican figure has also launched a campaign against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), the federal agency that tracks the weather and climate. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House science committee, has demanded internal correspondence from Noaa in a bid to reveal what he believes is a conspiracy to alter climate data to support Obama’s agenda.

Smith has focused upon a study published in the journal Science, authored by Noaa scientists, that challenges the theory among some climate science sceptics that there has been a “pause” in the rise in global temperatures.

Kathryn Sullivan, Noaa’s administrator, has refused to hand over the correspondence and has written to Smith to state: “I have not or will not allow anyone to manipulate the science or coerce the scientists who work for me.”

 on: Nov 26, 2015, 06:21 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Paris climate summit: the climate circus comes to town

The soap opera of global climate talks has been playing for 20 years. As it comes to Paris on Monday, Suzanne Goldenberg reviews the tears, the bloodshed and the unspeakable catering

Thursday 26 November 2015 12.05 GMT

On the evening of 18 December 2009, Barack Obama and a trail of White House and State Department officials swept through a cavernous exhibition centre in Copenhagen and barged, uninvited, into a private meeting between the leaders of four powerful developing countries – China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

It was about 6pm on the final day of the Copenhagen climate summit, when nearly 200 countries were expected to agree on collective action to fight climate change. For the first time, the United Nations claimed, countries were on the verge of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions. Obama, along with dozens of other presidents and prime ministers, had flown into Copenhagen for the final day of the summit at the request of the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, who believed their presence would embolden negotiators to make a deal. The UN was so optimistic about the prospects at the start of that year that it signed off on an ad campaign touting “Hopenhagen”.

But by the time Obama gatecrashed the meeting of developing nation leaders, the sun had long set on the Bella Centre exhibition hall, and on any chances of a deal. Hopenhagen lay buried under two weeks of mistrust, rancour, sleep deprivation and unspeakable catering. As the US president saw it, the only chance to avoid a complete collapse of the summit was to try to come to an understanding with China – foremost, along with the US, of the world’s biggest polluters, and holding fast to its industrial progress.

It is hard even now to fully grasp the degree of dysfunction that took hold of the conference. Some delegates still say, only half-jokingly, that the experience left them with PTSD. Even the summit’s hosts were at war. The Danish prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, tried to sideline the climate minister, Connie Hedegaard, who had spent a year preparing a secret draft text that was shared with a small group of delegates – not, as convention demanded, with all of the countries at the meeting. The Chinese felt scorned because their deputy premier was left off the list for a reception at Christiansborg Palace and kept waiting in the cold by intense security around the conference venue. The Americans felt slighted because they were unable to secure a second private meeting with the Chinese. The leaders of 130 developing countries accused rich countries of plotting to cut them out of negotiations. Well after midnight, in the final hours of the closing plenary, Claudia Salerno, the Venezuelan negotiator, was so incensed by the entire process that she banged her hand on the table until it bled. “This hand, which is bleeding now, wants to speak,” she said, showing her bloodied palm to stunned onlookers.

“It was a very confusing situation for everybody involved,” said Giza Gaspar Martins, a diplomat from Angola. “My first meeting took place at three o’clock in the morning,” he said. “We were clueless at Copenhagen.”

The Danes, who had planned for 15,000 people to turn up, were completely overwhelmed when 35,000 delegates and observers tried to get into the Bella Centre. Campaigners, journalists and high-level negotiators reported spending up to eight hours standing in crowds outside the metal gates, while a rare pre-Christmas cold spell dumped 10cm of snow on the city. In her memoir Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton describes waiting to exit the hall in a queue of VIP limousines that moved so slowly that the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, rolled his eyes and moaned, in English: “I want to die!” When Obama finally arrived, Clinton told him it was the most chaotic event she had attended since her eighth-grade student council elections. Inside the hall, negotiators were getting too little food and almost no sleep. Unable to eat any more cold, limp sandwiches, US officials on the ground begged White House staffers coming in from Washington on Air Force One to bring in microwaveable bags of green vegetables.

By the time the leaders of China, India, South Africa and Brazil gathered in the upstairs office suite, the first order of business – unofficially – was how to avoid responsibility for the Copenhagen summit’s collapse. None of the countries wanted to take the blame for getting in the way of the deal that would save the world. The discussions were just getting started when the officials caught sight of Obama through the plate glass door. “Oh, so this is where you guys are holed up,” the president said, stepping into the room.

Six years later, countries are poised to gather once again in an effort to reach a deal to halt climate change. Next week’s meeting in Paris, taking place in a sombre atmosphere following the horror of the Isis attacks, will be the 21st annual UN climate summit. In the acronym-studded and obfuscatory language that surrounds these events, the Paris meeting will be the 21st Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The pressure to reach an accord is higher than ever.

Negotiators, in hopeful mood, describe Paris as the anti-Copenhagen, ticking off the ways in which countries are better prepared this time around. Nations have set their reduction targets in advance. The US has worked to reach separate deals with China, India, Brazil and other countries. Negotiators have whittled down the text of the proposed agreement to a manageable length. The French hosts have invited the leaders for the start of the summit, not the end, which will leave negotiators time to work on the deal. But optimism is evanescent: in a negotiation involving nearly 200 countries, when all of the hard choices are left until the end, anything can happen. For a reporter, the experience is slightly horrifying. The meetings, with their increasing numbers of camp followers and dozens of side events, bear almost no resemblance to the usual buttoned-up affairs of global summitry. But in the final three or four days, the carnival tails off, and real power is wielded behind closed doors, in the negotiating rooms.

The future of the planet has been argued over point by point over long periods, but agreements are made in a sudden burst of activity at the last possible moment, by lawyers and bureaucrats who have not slept or eaten properly in days. No summit is allowed to end in failure: negotiators do not get their planes home until they cobble together a form of words that can be passed off as a result. Accordingly, summits have produced a slurry of declarations, accords, agreements, action plans, and protocols. The climate circus would be farcical, if the fate of billions were not at stake.

* * *

In the highly scripted world of international negotiations, an unannounced and uninvited visitor – even if he is the leader of the free world – is a massive breach of protocol. The representatives around the table in 2009 were momentarily flummoxed, and there were a few tense exchanges between security details before the then Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, made a motion of welcome with his hands, and Obama entered the room.

The president draped an arm around the then Brazilian leader, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and said: “I want to sit next to my good friend, Lula,” according to the accounts of those in the room. “Right from the moment he entered, it wasn’t as if he was groping around. He got right in there,” said Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, one of the key Indian negotiators at the talks. “He exuded confidence. He didn’t give an impression of being tense or anything of that sort.”

Obama had been in the White House for just 11 months – and there were enormous expectations that he would reverse the climate policies of his predecessor, George W Bush. Bush notoriously withdrew the US from the Kyoto protocol, killing off the 1997 agreement to reduce global emissions. Obama, meanwhile, had campaigned for election promising to save “a planet in peril”. A week earlier, the Nobel committee had awarded Obama the peace prize, in recognition of the possibilities of his presidency. The trench warfare with Republicans over healthcare, immigration and gun violence that were to scar the duration of his presidency still lay ahead. His hair barely showed any grey.

A Brazilian minister gave up his place, and Obama took a seat at the table next to Da Silva and directly opposite Wen. As the president settled in, he dropped the show of jocularity, and turned to the Chinese leader to ask, with some annoyance: “Mr Premier, are you ready to see me? Are you ready?”

China and the US are considered by many to be the supervillains of climate change, nations whose economic rise was accomplished only by putting the planet in peril. The US, once the world’s biggest polluter, lost that title to China in 2007. By 2009, the majority of the nearly 200 countries in the world agreed that because of their industrial history, the US, Europe and Japan had a greater duty to curb emissions. That position was codified in the Kyoto protocol. In Obama’s view, China also needed urgently to curb its pollution levels. His reasons were the sheer scale of emissions from China’s coal-fuelled factories, and a need to mollify American public opinion. Republicans in Congress, who mostly deny the reality of climate change, were using China as an excuse not to address the US’s own dependency on coal and oil.

    Obama turned to the Chinese leader to ask, with some annoyance: 'Mr Premier, are you ready to see me? Are you ready?'

In the 45 or so minutes of ensuing conversation – punctuated by a couple of screaming matches in Mandarin between members of the Chinese delegation that were not translated – the world’s biggest carbon polluters, for the first time in history, agreed on a common goal.

In truth, it was not much of a goal. But it was the only way to salvage the disastrous negotiation, and it did set out the few points on which the US and China – along with the other big developing countries – agreed. The two-and-half-page text “recognised the scientific view” that warming must be limited to a global average of 2C above preindustrial levels in order for there to be a reasonable chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. For the first time, the more powerful developing countries and the industrialised countries agreed on the need to cut emissions. Rich countries pledged that they would help rustle up $100bn a year in public and private funds by 2020 for developing countries to switch to cleaner forms of power, and to finance a Green Climate Fund to allocate the money. The agreement was seriously flawed. It omitted a target date for peaking emissions, which meant there was no clear way of getting to the 2C goal, and it did not propose any penalties for climate laggards.

As the meeting in the conference room came to a close, Obama turned to Wen and asked: “Do you agree?” Wen nodded his assent without speaking.

At about 11pm Obama told a press conference the leaders had reached a “meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough”. “I believe what we have achieved in Copenhagen will not be the end, but rather the beginning of a new era of international action,” he said. “We are in this together.”

The president, racing to get home to Washington ahead of a severe blizzard that was bearing down on the east coast of the US, immediately decamped for the airport. But the storm he left behind was just as big. Most of the delegates had no idea that there was a deal until they saw Obama’s televised press conference on the closed-circuit television at the Bella Centre. In any case, under UN rules, a decision by five major economies – even if they did account for a majority of global emissions – simply did not count. The rules for the climate talks demanded consensus. “The moment he said there was a deal, everybody’s backs got put to the wall,” said Jairam Ramesh, who was then India’s environment minister. “They all said: ‘What is this? How can an agreement between four heads of state and the US be taken as a decision of 193 countries?”

It was 3am before the Danish hosts asked other countries what they thought of the deal. In the vast hall on the ground floor of the Bella Centre, Lumumba Di-Aping, the leader of the G77 group of the world’s 130 poorest countries, denounced “a suicide pact, an incineration pact in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries”. The conference sputtered to a close, withholding formal approval of the proposals worked out by Obama and the other leaders.

By the time Obama landed at Andrews Air Force, the storm was in full fury, and the summit was being written off as a failure. The US continued to claim Copenhagen as a breakthrough, but for many developing countries, the agreement was cast as a betrayal: the moment when the industrialised world tried to shrug off its obligations. For the small island states of the Pacific, which face being inundated by rising seas, the summit was a profound disappointment.

* * *

In June 1992, Bikenibeu Paeniu, the prime minister of the tiny Pacific island of Tuvalu, addressed a press conference on the sidelines of the Rio de Janeiro Earth summit. More journalists sought accreditation to cover that event than had covered the first Gulf war a few months earlier.

“I come to Rio to tell you of the fate of my people,” Paeniu began, pleading for an agreement that would set firm targets and time frames for cutting emissions. He made a direct appeal to then president George HW Bush, who did not want to commit to a deal. “He has a moral and spiritual obligation to face reality and accord what is right for the people of the world,” Paeniu said. “And if he doesn’t?” he was asked. “There is someone up there who will judge us,” Paeniu said. “We will all be judged. Even President Bush.”

Tuvalu’s remarks were broadcast widely, and Bush reluctantly agreed to a watered down version of the treaty.

Since 1992, negotiators have gathered every year to turn that weak promise into concrete action, meeting in cities including Berlin, Kyoto, Buenos Aires, Marrakesh, New Delhi, Milan, back to Buenos Aires, Montreal, Nairobi, Bali, Copenhagen, Doha, and Lima. The annual gatherings have grown from roughly 500 participants at the first official climate negotiations in Berlin in 1995 to sprawling jamborees – gargantuan rotating festivals of anything remotely associated with environmental causes or, increasingly, profit-making “green” enterprises. The talks are conducted in English. Inside dimly lit halls, negotiators have spent two weeks at a stretch gazing at text blown-up into headline size by overhead projectors, doing battle over “shall” or “should”, “commitment” or “contribution”.

“The day can go on and on and on and on,” said one former delegate. “You need to be very sharp. Even being in a windowless room with the lights down and a projector on the wall and talking about moving a comma around – you need to be alert, because it is significant.”

It also helps to be resourceful. “You eat what you kill basically, because negotiations go 24/7 but the concession stands do not,” the delegate said. “It is literally people stockpiling rations and the smart people, the negotiators who have been around the block many times, bring their own food and know how to pack appropriately. They can be completely autonomous.” Several people complained that the food situation is even worse for vegetarians. One observer, who has never missed a meeting, lost 15lb during the Kyoto meeting, when the vending machines ran out of food.

Old timers say they make a point of carrying protein bars, nuts, and dark chocolate – and grabbing sleep when they can get it. I was told that if you don’t sleep in the first week, then you’ll have no judgment left.

In the conference halls and the streets around them, the summits tend to be sheer pandemonium: activists arrive smeared in green paint or sweating behind furry polar bear suits; peasant women from the Andes in traditional bowler hats sing songs to Mother Earth when their leaders are on camera; celebrities bring their own circus – Robert Redford is expected to come to Paris and Thom Yorke is a conference regular. Campaign groups throw together mass demonstrations and expert briefings, organise daily mock prize givings such as the Fossil of the Day award, and the semi-stalking of delegates, known as Adopt a Negotiator. When the climate negotiations came to Warsaw in 2013, the World Coal Association organised a competing conference with the support of the Polish economics ministry, which was disrupted by climate activists waving an eight-metre inflatable pink lung. There is always at least one spectacular stunt, such as last year’s disastrously ill-thought out move by Greenpeace to drape large yellow letters spelling out “Time for Change” over the Nazca lines in the Peruvian desert. The campaign group was later forced to apologise for disturbing the ancient heritage site.

Before the attacks, the French government expected more than 45,000 participants from 196 countries at the 30 November summit, including 25,000 delegates and official observers. The remaining 20,000 participants included activists, journalists, politicians, academics and business leaders. Those numbers could now shrink as marches and other events are cancelled owing to security concerns.

For old hands at the negotiations, such as Yvo de Boer, a former Dutch civil servant and UN climate chief known for his trenchant views, the conferences have become trapped in an endless cycle of repeats. “The CoPs actually remind me a lot of Peyton Place and As the World Turns – in the sense that every episode is really exciting, but if you don’t watch for three years, you haven’t missed anything,” De Boer said.

Each of those annual gatherings produced its particular dramas. Negotiators for CoP 3 which produced the Kyoto protocol were told to clear out before they were entirely finished because the venue was booked for a lingerie show. CoP 6, held in the Hague, ran so badly over time that the UN was reduced to convening an additional conference a few months later, just to conclude the proceedings. CoP 15 or Copenhagen was the deal that got away.

Some years – as in the run-up to the Copenhagen meeting in 2009 and this year – there can be as many as four or five additional meetings. Negotiators, and their followers, can easily find themselves on the road for up to eight weeks out of the year. “There have been people who met each other in the process and got married. There were a number of people who met each other in the process who got married – and divorced from other people as a consequence. You did regularly hear stories of marriages breaking down because of people spending so much time in the negotiations. And you lost people along the way. People died. There were colleagues who were lost at the time of the tsunami in Thailand [in 2004],” De Boer said.

“It does get to be a bit of an atmosphere of an extended family of people who have this process in common that is such a major part of their life – and yet almost incomprehensible to the outside world.”

Like all family gatherings, things can get emotional. In 2007, De Boer, then UN climate chief, broke down in tears at the Bali summit. By the time of the failed Copenhagen meeting two years later, he was done with climate negotiations.

* * *

Last July, during an informal session for negotiators hosted by the French government, Todd Stern, the State Department climate change envoy, found himself sitting unusually close to his Cuban equivalent. (Countries were seated in alphabetical order in French, putting les Etats Unis very near its old adversary.) Three months later, Stern was holding a conference call with reporters on a scratchy phone line from Havana. As he explained it, the US approach to Cuba was a product of that chance seating. “I started talking to my Cuban counterpart, and then we had a bilateral at the end of the meeting,” Stern said. “I kind of had it in mind from that time on to come here.” Stern talked about climate change and trying to persuade Cuba to look positively on the US vision for a deal in Paris, but he also suggested that the talks were not limited to environmental issues.

Veterans describe negotiations as an elaborate game, in which the competing demands of nearly 200 countries are juggled. Some of the trade-offs occur around the negotiating table, but not all.

“It really is like playing chess on 15 different chess boards at the same time,” De Boer said. “If you give vulnerable countries something, then you have to give oil-producing countries something, and somewhere else you have to give countries with a strong private sector something, and somewhere else you have to give eastern European countries that had an economic collapse after the cold war something. There can be 20 people spinning in place at the same time.”

In the early years, climate change was seen as a self-contained environment problem – something that could be sorted out with scrubbers or smokestacks or other standard pollution remedies. That had worked in the recent past. In 1987, countries agreed on a treaty to fix the hole in the ozone layer; in 1991, the US and Canada reached a deal to reduce acid rain. But climate change required a much bigger fix. It was a global problem, an existential threat, with sweeping economic implications. It seems evident now that the changes required to halt, and eventually, reduce greenhouse gas emissions would require a transformation of the economy. But climate experts say that was not the case in the 1990s, when the negotiations first got under way.

“We didn’t understand the nature of the threat well enough. We didn’t have enough experience of climate change happening. The science was not clear enough at the beginning,” said Tom Burke, a long-time campaigner who was at the summit. Burke went on to advise three UK environment secretaries before founding the E3G thinktank. In his view, there was a necessary learning process in dealing with climate change – although inevitably it took much too long.

Other difficulties were surreptitiously injected into the negotiation process by Washington lobbyists, working for Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as US oil and coal companies. Industry-funded front groups such as the Global Climate Coalition and the Global Climate Council commissioned scientists to produce reports that muddied the facts about climate change. They also dispatched to the talks lobbyists who sat with Saudi and Kuwaiti diplomats and reviewed the text, according to accounts by Leggett and others who witnessed such meetings.

Following the lobbyists’ instructions, negotiators inserted language that linked climate aid for small island countries that could disappear entirely under rising seas to compensation packages for oil producers facing declining revenues. The coupling made it virtually impossible to establish rescue plans for the countries that needed them the most, without also diverting cash to petrostates. This idea infuriated the US and other rich countries. Lobbyists also managed to slow down negotiations by blocking a decision on voting rules, forcing negotiators to operate through the unwieldy mechanism of consensus.

The complexity of those negotiations gave rise to another debilitating tradition: putting off the difficult choices for another meeting, another year. The entire structure of the negotiations encouraged cliff-hanger meetings, with delegates refusing until the very last moment to give ground. “They have been known to spend the first two days of a five-day meeting disagreeing about the agenda,” remarked an observer from Bangladesh. The problem with the cliffhanger tactic was that the greatest source of discord remained as hot and raw as it had been at the start: which countries should take the blame for destroying the climate, and which countries should pay for trying to put it right.

* * *

For much of the 13 hours Obama spent on Danish soil, visiting the climate conference in 2009, Bernarditas de Castro Muller was huddled with a delegation of negotiators from Sudan, poring over the text about climate finance. Muller, a former Philippines diplomat now based in Geneva, has been a fixture at the climate negotiations for years, first on behalf of the G77 group, and latterly Sudan. Some of the G77 nations need financial support from the UN even to afford to send delegates to the talks. Other countries, especially the small island states, bring in negotiators. The Maldives hired the British writer and activist, Mark Lynas. Tuvalu hired an Australian campaigner, Ian Fry.

Muller did not expect to lay eyes on Obama. She knew he would be focused on the bigger powers, especially China. “Obama didn’t care about anybody else at the time,” Muller recalled. But, she said: “We knew something was cooking.”

Obama’s mission was, in fact, to break down the convention that the US, Europe and Japan should shoulder the main burden for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and spread the obligation to richer developing countries such as China, India and Brazil, which were already beginning to outpollute the west when it came climate-altering gases.

Muller saw it as her mission, then and now, to keep the pressure on rich countries to reduce emissions. Our conversation took place over Skype in early November, the morning after she had returned to her base from a negotiation in Zambia. Muller began by pointing out that Africa and the small islands of the Pacific could be devastated, or disappear entirely, even if countries meet the 2C goal. As she spoke, she banged her hand on the table to make her point. (In negotiations, Muller has the reputation of being able to hold forth for 45 minutes at a stretch, which almost puts her in Fidel Castro’s class.)

“Who cares? Bang! Does anyone care about these countries? Bang!” Muller asked, hitting the table to punctuate each sentence. “Climate change aid is not financing! Bang! It is not aid! Bang! It is not development assistance! Bang! It is not bilateral assistance! Bang! It is an obligation! Bang!”

Improbable as it seemed at the time, the whisper of a deal that was worked out around the table between Obama and developing countries at Copenhagen was the first step in breaching that divide. In the spring of 2014, Obama sent a letter to China’s president, Xi Jinping, proposing a joint approach on climate change. By that point, the US and China had been meeting quietly on climate for years, with the US sending two secret delegations to China when George Bush was in the White House. In early 2014, when John Kerry, the secretary of state, was on a visit to Beijing, he got the impression that China was ready to move. He suggested that Obama make a personal appeal to the Chinese leader. The gesture was returned. That November, at a meeting in Beijing of leaders of Pacific Rim countries, Xi invited Obama for dinner at his official residence in the leadership compound, next to the Forbidden City.

The next morning, the two leaders held a press conference to announce that their countries would move jointly to cut emissions. Obama said the US would aim to reduce emissions by up to 28% on 2005 levels by 2025 – or about double the pace of reduction in its current climate change plan. China committed for the first time to stop emissions from growing by 2030 and to get 20% of its power from non-fossil fuel sources – about the equivalent of two-thirds of the entire US electrical grid.

US officials were not so optimistic as to think that the partnership with China would automatically extend into the global negotiations, but at least the two countries were not active opponents. Brian Deese, a senior White House adviser, went so far as to venture that the US and China were now finally on the same team. The fault line between the industrialised and developing countries was blurred, though not erased. “For years and years and years there was a dynamic – particularly in negotiations – of the US and China being captains of the two different teams, and it was clear that was going to have to change in some way,” he said.

Teamwork was not immediately in evidence when the next conference took place in Lima, a month after the US-China breakthrough. On Friday night, the last of 10 scheduled days of talks, negotiators were still trying to choose between three options on almost all of the draft’s main issues. But the real divide, as ever, was about how to split the bill for fixing climate change. At nearly midnight, the Peruvian hosts sent the exhausted negotiators off to rest, hoping they would return in the morning willing to reach a compromise. When negotiators returned the next morning, the Malaysian delegate complained that he had been forced to cancel his flight to Cusco, sacrificing a life-long dream to visit Machu Picchu.

The talks continued for 12 more hours. The catering tents serving pisco sours and non-alcoholic chicha morada made from purple maize. A second midnight came and went, and then in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning, as a soft summer rain began to fall, negotiators emerged to declare the countries had managed to paper over their differences to sign a modest agreement. The solution came down to six words: “In light of different national circumstances”, a phrase that allowed rich and developing countries to avoid a hard decision about responsibilities. The formulation was used originally in the US-China agreement last November, Todd Stern, the state department climate envoy, told reporters at a 3am press conference. “I think the way we were able to deal with that issue in the US-China joint announcement actually ended up becoming quite significant here.”

* * *

On an unseasonably warm November morning, Christiana Figueres, the UN official charged with guiding countries towards a climate deal, visited Washington for one of her final rounds of meetings with US officials before the Paris climate talks. Figueres, a Costa Rican diplomat who is the daughter and sister of former presidents, has a brisk manner. On this morning, she was in a prickly mood, and made no effort to hide her impatience with her hosts, the main US nuclear lobby and the Christian Science Monitor, who had arranged her meeting with journalists in a basement conference room of the St Regis hotel. Figueres was coming straight from a breakfast meeting with Stern, in the hotel restaurant upstairs. “Let’s just cut to the chase,” she said, repeatedly interrupting the journalist introducing her, before abruptly tossing pages of prepared remarks to the floor. “There’s an emergency on climate. Let’s just cut to the chase,” she said.

By the standards of past summits, preparations for Paris were proceeding well. Countries were working together. Figueres was relentlessly upbeat. When Micronesia announced its climate plan, Figueres, as she has with virtually every other country, tweeted a message of thanks. When she flies into Paris for the summit this week, it will be her third visit since the start of November. The French government was sending Saudi Arabian envoys to India to get a deal. US officials including Stern were reaching out to climate negotiators from India to Indonesia, and Cuba to Canada. At their final negotiating round before Paris, countries managed to whittle the draft text down to a manageable 50 pages or so – albeit by preserving as many as four separate options on the most intractable questions, and putting off the hard choices for Paris.

But when asked whether Paris 2015 represented the last chance for countries to act on climate change, Figueres was unable to make any promises. She lashed out at those who, after more than 20 years of waiting for countries to act, would even dare to expect that Paris would bring some sort of conclusion.

“If you define successful as assuming that the Paris meeting is actually going to solve climate change, that it is going to be a one-off deal, then no,” she said. “If I have one person in Paris who says, ‘And you didn’t get down to 2C, then I will chop the head off of that person … I have been saying for at least a year that that is impossible.” Figueres insisted that after more than two decades of efforts – and of advancing climate change – a guarantee of a 2C world remained too ambitious an ask even in 2015. “You cannot turn around an economic development that we have been using, and some of us have been benefiting from, for 150 years in one year or even in 23 years,” she said. But if not now, then when? That was a question Figueres did not answer.

 on: Nov 26, 2015, 06:12 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Global emissions nearly stall after a decade of rapid growth, report shows

Slowdown in 2014 is attributed to lack of growth in Chinese coal use and signals new period of slower rises in world emissions, say experts

Wednesday 25 November 2015 15.51 GMT

The growth of global carbon emissions virtually stalled last year after a decade of rising rapidly, figures published on Wednesday show, just days before world leaders meet in Paris for international talks on climate change.

The slowdown in the growth of the emissions that have caused record-breaking heat in recent years was largely down to China, which bucked its trend of ever-increasing coal use, the Netherlands environment agency said.

Chinese emissions went up 0.9% in 2014, the same amount as the US, as it used more gas for heating. India’s emissions jumped by 7.8% while the European Union’s emissions dropped by an “unprecedented” 5.4%, but the Indian increase was the largest contributor to global emissions growth in 2014 and effectively cancelled out the EU fall.

Together, the four are the world’s biggest emitters, covering 61% of global emissions.

Worldwide emissions increased by just 0.5% in 2014, compared to 1.5% the year before, 0.8% in 2012 and an average of 4% a year over the previous decade, when emissions grew dramatically. The slowdown last year occurred despite the global economy growing by 3%, suggesting a “decoupling” between GDP and emissions.

The agency, which is considered one of the world’s top authorities on emissions data, said it appeared the world was moving into a new period of slower growth in emissions. “It is likely that the very high global annual emission growth rates, as observed in the years 2003 to 2011, will not be seen in the coming years,” it said in a statement.

The findings from the environment agency go some way to explaining the negotiating positions that countries and blocs are expected to take in Paris next Monday.

While the EU, US and China are all strongly backing an ambitious climate deal, India was accused at recent G20 talks in Turkey of holding back progress towards a Paris treaty.

The EU’s climate chief, Miguel Arias Canete, told reporters in Brussels that the EU would resist any moves to lower the world’s sights in Paris.

“When you have 196 parties, the easy way out is to agree a minimalistic agreement,” he said on Wednesday. “We will work day and night to have an ambitious agreement that is fit for purpose.”

The EU wants to see a legally enforceable protocol that is subject to five-yearly reviews. Canete argued that this would prevent backsliding and provide a mechanism to ramp up climate pledges until the world is on a pathway to global warming of no more than 2C.

Emissions-cutting offers currently on the Paris table would put the world on course for 3C of global warming, according to EU estimates. Scientists believe this could trigger a dangerous escalation of climate instability.

“We have to make the 2C target operational in the protocol,” Canete said. “We must enshrine it as a global binding objective for all parties.”

“This is not something discretionary or a political decision,” he said. “It is science-based.”

The bloc is also pushing for a binding benchmark emissions target for 2050.

 on: Nov 26, 2015, 06:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Scientists unable to explain starling mass drownings

Behaviour could be one cause of the unusual drownings of the birds in large groups in England and Wales
Two starlings bathing: the birds are a stocky species that bathe and drink together in groups

Wednesday 25 November 2015 14.48 GMT

Starlings have been consistently drowning in large groups in a phenomenon yet to be fully explained by scientists, according to new research led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

In 12 separate incidents recorded between 1993 and 2013 in England and Wales, starlings were found drowned in groups of two to 80. In 10 cases, at least 10 starlings were found drowned at a time, the research published in the journal Scientific Reports on Wednesday shows.

One expert said that the mass mortalities were “really unusual”, with drowning considered a rare cause of death among wild bird populations and normally only recorded as affecting individual birds.

Records since 1909 of 800,000 ringed birds from 79 species reveal that drowning was more commonly recorded as a probable cause of death in starlings than in any other species.

Post mortems revealed no evidence that underlying disease had been a factor in the incidents which all occurred during the summer and spring months and concerned juvenile birds in most cases.

Dr Becki Lawson, lead author and wildlife veterinarian at ZSL told the Guardian that the cause is therefore likely to be behavioural. The stocky songbirds are a flocking species that bathe and drink together in groups, where the starlings may then be unable to exit a confined space or their plumage may become waterlogged. The inexperience of juveniles in recognising water hazards could also be a factor, she added.
Scientists call on public to help solve mystery of starlings' aerial displays
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“It does seem to be something related to that species being vulnerable or predisposed to these drowning events. It is really unusual,” she said.

Starlings are listed as a threatened bird species in the UK, with numbers falling by 45 million since the 1980s and the current population recorded as 3.4 million during the breeding season. It is thought that a lack of nesting sites and and insect food sources is to blame.

Although Lawson said that the incidents are likely to be only a proportion of those that have occurred, she said there is no evidence to suggest the drownings are happening on a very wide scale. The researchers do not consider the incidents to be a conservation issue.

Scientists ask members of the public to report incidents at Garden Wildlife Health, a project that monitors the health of British wildlife.

“Members of the public from around Great Britain have been instrumental in bringing this unexpected cause of starling mortality to our attention by reporting these incidents,” said Lawson.

 on: Nov 26, 2015, 06:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Australia deploys drones to track sharks and prevent attacks

Trials taking place in New South Wales also include hi-tech drum lines that will hook sharks and allow for them to be quickly tagged and relocated

Wednesday 25 November 2015 16.12 GMT

Shark-tracking drones are being deployed to protect Australia’s beachgoers following a series of attacks on surfers. Trials will begin next week as part of a strategy by the New South Wales (NSW) government, which will also see hi-tech drum lines installed to allow sharks to be hooked, tagged and released further out to sea.

The drones will feed images with GPS coordinates back to operators looking for sharks, with the first field tests being conducted off Coffs Harbour, about 285 miles (380km) south of Brisbane.

The first of the drum lines will be installed at Ballina, where a 20-year-old local surfer, Sam Morgan, was bitten by a bull shark earlier this month, and where a surfer from Japan, Tadashi Nakahara, 41, was killed by a shark in February.

The baited drum lines, previously used in the shark-infested waters of Réunion island, east of Madagascar, instantly alert monitors when a shark has been hooked so it can be swiftly released and moved, unlike traditional lines that are checked intermittently.

Helicopter surveillance is being increased as the main summer holiday season gets under way and politicians wrestle with how to balance protecting swimmers and surfers while acting in the best interests of the sharks.

The trials are part of a $16m (£7.7m) five-year strategy to combat shark attacks that will include real-time tracking of tagged sharks using 4G technology, with 20 listening stations being built along the NSW coast at known shark attack locations.

An app, called SharkSmart, will allow members of the public to receive shark alerts in near real time on mobile phones and tablets. Eco-friendly barrier nets will also be installed.

Niall Blair, the NSW minister for primary industries, said there was no easy way to reduce shark attacks, but the government’s approach was to use available science and emerging technologies. In total there have been 14 shark-related incidents, one fatal, on the NSW north coast this year.

“These are the first of several trials that will get under way across the state’s beaches this summer as we take an integrated approach to working out a long-term solution,” Blair said in a statement.

He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) the hi-tech drum lines were more humane than the traditional lines that have been used in Queensland and Western Australia.

“They’re like a baited hook that has technology connected to it so when the bait is taken, a message is sent to our vessels and they’ll attend those lines immediately.

“They will then tag and release the sharks that are caught on those. So they’re very different to the traditional drum lines which could have sharks sitting on them for days before they’re checked.

“We think this is a bit of a gamechanger for Australia.” However, he agreed there was nothing to stop a shark returning to the area.

The NSW premier, Mike Baird, said the approach was based on science, not emotion. “The experts have told us these are the technologies that have the potential to lead to a long-term solution to keep our beaches safe and minimise the impact on marine life.”

Shark-spotting helicopters will fly for at least three hours a day in certain areas during the peak holiday season between 1 December and 26 January.

Environmental groups have expressed concerns over the drum lines, saying they put dolphins, turtles and non-dangerous sharks at increased risk of injury or death.

“Putting the drum lines into a marine park is of concern because there are a large number of dolphins, and critically endangered grey nurse sharks, and turtles, and other things that are likely to become entangled,” Sharnie Connell, founder of the campaign group No NSW Shark Cull, told ABC News.

There have been calls for independent monitoring to ensure animals or marine life trapped on the drum lines are released within two hours. The Ballina MP and the NSW Greens spokeswoman for the marine environment, Tamara Smith, has said she will be seeking to join monitoring crews throughout the trial period.

A recent shark summit in Sydney, attended by dozens of international scientists, examined various deterrent measures: physical and visual barriers, sonar technologies, and satellite and acoustic technology to allow tagging and real-time tracking of sharks.

One identified as suitable for trial is the Clever Buoy system, described as a “smart ocean buoy that detects sharks and alerts lifeguards on the beach”, and which uses sonar to distinguish the type of shark.

The summit heard that netting and culling of sharks would be out of step with public opinion. Christopher Neff, a lecturer in public policy at the University of Sydney, told ABC at the time that research showed more than 80% of people in the Ballina and Byron coastal areas were opposed to killing sharks.

“The data that I’ve seen for the last three years, whether it’s from Western Australia, whether it’s from Sydney, whether it’s in Cape Town, or whether it’s in Ballina, have all said: ‘Don’t kill the sharks.’ The only people who are talking about killing the sharks usually is the political class,” he told the broadcaster.

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