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« Reply #1215 on: Sep 21, 2014, 06:41 AM »

Mexican copper mine still spilling acid into Sonora river as owners resist government

Agence France-Presse
20 Sep 2014   

A Mexican copper mine which spewed millions of gallons of acid into a river last month is still causing pollution and the facility’s owners are blocking the work of investigators probing the accident, authorities said.

The massive acid leak in August, involving some 40,000 cubic meters (10.6 million gallons) of sulfuric acid, was one of Mexico’s largest ever mining-related environmental disasters.

“As of this moment, the government of Sonora (state) totally breaks off any relationship with the mining company,” which is continuing to discharge toxic substances in the river, director of the state civil protection agency, Carlos Arias said at a press conference Friday.

The toxic acid, used to dissolve copper from ore, spilled out of a holding tank at the Buenavista copper mine in Sonora State, one of the largest in the world.

The chemical turned a 60-kilometer (40-mile) stretch of the Sonora River orange, causing authorities to shut off the municipal water supply to 20,000 people in seven towns.

Arias said since the spill, Buenavista, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico, has blocked access to investigators, and he warned Sonora state authorities would come back — this time backed up by security forces.

“We will act with the full weight of the law, because they are already in a plan that cannot continue,” Arias said, adding the government was mulling permanent closure of the mine.

The mining company “categorically denied the accusations,” in a statement Friday night.

“Buenavista del Cobre has worked alongside state authorities,” the company said, lamenting “the politicization of the accident.”

The mining company has created a fund of two billion pesos ($147 million) to repair the environmental damage. Environmental authorities have also imposed fines of more than 44 million pesos ($3 million) over the spill.

Federal prosecutors are still investigating whether the leak was caused by shoddy construction and installation of the pipeline or, as the company argues, by excessive rains.


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« Reply #1216 on: Sep 21, 2014, 06:57 AM »

Making A Killing: How Big Agriculture is Intentionally Giving Rise to Modern Superbugs

By: Trevor LaFauci
PoliticusUSA
Saturday, September, 20th, 2014, 7:06 pm   

While people are worrying about Ebola, a simple infection now has the potential to kill us all.

This past week, a groundbreaking special investigation was released by Reuters that detailed the feeding practices of five of the nation’s largest chicken producers. The investigation reviewed more than 320 internal documents called “feed tickets” from Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms, George’s, and Koch Foods. These feed tickets showed the names and amounts given of each and every “active drug ingredient” put in the feed of the chickens at these five locations. As well as the ingredient, each feed ticket also indicated the purpose of the dosage as well as a specific timeline to when the dosage should be administered based on the chicken’s current stage of development.

The results were horrifying.

These internal documents showed that antibiotics were given to the chickens throughout their lives, regardless of whether or not they were actually sick. The antibiotics were given to the chickens as a way to promote growth and to keep them healthy in what is often unsanitary and overcrowded conditions. In addition to the obvious moral and ethical concerns about this practice, there emerged a far greater concern to the population as a whole: The consequences of misusing antibiotics. By misusing antibiotics on these factory farms, it can lessen the antibiotics effectiveness overtime, especially as these antibiotics make their way to humans via handling of the chickens themselves, mishandling contaminated meat, or from runoff from these large-scale factory farms. Having less effective antibiotics can have detrimental to human health and can cause what were once curable diseases to become life-threatening and to see the rise of the so-called “superbugs” that have begun to emerge in the last few years. According to the CDC, nearly two million people get sick from antibiotic resistant infections each year, and 23,000 people are killed as a result of these infections. All of this happens due to the fact that 70% of all antibiotics in the United States are used on farm animals.

The problem has not gone unnoticed.

This past week, legislation was introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to authorize the Food and Drug administration to collect data on “farm-level antibiotic use.” Gillibrand sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg in which she stated that “the scale and injudicious use” of antibiotics “was staggering.” This follows up 2013 legislation introduced to the House by Representative Louise Slaughter, (D-NY), whose bill would require that the FDA, livestock producers, and drug makers release more data on antibiotic use in food animals. This past week, Slaughter said, “Industry has kept data showing the rampant, dangerous use of antibiotics hidden from the public for one reason: to protect corporate profits at the expense of public health.” Slaughter urged her fellow lawmakers to address the issue at a scheduled hearing on antibiotic resistance Friday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on health.

And yet, despite all the dangers, big agriculture refuses to change its practices.

As a result of the investigation, many of the guilty parties have claimed to be either unconcerned or innocent about misusing antibiotics on their farms. Foster Farms openly admitted to using antibiotics in their feed, despite being the cause of a salmonella outbreak in July. Koch Foods, a Chicago-based supplier to KFC, had a statement on its website up until August 27th which stated “We do not administer antibiotics at growth promotion doses” and that “No antibiotics of human significance are used to treat our birds.” However, the Reuters investigation found that Koch Foods was, in fact, using antibiotics as a way to promote growth in its animals and the statement was immediately removed from the website in what Koch’s CFO claimed was “a wording mistake.” Pilgrim’s Pride, another one of the guilty parties, took an even more extreme approach. They wrote a letter to their growers on September 8 and asked them to sign a confidentiality agreement to protect the kind of information that would be available on a feed ticket. Should the growers violate this agreement, they then became subject to termination.

The problem with this issue is that big ag clearly has no incentive to stop their deadly profitable practice, especially since the science behind the issue can still be manipulated. For example, Ashley Peterson, the VP of scientific and regulatory affairs for the National Chicken Council said, “We understand the concern about the use of antibiotics in farm animals and recognize our responsibility to ensure they are properly used for the right reasons to protect the health of animals, humans and the food supply.” The council then went on to say that the majority of antibiotics approved for use in raising chickens posed no threat to human medicine. Even Gillibrand’s legislation does not lack the urgency needed on such an important issue. In fact, her proposed legislation to track farm-level antibiotic use would not even take effect until April of 2016. Even the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology are aware of the issue of antibiotic resistant infections as they released a report on Thursday addressing the issue. Unfortunately, there is no mention of the relationship of factory farms to the overuse of antibiotics anywhere in the seventy-eight page report.

Going forward, the best way for the American people to act is to avoid chicken products by the big five companies mentioned in the Reuters investigation. As more and more of the scientific information becomes available, we are sure to see more and more people begin to realize how much danger big ag is putting us all in by misusing antibiotics. With the rise of superbugs, we as consumers can not take the chance of eating potentially deadly meat for the sole reason that it is a dollar cheaper at our local grocery store. For big ag to change its practices, they need to be hit in the wallet and the only way for that to happen is for American consumers to realize that we are all at risk for a massive public health crisis simply because these large chicken producers want to save a few bucks in their pockets.

Because unlike Ebola, we know exactly who the villain behind these superbugs are and how they can be stopped.


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« Reply #1217 on: Sep 22, 2014, 05:41 AM »

Climate change marches: Kerry cites fight against Ebola and Isis as thousands join protests

Worldwide day of protests comes on the eve of the first UN leaders’ summit on climate change in five years 

Suzanne Goldenberg and Lauren Gambino in New York, Damian Carrington and James Randerson in London, Karl Mathiesen in Paris and Oliver Milman in Melbourne
Monday 22 September 2014 08.03 BST

More than 300,000 marchers flooded the streets of New York on Sunday in the largest climate change march in history, vaulting the environmental threat to the top of the global agenda.

On a day of 2,700 simultaneous climate events from Melbourne to Manhattan, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, reinforced the calls from the streets for action by calling on world leaders to take the threat of climate change as seriously as Isis or Ebola.

Organisers had called the day of protests in order to put pressure on world leaders gathering in New York for a UN summit on climate change on Tuesday. It will be the leaders’ first such meeting in five years.

Kerry, in remarks to foreign ministers of the 20 biggest economies, said climate change should be at the top of the agenda despite competition from more immediate challenges.

“While we are confronting [Isis], and we are confronting terrorism and we are confronting Ebola, this also has an immediacy that people have come to understand,” he said. “There is a long list of important issues before all of us, but the grave threat that climate change poses warrants a prominent position on that list.”

Organisers claimed 570,000 people protested in 161 countries, from a handful of protesters in Aleppo, Syria, to the mega-march by 310,000 through New York City – three times as many as the 100,000 people organisers had expected, and easily overtaking the 80,000 who demonstrated for climate action in Copenhagen in 2009.

In Manhattan, the noisy, hopeful cavalcade of protesters – led by Hurricane Sandy survivors carrying placards of sunflowers and Native Americans in traditional headdresses – took over the streets of Midtown, juggling, singing, blowing synagogue shofars and conch shells, whistling and beating drums, with biodiesel-powered floats chugging along.

They hoisted a papier-mache representation of Mother Earth and a giant parachute emblazoned with monarch butterflies, and carried signs reading “Melt chocolate, not polar ice caps” and “May the forest be with you”.

Leonardo di Caprio marched with Mark Ruffalo; the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, marched with the former US vice-president Al Gore. At least three Democratic members of the Senate also joined.

“People are now much more aware in all our countries of how important this topic is,” said the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, who joined the march in Manhattan.

Upper West Side mothers pushed expensive strollers alongside protesters carrying signs reading “angry pacifists”.

“I think it will make a difference,” said Tashina Red Hawk, aged 10, who wore intricately beaded traditional Sioux Indian dress, and who lives on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota. “But it would still be good to do all kinds of other stuff.”

She went on: “If you don’t take care of the land, it won’t take care of you.”
people's climate change march in new york From left: French foreign minister Laurent Fabius,

In London, organisers said 40,000 took to the sunlit streets and marched to the Houses of Parliament. The protest was peaceful, although loud jeers rose up as the crowd passed both Downing Street and the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

In Melbourne, protesters paraded a giant puppet of the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott.

The People’s Climate March came two days before the US president, Barack Obama, and about 120 other world leaders gather for the UN meeting on climate change.

The challenge for those leaders is clear: left unchecked, the world is on course for a 4.5C temperature rise. “For us that means annihilation,” said Tony deBrum, the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands.

Annual carbon dioxide emissions rose 2.5% over last year, a new study found at the weekend. At those rates, that means the global “carbon budget” – the amount governments can afford to emit without triggering catastrophic change – is likely to be used up within just 30 years.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced last week that June, July, and August were the hottest months on record and that 2014 was on course to break the record for hottest year, which was set in 2010.

But the agenda for Tuesday’s gathering is uncertain. The UN has said repeatedly the gathering is not a negotiation. That will take place in Lima in two months’ time, when diplomats will enter the final stretch of long and difficult negotiations aimed at reaching an international agreement to cut the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, by the time they meet in late 2015 in Paris.

The UN said it will use Tuesday’s gathering to press world leaders to do more: to cut more carbon and, for the rich countries, put up more cash to help poor countries cope with climate change.

DeBrum said countries such as his, on the frontline of climate change, needed to see concrete signs that leaders were prepared to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and put up the cash needed to help poor countries cope with climate change. He said he was disappointed that leaders of some of the biggest polluters – China, India, Canada, and Australia – would not be at the climate summit.

Those at Sunday’s protests said their show of force could help to get the leaders to act.

“You can’t get 200 people together and not have something get out of it. It’s going to be huge,” Ruffalo, a prominent supporter of environmental causes, told the Guardian. “I don’t know exactly the effect, but I promise you one, five, 10, 15 leaders are going to come out of it, and do something. Somebody is going to want to be a hero.”

The day started in Melbourne, where demonstrators carried their giant Abbott in protest at his repeal of the carbon price.

This time the usual call-and-response of “What do we want? Climate action. When do we want it? Now” was revised to “10 years ago”, for a crowd that felt it had already fought this battle.

“I’m deeply concerned about my children’s future. They are the ones who will have to clean it up,” Victoria Marshall-Cerins said. “Australia is now dragging its heels. From one of the world’s leaders, we’re now going backwards. We’re embarrassing.”

In London, the campaign group Avaaz, which helped organise the event, said 40,000 people attended, although other estimates put the crowd at 27,000. A rally was held outside parliament, which the compere kicked off by asking the crowd: “Who’s sick of the ice receding faster than David Cameron’s hairline?”

The bishop of London, Richard Chartres, gave the first speech. “We are tenants, and we must keep the Earth fit for our children,” he said. “Climate change is a moral issue.”

The actor Emma Thompson also spoke: “Every single person on this Earth has the power to change the world. And when we all come together, our power becomes irresistible. Now we must use our power to tackle the biggest threat humanity has ever faced.”

Earlier, she told the Guardian: “Unless we’re carbon-free by 2030 the world is buggered.”

The designer Vivienne Westwood railed against capitalism in her address: “A triad of [fossil fuel] monopolies, banks and politicians are ruining the planet. If runaway climate change kicks in then within a generation there will be very little habitable on the planet and the suffering will be unimaginable.”

Alice Hooker-Stroud, a scientist from the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, used the platform to argue that a zero-carbon Britain was attainable with existing energy technologies. “We have huge renewable energy resources in the UK,” she said. “Business as usual is not a possible future.”

In the crowd, Victoria Bamford, a 66-year old gardener from Wales, had left her home at 6am to reach the capital in time. “We are on a knife edge now in every way,” she said. She had noticed changes in the climate in her work.

“You cannot rely on the seasons any more, and plants are getting stressed and ill,” she said. “I’m no bloody expert, but we have to tackle the fossil fuel business, but I don’t think the government is doing anything.”

Nearby, 10-year-old Lauren [her mother declined to give her surname] from Oxford, was carrying a colourful homemade banner which declared: “Tick tock climate clock – stop climate change now.”

The gay rights activist Peter Tatchell told the Guardian: “Climate change is a global emergency – governments governments must act soon.”

Ben Phillips, the campaigns director of the charity Oxfam, explained why his organisation took part: “In the past five years alone, that’s since the last time leaders met to discuss climate change, 112,000 lives have been lost, 650 million people have been affected by climate-change related disasters and half a trillion dollars has been lost.”

He said the march was about keeping the pressure up on politicians. “If you ask the suffragettes, the civil rights movement or the India freedom movement just 10 years in, 20 years in, ‘what have you achieved?’, they’d say: ‘Well we’ll keep on fighting until we win’, and so will we.”

Numerous marchers wore costumes, including a polar bear and small herd of gazelles. One of the latter, Merlin from Brighton, said: “People are important, but animals are vital as well. We are here representing all the animals not here today.”

In Paris, organisers said 25,000 people attended – heavy with the knowledge that history would be made on climate, one way or another, in the city in a year’s time. Police put the attendance at 8,000.

An Avaaz campaigner, Pascal Vollenwieder, said the global action was designed to restore the sense of momentum at the beginning of a year-long campaign leading up to the Paris conference.

“This is just the starting point,” he said. “After Copenhagen, we had to show the people that there is still a climate movement.”


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« Reply #1218 on: Sep 23, 2014, 05:36 AM »


New climate deal push will not repeat Copenhagen mistakes – UN envoy

Ahead of Ban Ki-moon’s climate summit in New York, Mary Robinson plays down no-show by Chinese and Indian leaders

Fiona Harvey   
theguardian.com, Monday 22 September 2014 17.03 BST   

Efforts to forge a new global agreement on global warming will not repeat the mistakes that dogged the landmark climate summit in Copenhagen five years ago, Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy on climate change has vowed.

“This is a different environment to Copenhagen,” Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, told the Guardian. “Pressure on leaders for an agreement is building up more than 12 months ahead. I think leaders realise they need to have transformative change.”

More than 120 heads of state are meeting at a climate summit in New York on Tuesday, convened by the UN secretary-general in the hope that a series of personal meetings will allow them to break the stalemate that has marked climate negotiations for most of the last two decades.

It is the first time that world leaders will meet to discuss global warming since the Copenhagen summit. Although that occasion produced the first joint commitments on emissions by major developing as well as developed economies, it was marred by scenes of chaos and recriminations in the closing hours.

But Robinson, who served as UN high commissioner for human rights from 1997 to 2002, said that this time there should be a deal on the table in advance of governments meeting.

Though a comprehensive climate deal has often seemed elusive, Robinson insisted that the world’s governments would be capable of a solution. “We have done it before, on issues such as slavery. We need to move as rapidly as possible.”

She played down concerns that China and India had snubbed the secretary-general’s meeting, as neither Chinese president Xi Jinping and India’s prime minister Narendra Modi are planning to go. “China [is sending] a very, very senior participant,” she said.

She said she was hopeful of progress. “We need ten to 12 leaders to be ambitious...President Obama, I hope, will make a strong statement at the summit. ”

This week’s summit of leaders will be followed by a series of meetings by ministers and other officials culminating in a crunch conference in Paris next December. At that meeting, governments are supposed to forge a new global agreement on greenhouse gases for beyond 2020, when current emissions targets run out.

By the end of next March, said Robinson, all major economies, developed and developing, should have put forward their proposals on national emissions targets for beyond the end of the decade.

But key issues remain to be resolved, including whether future emissions should be divided up according to a “carbon budget”, based on scientific estimates of how much more carbon dioxide can be poured into the atmosphere without pushing the world over 2C of warming above pre-industrial levels. That symbolic threshold is regarded as the limit of safety, beyond which the effects of climate change - including droughts, floods and extreme weather - are likely to become severe and potentially irreversible.

There are still deep divisions over how far major developing countries should have to take a share of emissions cuts, and to what extent issues such as the historic responsibility for emissions, per capita emissions, and likely future economic circumstances should be taken into account.

The attempt to draw a distinction between the events of Copenhagen and the current negotiations reflects the high stakes involved.

Paris is widely seen as a last chance for the UN process, which has been running since 1992 but has suffered a series of highs and lows, including the 1997 Kyoto protocol which went unratified by the US, the drama of the Copenhagen summit, and long wrangling over seemingly intractable issues such as how to provide financial incentives for cuts in emissions and a price on carbon.

For some countries, the stakes are even higher.

Anote Tong, president of Kiribati, one of the Pacific Ocean’s small island nations, visited the Arctic ahead of this week’s meeting. He told the Guardian: “We are facing [climate change] now. I have seen how much ice is being lost and it is very serious. I will be bringing this message.”

************

US to put climate change 'front and center' of diplomatic efforts, Kerry vows

Secretary of state says he is ‘personally committed’ to action
 Ban Ki-moon: ‘No plan B because there is no planet B’

Suzanne Goldenberg in New York and Fiona Harvey in London
The Guardian, Monday 22 September 2014 19.05 BST   

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, promised to put climate change “front and center” of American diplomacy on Monday, raising expectations for this week’s United Nations climate summit.

A day before the first world leaders’ meeting on climate change in five years, Kerry said he would take it upon himself to make sure the international community steps up to deal with the threat.

“This is an enormous challenge, and this is why the United States is prepared to take the lead in order to bring other nations to the table,” Kerry said in remarks at the start of a week of climate-themed events in New York.

“As secretary of state, I promise you I am personally committed to making sure this is front and centre of all our diplomatic efforts.”

The commitment offered a much-needed boost to the UN summit, being held on Tuesday.

More than 120 world leaders are expected to attend. But a high-level roster of no-shows, with big carbon polluters such as China, India, Australia and Canada staying away, plus the lack of a defined objective, had raised doubts that the gathering would produce concrete results.

Much of the action, it seemed, was from the sidelines of the summit. On Sunday, there was a record turnout in New York City for a climate demonstration – more than 310,000 marched through the city’s streets, according to an estimate provided by organisers, including the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, foreign ministers, and members of the US Senate. In total, around half a million people attended events held around the world.

Ban said he had been deeply moved by the march – and he hoped the world leaders meeting on Tuesday had the same response.

“I am overwhelmed by such a strong power, energy and voice of people – I hope this voice will be truly reflected to the leaders when they meet … Climate change is [a] defining issue of our time and there is no time to lose,” he said. “There is no plan B because we do not have plant B.”
Ban at the climate summit. Ban at the climate summit. Photograph: Michael Graae/Getty Images

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said: “I think that it showed people are now much more aware in all our countries of how important this topic is.”

Meanwhile, the World Bank, businesses and NGOs primed to unveil a host of new initiatives meant to speed the development of a low-carbon, clean energy economy.

The World Bank on Monday announced that 73 national governments – including China, Russia, and countries in the European Union – had agreed to put a price on carbon.

In a separate initiative, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a charitable institution set up by the heirs to the oil empire, said it would phase out its holdings in fossil fuels, in an important symbolic boost to a campaign which has seen the withdrawal of $50bn in fossil fuel assets.

A number of governments and organisations are expected to announce other initiatives at the summit to reduce areas lost to deforestation, especially through the cultivation of palm oil.

Kerry’s remarks suggested the Obama administration will remain focused on climate until late 2015, when negotiators are expected to gather in Paris to finalise a deal to cut carbon emissions and help poor countries deal with global warming.

Obama is expected to reaffirm that commitment in his remarks to the climate summit on Tuesday. The president will also hold up his initiatives to cut carbon pollution from power plants and from cars as evidence that America is taking climate change seriously.

Kerry said those efforts also extended into the diplomatic sphere. He noted that the US had been working closely with China to reduce emissions – an effort that resulted in an agreement last year to phase out the use of a powerful climate-warming HFC used in air conditioners and refrigerators. The two countries together are responsible for 45% of the world’s carbon pollution.

“I’ve sent a directive to every single one of our 275 missions, embassies and consulates that the chiefs of missions are to put this issue on the front burner in all of our interventions with host countries, wherever they may be,” Kerry said.

America will not, however, be offering significant sums of cash to help poor countries deal with climate change. Developing countries have said such a commitment is crucial to securing a deal.

The promise of engagement from Kerry follows assurances from United Nations officials and diplomats that Tuesday’s summit – and climate change negotiating session in Lima in November – will avoid earlier mistakes.

A similar leaders’ summit convened by Ban in 2009 failed to produce the understanding needed to forge a climate deal. A Copenhagen summit collapsed three months later.

But Mary Robinson, the UN special envoy on climate change, said the UN would not fall into that trap again.

“This is a different environment to Copenhagen,” the former Irish president told the Guardian. “Pressure on leaders for an agreement is building up more than 12 months ahead. I think leaders realise they need to have transformative change.”

Robinson played down concerns that China and India had snubbed the secretary-general’s meeting, as neither Chinese president Xi Jinping and India’s prime minister Narendra Modi are planning to go. “China [is sending] a very, very senior participant,” she said.

She said she was hopeful of progress. “We need 10 to 12 leaders to be ambitious ... President Obama, I hope, will make a strong statement at the summit. ”

This week’s summit of leaders will be followed by a series of meetings by ministers and other officials culminating in a crunch conference in Paris next December. At that meeting, governments are supposed to forge a new global agreement on greenhouse gases for beyond 2020, when current emissions targets run out.

By the end of next March, said Robinson, all major economies, developed and developing, should have put forward their proposals on national emissions targets for beyond the end of the decade.

But key issues remain to be resolved, including whether future emissions should be divided up according to a “carbon budget”, based on scientific estimates of how much more carbon dioxide can be poured into the atmosphere without pushing the world over 2C of warming above pre-industrial levels. That symbolic threshold is regarded as the limit of safety, beyond which the effects of climate change – including droughts, floods and extreme weather – are likely to become severe and potentially irreversible.

There are still deep divisions over how far major developing countries should have to take a share of emissions cuts, and to what extent issues such as the historic responsibility for emissions, per capita emissions, and likely future economic circumstances should be taken into account.

The attempt to draw a distinction between the events of Copenhagen and the current negotiations reflects the high stakes involved. Paris is widely seen as a last chance for the UN process, which has been running since 1992 but has suffered a series of highs and lows, including the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which went unratified by the US, the drama of the Copenhagen summit, and long wrangling over seemingly intractable issues such as how to provide financial incentives for cuts in emissions and a price on carbon.

For some countries, the stakes are even higher. Anote Tong, the president of Kiribati, one of the Pacific Ocean’s small island nations, visited the Arctic before this week’s meeting. He told the Guardian: “We are facing [climate change] now. I have seen how much ice is being lost and it is very serious. I will be bringing this message.”

**************

Google, GE and others helping to fund climate-change denial, report finds

Some of America’s pro-sustainability companies are making campaign contributions to climate-change deniers in Congress. Are they double dealing or victims of a flawed political system?

Bruce Watson   
theguardian.com, Monday 22 September 2014 22.38 BST          

According to oft-cited statistics, climate scientists are 95%-99% certain of climate change – about as certain as they are of the link between smoking and lung cancer. Nonetheless, an estimated 58% of US Republican congressmen claim to be unconvinced of it. This group, the so-called “climate denier caucus,” is a big part of the reason that meaningful climate activist legislation keeps getting shot down. And according to a recent report, some of America’s most popular companies are helping to fund the effort.

Forecast the Facts and Sum of Us, two sustainability oriented NGOs, recently released “#DisruptDenial,” a report outlining the corporate contributions to the 160 members of the climate denier caucus in Congress. According to them, these legislators have received $641m in campaign contributions from US companies, including $98m in 2014.

It isn’t hard to see why some corporations might want to support climate change denial. Companies involved in gas and oil, like Chevron – which contributed $1,262,463 – or ConocoPhillips – which contributed $754,251 – could have much to gain by delaying climate action. Others, like Goldman Sachs – which contributed $1,757,104 – might be concerned about the market effects of climate regulation.

Other contributing companies, however, are actively pursuing sustainability agendas. For example, General Electric (GE) – which donated $1,756,457 – announced plans last year to reduce the energy intensity of its operations by 50% by 2015. Similarly, Google, whose efforts to fight climate change have included a $1bn contribution to developing renewable electricity, contributed $699,195 to congressional climate deniers, including US senator James Inhofe, a Republican from California, and US representative Darrell Issa, a Republican from California.

For some companies, these contributions may be working directly against their core business. Two major contributors, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway – which gave $1,189,612 to climate deniers in Congress – and Norfolk Southern Railway – which gave $1,032,610 – could both profit from stricter climate regulation. Rail, after all, produces the least emissions per freight mile of any form of surface transportation, and policies that push lower emissions would also, likely, improve their business. Both companies declined requests to be interviewed for this story.

Duplicity?

One criticism of the Disrupt Denial report lies in its methodology, which combines direct corporate contributions with contributions from individual corporate employees. However, Brant Olson, campaign director at Forecast the Facts, argues that individual contributions, while not under the direct control of corporations, may also not be completely independent. “The statistics show that, in the majority of cases, the individual gifts of a company’s employees are aligned with the overall political agenda of a firm – and with its overall giving,” he explains. “This may be, in part, because the majority of the individual contributions by employees of a company come from top executives.”

Another problem, Olson emphasizes, is that a large amount of corporate giving is not transparent. “These donations represent only the tip of the iceberg. Corporations and their employees also contribute through political organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), which are not required to disclose their contributors.”

And, again, involvement with lobbying organizations can create some strange political bedfellows. Google, for example, contributed to Alec because of what chairman Eric Schmidt referred to as political campaigns “unrelated” to climate. However, under increasing pressure from consumers and its own employees, the company withdrew its support. Speaking on the Diane Rehm show Monday, he said: “I think the consensus within the company was that that was some sort of mistake and so we’re trying to not do that in the future.”

Schultz said Google’s involvement with Alec went against its guiding principles. “Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place,” he explained on the show.

Another criticism from companies cited in the report is that Disrupt Denial lumps together corporate contributions with contributions from corporate political action committees (PACs), which pool contributions from large groups of donors. A General Electric spokesperson, in particular, was quick to note that the GE PAC’s “non-partisan, voluntary contributions were made by individual employees on issues they care about in their communities, including healthcare, transportation, energy, finance and climate policy”.

Olson argues that the distinction between corporations and their PACs is far thinner than GE suggests. “Corporate treasuries are legally prohibited from making political contributions, and PACs are the vehicle that they use,” he explains. “Technically speaking, these PACs represent voluntary gifts from a company’s employees. In practice, they are the political arm of a corporation.”
Many fingers, many pies

A better argument might be the one proffered by a Google spokesman, who pointed out the difficulty that his company faces in balancing its various interests. “We engage on a wide variety of public policy issues and we work with advocacy groups across the political spectrum,” he explained. “We’re never going to agree 100% with every organization on every issue.”

In other words, because of its interest in corporate tax policy or trade policy or other other issues, Google – as well as the many other companies that echoed this sentiment – are forced to align with legislators who are fighting climate activism.

Olson acknowledges the problem: “It’s understandable, but it shows the dysfunction of our political system. You have companies with strong, explicit policy commitments to fighting climate change who are forced to give millions to opponents of that agenda.”

Gretchen Goldman, a lead analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, offers a radical solution: disengagement from politics. Some companies, she notes, have chosen to completely decouple themselves from campaign contributions. Of course, by denying themselves political influence, companies that disengage also place themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

Another, less radical possibility lies in decoupling campaign support from specific policies. “Companies can publicly state that, while they support a group financially, they disagree with its stance on climate change,” Goldman explains. “This can undermine the legitimacy and power of these groups that fail to accept climate science. For example, when we analyzed public disclosures from companies, we found that, while the US Chamber of Commerce does not accept climate science, not a single company on its board reported agreeing with that position.”

Olson echoed this, noting that there’s a precedent for making this sort of linkage. “Last year, Intel responded to shareholder pressure by committing to review its political giving to make sure that it aligned with its corporate policies,” he said.

From the consumer end, Goldman points out, there are even more options. She suggests that consumers look at “all the actions that companies are taking” to determine if a company’s behaviors are acceptable. And if they aren’t, she suggests, direct consumer and shareholder action can have a significant impact on a company’s policies and political contributions. “Time and time again, shareholders and customers have signaled that climate denial is not okay,” she says. “They’ve pushed companies to pull out of Alec, the Heartland Institute and other groups that spread misinformation about climate science.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated on September 22 to reflect an announcement made by Google after the story’s original publication.

The finance hub is funded by EY. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled advertisement feature. Find out more here.

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Dozens arrested as police face off with Flood Wall Street protesters

Amanda Holpuch in New York
theguardian.com, Monday 22 September 2014 21.34 BST      

More than 100 protesters were arrested after hundreds of people gathered in New York City’s financial district on Monday to denounce to denounce what organisers say is Wall Street’s contribution to climate change.

Flood Wall Street demonstrators, primarily dressed in blue to represent climate change-induced flooding, marched to New York City’s financial centre to “highlight the role of Wall Street in fuelling the climate crisis,” according to organisers.

While the day started off peacefully, demonstrators began trying to push back metal barricades when trading closed on the New York Stock Exchange at 4pm.

Police used pepper spray to push them back and later broke up the gathering. A core group of a few dozen activists staged a sit-in steps away from Wall Street, and police officers handcuffed and walked them away one-by-one, taking them to police vans parked nearby.

Those arrested included a person wearing a white polar bear suit and two women dressed as Captain Planet. Most of the arrests were for disorderly conduct.

“I wanted to come specifically to disrupt Wall Street because it’s Wall Street that’s fuelling this,” said Ben Shapiro, a bread-maker from Youngstown, Ohio as he sat on Broadway by the famed bull statue. He believed the protest was right to focus on the role of business in the environment.

“I’m going after the source of the problem,” he said.

Earlier in the day, police had arrested three protesters. An New York police department representative could not give an exact tally of how many protesters had been held.

The demonstration comes a day ahead of the United Nations climate summit and follows Sunday’s People’s Climate March – which saw what organisers estimated was 310,000 people marching in New York City, and tens of thousands of others in 150 countries across the world, demonstrating in an effort to put pressure on world leaders to act now to slow the damaging effects of climate change.

Monday’s marchers settled just two blocks from the New York Stock Exchange, the destination marked out on maps that were distributed to demonstrators. A group of hundreds spanned several blocks, playing music, singing songs and using the human microphone to deliver instructions for the protest, including: “The police here are not our enemies – they are here to protect us now.”

Although many protesters set out with the aim of getting arrested, the crowd’s relations with police were considerably less adversarial compared to those of Occupy Wall Street, which happened in the same part of the city.

Legal observers in bright green caps dotted the protests and people were collecting the names and birthdays of those who were willing to be arrested.

One man was wrestled to the ground by police after running through the demonstration. Police officers formed a circle around the man and other police officers before he was handcuffed and led away.

“He wanted to break the blockade to get to the stock exchange and have the sit-in there,” said Peter Soeller, an Amnesty International intern who witnessed the incident.

Soeller said he had met the man yesterday at the People’s Climate March, where he was walking with a group of anarchists.

Before making the run toward the Stock Exchange, the man had been standing on top of a phone booth in the crowd, assisting with the human microphone.

Bobbi Righi, a retired math teacher, came to New York City from Seattle with her husband, daughter and son-in-law, because she thinks more action needs to be taken to address climate change.

Righi was not planning to be arrested: “Because we have a plane to catch”.

She participated in workshops about climate change over the weekend and was at the People’s Climate March on Sunday. She thinks the argument that cutting carbon will cut jobs is a “false contradiction” and said that we should instead be investing in things like alternative energy and mass transit.

Standing on the other side of the police barricades, a row of men in ties and button-down shirts contrasted the more artfully dressed protest crowd. One man, a physician, thought the protests were “awesome”, but that opinion was not shared across the line.

“I think it’s bullshit,” said John, a broker who did not want his last name or the firm he works for identified. He said that the protests were obnoxious and that climate change is a scam created by Al Gore to make money.

He said that his clients had made a lot of money by investing in companies that burn fossil fuels. “I think anything that makes clients money is good for my clients, and it’s good for the country’s economy,” John said.

The demonstration began at 9am in Battery Park, at the bottom of Manhattan. Demonstrators received non-violent, direct action training before heading up to the Financial District.

Carrying a more than 300 foot long banner meant to represent the “river” of people protesting, demonstrators walked toward the stock exchange. They hit a literal snag when trying to wrangle large inflatables meant to represent Carbon around the charging bull landmark near Wall Street. The NYPD confiscated the two Carbon balloons and deflated at least one of them shortly after.


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« Reply #1219 on: Sep 24, 2014, 04:07 AM »


France promises $1bn for climate change fund at UN summit
Pledge comes on a day of impassioned speeches from some 120 world leaders – as well as a cameo from Leonardo DiCaprio

UN climate change summit in New York

From activism to arrest: one polar bear’s adventure with Flood Wall Street

Suzanne Goldenberg in New York
The Guardian, Tuesday 23 September 2014 21.49 BST    

France promised $1bn to a near-empty climate change fund for poor countries on Tuesday and called for the establishment of a new green economy in the first concrete result of a milestone United Nations summit.

The pledge came on a day of impassioned speeches from some 120 presidents and prime ministers – as well as a cameo by the actor and now UN ambassador Leonardo DiCaprio – telling the summit they had wasted precious time and now needed to deal urgently with climate change.

Both China and America, the world’s two biggest emitters, pledged their support for a climate deal, without offering specifics.

Chinese vice-premier Zhang Gaoli said his country’s emissions would peak “as soon as possible”, and pledged $6m to help developing countries fight climate change. Barack Obama, in a stirring address, said America would lead efforts to reach a global compact on climate change. “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last to be able to do anything about it,” he told the summit.

David Cameron touted his government’s environmental policies. “As prime minister I pledged to lead the greenest government ever and I believe we have kept that promise,” he said.

But leaders from Africa and the Pacific islands threatened by rising seas said rich countries needed to do more.

“We must get away from the ‘wait and see who is doing what’ style of leadership before deciding what needs to be done,” said Anote Tong, the president of Kiribati, which could be drowned by rising seas.

The summit – the first such gathering of world leaders in five years – was convened to move countries towards an international agreement in Paris to fight climate change by the end of next year.

The French leader, François Hollande, said it would be impossible to reach such a deal without laying the foundations of a new green economy. “We need to define a new economy for the world.” “You can’t fight climate change without development,” he said, pledging $1bn (£600m) to a fund to help poor countries deal with climate change.

The Green Climate Fund was founded in 2010. UN officials and developing-country diplomats have said repeatedly it will not be possible to reach a deal in Paris without a significant fund for the countries which did the least to cause climate change but will bear the brunt of its effects.

Officials had been hoping to raise $10bn to $15bn by the end of the year. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, made the first significant pledge last July, committing $1bn. South Korea, which hosts the fund, also committed $100m yesterday. But the fund remains well below its goal.

The shortfall matched the plaintive calls from presidents and prime ministers who said the United Nations and world leaders had been talking about the threat of climate change for years – without actually following through on action.

“Why today are we still so passive and so dispersed that we do not have a common strategy for the fight against climate change? Why can we not agree on a pragmatic strategy in the fight against climate change?” Ali Bongo Ondimba, th president of Gabon, told the summit.

The summit did produce other agreements – in addition to cash – but these too were relatively modest.

Some of the world’s biggest palm oil and paper producers committed to stop destructive logging by 2030, and restore a huge area of forest equivalent to the size of India.

Nigel Purvis, the chief executive of the Climate Advisers consultancy which worked to get the deal, said: “This is like if Exxon Mobil and the Koch brothers got together to cut greenhouse gas emissions.”

But Brazil – despite its critical role protecting the Amazon rain forest – said it was left out of the negotiations, and a number of campaign groups did not sign onto the agreement saying it did not go far enough to protect the rights of indigenous people who rely on the forest, or to hold the big forestry companies to account.

“I think that it’s impossible to think that you can have a global forest initiative without Brazil on board. It doesn’t make sense,” Izabella Texeira, the Brazil environment minister, told the Associated Press.

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UN climate summit pledges to halt the loss of natural forests by 2030

New York declaration on forests could cut carbon emissions equivalent of taking all the world’s cars off the road

Press Association
theguardian.com, Tuesday 23 September 2014 17.47 BST   

Governments, multinational companies and campaigners are pledging to halt the loss of the world’s natural forests by 2030.

A declaration announced as part of a UN summit on climate change being held in New York also pledges to halve the rate of deforestation by the end of this decade and to restore hundreds of millions of acres of degraded land.

Backers of the New York declaration on forests claim their efforts could save between 4.5bn and 8.8bn tonnes of carbon emissions per year by 2030 – the equivalent of taking all the world’s cars off the road.

The UK, Germany and Norway have pledged to enter into up to 20 programmes over the next couple of years to pay countries for reducing their deforestation, which could be worth more than £700m.

Companies such as Kellogg’s, Marks & Spencer, Barclays, Nestle, the palm oil giant Cargill, Asia Pulp and Paper and charities including the RSPB, WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have signed the declaration.

The declaration’s supporters say ending the loss of the world’s natural forests will be an important part of limiting global temperature rises to 2C, beyond which the worst impacts of climate change are expected to be felt.

It comes after analysis suggests that land use change such as deforestation accounts for around 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, with carbon dioxide released when trees are felled and burned to free up land for agriculture or development.

“Forests represent one of the largest, most cost-effective climate solutions available today,” the declaration says.

“Action to conserve, sustainably manage and restore forests can contribute to economic growth, poverty alleviation, rule of law, food security, climate resilience and biodiversity conservation.”

Signatories to the declaration are committing to a number of steps to halt forest loss, including backing a private sector goal of eliminating deforestation from producing agricultural products such as palm oil, soy, paper and beef by no later than 2020.

They are also seeking to support alternatives to deforestation which is caused by subsistence farming and the need for wood fuel for energy and reward countries that reduce forest emissions.

The countries, businesses, charities and indigenous groups are also committing to restoring 150m hectares (370m acres) of degraded landscapes and forest areas by 2020, and speed up restoration so that another 200m hectares are restored by 2030.

Restoration of 350m hectares by the end of the next decade – an area greater than the whole of India – would have benefits for the climate by storing carbon and take pressure off primary forests.

The declaration is a key announcement at the UN climate summit, attended by more than 120 leaders including David Cameron, which aims to drive action ahead of talks in Paris next year when it is hoped a new global climate treaty will be agreed.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who convened the summit, said: “The New York declaration aims to reduce more climate pollution each year than the United States emits annually, and it doesn’t stop there.

“Forests are not only a critical part of the climate solution – the actions agreed today will reduce poverty, enhance food security, improve the rule of law, secure the rights of indigenous peoples and benefit communities around the world.”

John Lanchbery, the RSPB’s principal climate change adviser, said many of the companies which had signed up alongside the wildlife charity and other conservation organisations had historically played a role in tropical deforestation.
He said they had either been directly involved in forest clearance or involved in supply chains that caused significant deforestation.

“Some have been a major part of the deforestation problem. They must also, however, be a major part of the solution. Signing up to the forest declaration shows their intention to change their ways and reduce deforestation dramatically.

“We welcome their willingness to change, although we will continue make sure that they really do,” he said.

Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the companies that has been attacked by green groups over deforestation in Indonesia, but which last year outlined a “forest conservation policy” committing to ending loss of rainforests, has signed the pledge.

Aida Greenbury, APP’s managing director of sustainability, said: “We have shown through our own zero deforestation policies that ambitious targets to protect the world’s remaining forests can be agreed, implemented and achieved by companies operating in emerging economies.

“Our view is that wherever a company is involved in the forest supply chain, they should be implementing these policies immediately. There is no time to waste.”

But Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, which has not signed the declaration, said there was a need for strong laws to protect forests and people, and warned that the pledge was missing ambitious targets and tangible actions.

“Halting the global loss of natural forests by 2030 and eliminating deforestation from agricultural commodities by 2020 at the latest would mean that years of continued forest clearance still lie ahead of us.

“While we are celebrating announcements on paper today, forests and forest peoples are facing imminent threats that must be averted if we want the declaration to become reality,” he said.

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Carbon map – which countries are responsible for climate change?

As heads of state from David Cameron to Barack Obama meet in New York for a UN climate summit hosted by Ban Ki-moon, expectations are high for bold commitments on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Use this interactive, in-depth map to find out who the big polluters are internationally, how China’s emissions have grown stratospherically and see who is most vulnerable to global warming’s impacts. Turn your sound up to hear the introduction to the map

Click to see: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2014/sep/23/carbon-map-which-countries-are-responsible-for-climate-change


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« Reply #1220 on: Sep 24, 2014, 08:09 AM »

Watch Obama’s Top Science Adviser OBLITERATE Climate Change-Denying Republicans at Recent Hearing! (Video)

Posted by: Richard Rowe in Environment, TEApublican Smack Downs, Videos September 21, 2014

It’s not easy to rake in a decent five figure salary these days. Sure, you could be a police sergeant, an entry-level weapons designer at Lockheed or Kel-Tec, or a congressional secretary. You could be a day-trader on Wall Street, middle-management in human resources at a bank, or a decent air conditioner repairman. You could run a political blog. But not everyone enjoys the ambition of those skillsets. No, for the laziest, dumbest and most inept, there are only two ways to cash yourself a fat $50K  paycheck: climatology or theoretical physics.

We don’t know how much celebrated theoretical physicist and White House Science Adviser Dr. John P. Holdren makes, but he certainly earned it today. On Wednesday of this week, Holdren appeared before the Republican-Controlled House Committee on Science, Space and Technology — which is kind of like an ethics council led by necrophiliacs.

The matter under discussion: “Is climate change a real thing, and how can our sponsors get out of paying for it?” Actually, it was supposed to be on Obama’s plan to fight said climate change, but being the GOP, this one turned into an inquisition on reality itself. Probably because almost all of the questions the Committee asked have already been answered elsewhere.

But still…when you’re being paid to question reality itself, there’s no sense stopping just because your questions have already been answered. Here are a few of Big Oil/Tobacco’s most dazzling, as thoroughly violated by Holdren:

“Global Wobbling” — Steve Stockman (R-TX), representing Koch Industries, Exxon-Mobil and Big Oil

“How can you take an element which you give to the credit for the collapse of global freezing and into global warming but leave it out of your models? I’m a little puzzled because we still don’t have metrics of how to determine global wobbling.”

The phenomenon he refers to is the Earth’s natural cycle (over the course of 22,000, 44,000 and 100,000 years) of tilting backward and forward on its axis. Wobble is said to have ended the last ice age, and has caused climate change before. He wants to know why climate scientists don’t talk about something that ended the last ice age.

Holdren’s answer: They do. But A) Something that happens over the course of $100K years isn’t going to cause a temperature spike in 100 years, and B) Even accounting for wobble, the Earth should be in a cooling cycle right now.

“But,” he said. “The warming inflicted by human activities has overwhelmed the effect of global wobbling.”

Exxon’s second question: If melting ice in a glass of water doesn’t cause the glass to overflow, then why would the sea levels rise two feet? “It’s displacement,” he said. “This is some of the things that they’re talking about that mathematically and scientifically don’t make sense.”

Holdren was cut off before being given a chance to answer. But, Mr. Exxon, it actually does make sense. First, because a lot of the ice isn’t in the glass. It’s on the surface of the Earth in glaciers, in Antarctica, in permafrost and on mountaintops. Second, because water actually does expand as it warms. How much? If the 187 Quintillion (187 and 18 zeroes) gallons of water on Earth right now increased in temperature by just 2 degrees Celsius, it would increase in volume by about 9 QUADRILLION GALLONS. That’s a “9” with 16 zeroes behind it — and this increase in volume is just the effects of a temperature rise alone.

But, you know…you won’t find that in a glass of water. Common sense, and all. Shame Common Sense can’t look up a Specific Gravity table, or use Google and a calculator. Good thing we have scientists for that.

“Health Impacts of CO2″ — Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Representing the National Auto Dealer’s Association, Chemical Manufacturing and Signal Hill Petroleum.

Click to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJOpDQ-PB-8

Here’s a fun one. The Representative from Chemical Industry Manufacturing wants to know at what point carbon dioxide becomes harmful to human health. He questions Holdren on the matter, and you can very nearly see the physicist’s invisible face-palm as a bullet-time-like ripple in the air. And like bullet-time, this question is a fairly obvious, dramatic and spine-twisting dodge. Holdren calls him out on it:

“Vice Chairman Rorhabacher, I always enjoy my interactions with you. I have to say, with respect, that’s a red herring. We are not interested in carbon dioxide concentrations because of their direct effect on human health, we are interested in them because of their effect on the world’s climate, and climate change has effects on human health.”

In other words:

“It’s not the bullets that are killing people — it’s the holes. But the bullets are causing the holes. So there’s your problem.”

Click to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqaeAnLf2ng

“How would one country’s climate policy affect anything?” — Larry Buchson (R-IN), representing Heavy Mining Industry, Peabody Energy (Coal) and Koch Industries

The representative from Coal & Koch would like to know why America should bother changing anything. After all, we can change any policy we like, but there are still the Chinas and Russias of the world out there. Granted, we are the second-largest carbon dioxide producer on Earth, and the largest overall producer of greenhouse gasses. But why is this our problem? What’s it going to change?

“The limitation of carbon emissions in the United states is a very important first step for us to take on a longer trajectory to meet the President’s goals of a 17 percent reduction from 2005 by 2020, and ultimately an 80 percent reduction by 2050. If the United States does not take that sort of action, it is unlikely that other major emitters in the world — China, India, Russia, Europe, Japan — will do so either. And the fact is, all of us need to reduce our carbon emissions if we are to avoid unmanageable degrees of climate change.”

Buchson, surprisingly gracefully answered “Okay. Fair enough.”

Charlie Koch would not approve.

But he would approve of Larry’s concordant dig at Holdren and ALL climate scientists, who he claims he doesn’t trust because “they’re just in it for the money.”

The guy with a $50,000-a-year-job did not get the chance to respond to that. Mostly because the guys who cashed $100,000 checks from Exxon, Big Coal and Koch Industries had further questions as to his integrity.

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Jon Stewart: Talking To GOP 'Science' Committee Like Pushing A Million Pounds Of Idiot Up A Mountain

By CrooksAndLiars
September 23, 2014 10:23 am -

Unfortunately, Holdren's well-considered answers were met with cries of "WITCHCRAFT!!" and he was subsequently burned at the stake.

 Jon tears into the fascinating stupidity that was the Science Committee's exchange with Obama's science advisor.

The other day, we posted an article on White House Science Guy John Holdren's lesson to the Republican House Committee on Science, Space and Technology - which is very similar in principle to the Atlantic Sea-Bass Committee on Pelicans, Land and Boats. During the interrogation - err, interview - Holdren struggled with the impossible task of convincing Republican Sea Bass that land was, in fact, real.

It's hard to say how much the GOP committee legitimately didn't understand about climate science, and how much they were playing to their audience and donors…which consisted almost exclusively of Big Oil and Heavy Industry manufacturers. But, Holdren gave it his best, answering such pressing questions as:

    Where does the water from melting ice go?

    Does the Earth wobble?

    and "How would the U.S. changing its laws make a difference?"

Unfortunately, Holdren's well-considered answers were met with cries of "WITCHCRAFT!!" and he was subsequently burned at the stake.

At the end of his lead-in segment on New York's Climate Change march (featuring at least two Hulks and Gilbert Grape), Jon tears into the fascinating stupidity that was the Science Committee's exchange with Holdren. Jon, stuck for mere words to describe the idiocy witnessed therein, resorted to analogy. And his cup overfloweth with it.

But among the analogies, he also made a very good point, in regard to scientists working for "financial interests." Which is the primary reason to distrust them. And that point:

If they were working only for money, why aren't they working for Big Oil, Coal and Koch? If they could be bought so easily, there are plenty of buyers out there…so why aren't ALL of those greedy scientists on Big Oil's payroll?

Click to watch the fun: http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/8q3nmm/burn-noticed


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« Reply #1221 on: Sep 25, 2014, 04:03 AM »


Barack Obama to create world's largest ocean reserve in the Pacific

Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which bans commercial fishing, to be expanded to size times its current size

Suzanne Goldenberg   
theguardian.com, Thursday 25 September 2014 09.00 BST   

Barack Obama will use his presidential powers on Thursday to create the world’s largest marine reserve in the Pacific, banning fishing and other commercial activities across vast swaths of pristine sea populated by whales, dolphins and sea turtles and dotted with coral atolls.

Thursday’s proclamation will expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument reserve, created by George Bush, to about six times its current size.

It will ban commercial fishing and deep sea mining in about 490,000 square miles around remote tropical atolls and islands in the south-central Pacific Ocean, a White House fact sheet said.

Other vast swathes of the Pacific will also come under protection on Thursday, with the tiny island state of Kiribati due to announce that it will ban commercial fishing in one of the last great tuna grounds left in the world.

Kiribati’s no-take zone, around the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, will cover about 158,000 square miles, about the size of California. It goes into effect in January 2015.

Campaigners said the Pacific Remote Islands reserve – because of its sheer scale – would cement Obama’s conservation legacy.

However, they noted that Obama had dramatically scaled back the reserve following opposition from the commercial tuna industry.

The Marine Conservation Institute had been pressing Obama to expand the marine park to the fullest extent possible, around all seven islands and atolls, which would have pushed the limits of the no-take areas to about 782,000 square miles instead of the 490,000 being announced today.

But after protests from Hawaii-based tuna fleets, Obama opted to leave the seas around four of those islands - Howland and Baker islands, Palmyra atoll and Kingman Reef - open to fishing.
Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument map The existing boundaries of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument are outlined in light blue. The other Monuments, outlined in purple and green, are not being changed Photograph: Noaa

It was the 12th time Obama has bypassed Congress and used the antiquities act for environmental protection.

“This is a great moment,” said Greg Stone, chief scientist for Conservation International. “This is some of the last real tropical ocean wilderness left on the planet, so it’s good put some of these kind of reef systems aside. On top of that there are the protections for the opean ocean and I’m assuming for the sea floor from mining,” he said.

The White House said it created the marine park in response to changing ocean chemistry caused by climate change.

“Expanding the Monument will more fully protect the deep coral reefs, seamounts, and marine ecosystems unique to this part of the world, which are also among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification,” it said.

It said the expanded monument would broaden protection for wide-ranging marine species such as whales, sea turtles and manta ray, as well as the millions of birds that nest on the atolls.

“We have very few places left in the ocean that are still near pristine and it is very important to protect them,” said Enrique Sala, explorer-in-residence for National Geographic.

Thursday’s proclamation nearly doubles the expanse of ocean off limits to fishing and deep sea mining, he said.

Obama has adopted ocean protection as one of the signature issues of his second term – with assistance from the secretary of state, John Kerry, who is a veteran supporter of environmental causes.

The proposal for a marine preserve was first floated last July at a state department ocean summit.

Catherine Novelli, undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, said the administration was working with Kiribati and other small island states to expand protections across the Pacific.

“These marine protected areas are very important for the ocean. The reason why we are going to get more countries to do them is because the whole biosphere, including the fish, need to be able to regenerate,” she said. “If everyone is just fishing, fishing, fishing, there is no space for that to occur.”

The state department is launching an initiative with other governments and charitable foundations on Thursday that will look at ways of enforcing no-take rules in marine preserves, and cracking down on pirate fishing fleets.


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« Reply #1222 on: Sep 26, 2014, 08:19 AM »

A ‘frac sand’ boom is sweeping the midwest

International Business Times
25 Sep 2014   

Victoria Trinko says she hasn’t opened the windows to her home in Bloomer, Wisconsin, in more than two years. That’s around the time a mining company began churning up silica sand a half-mile from her family farm, filling the air with tiny particles and making it harder for her to breathe. “I could feel dust clinging to my face and gritty particles on my teeth,” Trinko recalls.

Silica sand is one of many ingredients used in the hydraulic fracturing process. During fracking, operators blast thousands of tons of sand and millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the ground to release oil and natural gas deposits stored in shale formations.

As fracking accelerates in the United States, demand for "frac sand" could climb 30 percent from 2013 to 2015, an increase of about 95 billion pounds of sand, according to industry projections. Sand miner U.S. Silica Holdings Inc. said demand for its own volumes of sand could double or triple in the next five years, Reuters reported last week.

In a report released Thursday, environmental groups and residents like Trinko said they are worried that expanding sand production will lead to increased health, air and water complications in communities near the mines. In Wisconsin and Minnesota, the states where most silica sand is produced, regulations are fairly lax for monitoring air pollution and water contamination at these sites, the groups said. Those states have more than 160 active fracking sand facilities combined, and another 20 projects are in the works.

Given the pace of the fracking boom, silica extraction could spread to a dozen other states with untapped or largely untapped sand deposits, including Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.

Frack Sand 12 States Most silica sand used in fracking operations comes from Minnesota and Wisconsin. But production could expand to 12 other states with untapped or largely untapped industrial sand deposits, according to a report.  Civil Society Institute's Boston Action Research

Grant Smith, the report’s lead author, raised three key concerns with the expansion of silica production in any state.

First, water quality. Chemicals used in the mining process can enter the groundwater or surface water from dumping ponds at mining sites, raising the risks of contaminating drinking water supplies. Second, air quality. Small particles of silica dust can easily enter the lungs and bloodstream, and in the worst cases lead to silicosis, a lung disease. And third, financial effects. A major mining operation can depress nearby real estate values, and increased activity of heavy trucks and transportation equipment can shorten the lifespan of roads and bridges, requiring governments to pay for expensive repairs.

The rapid expansion of U.S. oil and gas drilling “has a hidden side filled with problems,” Smith, a senior energy policy adviser at the Civil Society Institute in Massachusetts, said in a call with reporters. For state and local governments, “health, water and other economic concerns should be addressed comprehensively, rather than just being ignored or dismissed.”

Spokespeople for the Wisconsin and Minnesota departments of natural resources were not immediately available for comment.

A related map published Thursday (see below) examined the impacts of existing mining operations. Researchers at the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization, studied a 33-county area in southern Minnesota, southwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa.

The area contains more than 70 sand mining operations and 27 sites for processing, transporting or loading sand onto trucks or rail cars -- a nearly 150 percent increase compared to just a decade ago. Another 82 mines or associated sites have been proposed or granted permits in the tri-state region.

Researchers found than more than 58,000 people live less than half a mile from existing, permitted or proposed facilities -- a range at which silica particles are known to degrade air quality. More than 162,000 people live within a mile of these sites.

“None of the states at the center of the current frac sand mining boom have adopted air quality standards for silica that will adequately protect those exposed,” Heather White, the group’s executive director, told reporters.

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« Reply #1223 on: Sep 28, 2014, 05:30 AM »

Gravity shift reveals West Antarctic ice loss

Climate Central
28 Sep 2014     

This story was originally published at Climate Central.

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is headed toward “unstoppable” collapse according to recent studies. A new visual released by the European Space Agency show what the start of that collapse looks like both for the mass of the ice sheet and its signature on the planet’s gravitational field.

We think of gravity as a constant, holding us in place on the planet. But the reality is there are small changes in gravity all over the globe. Not enough that you’ll feel lighter on your feet in one place compared to another, but enough that scientists can use satellites to measure the differences. Those measurements can, in turn, help us better understand the world around us, from how earthquakes shift land to how fast ice sheets are receding and what that means for sea level rise.

The measurements released by the European Space Agency on Friday fall into the latter category. They show gravity in the region is decreasing as the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has melted faster and faster over a 3-year period from 2009-12, sending more water into the sea.

This region of the ice sheet has been intensely studied by scientists and recent research indicate melt could be “unstoppable.” The melt of that section of the ice sheet would raise sea levels 10-13 feet, though the timetable for that happening is centuries, not single years or decades.

The new measurements will help scientists refine their understanding of what’s happening in the land way down under. Scientists are looking to expand the analysis to all of Antarctic to get a better sense of how ice is moving there. Recent estimates of Antarctic ice sheet loss are in the range of 125 cubic kilometers a year, which accounts for about 10 percent of observed sea level rise.
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« Reply #1224 on: Sep 28, 2014, 05:32 AM »

Why ice sheets will keep melting for centuries to come

The Conversation
27 Sep 2014                   

Ice sheets respond slowly to changes in climate, because they are so massive that they themselves dominate the climate conditions over and around them. But once they start flowing faster towards the shore and melting into the ocean the process takes centuries to reverse. Ice sheets are nature’s freight trains: tough to start moving, even harder to stop.

We know this process has been going back and forth throughout history – it’s why we’ve had ice ages and warm periods. But until now we haven’t known exactly how quickly ice sheets retreated and reformed. New research published in the journal Nature Communications gives us an answer, and it isn’t great news.

It turns out sea levels often rose at scary rates in response to natural climate changes, long before mankind began pumping carbon into the atmosphere.

In the short-term sea level is affected by ocean warming and so-called “thermal expansion”, or melting glaciers based on land. These changes can occur quickly – within a decade – but their impact on sea level is relatively small, in the tens of centimetres. The drivers of longer-term sea level rise, over decades or centuries, are the continental ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica.

On the fringes of these ice sheets are “ice shelves” stretching far out into the ocean. Ice shelves can be hundreds of meters thick and, because 90% of ice in water floats below the surface, they remain “grounded” on the sea floor as long as the sea is less deep than 90% of the ice shelf thickness. Where the sea floor is deeper or the ice shelf gets thinner, there will be an area of floating land ice; here, warming ocean water can get underneath and melt the ice. Once sufficiently destabilised, an ice shelf can break up catastrophically.

One small portion of the West Antarctic ice shelf slides into the sea. Images via NASA

Such an ice shelf collapse takes the brakes off the ice stream that feeds into the ice shelf, and land ice starts to flow much quicker towards the ocean.

Ice flow is a relatively slow process, and it takes some forcing to get a major ice sheet to systematically respond (like trying to set a fully loaded freight train into motion). Once moving, however, it will be equally hard to arrest that movement (like trying to stop a moving, fully loaded freight train).

Still, we cannot ignore it, because the sheer volume of land ice on Earth is enormous – equivalent to more than 65m of global sea level rise; Greenland alone accounts for 6 to 7m, West Antarctica for some 5-6m, and East Antarctica for the remainder. These melting ice sheets will dominate major sea level changes for centuries to come.

We can learn something about what to expect by examining sea level changes during the past five ice-age cycles (past half million years), especially through comparing them with the total amount of ice on the planet at the time.

During a peak ice age, Earth held almost three times as much land ice as it holds today. For instance, during the most recent ice age the ice sheet over North America was 10-20% larger than the one we see today over all of Antarctica.

During warm periods in between ice ages the sea was often close to its present level but occasionally reached up to 8 or 9m above today’s shoreline – the equivalent of melting 1.3 Greenlands today.
Diving into deep-sea data

To get a sense of how quickly the sea went up and down, we need highly detailed and well-dated records. Over the past decade I’ve led a team of scientists at the University of Southampton and the Australian National University who have developed such records using data from the Red Sea.

The Red Sea has a very shallow and narrow connection with the open Indian Ocean. It also evaporates quickly – the equivalent of 2m of water each year – so new water must constantly flow in to top up sea levels and to avoid it getting too salty.

But such inflow is restricted by the tiny gap between Djibouti and Yemen, and in the past that connection was even smaller. As a result, the Red Sea was much saltier during previous ice ages, when sea level stood more than 100m below the present. Using microfossils from drill cores from the sea floor we can measure salinity through time and translate this to sea level changes in the Red Sea connection with the Indian Ocean. We were able to assess timings more accurately by comparing these sea level records to climate records from caves, which can be precisely dated by looking at radioactive decay in uranium.

So now we had a detailed sea level record, with a well-defined timescale. Finally, we could work out rates of past sea level changes, and compare changing sea levels with well-dated reconstructions of temperature and CO2 changes (from ice cores).

This allowed us to assess the speed of some 120 sea level rises in the past. Previously, this was possible only for one recent event. Now, for the first time, we had the information to look at how sea levels responded to natural climate change.

It appears the sea level could rise as quickly as 5.5m per century. However this only happened at the abrupt endings of ice ages, starting with about three times the modern ice volume. When starting with double the modern ice volume or less, sea levels did not rise faster than 2m per century. When global ice volume was similar to the present, the sea typically rose less than 1 to 1.5m per century.

So it seems the fastest losses of ice occur when there is more ice. Not much of a surprise, perhaps, but now at least we have some real numbers to say how fast, and how much ice. And the speed the sea can rise during periods with modern ice volumes is still worrying – a 1m rise this century would hugely affect millions of people. Given that Earth has achieved these rates even when warming was much slower than today, such a rise is very possible.

How long will it take?

In the 120 different events we looked at, ice sheets went from initial change to maximum retreat within 400 years 68% of the time, and within 1100 years for 95%. In other words: once triggered, ice sheet reduction (and therefore sea level rise) kept accelerating relentlessly for many centuries.

Research we carried out previously found that modern sea level rise seems to be conforming to what we would expect from (high end) natural responses to warming. That is: after 150 years of increasing (man made) warming, the ice sheets would only recently be reaching the point where they start making a noticeable contribution to sea level rise.

But that time has come and, once ice sheets start to melt, the freight train is in motion. It will then keep moving for many centuries to come, no matter how hard we stamp on the brakes.


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« Reply #1225 on: Sep 28, 2014, 07:01 AM »

President’s Drive for Carbon Pricing Fails to Win at Home

By CORAL DAVENPORT
SEPT. 27, 2014
IHT

President Obama stood in the chamber of the United Nations General Assembly last week and urged the world to follow his example and fight global warming. But a major new declaration calling for a global price on carbon — signed by 74 countries and more than 1,000 businesses and investors — is missing a key signatory: the United States.

The declaration, released by the World Bank the day before Mr. Obama’s speech at the United Nations Climate Summit, has been signed by China, Shell, Dow Chemical and Coca-Cola. It calls on all nations to enact laws forcing industries to pay for the carbon emissions that scientists say are the leading cause of global warming.

The United States, which is under growing international pressure to price carbon, is missing from the declaration for a key reason: conservative opposition to Mr. Obama’s climate change proposals, specifically a carbon tax. The opposition will only intensify if Republicans win control of the Senate in November and the new majority leader is Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, where coal — the world’s largest source of carbon pollution — is the lifeblood of the state’s economy.

“It’s time for the global elites to face facts,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement. “President Obama’s war on coal won’t have any meaningful impact on global carbon emissions. What it will do is ship American jobs overseas, raise the cost of living substantially for middle and working-class families and throw thousands more Kentuckians out of work.”

Although the nonbinding World Bank declaration is meant largely as a show of resolve ahead of a 2015 climate summit in Paris, it signals the broadest, most explicit effort to date of world leaders and financial institutions to push all nations to enact new taxes on old forms of energy. The declaration notes that governments can either directly tax carbon pollution or create market-based cap-and-trade systems, which force companies to buy government-issued pollution permits.

“The most powerful move that a government can make in the fight against climate change is to put a price on carbon,” said Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s vice president of sustainability.

To many Republicans on Capitol Hill, such statements are anathema. In 2010, after Mr. Obama tried but failed in the face of conservative opposition to push a national cap-and-trade bill through Congress, victorious Republicans galvanized against the idea and launched campaigns against politicians who support carbon pricing. Mr. Obama in turn circumvented Congress and in June released a new Environmental Protection Agency regulation under his executive authority that requires states to submit their own plans to cut emissions — but does not tell them explicitly how to do so. Nonetheless, California and nine northwestern states have already enacted cap-and-trade programs, and seven states — California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — signed on to the World Bank declaration.

In order to avoid more opposition from conservatives, Mr. Obama and other top administration officials no longer call publicly for a national price on carbon. But they have nonetheless signaled their support for international and state efforts. In his speech at the United Nations, Mr. Obama quoted the Democratic governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, who is urging other states to pass carbon pricing laws: “As one of America’s governors has said, ‘We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.’ ” The Obama administration has also enacted a policy signaling its readiness to price carbon should the politics of Congress ever shift: a metric it calls “the social cost of carbon,” designed to account for the cost of one ton of carbon dioxide pollution. Mr. Obama’s economists have determined the cost to be $37 a ton. Secretary of State John Kerry, a longtime advocate of government policy to fight climate change — and the chief author of the failed 2010 cap-and-trade bill in the Senate — last week told a meeting of the Major Economies Forum that “when it comes to climate change, we know exactly what it takes to get the job done.”

But Mr. Kerry did not specifically mention carbon pricing at the forum, a gathering of foreign ministers of the world’s 20 largest economies, and said only, “It takes energy policy.”

About 40 countries have already implemented carbon pricing policy, while dozens of others are now exploring it. In 2005, the European Union enacted a cap-and-trade plan for carbon pollution, and at the United Nations last week, European leaders pushed hard for the rest of the world to sign on.

“We need to define a new economy of the world,” President François Hollande of France said in his remarks at the climate summit. “There will have to be a new pricing system for carbon.”

The weekend before the summit, more than 300,000 people protested at a climate change demonstration in the streets of New York, where marchers waved signs reading “Tax carbon!”

The new carbon pricing push comes as countries and institutions that once fought the idea are now embracing it.

“On carbon pricing, there’s a perfect storm taking place,” said Robert N. Stavins, director of the environmental economics program at Harvard. “There is increasing recognition that approaches that have been taken in the past haven’t worked, and that the only way one can affect the hundreds of millions of decisions is through price signals.”

Over the last year China has enacted seven pilot cap-and-trade programs in its provinces, although outside experts remain skeptical of Beijing’s plans as the nation’s carbon emissions continue to rise.

At the same time, the political power of the coal industry to fight such laws remains potent. Australia, a major coal-producing nation, offers a case study in the political dangers of supporting a carbon tax in a coal-heavy democracy. A former Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, made tackling climate change a signature issue and enacted a carbon tax — a move that was seen as political suicide. Last year Australians voted her out of office and this past summer, the new prime minister, Tony Abbott, pushed through a bill to repeal the carbon price.


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