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Climate Change Summit Delegates Better Not Blow It!

 

 

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More than 40,000 delegates from 195 countries are attending COP21, the United Nation International Framework on Climate Change (IPCC) annual meeting, which is being held this year  in Paris, France, November 30 to December 10. The attendees this year have the daunting responsibility of achieving a legally binding agreement to keep global warming below what scientists worldwide say is a critical threshold of 2 degrees Celsius [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] of global average temperature warming above the average global temperature prior to the Industrial Revolution .

The delegates in Paris the next two weeks represent countries that presently emit 95% of greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere from human-related sources; they have, literally, the fate of our planet -EARTH –  INCLUDING QUITE POSSIBLY ALL ITS CURRENT AND FUTURE PEOPLE AND ANIMALS – within their hands the next ten days at this historic conference.

Representatives of the 195 nations taking part in this meeting – the 21st annual “Conference of the Parties” to the IPCC (thus COP21), the first of which took place in Berlin in 1995 – are charged what has been called “an urgent last chance to save the planet”.

Clearly, this will not be an easy goal to reach, since the planet already has been warmed by 0.85 degrees Celsius since 1880, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in 2014, and many scientists say the gases we have already emitted into the atmosphere will “lock us in” to around 2 degrees Celsius of warming. Therefore, it will take significant reductions in emissions in the near future, especially from the largest emitters such as the United States and China, as well as commitments to sustainable development from all countries.

Study Finds Pace of Arctic Melting Increasing North of Scandinavia

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Image credit:Jason Roberts, BBC-Cracked surface: The largest ice cap in the Eurasian Arctic – Austfonna in Svalbard.

A recent technical study reported that glaciers at the Austfonna ice cap , located within the arctic circle north of Scandinavia, appear to have come “ungrounded”, flowing out to sea at a “rapid pace” and draining ice from the ice cap in the process. The study reports the Austfonna ice cap is now thinning by an average of 25 meters per year.

The waters of the Arctic Ocean are known to have warmed at a rapid pace relative to the rest of the world over recent years, and 2012 in particular was a year of “exceptional melting” and warmth in the arctic due to extreme storms. The study concludes “the sudden glacial movement suggests that the warming in 2012 destabilized glaciers in the surrounding territory and [that] it is happening at an exceptionally rapid pace”.

There has been widespread ice loss to the Arctic Ocean and “the melting is creating the potential for future instability if further ungrounding occurs”.

“Across Austfonna, there is a coherent pattern of ice margin thinning at all marine-based sectors  [and] the behavior recorded here demonstrates that slow-flowing ice caps can enter states of significant imbalance over very short timescales and highlights their capacity for increased ice loss in the future.”

Chasing Ice

Growing Worries Over Global Climate Change Threaten Major Highway Expansions

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Beltlinetraffic
Some of the main contributors of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere from current society are cement making, paving the landscape and emissions from motor vehicle driving.

Last week,the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee approved borrowing an additional $350 million to be paid later to put five major highway capacity expansion projects back on the schedule for road and bridge construction. The 5 major projects in Wisconsin include the following:

* the roadwork along Madison’s Beltline, Highway 12-18, at the Verona Road interchange;
* I-39/90 from the Illinois state line to Madison;
* Highway 10/441 in the Fox Valley;
* Highway 23 between Fond du Lac and Plymouth;
* Highway 15 near New London in Outagamie County.

Project completion dates for those project have been put off by two years, due to the lack of funds in the current Wisconsin state budget. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has already contracted for the start of work on these projects but because of the funding shortfall, the completion date for the projects was pushed later into the future.

The five major highway capacity projects are located throughout Wisconsin and their completion dates will be delayed pending full approval by the Wisconsin Legislature’s of the JFC’s ruling in a revised state budget signed by Governor Scott Walker. The bonding approval means the five projects will face delays of one year instead of two.

Meanwhile, the state of North Carolina and the Federal Highway Administration are reconsidering the widening an interstate highway through west Asheville to eight lanes. Highway builders want to complete the “missing link” of Interstate 26 running from Tennessee to Charleston. That missing link is actually already an interstate: I-240, built right though some of Asheville’s urban neighborhoods during the urban renewal era. The highway was a major dividing line between some of the black neighborhoods in west Asheville and some more affluent white neighborhoods.

AshvilleInterstate

Problem is, FHWA refuses to just rename it I-26 because the highway doesn’t meet some of the modern interstate standards. The DOT is exploring its options for a $600 million widening and “upgrade.”

The state recently released its draft environmental impact statement. The document seems to favor a design that would widen the highway from four lanes to eight — a plan many local residents say is unnecessary and potentially damaging. Last year, the U.S. Public Interest Research group named the project one of its top “highway boondoggles.”

Groups such as “Mountain True”, the Asheville Design Center and a number of community groups had been pushing for a more city-friendly approach. They wanted a design that would preserve urban land for development, minimize air pollution, and provide additional multi-modal connections for neighborhood residents.

“I keep seeing this stuff from U.S. DOT about ‘beyond traffic’ and moving beyond the old paradigm but we’re sort of having the old paradigm forced on us in Asheville”, said Don Kostelec, a local advocate and independent planner skeptical of the project.
Alternative to Verona Road/Beltline Highway Expansion

Obama and Nebraska Residents, Assisted by Neil Young and Willie Nelson, Reject Keystone Tar Sands Crude Oil Pipeline

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By New York Times Writer Chas Danner
Nov. 9, 2015

Following a seven-year stint in political and regulatory purgatory, the Keystone XL project finally met its end last week when President Obama, eyeing the upcoming U.N. climate talks in Paris, formally rejected TransCanada’s request to build the cross-border oil pipeline. Climate activists [with help from two longtime progressive American artists/musicians who didn’t really need the exposure – Neil Young and Willie Nelson and who also opposed the plan] are celebrating their victory and already attempting to parlay the momentum into more wins. Proponents of the pipeline — a group that at this point consists mainly of Republicans and Republican presidential candidates, energy-industry lobbyists, and some labor unions who were looking forward to tens of thousands of temporary construction jobs — are decrying Obama’s decision and writing the whole thing off as a hallmark of irresponsible political capitulation….

Meanwhile, Bill McKibben, one of the central leaders of the anti-KXL fight, writes in The New Yorker that he now believes he and his allies, because of their new tactics, finally have fossil-fuel companies on the defensive:

[T]he Keystone rallying cry [has] quickly spread to protests against other fossil-fuel projects. One industry executive summed it up nicely this spring, when he told a conference of his peers that they had to figure out how to stop the “Keystone-ization” of all their plans. … [And] this fall, the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, speaking to members of the insurance industry at Lloyds of London, used [“leave it in the ground“] language to tell them that they faced a “huge risk” from “unburnable carbon” that would become “stranded assets.” No one’s argued with the math, and that math indicates that the business plans of the fossil-fuel giants are no longer sane. Word is spreading: portfolios and endowments worth a total of $2.6 trillion in assets have begun to divest from fossil fuels. The smart money is heading elsewhere.

We won’t close that gap between politics and physics at the global climate talks next month in Paris. […] In many ways, the developments of the past two days are more important than any pledges and promises for the future, because they show the ways in which political and economic power has already started to shift. If we can accelerate that shift, we have a chance. It’s impossible, in the hottest year that humans have ever measured, to feel optimistic. But it’s also impossible to miss the real shift in this battle. [End of Danner text]

The nearly 1,200-mile (2,000-km) pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels a day of mostly Canadian oil sands crude to Nebraska en route to refineries and ports along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Read more at Reutershttp://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/05/us-transcanada-keystone-state-idUSKCN0ST2VX20151105#PXYjkPeuAjeDlY1G.99However, Enbridge Company pipeline projects permitted by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s Department of Natural Resources, are planning on pumping 1.2 million barrels of tar sands crude across Wisconsin for processing into gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel, soon, and are planning on pumping another 600 million barrels of tar sands crude oil through a second parallel pipe from Alberta to Illinois in the not too distant future. Burning that much fuel will certainly add to the planet’s global warming troubles, probably sooner than most of us earthlings burning all those fossil fuels had anticipated.

Also see: Obama Urged to reject Keystone XL

Obama Clean Power Plan

President Obama’s Speech at the GLACIER Conference, Anchorage, Alaska

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The full text of his speech to the Glacier Conference on 1 September 2015 follows:

I want to thank the people of Alaska for hosting this conference. I look forward to visiting more of Alaska over the next couple of days. The United States is, of course, an Arctic nation. And even if this isn’t an official gathering of the Arctic Council, the United States is proud to chair the Arctic Council for the next two years. And to all the foreign dignitaries who are here, I want to be very clear — we are eager to work with your nations on the unique opportunities that the Arctic presents and the unique challenges that it faces. We are not going to — any of us — be able to solve these challenges by ourselves. We can only solve them together.

Of course, we’re here today to discuss a challenge that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other — and that’s the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.

Our understanding of climate change advances each day. Human activity is disrupting the climate, in many ways faster than we previously thought. The science is stark. It is sharpening. It proves that this once-distant threat is now very much in the present.

In fact, the Arctic is the leading edge of climate change — our leading indicator of what the entire planet faces. Arctic temperatures are rising about twice as fast as the global average. Over the past 60 years, Alaska has warmed about twice as fast as the rest of the United States. Last year was Alaska’s warmest year on record — just as it was for the rest of the world. And the impacts here are very real.

Thawing permafrost destabilizes the earth on which 100,000 Alaskans live, threatening homes, damaging transportation and energy infrastructure, which could cost billions of dollars to fix.

Warmer, more acidic oceans and rivers, and the migration of entire species, threatens the livelihoods of indigenous peoples, and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism. Reduced sea levels leaves villages unprotected from floods and storm surges. Some are in imminent danger; some will have to relocate entirely. In fact, Alaska has some of the swiftest shoreline erosion rates in the world.

I recall what one Alaska Native told me at the White House a few years ago. He said, “Many of our villages are ready to slide off into the waters of Alaska, and in some cases, there will be absolutely no hope -– we will need to move many villages.”

Alaska’s fire season is now more than a month longer than it was in 1950. At one point this summer, more than 300 wildfires were burning at once. Southeast of here, in our Pacific Northwest, even the rainforest is on fire. More than 5 million acres in Alaska have already been scorched by fire this year — that’s an area about the size of Massachusetts. If you add the fires across Canada and Siberia, we’re talking 300 [30] million acres -– an area about the size of New York.

This is a threat to many communities — but it’s also an immediate and ongoing threat to the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect ours. Less than two weeks ago, three highly trained firefighters lost their lives fighting a fire in Washington State. Another has been in critical condition. We are thankful to each and every firefighter for their heroism — including the Canadian firefighters who’ve helped fight the fires in this state.

But the point is that climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now. Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety — now. Today. And climate change is a trend that affects all trends — economic trends, security trends. Everything will be impacted. And it becomes more dramatic with each passing year.

Already it’s changing the way Alaskans live. And considering the Arctic’s unique role in influencing the global climate, it will accelerate changes to the way that we all live.

Since 1979, the summer sea ice in the Arctic has decreased by more than 40 percent — a decrease that has dramatically accelerated over the past two decades. One new study estimates that Alaska’s glaciers alone lose about 75 gigatons — that’s 75 billion tons — of ice each year.

To put that in perspective, one scientist described a gigaton of ice as a block the size of the National Mall in Washington — from Congress all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, four times as tall as the Washington Monument. Now imagine 75 of those ice blocks. That’s what Alaska’s glaciers alone lose each year. The pace of melting is only getting faster. It’s now twice what it was between 1950 and 2000 — twice as fast as it was just a little over a decade ago. And it’s one of the reasons why sea levels rose by about eight inches over the last century, and why they’re projected to rise another one to four feet this century.

Consider, as well, that many of the fires burning today are actually burning through the permafrost in the Arctic. So this permafrost stores massive amounts of carbon. When the permafrost is no longer permanent, when it thaws or burns, these gases are released into our atmosphere over time, and that could mean that the Arctic may become a new source of emissions that further accelerates global warming.

So if we do nothing, temperatures in Alaska are projected to rise between six and 12 degrees by the end of the century, triggering more melting, more fires, more thawing of the permafrost, a negative feedback loop, a cycle — warming leading to more warming — that we do not want to be a part of.

And the fact is that climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. That, ladies and gentlemen, must change. We’re not acting fast enough.

I’ve come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating this problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it. And I believe we can solve it. That’s the good news. Even if we cannot reverse the damage that we’ve already caused, we have the means — the scientific imagination and technological innovation — to avoid irreparable harm.

We know this because last year, for the first time in our history, the global economy grew and global carbon emissions stayed flat. So we’re making progress; we’re just not making it fast enough.

Here in the United States, we’re trying to do our part. Since I took office six and a half years ago, the United States has made ambitious investments in clean energy, and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. We now harness three times as much electricity from wind and 20 times as much from the sun. Alaskans now lead the world in the development of hybrid wind energy systems from remote grids, and it’s expanding its solar and biomass resources.

We’ve invested in energy efficiency in every imaginable way — in our buildings, our cars, our trucks, our homes, even the appliances inside them. We’re saving consumers billions of dollars along the way. Here in Alaska, more than 15,000 homeowners have cut their energy bills by 30 percent on average. That collectively saves Alaskans more than $50 million each year. We’ve helped communities build climate-resilient infrastructure to prepare for the impacts of climate change that we can no longer prevent.

Earlier this month, I announced the first set of nationwide standards to end the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants. It’s the single most important step America has ever taken on climate change. And over the course of the coming days, I intend to speak more about the particular challenges facing Alaska and the United States as an Arctic power, and I intend to announce new measures to address them.

So we are working hard to do our part to meet this challenge. And in doing so, we’re proving that there doesn’t have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth. But we’re not moving fast enough. None of the nations represented here are moving fast enough.

And let’s be honest — there’s always been an argument against taking action. The notion is somehow this will curb our economic growth. And at a time when people are anxious about the economy, that’s an argument oftentimes for inaction. We don’t want our lifestyles disrupted. In countries where there remains significant poverty, including here in the United States, the notion is, can we really afford to prioritize this issue. The irony, of course, is, is that few things will disrupt our lives as profoundly as climate change. Few things can have as negative an impact on our economy as climate change.

On the other hand, technology has now advanced to the point where any economic disruption from transitioning to a cleaner, more efficient economy is shrinking by the day. Clean energy and energy efficiency aren’t just proving cost-effective, but also cost-saving. The unit costs of things like solar are coming down rapidly. But we’re still underinvesting in it.

Many of America’s biggest businesses recognize the opportunities and are seizing them. They’re choosing a new route. And a growing number of American homeowners are choosing to go solar every day. It works. All told, America’s economy has grown more than 60 percent over the last 20 years, but our carbon emissions are roughly back to where they were 20 years ago. So we know how to use less dirty fuel and grow our economy at the same time. But we’re not moving fast enough.

More Americans every day are doing their part, though. Thanks to their efforts, America will reach the emission target that I set six years ago. We’re going to reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. And that’s why, last year, I set a new target: America is going to reduce our emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 10 years from now.

And that was part of a historic joint announcement we made last year in Beijing. The United States will double the pace at which we cut our emissions, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting its emissions. Because the world’s two largest economies and two largest emitters came together, we’re now seeing other nations stepping up aggressively as well. And I’m determined to make sure American leadership continues to drive international action — because we can’t do this alone. Even America and China together cannot do this alone. Even all the countries represented around here cannot do this alone. We have to do it together.

This year, in Paris, has to be the year that the world finally reaches an agreement to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.

So let me sum up. We know that human activity is changing the climate. That is beyond dispute. Everything else is politics if people are denying the facts of climate change. We can have a legitimate debate about how we are going to address this problem; we cannot deny the science. We also know the devastating consequences if the current trend lines continue. That is not deniable. And we are going to have to do some adaptation, and we are going to have to help communities be resilient, because of these trend lines we are not going to be able to stop on a dime. We’re not going to be able to stop tomorrow.

But if those trend lines continue the way they are, there’s not going to be a nation on this Earth that’s not impacted negatively. People will suffer. Economies will suffer. Entire nations will find themselves under severe, severe problems. More drought; more floods; rising sea levels; greater migration; more refugees; more scarcity; more conflict.

That’s one path we can take. The other path is to embrace the human ingenuity that can do something about it. This is within our power. This is a solvable problem if we start now.

And we’re starting to see that enough consensus is being built internationally and within each of our own body politics that we may have the political will — finally — to get moving.
So the time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers is past. The time to plead ignorance is surely past. Those who want to ignore the science, they are increasingly alone. They’re on their own shrinking island. (Applause.)

And let’s remember, even beyond the climate benefits of pursuing cleaner energy sources and more resilient, energy-efficient ways of living, the byproduct of it is, is that we also make our air cleaner and safer for our children to breathe. We’re also making our economies more resilient to energy shocks on global markets. We’re also making our countries less reliant on unstable parts of the world. We are gradually powering a planet on its way to 9 billion humans in a more sustainable way.
These are good things. This is not simply a danger to be avoided; this is an opportunity to be seized. But we have to keep going. We’re making a difference, but we have to keep going. We are not moving fast enough.

If we were to abandon our course of action, if we stop trying to build a clean-energy economy and reduce carbon pollution, if we do nothing to keep the glaciers from melting faster, and oceans from rising faster, and forests from burning faster, and storms from growing stronger, we will condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair: Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields no longer growing. Indigenous peoples who can’t carry out traditions that stretch back millennia. Entire industries of people who can’t practice their livelihoods. Desperate refugees seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own. Political disruptions that could trigger multiple conflicts around the globe.

That’s not a future of strong economic growth. That is not a future where freedom and human rights are on the move. Any leader willing to take a gamble on a future like that — any
so-called leader who does not take this issue seriously or treats it like a joke — is not fit to lead.

On this issue, of all issues, there is such a thing as being too late. That moment is almost upon us. That’s why we’re here today. That’s what we have to convey to our people — tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. And that’s what we have to do when we meet in Paris later this year. It will not be easy. There are hard questions to answer. I am not trying to suggest that there are not going to be difficult transitions that we all have to make. But if we unite our highest aspirations, if we make our best efforts to protect this planet for future generations, we can solve this problem.

And when you leave this conference center, I hope you look around. I hope you have the chance to visit a glacier. Or just look out your airplane window as you depart, and take in the God-given majesty of this place. For those of you flying to other parts of the world, do it again when you’re flying over your home countries. Remind yourself that there will come a time when your grandkids — and mine, if I’m lucky enough to have some — they’ll want to see this. They’ll want to experience it, just as we’ve gotten to do in our own lives. They deserve to live lives free from fear, and want, and peril. And ask yourself, are you doing everything you can to protect it. Are we doing everything we can to make their lives safer, and more secure, and more prosperous?

Let’s prove that we care about them and their long-term futures, not just short-term political expediency.

I had a chance to meet with some Native peoples before I came in here, and they described for me villages that are slipping into the sea, and the changes that are taking place — changing migratory patterns; the changing fauna so that what used to feed the animals that they, in turn, would hunt or fish beginning to vanish. It’s urgent for them today. But that is the future for all of us if we don’t take care.

Your presence here today indicates your recognition of that. But it’s not enough just to have conferences. It’s not enough just to talk the talk. We’ve got to walk the walk. We’ve got work to do, and we’ve got to do it together.

So, thank you. And may God bless all of you, and your countries. And thank you, Alaska, for your wonderful hospitality. Thank you. (Applause.)

Catastrophic Climate Change and National Security

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World faces catastrophic climate change unless it takes action, National Security Adviser Susan Rice tells Stanford University audience 12 October 2015

Selected Remarks by National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice on Climate Change and National Security at Stanford University, October 12, 2015: [Full Text of Speech]

… In 1985—fall quarter of my senior year—scientists from around the world met to express concern that a buildup of greenhouse gasses, and specifically carbon dioxide, would result in “a rise of global mean temperature…greater than any in man’s history.” By 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its first report, detailing how a warming climate would affect our ecosystem. There have since been four more reports, each with more sophisticated science to support ever more dire warnings.

So, it’s not that we didn’t see climate change coming. It’s that for the better part of three decades we failed, repeatedly, to treat this challenge with the seriousness and the urgency it deserves. As an international community, we succumbed to divisive global politics that set developing countries against industrialized nations and stymied international consensus on climate change.

At home, we succumbed to divisive domestic politics that allowed entrenched interests to push a calculated agenda of doubt, denial, and delay. And, we focused, quite understandably, on other critical national security priorities—from coming to grips with globalization, halting proliferation, and above all, keeping the American people safe in a post-9/11 world….

We are seizing opportunities and meeting challenges head on. And, today, we face no greater long-term challenge than climate change, an advancing menace that imperils so many of the other things we hope to achieve. That’s why, under President Obama, we have put combating climate change at the very center of our national security agenda….

In the past 15 years, we’ve had 14 of the hottest years on record—which is exactly the kind of change those climate scientists back in 1985 suggested we could be seeing by now. Last year, 2014, was the hottest. And, scientists say there’s a 97 percent chance that we’ll set a new record again this year. The seas have risen about eight inches over the past 100 years, and they’re now rising at roughly double the rate they did in the 20th century. Arctic sea ice is shrinking. Permafrost is thawing. The Antarctic ice shelf is breaking up faster than anticipated. Storms are getting stronger. Extreme precipitation events are becoming more frequent. Heat waves are growing more intense. The bottom line is this: we’re on a collision course with climate impacts that have inescapable implications for our national security. Let me sketch out a few of them.

First, climate change is a direct threat to the prosperity and safety of the American people. We’re losing billions of dollars in failed crops due to extreme drought. Millions of acres of forest have been lost to fire. In addition to longer fire seasons and drier summers here in the West, on the East Coast we’re seeing record rain events. Last week in the Carolinas, unprecedented amounts of rain fell—enough in just five days to put a serious dent in California’s multi-year drought. And, while we can’t say that climate change is the direct cause of any specific weather event, these are exactly the trends that we expect to see more of, if climate trends continue on their current trajectory.

Along our coasts, we’ve got thousands of miles of roads and railways, 100 energy facilities, communities of millions—all of which are vulnerable to sea-level rise. Remember Super Storm Sandy—how it hobbled America’s largest city and plunged everyone south of 34th Street into darkness for days? We saw a cascading failure of infrastructure. Water flooded an electrical substation, and backup power was either flooded or insufficient. Over 6,000 patients had to be evacuated from powerless hospitals down stairwells. Transportation broke down, because you can’t pump gas without electricity. Wastewater treatment plants shut down. One critical sector pulled down other vital systems. And, with warmer oceans and higher seas, New York City will have to be prepared for Sandy-level flooding to happen every 25 years.

When I visited Alaska with President Obama last month, we saw rapidly disappearing glaciers and a native community whose island home is already being washed away. The question for them is not if they will have to abandon their traditional homes and way of life, but when. These are real threats to our homeland security, and they’re happening now.

Second, climate change will impact our national defense. We’ve got military installations that are imperiled by the same rising seas as our civilian infrastructure. Here in the western United States, ranges where our troops train are jeopardized by heat and drought. In fact, this summer we had to cancel some training exercises, because it got too hot.

Climate change means operating in more severe weather conditions, increasing the wear on both service members and their equipment. There will also be new demands on our military. A thawing Arctic means 1,000 miles of Arctic coastline and new sea lanes to secure. Around the world, more intense storms—like the massive typhoon that decimated part of the Philippines two years ago—will mean more frequent humanitarian relief missions. And, our military will have to deal with increased instability and conflict around the world.

That’s a third major national security concern, because climate change is what the Department of Defense calls a “threat multiplier”—which means, even if climate change isn’t the spark that directly ignites conflict, it increases the size of the powder keg. A changing climate makes it harder for farmers to grow crops, fishermen to catch enough fish, herders to tend their livestock—it makes it harder for countries to feed their people. And humans, like every other species on this planet, scatter when their environment can no longer sustain them. As the Earth heats up, many countries will experience growing competition for reduced food and water resources. Rather than stay and starve, people will fight for their survival.

All of these consequences are exacerbated in fragile, developing states that are least equipped to handle strains on their resources. In Nigeria, prolonged drought contributed to the instability and dissatisfaction that Boko Haram exploits. The genocide in Darfur began, in part, as a drought-driven conflict. In the years prior to civil war breaking out in Syria, that country also experienced its worst drought on record. Farming families moved en masse into urban centers, increasing political unrest and further priming the country for conflict. In fact, last year, a Stanford research group determined that a rise in temperature is linked with a statistically significant increase in the frequency of conflict. There is already an unholy nexus between human insecurity, humanitarian crises, and state failure—climate change makes it that much worse.

Around the world, more than 100 million people now live less than one meter above sea level—including entire island countries in the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Consider the impacts—to the global economy and to our shared security—when rising seas begin to swallow nations whole.

Fourth, we face spreading diseases and mounting threats to global health. Already, more mosquito-borne diseases are spreading from the tropics to temperate zones as climates warm. Viruses like West Nile and Chikungunya are growing more prevalent in the United States. India is currently in the grip of the worst dengue fever outbreak in years. Livestock diseases are expanding northward into Europe. These advancing diseases cost billions of dollars a year to treat and contain, not to mention the immeasurable cost in human lives and suffering.

Finally, we cannot dismiss the worst-case predictions of catastrophic, irreparable damage to our environment. If the Greenland ice sheet melts, seas could rise not just the one to four feet many scientists predict, but eventually as much as 20 feet. If the oceans continue to acidify, it will devastate the marine coral reefs, compromising the food chain, and imperiling a major source of protein for 3 billion people worldwide.

These aren’t marginal threats. They put at risk the health and safety of people on every continent.

Stop Oil Development in Coastal Habitat

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One oil spill or accident in Grays Harbor could wipe out a significant portion of the Red Knot population in the Pacific Flyway. Speak out against the development of oil terminals in Grays Harbor.

Critical coastal estuaries could face devastating consequences for birds if the oil industry is successful in expanding its operations in Grays Harbor in Washington state—a site visited by hundreds of thousands of migrating shorebirds every year. Three proposed new oil terminals would store roughly 91 million gallons of toxic crude, most of it for export to China. Our birds rely on this Pacific coast estuary to rest and refuel during migration. One oil spill would devastate this fragile marine ecosystem.

Write the Washington Department of Ecology and the City of Hoquiam today and tell them to reject the oil terminals.

Located on Washington’s outer coast, Grays Harbor is a critical spring migration stop-over site for Red Knots in the Pacific Flyway. A climate-endangered bird, the Red Knot uses the North Bay of Grays Harbor almost exclusively during the month of May to feed on rich marine food sources before flying non-stop to northwestern Alaska and Wrangel Island, Russia to nest and raise their young. One oil spill or accident could wipe out a significant portion of the Red Knot population in the Pacific Flyway.

Oil extraction, transport, and export across our country contributes to greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. If the terminals are built, as much as 126,860 barrels of crude would arrive by train every day, another enormous source of risk. Oil trains have a bad safety record—in 2014 there were 141 oil train spills across the United States.

The deadline to speak out against two of the proposed terminals in Grays Harbor is October 29. Please add your voice in support of our birds. Tell the State of Washington that Grays Harbor is important to all of us who care about birds. We can’t afford to turn over our best coastal habitat to an industry that has shown it cannot prevent or contain oil spills. We’ve seen the devastating effects of oil spills in Alaska and the Gulf Coast—let’s keep that from happening in Washington.
Tell the Washington Department of Ecology and City of Hoquiam not to allow the development of oil terminals in Grays Harbor.

For your information and use, I am including a reproduction of the message I sent to the State of Washington’s Department of Ecology and the City of Hoquiam, Washington, on October 16, 2015, requesting that they NOT allow the development of the proposed crude oil terminals in Gray’s Harbor, Washington:

“Critical coastal estuaries could face devastating consequences for birds if the oil industry is successful in expanding its operations in Grays Harbor in Washington state–a site visited by hundreds of thousands of migrating shorebirds every year. Three proposed new oil terminals would store roughly 91 million gallons of toxic crude, most of it for export to China. Our birds rely on this Pacific coast estuary to rest and refuel during migration. One oil spill would devastate this fragile marine ecosystem.”

“Due to the enormous environmental degradation and very real risk of an oil spill occurring at the proposed Westway and Imperium oil terminals, and the significant negative impacts that would result to marine habitat, wildlife, the economy and the people who who care about our environment, and the fact that such monumental damages to our natural resources could never be adequately mitigated, I therefore respectfully request and plead that the Washington Department of Ecology and the City of Hoquiam not allow the development of these economically and environmentally unwise crude oil terminals in Grays Harbor.”
“Enabling and relying on the burning of fossil fuels as a way to satisfy society’s energy needs in this day and age of global warming and harmful climate change is dangerously wrong and unethical. This is particularly true in light of the fact hat today’s youth and future children, everywhere, will have no choice but to live their lives on a planet we here today are making less livable, and ultimately less survivable, by those who will come after us. It is therefore essential that we drastically reduce our individual and collective burning of fossil fuels, which we are presently doing now to a excess in practically everything we do (driving, flying, using electricity derived from fuel burning, heating our homes, businesses and institutions via burning fossil and other fuels), and by doing so, causing irreversible and dangerous harm to the atmosphere, oceans, wildlife and landscape that sustain us all, including so many other species of the world (the Red Knot population, …) as well as our future human and animal populations that will have to call Earth their home in the future, regardless of its condition.”
“Because of these reasons, I strongly support the protection of Grays Harbor, its marine life, and its people, and I therefore strongly urge that you reject the development of the proposed Westway and Imperium oil terminals because their ultimate impact will be too great.”
Please join me in sending public comments to oppose the development of oil terminals in this vital coastal habitat. It’s quick and easy to send your own comments at Audubon’s Action Center:

Report: 150 Countries Emitting 90% of the World’s Carbon Emissions Have Pledged to Reduce Them

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TheGuardian.org has reported that some 150 countries representing around 90% of the world’s carbon emissions have now filed pledges to curb them, dramatically increasing the chances of a deal at the Paris climate summit in December.

The promises made so far would still put the world on track for dangerous global warming rise of 3C (around 9F). But they could be adjusted in the future to meet the 2C target recommended by international scientists, the EU’s climate commissioner, Miguel Cañete, told a UN conference in Rabat, Morocco.

“The gap is not as big as expected if the INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions) are transformed and fully implemented,” said Cañete. “Their scope and scale is an achievement in itself.”

The French development minister, Annick Girardin, said that many of the pledges came from developing countries, and had brightened prospects for a climate treaty in December.

“We’ve now got a global positive dynamic telling us that the world is moving on climate change,” said Girardin. “It was unexpected to receive all these contributions and it sends a very strong signal from Rabat that we can reach a global agreement in Paris.”

Privately, EU officials admit that many national pledges have been conservative, reflecting caution about an untried INDC process. Ambitions were also dented by the onus on countries to make pledges in advance of a final deal or, often, knowledge of other countries’ offers.

But there is growing certainty among diplomats that a deal will be signed in Paris, succeeding the 1992 Kyoto protocol. By the time the US withdrew from it in 2005, Kyoto only covered 35 countries, and 14% of the world’s emissions.

Unlike that treaty, the Paris agreement will have no ‘stick’ of legal sanctions or formal enforcement to use against countries which renege on their commitments. “It is a bottom up approach as there are no compulsory targets and sanctions,” said Cañete.

Instead, officials hope that performance reviews will take place at regular five-yearly intervals to “facilitate” emissions-cutting reforms. “If you are serious about this message, the INDCs need to be revised before they start in 2021,” said Wendel Trio, the director of Climate Action Network Europe. “Unfortunately, there is no agreement on that and I wouldn’t expect any.”

Cañete suggested that the EU would consider progress towards meeting carbon-cutting promises, when assessing future climate funding payouts. “We have to assess globally how the INDCs have been implemented,” he said. “If there is additional financial support available, those who have made conditional pledges, we will have to look at them and see how we target financial support.”

The EU is the world’s biggest donor of funds for climate aid and disaster relief, and the UK, France and Germany say they will double their climate spending by 2020. France has promised revenues for an early warning system that can be installed in developing countries, while Germany has pledged €400m (£298m) of funds for an insurance scheme to help people in poor southern countries that are vulnerable to natural disasters.

Globally, countries have signed off on the creation of a $100bn-a-year green climate fund, which should disburse climate aid by 2020. Only a tenth of that has been ring-fenced so far, but the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says that£40bn was channelled to developing world climate projects by their richer neighbours last year.

Oxfam is unhappy that much of this money may be double counted from overseas development aid budgets. But after fears at the highest level this summer that slow progress could doom an agreement in Paris, a sense of relief, if not optimism, was tangible in Rabat.

“We are making history,” the Moroccan environment minister, Hakima el-Haité told the UN meeting. “The fight against climate change is not going to end in Paris. It is not going to end with our generation. It is a long term struggle and our efforts so far are not sufficient. But in terms of progress, we have made a revolution in just one year.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Now Finalized, but You Can’t Read It Quite Yet

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October 5, 2015

The final version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was just agreed upon at a big, multinational meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, attended by trade negotiators from the 12 Pacific Rim countries involved in the deal. The TPP, which is supported by President Barack Obama, and whose biggest players are the United States and Japan, has been in the works for about eight years. But its text has not been made available for public consumption, and still has to be put to a strictly yes-or-no vote in Congress before it can take effect.

No specific timeline for that vote exists, although according to The Washington Post, Obama legally he has to wait at least 90 days to sign the agreement now that he has notified Congress, and the text must be public for 60 of those days. That means the full text of the TPP might be shown to the public in early November.

As we’ve mentioned before, the TPP, like most international trade deals, is meant to enable free trade between member countries. With this particular agreement, Obama hopes to further the United States’ ability to set global standards for trade, rather than allow the agenda to be set by that other economic juggernaut of the Pacific, namely China.

The centerpiece of today’s announcement is the fact that the deal will knock out 18,000 tariffs, which is probably good news if you’re a consumer, and definitely good news if you’re a shipping magnate.

But a few provisions in leaked versions of the TPP have sparked outrage among the public. One such example is the concept of “investor-state dispute settlements,” which allow international companies to bring their grievances to legally-binding tribunals, which could potentially override laws in member countries. The TPP has also raised concerns about a possible overhaul of intellectual property law, as some fear an expansion of US laws restricting companies from manufacturing cheaper generic drugs will keep drug costs up worldwide.

While the newly agreed-upon draft remains shrouded in secrecy, the official summary released by the Obama administration this week does address the previous controversy about those two issues, albeit sort of vaguely.

In the case of intellectual property, the summary’s section on pharmaceuticals doesn’t exactly make it clear what will happen to drug profiteers like most-hated-man-in-America Martin Shkreli. The summary simply states that the agreement “contains pharmaceutical-related provisions that facilitate both the development of innovative, life-saving medicines and the availability of generic medicines.”

Presumably this availability of generics will be helped along by the elimination of “patent linkages,” a provision that scared Politico’s Michael Grunwald when it appeared in a previous leaked version of the TPP. Today, Grunwald tweeted that it sounds like these linkages were “stripped out” of the new version of the deal.

The US Trade Representative has also put up a page offering alternative talking points about investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS). In response to critics who claim the ISDS provision would allow international companies to undermine environmental and consumer safety laws in the US, the Trade Representative says the administration has been “upgrading” the agreement, presumably to avoid any such nightmare scenarios. The site also offers a few factoids for context: 51 trade agreements already have investor-state dispute settlements in place; “only” 13 ISDS cases have been brought against the US in the past; and so far, the US has always won.

The summary itself is light on details about ISDS, however. But there is a very specific line saying that the tribunals will need to go out the window if the dispute involves “a claim challenging a tobacco control measure of the Party.” In other words, a built-in exemption to TPP means that tobacco companies won’t be among the entities with the power to challenge laws in signatory countries.

For what it’s worth, North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis is pretty upset about this provision aimed at the tobacco industry, writing in a statement Monday that, “the Obama Administration has decided to use the TPP as a laboratory for partisan politics by discriminating against specific agricultural commodities.”

In the wake of the TPP announcement, an anti-globalization group called “Flush the TPP” has issued a call to action, scheduling a protest to run from November 14-18 in Washington, DC. The group says protesters will be urging the government to stop making deals like these, and to come up with “alternative international agreements that put people and the planet first.”

By Mike Pearl, Staff Writer for VICE
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U.S. Passenger Airlines Report After-tax Net Profit of $5.5 Billion for 2nd Quarter of 2015

U.S. Department of Transportation Releases 2nd Quarter (April-June) of 2015 Airline Financial Data

U.S. scheduled passenger airlines reported an after-tax net profit of $5.5 billion in the second quarter of 2015, up from $3.1 billion in the first quarter of 2015 and up from $3.6 billion in the second quarter of 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today.

The 26 U.S. scheduled service passenger airlines reported an after-tax net profit as a group for the ninth consecutive quarter.

In addition to the after-tax net profit of $5.5 billion based on net income reports, the scheduled service passenger airlines reported $8.2 billion in pre-tax operating profit in the second quarter of 2015, up from $5.1 billion in the first quarter of 2015 and up from $5.5 billion in the second quarter of 2014. The airlines reported a pre-tax operating profit – as a group – for the 17th consecutive quarter.

Net income and operating profit or loss are two different measures of airline financial performance. Net income or loss may include non-operating income and expenses, nonrecurring items or income taxes. Operating profit or loss is calculated from operating revenues and expenses before taxes and other nonrecurring items.

Total operating revenue for all U.S. passenger airlines in the April-June second-quarter of 2015 was $43.9 billion. Airlines collected $33.2 billion from fares, 75.7 percent of total second-quarter operating revenue.

Total operating expenses for all passenger airlines in the second-quarter of 2015 were $35.8 billion, of which fuel costs accounted for $7.9 billion, or 22.1 percent, and labor costs accounted for $11.0 billion, or 30.7 percent.

In the second quarter, passenger airlines collected a total of $962 million in baggage fees, 2.2 percent of total operating revenue, and $773 million from reservation change fees, 1.8 percent of total operating revenue. Fees are included for calculations of net income, operating revenue and operating profit or loss.

Baggage fees and reservation change fees are the only ancillary fees paid by passengers that are reported to BTS as separate items. Other fees, such as revenue from seating assignments and on-board sales of food, beverages, pillows, blankets, and entertainment are combined in different categories and cannot be identified separately.

See BTS Airline Financials Release for summary tables and additional data. See airline financial data press releases and the airline financial databases for historic data.