Insects Are Vanishing at an Alarming Rate, New Study Finds

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jake Johnson / Common Dreams.

When a scientist who studies the essential role insects play in the health of the ecosystem calls a new study on the dramatic decline of bug populations around the world “one of the most disturbing articles” he’s ever read, it’s time for the world to pay attention.

The article in question is a report published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showing that in addition to annihilating hundreds of mammal species, the human-caused climate crisis has also sparked a global “bugpocalypse” that will only continue to accelerate in the absence of systemic action to curb planetary warming.

“This study in PNAS is a real wake-up call—a clarion call—that the phenomenon could be much, much bigger, and across many more ecosystems,” David Wagner, an invertebrate conservation expert at the University of Connecticut, said in response to the new report. “This is one of the most disturbing articles I have ever read.”

Authored by Bradford Lister of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Andres Garcia of National Autonomous University of Mexico, the study found that “[a]rthropods, invertebrates including insects that have external skeletons, are declining at an alarming rate.”

“We compared arthropod biomass in Puerto Rico’s Luquillo rainforest with data taken during the 1970s and found that biomass had fallen 10 to 60 times,” the researchers write. “Our analyses revealed synchronous declines in the lizards, frogs, and birds that eat arthropods. Over the past 30 years, forest temperatures have risen 2.0 °C, and our study indicates that climate warming is the driving force behind the collapse of the forest’s food web. If supported by further research, the impact of climate change on tropical ecosystems may be much greater than currently anticipated.”

As the climate crisis intensifies, Lister and Garcia continued, “the frequency and intensity of hurricanes in Puerto Rico are expected to increase, along with the severity of droughts and an additional 2.6–7 °C temperature increase by 2099, conditions that collectively may exceed the resilience of the rainforest ecosystem.”

“Holy crap,” Wagner of the University of Connecticut told the Washington Post when he learned of the 60-fold drop of bug populations in Puerto Rico’s Luquillo rainforest. “If anything, I think their results and caveats are understated. The gravity of their findings and ramifications for other animals, especially vertebrates, is hyperalarming.”

The latest disturbing evidence of the destruction the climate crisis is inflicting across the globe comes just a week after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the world must cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 in order to avert global catastrophe as soon as 2040.

“Unfortunately, we have deaf ears in Washington,” concluded Louisiana State University entomologist Timothy Schowalter, who has studied the Luquillo rainforest for decades.

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Trump Says Climate Change Not a Hoax, Could Be Temporary

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by The Associated Press.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is backing off his claim that climate change is a hoax but says he doesn’t know if it’s manmade and suggests that the climate will “change back again.”

In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday night, Trump said he doesn’t want to put the U.S. at a disadvantage in responding to climate change.

“I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s manmade. I will say this: I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.”

Trump called climate change a hoax in November 2012 when he sent a tweet stating, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” He later said he was joking about the Chinese connection, but in years since has continued to call global warming a hoax.

“I’m not denying climate change,” he said in the interview. “But it could very well go back. You know, we’re talking about over a … millions of years.”

As far as the climate “changing back,” temperature records kept by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that the world hasn’t had a cooler-than-average year since 1976 or a cooler-than-normal month since the end of 1985.

Trump, who is scheduled on Monday to visit areas of Georgia and Florida damaged by Hurricane Michael, also expressed doubt over scientists’ findings linking the changing climate to more powerful hurricanes.

“They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than what we just had with Michael,” said Trump, who identified “they” as “people” after being pressed by “60 Minutes” correspondent Leslie Stahl. She asked, “What about the scientists who say it’s worse than ever?” the president replied, “You’d have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda.”

Trump’s comments came just days after a Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a warning that global warming would increase climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth. The report detailed how Earth’s weather, health and ecosystems would be in better shape if the world’s leaders could somehow limit future human-caused warming.

Citing concerns about the pact’s economic impact, Trump said in 2017 that the U.S. will leave the Paris climate accord. The agreement set voluntary greenhouse gas emission targets in an effort to lessen the impact of fossil fuels.

On a different topic, Trump told “60 Minutes” that he’s been surprised by Washington being a tough, deceptive and divisive place, though some accuse the real estate mogul elected president of those same tactics.

“So I always used to say the toughest people are Manhattan real estate guys and blah, blah,” he said. “Now I say they’re babies.”

He said the political people in Washington have changed his thinking.

“This is the most deceptive, vicious world. It is vicious, it’s full of lies, deceit and deception,” he said. “You make a deal with somebody and it’s like making a deal with — that table.”

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Bernie Sanders: Trump Adviser’s Climate Denial is ‘Dangerous’

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jake Johnson / Common Dreams.

Appearing on ABC‘s “This Week” just moments after President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser and noted Wall Street stooge Larry Kudlow dismissed a new United Nations climate report showing that the world must cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 to avert global catastrophe, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) denounced the White House for its “dangerous” rejection of climate science and slammed Trump for working hand-in-hand with Big Oil to make “a bad situation worse.”

“The comments a moment ago that Larry Kudlow made are so irresponsible, so dangerous that it’s just hard to believe that a leading government official could make them,” Sanders told host George Stephanopoulos after Kudlow—a fervent climate denier—accused the U.N. of overestimating the severity of the climate crisis.

“What the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said is that we have 12 years—12 years to substantially cut the amount of carbon in our atmosphere or this planet, our country, the rest of the world, is going to suffer irreversible damage,” the Vermont senator continued. “We are in crisis mode and you have an administration that virtually does not even recognize the reality of climate change and their policies, working with the fossil fuel industry, are making a bad situation worse.”

Far from taking even the smallest steps toward mitigating carbon emissions and developing a clean energy system that is necessary to avert planetary catastrophe, Trump has worked relentlessly during his first two years in office to free massive oil and gas companies to unleash dangerous pollutants at home while undermining international efforts to confront the climate crisis.

Asked about the IPCC’s dire assessment of the next several decades if immediate, ambitious, and systemic action is not taken to drastically reduce carbon emissions, Trump appeared to indicate that he has never heard of the IPCC.

“It was given to me and I want to look at who drew it,” Trump told reporters. “You know, which group drew it, because I can give you reports that are fabulous and I can give you reports that aren’t so good.”

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We Can Feed the World and Halve Emissions—But There’s a Catch

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Alex Kirby / Climate News Network.

The hopeful news is that by mid-century a well-fed world may be able to feed everyone alive, while halving the gases causing global warming. There’s just one snag: for most of us it would mean an almost meatless diet.

On 8 October global scientists said the world must make “rapid and far-reaching changes in all aspects of society” to keep global warming from reaching unacceptably dangerous levels.  They included the food we eat as one sector demanding radical change.

Bang on cue, a report by a separate group of scientists says the 10 billion people expected to be living by 2050 could enjoy sustainable food supplies – while emissions of the greenhouse gases that are warming the Earth fall by more than 50%.

But, for this to happen, the rich world would have to pay a high price, while the poorest people still faced malnutrition and hunger.

Less animal protein

The report says Westerners need to make a drastic switch away from meat and dairy products, cutting their consumption of beef by 90% and eating five times more beans and pulses than they do today to stave off hunger. Similar though slightly less radical changes are in prospect for people in other prosperous countries.

The researchers who wrote the report, published in the journal Nature, say it is the first to quantify how food production and consumption affect the planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity, and beyond which the Earth’s vital systems could become unstable.

“No single solution is enough to avoid crossing planetary boundaries. But when the solutions are implemented together, our research indicates that it may be possible to feed the growing population sustainably,” said Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the study.

“Many of the solutions we analysed are being implemented in some parts of the world, but it will need strong global co-ordination and rapid upscale to make their effects felt”

“Without concerted action, we found that the environmental impacts of the food system could increase by 50-90% by 2050 as a result of population growth and the rise of diets high in fats, sugars and meat. In that case, all planetary boundaries related to food production would be surpassed, some of them by more than twofold.”

A global shift towards healthy and more plant-based diets, halving food loss and waste (about a third of the food produced is lost before it can reach consumers), and improving farming practices and technologies, is needed to feed 10 billion people sustainably by 2050, the study says. Adopting these options cuts the risk of crossing global environmental limits on climate change.

But there will be other advantages too, the researchers say – reductions in the use of agricultural land and freshwater, and in the pollution of ecosystems through the over-use of fertilisers.

The study, funded by EAT as part of the EAT-Lancet Commission for Food, Planet and Health and by Wellcome’s “Our Planet, Our Health” partnership on Livestock Environment and People, combined detailed environmental accounts with a model of the global food system that tracks the production and consumption of food across the world. With this model, the researchers analysed several options that could keep the food system within environmental limits.

Multiple gains

They found that climate change can be checked enough only if diets change to include more plant-based food and reductions in meat and dairy products. Adopting more of these plant-based “flexitarian” diets globally could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than half and cut fertiliser application and the use of cropland and freshwater by between a tenth and a quarter.

But dietary changes alone will not be enough, the researchers say. They argue that improved agricultural management and technology will be essential too. Increasing yields from existing cropland, balancing fertiliser application and recycling and improving water management could, with other changes, reduce those impacts by around half.

A significant contributor to food insecurity is the deterioration and loss of soil. By one calculation, a third of the world’s arable land has been lost to erosion or pollution over the last 40 years. Restoring lost soil quality helps to increase harvests and slow warming.

The report says the world will have to halve wasted food to keep within environmental limits. If that happened worldwide, it would reduce environmental impacts by up to 16%.

Healthy eating

EAT is a science-based global platform for food system transformation founded by the Stordalen Foundation, Stockholm Resilience Centre and Wellcome.

Fabrice de Clerck, its director of science, said: “Tackling food loss and waste will require measures across the entire food chain, from storage and transport, over food packaging and labelling, to changes in legislation and business behaviour that promote zero-waste supply chains.”

“Many of the solutions we analysed are being implemented in some parts of the world, but it will need strong global co-ordination and rapid upscale to make their effects felt,” said Dr Springmann.

“When it comes to diets, important aspects include school and workplace programmes, economic incentives and labelling, and aligning national dietary guidelines with the current scientific evidence on healthy eating and the environmental impacts of our diet.”

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Trump, Kavanaugh and the Path to Neoliberal Fascism

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Henry Giroux.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Salon

Even in the darkest of times we have the right to some illumination. —Hannah Arendt

The threads of a general political and ideological crisis run deep in American history, and with each tweet and policy decision Donald Trump pushes the United States closer to a full-fledged fascist state. His words sting, but his policies can kill people. Trump’s endless racist taunts, dehumanizing expressions of misogyny, relentless attacks on all provisions of the social state and ongoing contempt for the rule of law serve to normalize a creeping fascist politics. Moreover, his criminogenic disdain for any viable sense of civic and moral responsibility gives new meaning to an ethos of selfishness and a culture of cruelty, if not terror, that has run amok. Yet it is becoming more difficult for the mainstream media and pundits to talk about fascism as a looming threat in the United States in spite of the fact that, as Michelle Goldberg observes, for some groups, such as “undocumented immigrants, it’s already here.”

The smell of death is everywhere under this administration. The erosion of public values and the rule of law is now accompanied by a developing state of emergency with regards to a looming global environmental catastrophe. An ecological disaster due to human-caused climate change has accelerated under the Trump administration and appears imminent.Trump’s ongoing attempt to pollute the planet through his rollback of environmental protections will result in the deaths of thousands of children who suffer from asthma and other lung problems. Moreover, his privatized and punitive approach to health care will shorten the lives of millions of poor people, uninsured youth, undocumented immigrants, the unemployed and the elderly. His get-tough “law and order” policies will result in more police violence against blacks while his support for the arms industry, military budget and gun laws will accelerate the death of the marginalized both at home and abroad. Under the Trump regime all bets are off regarding the sustainability of democracy.

The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, a right-wing ideologue, to the U.S. Supreme Court, in spite of allegations of sexually assaulting at least two women, further reveals both the dangerous politicization of the judicial nomination process and the authoritarian politics that now dominate American society. The control of the court by ideological fundamentalists has been a long-sought goal of Republican Party extremists. And now the American people, especially women, the poor and people of color, will pay a terrible price for Kavanaugh’s appointment. The Kavanaugh affair is a symptom of the deeper roots of a fascist politics at work in American society. Kavanaugh is not only a blatant symbol of a toxic masculinity, he is also emblematic of a boisterous and unchecked expression of ruling-class white privilege. This is especially true given the racist double standard that characterizes America’s justice system. As Amanda Klonsky put it in the Chicago Sun-Times:

Why does Judge Brett Kavanaugh, accused of sexual assault, feel entitled to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States, while my formerly incarcerated students — often jailed for crimes like battery from fistfights — are left unemployed, sometimes for life, banned from even the most entry-level work? That Kavanaugh is under consideration for appointment to the Supreme Court at all throws the racist double standard in our justice system into sharp relief. There is one standard of behavior for African-American and Latinx young people, who are harshly punished for crimes in adolescence, and quite another for wealthy white boys, who can be accused of sexual assault and still go on to be nominated to serve on the most important court in the world.

Kavanaugh perfectly aligns with Trump’s racism and his decisions on matters of civil rights and racial justice will more than likely further reproduce a long legacy of white racism and state violence in the United States. This is especially tragic and ominous given that Trump’s contempt for people of color appears boundless and legitimates the notion of whiteness as a site of terror. He slanders and humiliates black athletes, black women and any other person of color who calls him on his racism and white supremacist views. Moreover, his thuggery in support of police brutality and mass incarceration further accelerates the growth of a racialized carceral state.

Most recently, in a brutish and deeply troubling display of misogyny, Trump viciously mocked the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of a sexual assault. Drawing laughter and shouts from a crowd in Southaven, Mississippi, Trump went further, following up his vile remarks by stating that men were the real victims of the #MeToo movement because they were being unfairly accused of sexual harassment, and that many males would lose their jobs. It is hard to miss the irony of this statement coming from a man who has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 22 women and has been caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by the crotch. What is worth noting here is not only his indifference to the shocking levels violence waged against women but also the degree to which misogyny has always been endemic to fascist politics.

While it is easy for the mainstream press to go after those politicians who remain silent in the face of Trump’s sexism and racism, there is little interest in situating his misogyny and white supremacy within a neoliberal fascist politics that is aligned with neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other militant groups who argue for racial cleansing and increasingly commit violent acts against people of color who oppose their views. Trump’s politics are endlessly whitewashed in the mainstream media, which too often views his policy decisions more as the infantilized outbursts of an impetuous tweeting teenage bully rather than as a shock and threat to the laws and values that constitute a democracy currently in peril. The mainstream press argues that Trump’s rhetoric is divisive, humiliating and hateful, but rarely is it associated with the rhetoric of fascist politics or for that matter with the power of moneyed interests of the financial elite.

This evasion is all the more frightening since Trump, not to mention most of his critics, seem unaware of the accumulated terror unleashed by past fascists. Trump appears reckless when implementing policies that echo faintly the genocidal practices used by Nazis in their concentration camps, such as separating children from their undocumented parents and putting both in caged prisons. While Trump has not gassed tens of thousands of children as Hitler did, putting children in cages suggests crossing a moral and political line that opens the door to even more extreme forms of barbarism. –At the same time, his anti-democratic proclivities are on display almost every day. For instance, Trump’s open infatuation with demagogues such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un is matched only by his consistent vilification of America’s democratic allies. One clear cut example is his ludicrous claim that trade wars with Canada are justified because Canada represents a threat to America’s national security. The latter is uttered at the same time that Trump calls Kim Jong-un terrific.

Trump has not only normalized racism in the United States and given new legitimacy to the hate filled rants and ideologies of neo-Nazis and white nationalists, he has deepened the crisis of democracy by elevating emotion over reason and turning civic illiteracy into a virtue. Ignorance turns deadly when embraced by the powerful and removed from any notion of the material consequences it has for those who have to suffer from a practices of abandonment, terminal exclusion, and state violence.

State-sanctioned ignorance is more than fodder for late night comedy shows, it also provides the psychological conditions for certain individuals and groups to associate “pollution” and disposability with what Richard A. Etlin calls “a biologically racialist worldview, which divides the human race according to the dichotomy of the pure and impure, the life-enhancing and the life-polluting.” This is a language mobilized by the energies of the ethically dead, and echoes strongly with the anti-Semitism that was at the center of the genocidal policies of the Third Reich. This poisonous anti-Semitic discourse has returned with a vengeance in Hungary, Poland and a number of other countries now moving towards fascism. It is also surfacing among alt-right and other neo-Nazi groups in the United States. Unsurprisingly, there are also coded hints of it in Trump’s language. Trump is more careful with his displays of anti-Semitism, especially given the uproar that followed his comments stating that there were decent people marching with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.

One of the most revealingly ideological comments made by Trump during the Kavanaugh affair was contained in a tweet aimed at the women who had confronted Sen. Jeff Flake and other Republican senators over their support for Kavanaugh. Trump stated that “the very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Don’t fall for it. Also, look at all the professional made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others. These are not signs made in the basement from love.”

Trump exposed more than the level of political corruption and hatred of women that now defines American politics, he also appropriated an anti-Semitic discourse to discredit both the women to whom he is referring and dissent in general. Many conservative pundits and commentators have also followed Trump’s lead and claimed that protesters were paid by George Soros. This display of anti-Semitism directed at Soros is not new for Trump. As Greg Sargent pointed out in the Washington Post, this vile piece of anti-Semitism directed at Soros played a “starring role in Trump’s 2016 closing ad, which was the perfect expression of this type of exclusionary populist demagoguery.” Not only do Trump’s comments and the earlier ad mirror anti-Semitic propaganda from the 1930s, it also legitimates the vicious attacks on Soros in a number of Eastern European countries, including Poland, Romania and Serbia. But it is President Viktor Orbán of Hungary who is leading the pack in his attack on Soros as part of a larger attack on Jews.

Trump’s coded endorsement of Orbán’s attack on Jews, whom he appears to blame for all of Hungary’s problems, is particularly repellent given its viciousness and the horrors of the past it echoes. For instance, recalling the genocidal rhetoric aimed at Jews in the past by the Nazis, Orban commemorated the 170th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 by stating the following (without mentioning Jews directly):

They do not fight directly, but by stealth; they are not honorable, but unprincipled; they are not national, but international; they do not believe in work, but speculate with money; they have no homeland, but feel the whole world is theirs. They are not generous but vengeful and always attack the heart — especially if it is red, white and green [the colors of the Hungarian flag].

Prior to the recent election in Hungary, Orbán plastered images of George Soros throughout the country. Soros is both a Hungarian citizen and a Jew, and was a perfect symbol for Orbán to vilify in his efforts to take over the country. Soros is dangerous to Orbán because of his promotion of the open society, open borders, cosmopolitanism, human rights and democracy. That he is Jewish made it easier for Orbán to attack him personally without having to openly express his hatred of democracy.

That Trump would use a reference taken out of the poisonous playbook of this fascist leader is both revealing and dangerous. Not only because such rhetoric indexes a fascist politics and the potential dangers that follow, but also because of the silence that surrounded Trump’s reference to Soros, with all of its toxic implications. Even if Trump is not consciously anti-Semitic, he should know better since, as journalist Ron Kampeas points out, his comments traffic “in conspiracies of control and destruction identified with classical anti-Semitism.” Trump’s consistently coded support for an ideology embraced by neo-Nazis and other white nationalists is not new. It is the discourse of blood and soil that propelled an emotionally charged language of hate, reification, dehumanization and eventually mass murder. Forgetting this history is less an act of historical ignorance than a complicitous practice of reviving the conditions that give birth to the horrors of the past.

Trump’s defenders might argue that Trump is not an anti-Semite because two of his former lawyers were Jewish — Roy Cohn and Michael Cohen. Moreover, his daughter converted to Judaism. This may be true, and Trump may just be so stupid to know and not to care when he is producing an anti-Semitic stereotype, and so ignorant of history that he can’t put together the threat of rising anti-Semitism in Europe and the history of genocide that it produced. But if we are to believe writers such as Michael Wolff and Bob Woodward who have chronicled the post-2016 chaos in the White House that Trump has overt white supremacists such as Stephen Miller making decisions for him, the Kavanaugh hearings may signal a danger that far exceeds the misogyny and Vichy-type silence revealed by the spineless Republican Party and the Trump administration.

Mitch McConnell and the other gravediggers of democracy in the Congress could care less about Trump’s crude language, governing style, character or potential revelations of criminal acts. They have no qualms or reservations about supporting a fascist politics as long as they get what they want from their alliance with the racists, xenophobic ultra-nationalists and white nationalists. According to historian Christopher R. Browning, the Republican Party, in particular has received a big payoff in selling its soul to Trump’s worldview:

[H]uge tax cuts for the wealthy, financial and environmental deregulation, the nominations of two conservative Supreme Court justices (so far) and a host of other conservative judicial appointments, and a significant reduction in government-sponsored health care (though not yet the total abolition of Obamacare they hope for). Like Hitler’s conservative allies, McConnell and the Republicans have prided themselves on the early returns on their investment in Trump.

The Kavanaugh appointment exposes more than what commentators such as Robert Reich and historians such as Timothy Snyder view as alarming and frightening parallels between the United States and Hitler’s regime, or what the Yale historian Jason Stanley calls an accelerating fascist politics. Their analyses seem overly cautious. There is little doubt that Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court is an abomination not only because of his alleged sexual assaults, but his equally revealing and right-wing ideological rant against the left, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party during his Senate hearing. More ominous, when comprehended within the context of an emerging fascist politics, is the recognition that his appointment is part of a broader effort on the part of the Trump administration to radically modify the rule of law and individual rights, further depriving them of any meaning and cutting them off from any viable humanitarian standards.

We are in the midst of an American version of fascism, which is not to suggest a fascism modeled exclusively after Nazi Germany. Fascist rhetoric has become normalized in the United States, white terror is no longer coded, and ultra-nationalism has merged into a love affair between the U.S. and a host of ruthless dictators. Of course the U.S. has a long tradition of civil liberties but it also has a long tradition of lawlessness, and the latter is now winning out. It thrives under the guise of a neoliberalism that has fueled for the past 40 years vast inequalities in wealth and power, producing a level of political and economic corruption that signals not just a hatred of democracy, but a unique style of American fascism.

The Kavanaugh hearings should serve to remind us that we live in increasingly dangerous times. It is important to remember that fascism begins not with violence, police assaults or mass killings, but with language. Not only have we learned this from the rise of fascism in the 1930s in Europe but also in the current historical moment — a moment in which lawlessness, misogyny, white nationalism and racism are resurgent all over the globe. If fascism begins with language so does a strong resistance willing to challenge it.

This is all the more reason for individuals, institutions, labor unions, educators, young people and others not to be silent in the face of the current fascist turn in the United States and elsewhere. In the face of the hatred, racism, misogyny and deceit that have become part of a state-sanctioned public dialogue, no one can afford to look away, fail to speak out, and risk silence. This is especially true at a time when history is used to hide rather than illuminate the past, when it becomes difficult to translate private issues into larger systemic considerations and people willingly allow themselves to be both seduced and trapped into spectacles of violence, cruelty and authoritarian impulses. Under such circumstances, the terror of the unforeseen becomes all the more ominous.

Any viable notion of change will have to reject the notion that capitalism and democracy are synonymous and that participatory democracy begins and ends with elections. Doing so is crucial to undoing the myth that political power is separate from economic power — a myth that upholds the false assumption that whatever problems currently exist under the Trump administration are endemic to Trump’s alleged mental health, ignorance and other character flaws. In actuality, the fascist politics now shaping the United States have been in the making for decades and are systemic to neoliberal capitalism and deeply entwined with iniquitous relations of power. Rob Urie illuminates the issue, particularly in relation to class divisions. He writes:

The class relations of American political economy are antithetical to the notion of a unified public interest. The point isn’t to suggest that this or that authoritarian leader isn’t authoritarian, but rather to sketch in the political backdrop to argue that the lived experience of social, economic and political repression is lived experience, not academic theories or bourgeois fantasies. The circumstances of investment bankers stripping assets, industrialists relocating factories built by workers to low-wage locations and tech ‘pioneers’ using licenses and patents to extract economic rents is systemically ‘authoritarian’ in the sense that democratic consent to do so was neither sought nor given.

It is time for a broad-based social movement to reject finance capitalism, embrace education as central to a politics willing to fight to persuade people to reclaim their sense of agency and push at the frontiers of the ethical imagination, connect what they learn to addressing social issues, taking risks and challenging the destructive narratives that are seeping into the public realm and becoming normalized. Any dissatisfaction with injustice necessitates combining the demands of moral witnessing with the pedagogical power of persuasion and the call to address the tasks of emancipation. We need individuals and social movements willing to disturb the normalization of a fascist politics, and to oppose racist, sexist and neoliberal orthodoxy. As Robin D.G. Kelley observes, we cannot confuse catharsis and momentary outrage for revolution. In a time of increasing tyranny, resistance appears to have lost its usefulness as a call to action.

For instance, the novelist Teju Cole has argued that “‘resistance’ is back in vogue, and it describes something rather different now. The holy word has become unexceptional. Faced with a vulgar, manic and cruel regime, birds of many different feathers are eager to proclaim themselves members of the Resistance. It is the most popular game in town.” Cole’s critique appears to be borne out by the fact that the most unscrupulous of liberal and conservative politicians, such as Madeline Albright, Hillary Clinton and even James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, are now claiming that they have joined the resistance against Trump fascist politics.

Even Michael Hayden, the former NSA chief and CIA director under George W. Bush, has joined the ranks of Albright and Clinton in condemning Trump as a proto-fascist. Writing in the New York Times,Hayden chastised Trump as a serial liar and in doing so quoted the renowned historian Timothy Snyder, who stated in reference to the Trump regime that “Post-Truth is pre-fascism.” The irony here is hard to miss. Not only did Hayden head Bush’s illegal National Security Agency warrantless wiretapping program while head of the NSA, he also lied repeatedly about his role in Bush’s sanction and implementation of state torture in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This tsunami of banal resistance was on full display when an anonymous member of the Trump’s inner circle published an op-ed in the New York Times claiming that he or she and other senior officials were part of “the resistance within the Trump administration.” The author was quick to qualify the statement by insisting such resistance had nothing to do with “the popular ‘resistance’ of the left.” To prove the point, it was noted by the author that the members of this insider resistance liked some of Trump’s policies such as “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.” Combining resistance with the endorsements of such reactionary policies reads like fodder for late-night comics.

The Democratic Party now defines itself as the most powerful political force opposing Trump’s fascist politics. What it has forgotten is the role it has played under the Clinton and Obama presidencies in creating the economic, political and social conditions for Trump’s election in 2016. Such historical and political amnesia allows them to make the specious claim that they are now the party of resistance. Resistance in these instances has little to do with civic courage, a defense of human dignity, and the willingness to not just bear witness to the current injustices but to struggle to overcome them. Of course, the issue is not to disavow resistance as much as to redefine it as inseparable from fundamental change that calls for the overthrow of capitalism itself.

While the call to resist neoliberal fascism is to be welcomed, it has to be interrogated and not aligned with individuals and ideological forces that helped put in place the racist, economic, religious and educational forces that helped produce it. What all of these calls to resistance have in common is a opposition to Trump rather than to the conditions that created him. Trump’s election and the Kavanaugh affair make clear that what is needed is not only a resistance to the established order of neoliberal capitalism but a radical restructuring of society itself. That is not about resisting oppression in its diverse forms but overcoming it — in short, changing it.

While it is crucial to condemn the Kavanaugh hearings for their blatant disregard for the Constitution, expressed hatred of women, and symbolic expression and embrace of white privilege and power, it is necessary to enlarge our criticism to include the system that made the Kavanaugh appointment possible. Kavanaugh represents not only the deep-seated rot of misogyny but also, as Grace Lee Boggs has stated, “a government of, by, and for corporate power.” We need to see beyond the white nationalists and neo-Nazis demonstrating in the streets in order to recognize the terror of the unforeseen, the terror that is state sanctioned, and hides in the shadows of power.

Such a struggle means more than engaging material relations of power or the economic architecture of neoliberal fascism, it also means taking on the challenge of producing the tools and tactics necessary to rethink and create the conditions for a new kind of subjectivity as the basis for a new kind of democratic socialist politics. We need a comprehensive politics that brings together various single-interest movements so that the threads that connect them become equally as important as the particular forms of oppression that define their singularity. In addition, we need intellectuals willing to combine intellectual complexity with clarity and accessibility, embrace the high-stakes investment in persuasion, and cross disciplinary borders in order to theorize and speak with what Rob Nixon calls the “cunning of lightness” and a “methodological promiscuity” that keeps language attuned to the pressing claims for justice.

Trump has surfaced the dire anti-democratic threats that have been expanding under an economic system stripped of any political, social and ethical responsibility. This is a form of neoliberal fascism that has redrawn and expanded the parameters of what after the genocidal practices and hate-filled politics of the 1930s and 40s in Europe was once thought impossible to happen again. The threat has returned and is now on our doorsteps, and it needs to be named, exposed, and overcome by those who believe that the stakes are much too high to look away and not engage in organized political and pedagogical struggles.

***

Hannah Arendt once wrote that terror was the essence of totalitarianism. She was right and we are now witnessing the dystopian visions of the new authoritarians who now trade in fear, hatred, demonization, violence and racism. This will be Trump’s legacy. It is easy to despair in times of tyranny, but it is much more productive to be politically and morally outraged and to draw upon such anger as a source of hope and action. Without hope even in the most dire of times, there is no possibility for resistance, dissent and struggle.

A critical consciousness is the prerequisite for informed agency and hope is the basis for individual and collective resistance. Moreover, when combined with collective action, hope translates into a dynamic sense of possibility, enabling one to join with others for the long haul of fighting systemic forms of domination. Courage in the face of tyranny is a necessity and not an option and we can learn both from the past and the present about resistance movements and the power of civic courage and collective struggle and how such modes of resistance are emerging among a number of groups across a wide variety of landscapes.

What is crucial is the necessity of not facing such struggles alone, allowing ourselves to feel defeated in our isolation or giving in to the crippling neoliberal survival-of-the-fittest ethos that dominates everyday relations. Radical politics begins when one refuses to face one’s fate alone, learns about the workings and mechanisms of power, and rejects the dominant mantra of social isolation.

There is strength in numbers. One of the most important things we can do to sustain a sense of courage and dignity is to imagine a new social order. That is, we must constantly work to revive a radical political imaginary by talking with others in order to rethink what a new politics and society would look like, one that is fundamentally anti-capitalist and dedicated to creating the conditions for new democratic political and social formations. This suggests creating new public spheres that make such a dialogue and notion of solidarity possible while simultaneously struggling against the forces that gave rise to Trump, particularly those that suggest that totalitarian forms are still with us.

As I have stressed, rethinking politics anew also suggests the possibility of building broad-based alliances in order to create a robust economic and political agenda that connects democracy with a serious effort to interrogate the sources and structures of inequality, racism and authoritarianism that now plague the United States. This points to opening up new lines of understanding, dialogue and radical empathy. It means, as the philosopher George Yancy suggests, learning “how to love with courage.”

A nonviolent movement for democratic socialism does not need vanguards, political purity or the seductions of ideological orthodoxy. On the contrary, it needs an informed and energized politics without guarantees, one that is open to new ideas, self-reflection and understanding. Instead of ideologies of certainty, unchecked moralism and a politics of shaming, we need to understand the conditions that make it possible for people to internalize forms of domination, and that means interrogating forgotten histories and existing pedagogies of oppression. Recent polls indicate that two-thirds of Americans say this is the lowest point in American politics that they can recall. Such despair offers the possibility of a pedagogical intervention, one that provides a political opening to create a massive movement for organized struggle in the United States.

Rebecca Solnit has rightly argued that while we live in an age of despair, hope is a gift we that we cannot surrender because it amplifies the power of alternative visions, offers up stories in which we can imagine the unimaginable, enables people to “move from depression to outrage,” and positions people to take seriously what they are for and what they are against. This suggests trying to understand how the very processes of learning constitute the political mechanisms through which identities — individual and collective — are shaped, desired, mobilized and take on the worldly practices of autonomy, self-reflection and self-determination as part of a larger struggle for economic and social justice.

First, it is crucial to develop a language in which it becomes possible to imagine a future much different from the present, one that refuses to privatize hope with a crude individualism. Second, it is crucial to develop a discourse of critique and possibility that rejects the ongoing normalizing of existing relations of domination and control while simultaneously repudiating the notion that capitalism and democracy are synonymous. It would be wise to heed the words of the late science-fiction visionary Ursula K. Le Guin when she wrote, “We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Nay, human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.”

Third, it is imperative to reject the notion that all problems are individual issues and can only be solved as a matter of individual action and responsibility. This is one of neoliberalism’s most powerful ideological tenets, working to make the personal the only politics that matters while detaching private troubles from the wider world. All three of these assumptions serve to depoliticize people and erase both what it means to make power visible and to organize collectively to address such problem. Fourth, there is a need, I believe, for a discourse that is both historical, relational and comprehensive. Memory matters both in terms of reclaiming lost narratives of struggle and for assessing visions, strategies and tactics that still hold enormous possibilities in the present.

Developing a relational discourse means connecting the dots around issues that are often viewed in isolated terms. For instance, one cannot study the attack on public schools and higher education as sutured internal issues that focus exclusively on the teaching methods and strategies. What is needed are analyses that link such attacks to the broader issue of inequality, the dynamics of casino capitalism and the pervasive racism active in promoting new forms of segregation both within and outside of schools.

A comprehensive politics is one that does at least two things. On the one hand, it tries to understand a plethora of problems from massive poverty to the despoiling of the planet within a broader understanding of politics. That is, it connects the dots among diverse forms of oppression. In this instance, the focus is on the totality of politics, one that focuses on the power relations of global capitalism, the rise of illiberal democracy, the archives of authoritarianism and the rise of financial capital. A totalizing view of oppression allows the development of a language that is capable of making visible the ideological and structural forces of the new forms of domination at work in the United States and across the globe. On the other hand, such a comprehensive understanding of politics makes it possible to bring together a range of crucial issues and movements so as to expand the range of oppressions while at the same time providing a common ground for these diverse groups to be able to work together in the interest of the common good and a broad struggle for democratic socialism.

Finally, any viable language of emancipation needs to develop a discourse of what Ron Aronson calls social hope. He writes:

Social hope, the disposition to act collectively to change a situation, entails that we act not blindly but with a sense of possibility. The cold stream demands that we prepare ourselves and assess the conditions under which we are operating. The hope of social movements calls for objective, clearheaded organization and action, and an appreciation of the circumstances in which we may be successful. This realistic stream of hope mingles with the visionary stream that motivates us; without both, there is no hope. Hope uniquely combines our longing, our own real intention, and our sense of potency with real possibility, the subjective and the objective.

Aronson is right in arguing that naming what is wrong in a society is important but it is not enough, because such criticism can sometimes be overpowering and lead to a paralyzing despair or, even worse, a crippling cynicism. Hope speaks to imagining a life beyond capitalism, and combines a realistic sense of limits with a lofty vision of demanding the impossible. As Ariel Dorfman has argued, progressives need a language that is missing from our political vocabulary, one that insists that “alternative worlds are possible, that they are within reach if we’re courageous enough, and smart enough, and daring enough to take control of our own lives.” Reason, justice, and change cannot blossom without hope because educated hope taps into our deepest experiences and longing for a life of dignity with others, a life in which it becomes possible to imagine a future that does not mimic the present.

I am not referring to a romanticized and empty notion of hope, but to a notion of informed social hope that faces the concrete obstacles and realities of domination but continues the ongoing task of realizing a future in which matters of justice, equality, freedom and joy matter. Casino capitalism is a toxin that has created a predatory class of unethical zombies who are producing dead zones of the imagination and massive ecologies of immiseration that even George Orwell could not have envisioned, while waging a fierce fight against the possibilities of a democratic future.

The time has come to develop a political language in which civic values, social responsibility and the institutions that support them become central to invigorating and fortifying a new era of civic imagination, a renewed sense of social agency and an impassioned international social movement with a vision, organization and set of strategies to challenge the neoliberal nightmare engulfing the planet. Such a strategy would have to revive the radical imagination and the task of thinking about a future without capitalism and oppression; launch a comprehensive education program to provide alternative narratives, memories and histories that enable the capacities for informed judgment, ethical responsibilities and civic courage; and last but not least create those alternative public spheres where a new conversation can be opened up about the creation of a new progressive and socialist political formation. As Karl Marx said, there is nothing to lose but our chains.

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As Sea Levels Rise, Do We Invest in Underwater Walls or Retreat Inland?

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Tim Radford / Climate News Network.

Two climate scientists believe they have a long-term solution to dangerous sea level rise by targeting the most vulnerable glaciers, especially those that could trigger a massive collapse of the ice sheets behind them.

A submarine wall big enough and wide enough could halt the flow of increasingly warm ocean water below the front of each glacier. The combination of warmer air temperatures and warmer waters that accompany human-triggered climate change is dangerous: it could for instance accelerate the already alarming retreat of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, which alone shores up enough ice to raise global sea levels by up to 3 metres.

The scientists don’t propose an immediate start. But they do want to explore ways of halting sea level rise driven by global warming that could soon be costing the world $50 trillion a year in economic losses, that could submerge small island states and turn 1 million people a year into climate migrants.

“We are not advocating that glacial geoengineering be attempted any time soon”, they warn in the journal The Cryosphere.

Their simplest option – a series of pillars to shore up a targeted glacier and keep it “grounded” – would require engineering comparable in scale to the excavation of the Suez canal, would be undertaken in the world’s harshest environment, and would have just a one in three chance of success.

“In the long run we need plans to deal with the committed climate changes that are already in the pipeline, one of which may be an ice sheet collapse”

The researchers – John Moore, of Beijing Normal University in China, who also holds a post at the University of Lapland in Finland, and Michael Wolovick, of Princeton University in the US – have made this case before: they and others argued in March in Nature for what they call “managed collapse.”

In the latest study, they look at the challenge in greater detail. And they warn that even if targeted geoengineering of individual glaciers worked, it would only do so if humans stopped tipping ever more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to fuel yet more global warming.

Nor do they argue that a submarine curtain wall to halt warming water across the front of the Thwaites glacier – up to 100 kms wide – is currently feasible. “But in the long run we need plans to deal with the committed climate changes that are already in the pipeline, one of which may be an ice sheet collapse.”

And one of these is the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica: another is the Jakobshaven Isbrae in Greenland. Both could be cases of what the scientists call marine ice sheet instability: as a glacier retreats from its grounding line, the ice lifts off the bedrock and begins to float.

If the bedrock slopes down towards the centre of the ice sheet, and warmer ocean currents wash beneath it, then the ice starts to stretch and thin, and retreat further. At some point, it would become much easier for thawing ice to flow into the sea, and start what could become a runaway collapse. Engineers could devise a way of slowing or halting the process.

Huge impact

The scientists argue that even a rise of 0.6m to 1.2 metres by 2100 could cause up to $50 trillion in economic damage, and the resultant flooding could force up to 200 million to 500 million people out of their homes at least for a few days or weeks: around a million or so every year would never go back.

Climate scientists have been arguing about geoengineering solutions – the so-called technofix – to climate change for more than a decade. Global answers, such as blocking sunlight with stratospheric soot and sulphate aerosols, or whitening the polar ice to make it more reflective, remain contentious.

But the Cryosphere proposals are much more limited, and the immediate dangers of sea level rise are not contested. Ice sheet collapse in Antarctica, for instance, could raise sea levels by more than 3 metres and even by as much as 19 metres over the next two or three centuries.

The researchers’ calculations suggest that in theory an engineering solution that blocked even 50% of the warm water getting under a glacier could offer a 70% chance of delaying or stopping ice sheet collapse.

Left behind

Countries already spend on coastal protection: their solution would require international co-operation at the highest political level, and intensive scientific research.

“Managing sea level rise at the source has the advantage of benefiting the entire world, while a strategy that relies only on local coastal protection is more of an every-nation-for-itself approach that may leave many poor countries behind,” they write.

“Perhaps, after careful consideration, we may conclude that glacial geoengineering is unworkable and the right answer is to invest heavily in coastal protection and retreat inland where that is not practical or economical.

“However, we owe it to the 400 million people who live within 5m of sea level to at least consider the alternatives.”

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Trump Is Lying About Hurricane Michael

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan.

Draw a straight, 2,400-mile line from the tar sands oil extraction fields in northern Alberta, Canada, to the Florida Panhandle, just ravaged by Hurricane Michael, and the halfway point will fall in Clearwater County, Minnesota, the source of the Mississippi River. Although many miles apart, these places are inexorably linked – by climate change. Fossil fuel extraction from the Alberta tar sands drives global warming, which in turn increases the destructive power and frequency of storms like Hurricane Michael. And rural Clearwater County served as the site of another phenomenon linked to human-induced climate change: resistance. Three courageous citizens engaged in nonviolent direct action broke into a fenced enclosure owned by Enbridge, one of the world’s largest oil pipeline operators, and turned the valves, shutting down the flow of tar sands oil.

On Oct. 11, 2016, less than a month before the momentous U.S. election that delivered the presidency to climate change denier Donald Trump, these three activists approached a valve station in Leonard, Minnesota. Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein, wearing hard hats and bright fluorescent vests, used chain cutters to open the gate and to unlock the hand-operated valves. The third person called Enbridge to let the company know that the pipelines were about to be shut down so they could take immediate action to avoid pressure buildup in the pipeline.

“For the sake of climate justice, to ensure a future for human civilization, we must immediately halt the extraction and burning of Canadian tar sands,” Benjamin Joldersma said into the phone. “For safety, I am calling to inform you that when I hang up this phone, we are closing the valves. Please shut down these two pipelines now, for safety and for our future.”

There were three other similar actions that day, in Montana, North Dakota and Washington state, all organized, along with the Minnesota protest, by the group Climate Direct Action. The goal of the four coordinated actions was to shut down all tar sands oil delivery from Canada into the United States, and it succeeded, according to the organizers. Tar sands oil is the world’s dirtiest petroleum; it is energy- and water-intensive to extract, and the sprawling, open-pit mining operations form a gray-black, toxic wasteland in the midst of Alberta’s vast boreal forests.

This multistate nonviolent civil disobedience had another motive, as well: to attempt to present a “defense of necessity” — that is, the defendants would acknowledge that they broke a law, but they did so out of necessity to prevent a far greater harm from occurring. “Valve turner” Annette Klapstein is a retired attorney for the Puyallup Tribe and member of the Raging Grannies. Speaking on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, she explained the theory behind the necessity defense:

“The example that’s usually used is there’s a burning building and there’s a child in it. You break in and save the child but are charged with burglary, and you come out and say, ‘Well, yes, technically I did commit burglary because I had to break in. But I did it to save a child’s life.’ And we have a planet that’s on fire. And all of our children are going to burn if we don’t do something about it.”

Their trial commenced two years later, almost to the day, at the Clearwater County Courthouse in Bagley, Minnesota. In a major surprise, the judge accepted a defense motion to acquit the defendants. They were declared not guilty before the trial even got going.

Emily Johnston, co-founder of 350Seattle.org, was glad to avoid prison, but disappointed that they couldn’t put climate change on trial. Among the experts who were slated to testify on behalf of the defendants was climate scientist James Hansen, former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Hansen testified before Congress about the threat of global warming in 1988. He supports civil disobedience to confront the fossil fuel industry, and has been arrested five times himself. “We see already the beginnings of more extreme events, stronger storms, greater droughts, increasing fires. But these are just a small beginning of what’s in store for our children and grandchildren,” he said on “Democracy Now!,” seated next to Johnston and Klapstein.

The day before they were acquitted, just before Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle, the United Nations released a ground-breaking report from the Nobel Peace Prize-winning IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The nearly 100 scientists who wrote it, concluded in no uncertain terms that we have about twelve years to radically reduce our carbon emissions, or we’ll be locked into a trajectory that will be devastating to humanity and all life on Earth.

President Trump says the government is doing all it can for the victims of Hurricane Michael. Once again, he is lying. By denying climate change, he is assuring many more increasingly devastating storms and countless victims to come.

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An ExxonMobil-Backed Carbon Tax Will Not Save the Planet

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jessica Corbett / Common Dreams.

Amid warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that there’s a closing window to act to prevent a climate catastrophe—and critiques that its report released Monday was far too conservative—critics are calling out ExxonMobil for pledging a $1 million contribution to a campaign for a carbon tax as a sneaky attempt to control the debate on climate action and dodge greater financial liability.

“This is a scam: Exxon wants a super low price on carbon so they can boost their natural gas business and avoid other regulations,” 350.org co-founder Jamie Henn responded in a series of tweets.

“Read the fine print,” Henn continued. “As part of the deal for supporting a price on carbon, Exxon wants to be freed from all climate liability. They know that just like Big Tobacco they could be on the hook for billions in damages for lying about climate change.”

Progressives and climate campaigners have argued both for and against market-based solutions such as a carbon tax, but have tended to agree that fossil fuel giants back such proposals not because they support climate action, but because they want to undermine efforts such as lawsuits that have sought to hold Exxon and other oil and gas producers accountable for their decades of denialism and contributions to the global climate crisis.

“Market-based carbon pricing schemes are a false solution to climate change, and a dangerous distraction from the urgent transition to a truly clean, renewable energy future we must undertake now,” Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement on Tuesday.

“It comes as no surprise that ExxonMobil and other oil companies are calling for anything and everything short of moving off fossil fuels entirely—most notably, the unwieldy and unproven concept of carbon taxes,” Hauter added. “The IPCC report acknowledges that carbon taxes would have to be incredibly high to make even a dent in the crisis.”

Responding to Exxon’s latest move, Kate Aronoff, who has written extensively about the climate crisis, said, “It’s not a lot of money, but they’re not very subtly trying to stake a claim to whatever climate policy debate happens.” She also noted that the tax proposed by the Exxon campaign group, Americans For Carbon Dividends, “is way too low.”

Referencing a new analysis from Alex Kaufman at the Huffington Post on the potential impact of a carbon tax, Henn pointed out: “DC-types love carbon pricing but usually fail to mention that there’s no political way you could get the price high enough to actually solve the climate problem. It’s only one piece of the puzzle.”

Writing within the context of the IPCC report released Monday, Kaufman outlined how its warnings—however conservative, when compared to other recent climate studies—challenged but “doesn’t seem to have shaken many Republican climate hawks’ faith that market tweaks alone can deliver the unprecedented emissions cuts needed to avert disaster.”

While Josiah Neeley, a senior fellow at the right-wing climate policy think tank R Street Institute, insisted to Kaufman that “a market-based, revenue-neutral carbon tax is perfectly capable of achieving rapid decarbonization as is called for in the new IPCC report,” the actual authors of the report don’t agree. As Kaufman noted:

Asked during an IPCC press conference on Sunday night if carbon pricing could radically overhaul the global economy in the next decade, two IPCC authors started to laugh. James Skea, a co-chair of an IPCC working group, said it was “one among that portfolio of instruments that can be used” but could not serve as a panacea.

“There are some areas where carbon pricing may not be the most appropriate approach,” he said from Incheon, South Korea.

Referencing Kaufman’s article and the IPCC report on Twitter Monday, Bill McKibben, another co-founder of 350.org, also concluded: “One takeaway from today’s climate report is that we’ve waited long enough that almost no-one thinks a carbon price alone can get us where we need to go. It’s one part of a ‘portfolio of solutions.'”

Hauter, meanwhile, urged Congress to pass the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act (OFF Act)—unveiled by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) last year—which she called “the most ambitious climate legislation ever introduced.”

“The alarming findings of the latest IPCC report,” Hauter charged, “validate an aggressive approach to deepening climate chaos that scientists, advocates, and elected officials across the country are steadily endorsing: a rapid transition off fossil fuels that would make our society almost entirely reliant on clean, renewable energy in the next ten years.

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Trump Fiddles as the World Burns … and Drowns, Dries and Dies

Read more of this story here from DCReport.org by David Crook.

White House Ignores a Dire Warning on Climate Change

We’re becoming inured to name-calling and bullying threats as a substitute for governing. We’ve seen that on immigration, tariffs, foreign affairs and other topics. Sloganeering for isolationist and protectionist approaches dominate, while on purely domestic problems, the White House/Republican-majority Congress response centers on handing the problem off to the states or to the private corporate marketplace.

So, now I’m interested to see what happens when planet-wide apocalypse looms a little closer? What happens when, say, some governing needs doing rather than just words?

Up until now, shouting America First slogans has allowed Trump to duck much of the reality of climate change. Indeed, his government basically has banned the mention of the problem, dismissing environmental scientists and others from preparing for its effects.

Shouting America First slogans has allowed Trump to duck much of the reality of climate change.

Worry about climate change might acknowledge that the United States is in the world, and must work with other nations. It might mean some temporary lowering of corporate profits. It would be “unfair” to America to lead in this area, the president has said, explaining our withdrawal from international efforts to do what we can to lower hurtful emissions.

Now comes the new report from a United Nations panel that warns that the world might be on a path toward catastrophic climate change if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t cut dramatically by 2030. The report, released late Sunday by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says the world needs to decrease emissions by 45 by 2030 from 2010 levels to forestall a 1.5-degree Centigrade (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the atmosphere.

Basically, at that level of warming — as measured as the Earth’s average temperature compared with pre-industrial levels — up to 90% of tropical coral reefs could die, Arctic warming could cause multiple feet of sea level rise and yields of key crops would drop.

Obviously, environmental groups said, the report should jolt policymakers in the United States and around the world into action. And just as obviously, the World Coal Association denied that there is a problem.

On its own, the U.S. government is systematically rolling back regulations on even the easy stuff, like recovery of methane gas from leaks in oil and gas drilling and moving heaven and earth in an effort to revive coal mining and coal fuels. It has eliminated bars for electric utility companies, which already are moving relatively swiftly to natural gas, from using industrial coal as fuel for an ever-increasing electric fix driving this country.

Trump has produced much of his own heated rhetoric on denying the basic science involved and has pooh-poohed the effects of a 2% rise in heat.

Yet, we’re seeing more violent storms and more severe hurricanes – which the administration denies are related to climate change (and which are costing us billions in taxpayer rebuilding funds), we’re seeing more sea-level flooding in Miami and other low coastal areas; we’re seeing worldwide increases in population and the scattered scramble for clean water as famine and drought rise around the globe.

The president insists that he is a strong leader whose messages are kept simple and will change the world. Most of them, for good or bad, come down to promoting and encouraging private entrepreneurs and re-building corporate profits, using tax cuts, protectionist tariffs and, for farmers, new, bigger direct subsidies. He has put his our government’s investment cards on industries in decline, like coal, rather than on renewable energy, and a yet-bigger military. In Trumpland, more corporate profits mean more jobs, more consumer confidence, more spending and higher growth. On top of this, Trump’s America wants to dump spending on health, public education, culture and poverty programs.

There is no room in that program for basic science or other research or for dealing with an international problem whose dangers now, presuming he hears about this new report, are becoming imminent.

Now that we’re through the breathlessness of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings, perhaps one of those adults in the room could put a pictorial summary of what this report says is happening on the president’s desk.

The report says that heavy taxes or prices on carbon dioxide emissions— perhaps as high as $27,000 per ton by 2100 — would be required. But such a move would be almost politically impossible in the United States, the world’s largest economy and second-largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China. Lawmakers around the world, including in China, the European Union and California, have enacted carbon pricing programs.

Written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries who analyzed more than 6,000 scientific studies, this report was done at the request of small island nations who worry about warming changes that are short of those predicted as part of the Paris agreements.

We’ll see what happens when Mar-o-Lago is under water.

Featured image: Air Force security forces airman watches as citizens walk through a flooded road during evacuation efforts as the Black Creek river begins to crest in South Carolina on Sept. 17, 2018.

The post Trump Fiddles as the World Burns … and Drowns, Dries and Dies appeared first on DCReport.org.

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Even If We Limit Global Warming, Fire and Drought Will Remain Threats

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Tim Radford / Climate News Network.

The most limited rise in global temperatures, never mind higher ones, is going to exact a price through fire and drought. Even assuming the world keeps to its Paris promise to contain average planetary temperature increases to “well below 2°C” by 2100, drought conditions in China will intensify ten or 20-fold, according to new research.

And even if this warming, driven by ever increasing emissions of greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and gas, is held to the implicit ambition of no more than 1.5°C above the average for most of human history, the area charred by wildfires each summer in Europe could increase by 40%, according to a separate study.

If the temperatures continue to rise to as much as 3°C by the century’s end, the area covered by charred foliage and smoking tree trunks could rise by 100%.

The temperature targets are important because 195 nations agreed in 2015 at a UN conference in Paris to limit greenhouse gas emissions and hold planetary average temperatures to if possible 1.5°C and certainly no more than 2°C.

3°C in prospect

In the last century or so, increasing ratios of carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere have lifted average temperatures by about 1°C already, and although almost all nations have announced plans to switch to solar and wind power for future energy sources, and to restore the forests that absorb carbon, the world still seems on course for a rise to 3°C by the end of the century.

Politicians and climate sceptics argue that action to contain global warming will be expensive. But over and over again, climate science research continues to demonstrate that inaction could be even more expensive.

China is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Scientists from China, Poland and Germany report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they used computer simulations and a range of climate change forecasts to model what could happen to rainfall and vegetation in China over the next 80 years, and then tried to calculate the effect on China’s developing economy.

Between 1949 and 2017, drought affected crops over an area of more than 2 million square kilometres – this is one sixth of the country’s arable land. And between 1984 and 2017, direct economic losses reached more than $7bn a year, at 2015 prices.

“Limiting global warming to 1.5°C can strongly reduce the increase of burned area”

If the temperature stabilises at a 1.5°C increase, losses compared to the period 1986-2005 will increase tenfold. Compared to the immediate past of 2006-2015, the study estimates that losses will still rise threefold. And should the temperature go beyond 1.5°C to 2°C, average drought loss could double again.

Studies such as these simply match what has happened in the past with what could happen in the future – always provided that things continue as they seem to be proceeding now. The studies can deliver only very broad-brush outlines of the shapes of things to come.

Higher average temperatures will mean ever more pronounced extremes of drought and rainfall, and a study earlier this year warned that, in China alone, catastrophic flooding as a consequence of climate change could cost the country $380bn over the next 20 years.

Europe, too, the same study argued, would suffer significant losses as a consequence of climate change. Another such study in 2017 estimated that climate change – and the attendant hazards of flood, drought, wildfire and heatwaves – could threaten 350 million Europeans every year.

Consistent pattern

Forest and scrub fires char on average about 4,500 square kilometres of Mediterranean Europe every year: in 2017, there were damaging blazes in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, with human casualties and extensive ecological and economic losses.

Now new research led by Spanish scientists and reported in the journal Nature Communications uses computer simulations and available data to take a look at the fires next time, as the temperatures rise.

The authors warn that even though there are large uncertainties in such projections, there is also a consistent pattern: the higher the temperatures, the more sustained the droughts, and the larger the areas that will be incinerated.

They do offer a palliative solution, though. “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C can strongly reduce the increase of burned area,” they say.

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