Month: November 2018

(BUENOS AIRES) #G20 SUMMIT: #GlobalTrust Declining as World leaders began arriving on Thursday for the summit of the globe’s largest economies, but with the members of the G20 (group of industrialized nations) being responsible for more than three-quarters of greenhouse emissions due to trade being more important than peoples health, environment and food security this should be the main issue to discuss #AceNewsDesk reports

Ace News Services

#AceNewsReport – Nov.30: Global trust’ declining, ‘our world needs stepped-up global leadership” says @antonioguterres ahead of #COP24 and the #G20Argentina https://t.co/8QAERoQILM as heads of state from Italy, Canada, South Korea, Singapore and Turkey were among the first in the country, joining the French president and Saudi crown prince who arrived the previous day………..The meeting could be a defining moment for the Group of 20, for better or for worse, said Thomas Bernes of the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a Canada-based think tank focusing on global governance #AceNewsDesk reports

“The G-20 Leader’s Summit is at risk of falling into disarray with the summit being overshadowed by items not on agenda, such as the United States and China trade war, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the presence of the Saudi crown prince,” Bernes said. “The true test will be whether the other members of the G-20 will act resolutely or…

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Adani announces coal mine construction will begin. #Auspol #Qldpol #ClimateEmergency is no time to announce a new coal mine #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #COP24 Are they crazy?

By Nicole Hasham

Nicole Hasham is environment and energy correspondent for The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times and WAtoday.

Indian mining giant Adani has mounted a critical hurdle in its highly contentious mine and rail project, announcing the company will entirely finance the works itself.

Adani Mining chief executive Lucas Dow on Thursday said construction and operation of the mine will now begin, after the project plan was revised down to a smaller rail line project and coal volumes, to reduce risks associated with its initial stage.

The mine project was once priced at $16.5 billion and would have been the largest in Australia. It suffered years of delays due to legal challenges and an inability to secure private sector finance in Australia or overseas.

In recent months Adani announced it would pursue a much smaller project, raising speculation it would seek to free up enough funds within the group of companies to self-finance.

The development is set to encourage other coal proposals slated for Central Queensland’s Galilee Basin, and will thrust debate over the future of Australia’s coal industry to the forefront of the federal election campaign.

Mr Dow on Thursday said Adani will now build a smaller open-cut mine “comparable to many other Queensland coal mines”.

Production is expected to start at up to 15 million tonnes a year and ramp up to 27 million tonnes, down from the initial proposal of 60 million tonnes a year. The capital cost is now estimated at $2 billion.

Queensland is still facing an historic climate crisis no time to be opening new coal mines!

“We have already invested $3.3 billion in Adani’s Australian businesses, which is a clear
demonstration of our capacity to deliver a financing solution for the revised scope of the mine and rail project,” he said.

He said the project was environmentally sound and “today’s announcement removes any doubt as to the project stacking up financially”.

“We will now deliver the jobs and business opportunities we have promised for north Queensland
and central Queensland, all without requiring a cent of Australian taxpayer dollars.

“In addition to providing these jobs in regional Queensland our Carmichael coal will also provide a
power source to improve living standards in developing countries.”

Record breaking temperatures in Cairns killing bats and coral.

The federal government has strongly backed the mine.

Opening new coal mines during the climate crisis is throwing fuel on the fire!

Labor has expressed doubts over whether it will proceed but has stopped short of committing to revoking approvals to prevent its operation.

The announcement will force Labor to firm up its fluctuating position on the project, rather than resting on the assumption the mine will not proceed because it cannot secure funding.

Queensland premier loves coal, completely ignores climate scientists.

As Fairfax Media has previously reported, Indian mining magnate Gautam Adani was recently valued at $US15 billion on the Indian stock market – a quadrupling in his wealth in four years –  potentially giving him the means to back the Australian project from within his group of companies.

Adani had been seeking a $1 billion taxpayer loan through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, but that was vetoed when the Queensland Labor government said it would block the move.

The mining project is yet to finalise state and federal environmental management plans, but Adani claimed these were “routine” and would soon be complete. Several legal challenges to the project are also in train.

Resources and Northern Australia Matthew Canavan welcomed the announcement and said the start of preparatory construction works was imminent.

He congratulated the company on “its focus and commitment to the project in the face of longstanding, ill-informed protest activity and an indecisive state Labor government.”

“Adani’s ability to re-scope and finance its Carmichael mine and rail project proves it is a viable, job-creating concern which stands on its own two feet financially and environmentally,” he said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said the development presented a clear choice to the major parties.

“Do they support opening up a massive new coal basin right when the world’s climate scientists desperately warn we must rapidly transition away from burning fossil fuels to halt global warming?

“Or do they stand with the millions of Australians who want this mine stopped to help secure a safe climate and stable communities?”

She said the mine still faced a number of regulatory and other hurdles, and was under investigation by the Queensland government for breaches relating to illegal bore holes.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable said the announcement was “a welcome boost for regional communities, jobs and the Australian mining industry”.

Press link for more: SMH

Adani locks in long-awaited funding for Carmichael mine. #auspol #qldpol Ignores #ClimateEmergency in Queensland #StopAdani #COP24 #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #Heatwave #Bushfire #TheDrum

By Luke Mortimer

Adani Mining chief executive Lucas Dow made the announcement in Mackay this afternoon. 

CONSTRUCTION is due to start imminently on the controversial Carmichael coal mine and rail project, which will be “100 per cent financed through the Adani Group’s resources”.

Adani Mining chief executive officer Lucas Dow announced the long-awaited funding milestone in Mackay this afternoon at a Bowen Basin Mining Club luncheon.

Adani completely ignores Queensland’s climate emergency.

The announcement to community leaders, mining industry contractors and suppliers follows recent changes to simplify construction and reduce the initial capital requirements for the Carmichael Project, Adani said in a statement. 

Mr Dow said construction of the mine in the Bowen Basin “will now begin”.

“Our work in recent months has culminated in Adani Group’s approval of the revised project plan that de-risks the initial stage of the Carmichael mine and rail project by adopting a narrow gauge rail solution combined with a reduced ramp-up volume for the mine,” he said.

“This means we’ve minimised our execution risk and initial capital outlay. The sharpening of the mine plan has kept operating costs to a minimum and ensures the project remains within the first quartile of the global cost curve.

Adani ignores the cost to the global economy of climate change.

Adani said the coal produced in the “initial ramp up phase will be “consumed by the Adani Group’s captive requirements”.

“We will now begin developing a smaller open cut mine comparable to many other Queensland coal mines and will ramp up production over time to 27.5mtpa,” Mr Dow said. 

“The construction for the shorter narrow gauge rail line will also begin to match the production schedule. 

Announcement of a new coal mine during a catastrophic fire emergency.

“We have already invested $3.3 billion in Adani’s Australian businesses, which is a clear demonstration of our capacity to deliver a financing solution for the revised scope of the mine and rail project.”

Mr Dow described the project as stacking up “both environmentally and financially”.

“Today’s announcement removes any doubt as to the project stacking up financially,” he added.

“We will now deliver the jobs and business opportunities we have promised for North Queensland and Central Queensland, all without requiring a cent of Australian taxpayer dollars. 

Queenslanders suffer heat wave that will kill the Great Barrier Reef it’s no time to open new coal mines.

“In addition to providing these jobs in regional Queensland, our Carmichael coal will also provide a power source to improve living standards in developing countries.” 

Adani asserts the Carmichael project will deliver more than 1500 direct jobs on the mine and rail projects during the initial ramp-up and construction phase”, and “thousands more indirect jobs”.

What about the jobs we will loose in tourism?

The company said preparatory works at the site were “imminent” and it was working with regulators to finalise “the remaining required management plans ahead of coal production”.

Adani added some of the management plans have been subject to two years of state and federal government review.

This process is expected to be complete and provided by the Governments in the next few weeks, it was stated.

Today’s announcement follows eight years of planning, securing approvals and successfully contesting legal challenges.

“We have worked tirelessly to clear the required hurdles,” Mr Dow said. 

“Given we meet the same environmental standards and operate under the same regulations as other miners, we expect that Adani Mining will be treated no differently than any other Queensland mining company.” 

Mr Dow described the people of north and central Queensland as being steadfast in their support of the project from the beginning.

“We want to thank them for sticking with us,” Mr Dow said. 

“Thanks to the people of Rockhampton, Townsville, Mackay, Bowen, the Isaac and Central Highlands regions. We look forward to delivering on our promise of creating jobs and helping local businesses and the communities thrive for many years to come.” 

“We’re ready to start mining and deliver on our promises to Queensland.” 

Adani said the milestone will “help create new opportunities for trade and investment between Australia and India”.

Press link for more: Daily Mercury

It’s not the economy, stupid. Why focusing on money misses the big climate picture. #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #StopAdani Demand #ClimateAction #TheDrum

By Eric Holthaus

Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times

If you’ve heard anything about last week’s huge White House climate report, it might be that climate change could dent the economy up to 10 percent by 2100 — more than twice the impact of the Great Recession.

However, that number is a strange one to highlight.

Yes, climate change hurts the economy — the hurricanes of the past two years alone have caused nearly half a trillion dollars of damages — but projecting that forward 80 years into the future is awash with unnecessary uncertainty.

It’s a number gleaned from a graph buried deep in the assessment. The real takeaway is that climate change is already hurting people, today.

And as the years roll by, those impacts will get exponentially worse.

In an era where the U.N.’s climate body says we only have 12 years left to complete the process of transitioning to a society that’s rapidly cutting carbon emissions, all the attention on far-off economic risks drastically understates the urgency of the climate fight.

Money just isn’t the appropriate frame when we’re talking about the planet.

Climate change is a special problem that traditional economic analyses aren’t built to handle.

The idea of eternal economic growth is fundamentally flawed on a finite planet, and there is substantial evidence that these economic costs will be borne disproportionately by lower-income countries.

There’s no dollar figure that anyone can attach to a civilization’s collapse.

In addition to the widely covered economic risks, there were scads of human-centered impacts listed in Friday’s report: Unchecked climate change will displace hundreds of millions of people in the next 30 years, swamping coastal cities, drying up farmland around the world, burning cities to the ground, and kickstarting a public health crisis inflicting everything from infectious disease outbreaks to suffocating air pollution to worsening mental health.

This process is already in motion.

Those of us who talk about climate change for a living should be focusing our dialogue on the immediate danger of climate change in human terms, not making it even more abstract and distant than it already seemingly is.

If an asteroid was going to hit the Earth in 2030, we wouldn’t be justifying the cost of the space mission to blast it out of the sky.

We’d be repurposing factories, inventing entire new industries, and steering the global economy toward solving the problem as quickly and as effectively as we can — no matter the cost.

Climate change is that looming asteroid, except what we’re doing right now is basically ignoring it, and in the process actually making the problem much, much worse and much harder to solve.

Understandably, Americans’ views on climate change are sharply polarized and have become even more so during the Trump era.

In that polarized environment, dry economic analysis doesn’t seem like enough to matter. It’s the human stories that give people visceral moral clarity and firmly establish contentious issues as important enough for a shift in society.

There’s proof of this: In the aftermath of every recent climate disaster Google searches for climate change spike, heartbreaking images of survivors lead national news coverage, and my own Twitter account is flooded with messages from readers asking what they can do to help.

Searching for human remains after recent fires in California

If we are going to take heroic action on climate change in the next decade, it will be because of an overwhelming outrage that our fellow citizens are literally being burned alive by record-breaking fires — not a potential decline in GDP in 2100.

In order for people to feel the true urgency of climate change, we’re going to have to talk a lot more about the people it’s already hurting.

Press link for more: Grist

Great Barrier Reef: record heatwave may cause another coral bleaching event #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion we urgently need a #GreenNewDeal #StopAdani

42.6C temperature in Cairns broke a November record that has stood since 1900 by 5.4C

By Ben Smee

A record-breaking heatwave in north Queensland will further increase above-average marine temperatures, heightening the risk of another coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef next year, scientists say.

Dozens of record November temperatures have been recorded in the region, most along the reef coastline, this week.

The most remarkable was at Cairns, where consecutive days reached temperatures of 42.6C and 40.9C. The maximum temperature on Tuesday broke a November record that has stood since 1900 by 5.4C.

Extreme weather fuelled more than 130 bushfires, which the premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Twitter was “not the kind of fire we have seen in Queensland before”.

“Heatwave records and fire weather is unprecedented,” Palaszczuk said.

A dust storm, brought by strong westerly winds, covered the southern inland parts of the state. In the north, thousands of native flying foxes died due to the high temperatures.

Reef scientist Terry Hughes, from the coral centre of excellence at James Cook University, said the summer heatwave was “terrifying” and lifted the chances of coral death on the Great Barrier Reef early next year.

The reef sustained successive marine heatwaves, in the early part of 2016 and 2017, which killed corals and badly damaged the northern and central sections.

Hughes said the bleaching forecasts were “trending upwards” but scientists would not have a clear picture until the end of January.

Coral ecophysiologist Dr Neal Cantin, from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said ocean temperatures remained below those recorded at the same time in 2015 and 2016, but warmer than historical averages.

Cantin said the current heatwave would “add heat and warm up the ocean. It certainly adds heat to the system. We’ve seen record breaking land temperatures this week, which we expect to see into the future with climate change and everything heating up.

“We’re in a watch phase. There’s definitely the potential and how the local weather patterns pan out in January and February will really determine whether we get a large scale bleaching event or not.

“There are some signs we may avoid [bleaching] this summer. At this stage it’s less likely to be as bad as 2016, but we’ll be ready to respond [if bleaching occurs].”

Reality of climate change sinking in

“The hazard I worry most about is heatwaves,” Andrew Gissing, a disaster management expert from the firm Risk Frontiers, said.

“Australia needs to be better prepared for heatwaves, with climate change we are already predicting they will get more severe.”

Gissing told Guardian Australia people often respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters based on their previous experiences. But he said governments, businesses and individuals were often not prepared for the increasing severity and frequency of such events.

“We did a lot of work in Lismore after Cyclone Debbie. So many people sheltered in their homes because that’s what they always did when it flooded. They just didn’t realise this flood was that much bigger

“People really need to be attuned to what’s actually happening … how the nature of climactic hazards is changing.”

Gissing said businesses needed to start investing in climate change mitigation and adaption measures.

“It’s going to be very hard to mitigate a lot of the [predicted climate] impacts, so adaptation for the future is going to be really important. Especially when you overlay climate change on a growing population base.

“The [number of people living on the Queensland coast] is likely to double by about 2030.

Because of climate change, we’re looking at there being more exposure [to disaster risks] there as well.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

10% of GDP?

We urgently need a world wide #GreenNewDeal #COP24

...and Then There's Physics

The latest National Climate Assessment has just been released (National here means the USA, if you want the UK Climate Projections you can get them here). It’s already proved somewhat controversial, mainly because of a headline figure that following a high-emission pathway could reduce GDP by 10%.

NCA 2018 The reason it’s controversial – as shown by the figure on the right – is that the 10% reduction in GDP is associated with a very high level of global warming (15F ~ 8C). This result comes from this paper. As I understand it they used a broad range of climate models to generate a large number of spatiotemporal realisations of temperature and precipitation. The probability of each realisation was then based on the distribution of 21st-century global surface temperature changes being consistent with what is expected. Therefore, their distribution of results for each RCP is consistent with expectations…

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Noam Chomsky: Moral Depravity Defines US Politics #auspol #qldpol #NuclearWar #Environment #ClimateChange #ExtinctionRevolution #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #Democracy #Media #TheDrum

The US midterm elections of November 6, 2018, produced a divided Congress and essentially reaffirmed the existence of two nations in one country. But they also revealed, once again, the deep state of moral and political depravity that prevails in the country’s political culture — at least insofar as political campaigns go. In the interview below, world-renowned scholar and public intellectual Noam Chomsky discusses how the major issues confronting the United States and the world at large were barely addressed by the majority of candidates of both parties.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, with people still arguing about winners and losers from the 2018 midterm elections (and there is clearly a lot to say about what those elections mean), what do you consider to be the most striking features of the latest manifestation of American democracy in action?

Noam Chomsky: The most striking features are brutally clear.

Humanity faces two imminent existential threats: environmental catastrophe and nuclear

These were virtually ignored in the campaign rhetoric and general coverage. There was plenty of criticism of the Trump administration, but scarcely a word about by far the most ominous positions the administration has taken: increasing the already dire threat of nuclear war, and racing to destroy the physical environment that organized human society needs in order to survive.

These are the most critical and urgent questions that have arisen in all of human history.

The fact that they scarcely arose in the campaign is truly stunning — and carries some important, if unpleasant, lessons about our moral and intellectual culture.

To be sure, not everyone was ignoring these matters.

They were front and center for those who are constantly vigilant in their bitter class war to preserve their immense power and privilege.

Several states had important ballot initiatives addressing the impending environmental catastrophe.

The fossil fuel industry spent huge, sometimes record-breaking, sums to defeat the initiatives — including a carbon tax in the mostly Democratic state of Washington — and mostly succeeded.

We should recognize that these are extraordinary crimes against humanity.

They proceed with little notice.

The Democrats helped defeat these critically important initiatives by ignoring them.

They scarcely mentioned them “in digital or TV ads, in their campaign literature or on social media,” a New York Times surveyfound.

Nor, of course, were they mentioned by the Republicans, whose leadership is dedicated to driving humanity off the cliff as soon as possible — in full knowledge of what they are doing, as easily demonstrated.

The Times article goes on to explain that “Environmental activists and political scientists say it is a reflection of the issue’s perpetual low ranking among voters, even Democratic voters, and of the intense polarization along party lines that has developed around global warming.”

The article failed to add that this assessment is an incredible indictment of the country and its political, social, economic and media institutions, all of which, so the assessment claims, have sunk to such a level of depravity that the question of whether organized human society can survive in any minimally tolerable form, in the near future, is of little consequence.

Whether that unspoken indictment is correct, we cannot be sure.

It is perhaps of some significance that one Democratic candidate, Sean Casten, flipped a Republican district while making impending climate disaster the centerpiece of his campaign.

There is plenty of competition for moral depravity in the current remarkable moment of human history. Perhaps the prize goes to a bureaucracy, maybe in honor of Kafka: Trump’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Right in the midst of the campaign, it produced a detailed study calling for an end to regulations on emissions, with a rational argument: extrapolating current trends, it turns out that by the end of the century the game will be over.

Automotive emissions don’t contribute very much to the catastrophe, so there isn’t any point trying to limit them.

In brief, let’s rob while the planet burns, putting poor Nero in the shadows.

This surely qualifies as a contender for the most evil document in history. Again, not an issue in the campaign.

There have been many monsters in the past … but it would be hard to find one who was dedicated to undermining the prospects for survival of organized human society, not in the distant future — in order to put a few more dollars in overstuffed pockets.

It’s hard to find words to describe what is happening before our eyes.

The same is true of the second truly existential threat: nuclear war.

A few weeks before the election, Trump announced that the US is withdrawing from the INF treaty, which eliminated short-range missiles deployed in Western Europe and Russia — extremely hazardous weapons, which have only a few minutes flight-time to Moscow, posing a decapitation threat, a sudden attack that would destroy any possibility of response. That, of course, sharply increases the danger of a nuclear response to warnings given by automated systems that have often failed in the past, thus ending all of us.

Anyone familiar with the record knows that it’s a virtual miracle that we have so far avoided terminal nuclear war.

The threat, which was already grave, was heightened by the Trump nuclear posture review that authorized new destabilizing weapons and lowered the threshold for nuclear attack.

This latest move increases the threat further.

Scarcely a mention on the campaign trail or in coverage.

The US is withdrawing from the treaty on the grounds that China is not a partner and that the Russians have violated it — they in turn claim that the US has violated it.

It’s plain how to address these problems: through inspections and diplomacy, neither of which has been attempted.

Rather, let’s just blithely increase the threat of total destruction. And let’s ignore all of this in the vast outpourings during the political campaign.

Again, we have to ask some serious questions about the prevailing moral and intellectual culture — and about the urgency of providing remedies, very soon.

Let’s put aside what are merely the most significant questions in human history, and turn to what is within the realm of discussion.

A striking fact about the election is that it once again demonstrated the failure of the Democratic Party as a whole to deal with issues that matter to working people.

While working-class people of color largely supported the Democratic Party, even more than before, the party lost the non–college educated white population. What’s more, it seems to be of little concern, at least to Democratic Party leaders, the “Wall Street Democrats” as they are sometimes called.

They were exultant about their successes in the affluent suburbs, where normally Republican voters were disgusted by Trump’s vulgarity.

Whether they come naturally or are feigned, Trump’s antics help keep his white working-class constituency in line while his party stabs them in the back at every turn, meanwhile serving its real constituency, great wealth and corporate power, with impressive dedication.

The betrayal of working-class America could hardly be clearer, though fortunately, some are breaking free of the treachery.

One positive feature of the midterms was the success of a diverse group of young progressive candidates, mostly women — a tribute to the popular activism of recent years, and a hopeful sign for the future, if it can expand and flourish.

On the surface, it seems that Trump’s success with much of the voting constituency can be attributed to racist and xenophobic appeals, particularly concerning the imminent threat of “invasion” by hordes of terrorists and criminals approaching our borders that he focused his tantrums on up to the election – then dropping the topic when it was no longer needed to rally the faithful.

Few seem to have recalled that Trump was pulling a leaf from Reagan’s playbook. In 1985, our intrepid leader strapped on his cowboy boots and declared a national emergency because Nicaraguan troops were a two days’ drive from Harlingen, Texas — and people didn’t collapse in laughter. Trump made a similar move in warning that if people fleeing from misery and oppression (misery and oppression for which we are largely responsible) reach our borders they’ll try to kill us all. Heavily armed militias travelled to the border to back up the thousands of troops deployed to defend us, and it seems to have worked. Surveys report that people did vote for Trump because only he could save us from destruction by these criminal hordes. That also carries some lessons.

But when we ask why Trump’s strategy works, we find something deeper, which extends pretty much worldwide, with particularities from place to place. In conditions of economic distress, a sense of hopelessness, justified contempt for institutions, and understandable anger and resentment about what is being done to them, people can become easy prey to demagogues who direct their anger toward scapegoats, typically those even more vulnerable, and who foster the symptoms that tend to rise to the surface under such circumstances. That’s been happening, worldwide. We see it in election after election in many countries, and in other ways.

In the US, working-class people have suffered 40 years of stagnation while wealth concentrates in very few hands, leading to staggering inequality.

The Democrats have ignored all this, and worse, have carried forward the neoliberal policies that took off with Reagan and Thatcher and have imposed these consequences, by design. And for the designers, the neoliberal programs have been brilliantly successful, in ways that we need not review here.

Despite low unemployment, wage growth, after a rise in 2014-15, is now barely keeping up with inflation while corporate profits are skyrocketing, particularly for the predatory financial institutions, which emerged from the crisis for which they were responsible even richer and more powerful than before. A side effect is that the country’s wealth is being shifted from R&D, innovation and product development, to financial transactions in the interests of the very rich. Fine for them, but disastrous for the health and future of the society.

The concentration of wealth and enhancement of corporate power translate automatically to decline of democracy. Research in academic political science has revealed that a large majority of voters are literally disenfranchised, in that their own representatives pay no attention to their wishes but listen to the voices of the donor class. It is furthermore well established that elections are pretty much bought: electability, hence policy, is predictable with remarkable precision from the single variable of campaign spending, both for the executive and Congress. Thomas Ferguson’s work is particularly revealing, going far back and including the 2016 election. And that is a bare beginning. Legislation is commonly shaped, even written, by corporate lobbyists, while representatives who sign it have their eyes on funding for the next election.

The midterms highlighted other ominous developments. The Republicans increased their Senate majority — with barely 40 percent of the votes cast. Right now, 60 senators are elected by states with 25 percent of the population, which means some 15 percent of the vote (mostly rural, white, religious, skeptical of science, heavily armed). And the tendency is increasing. It’s hard to see how some form of civil conflict can be avoided unless the Democrats reverse course sharply and become a political party that doesn’t simply abandon the working class to its bitter class enemy, as they have done for 40 years.

How do we explain the fact that while US politics seems nastier, more polarized and more divided than any other time in recent history, both parties stay away from addressing the most critical issues facing the country and the world at large?

In 1895, the highly successful campaign manager Mark Hanna famously said: “There are two things that are important in politics. The first ismoney, and I can’t remember what the second one is.”

Those who control the wealth of the country have their own priorities, primarily self-enrichment and enhancement of decision-making power. And these are the priorities that prevail in a neoliberal democracy with the annoying public dismissed to the back rooms where they belong.

The CEOs of major banks surely understand the extraordinary threat of environmental catastrophe but are increasing investment in fossil fuels because that’s where the money is. Like the energy corporations, they are hardly eager to support candidates warning of the serious crimes they are committing. Lockheed-Martin and its cohorts are quite happy to see vast increases in the military budget and are surely delighted with such declarations as the Trump administration’s new National Defense Strategy, just released by the US Institute of Peace (lacking a sense of irony, the bureaucracy is quite happy to caricature Orwell).

This somber document warns that our dangerously depleted military, which almost overwhelms the rest of the world combined, might not be able to prevail in a two-front war against Russia and China. Of course, neither military industry nor the distinguished authors of the report believe that such a war could even be fought without terminal destruction, but it’s a great way to siphon taxpayer dollars away from absurdities like health and education and into the deserving pockets of the captains of industry and finance.

Not many political figures will dare to dismiss such awesome threats to our security.

As for the nastiness, it’s largely a result of the drift to the right of both parties during the neoliberal years, the Democrats becoming what used to be called “moderate Republicans” (or often worse) and the Republicans drifting off the spectrum, with devotion to wealth and corporate power so extreme that they cannot possibly win elections on their actual policies. They have therefore been compelled to mobilize voting constituencies on “cultural issues,” diverting attention away from actual policies. To keep them in line, it’s natural for the leadership to demonize the political opposition as not merely wrong but intent on demolishing their most deeply held values — and for the latter to resort to contempt for the “deplorables.” Soon antagonisms degenerate to warfare.

There are many illustrations of how the Republican leadership has sought to organize a voting constituency, some of which we’ve discussed before. One revealing case is abortion rights. In the ‘60s, the Republican Party was strongly pro-choice, including the leadership (Reagan, Ford, George H.W. Bush and others). Same with voters. In 1972, two-thirds of Republicans believed abortion to be a private matter, with no government involvement.

Nixon and his cohorts realized that they could attract the Catholic vote, traditionally Democratic, by adopting an anti-abortion plank. Later in the ‘70s, evangelicals began to organize for political action. Among their demands was maintaining segregated schools. Republican operative Paul Weyrich recognized an opportunity. An open call for segregated schools wouldn’t work, but if the Republican Party pretended to oppose abortion, it could pick up the huge evangelical vote, now a core part of Trump’s voting base. The leadership accordingly shifted to passionate “pro-life” advocates, including those who it is sometimes believed had some character and honesty, like Bush I, who shifted along with the rest.

Meanwhile the actual constituency of the Republican Party remains great wealth and corporate power, even more dramatically so under Trump. It is quite an achievement to serve this actual constituency with dedication while maintaining a hold on the voting base.

As their voting base shrinks, Republican leaders understand that the GOP is becoming a minority party, which is why they are so dedicated to finding modes of voter suppression and packing the courts with reactionaries who will support their efforts.

It should also be noted that popular opinion differs from the party leadership on many central issues. But as already mentioned, since the majority of the population is disenfranchised, it doesn’t matter much. To take just one example, for 40 years of polling the population has strongly favored higher taxes on the rich — as taxes on the rich decline.

Bernie Sanders was re-elected to the Senate while his protégé Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a smashing victory over her Republican opponent for New York’s 14th District and became, in fact, the youngest woman elected to Congress. In fact, there are now probably as many Democratic Socialists in the House as there are conservative Democrats, so the question is whether progressives should go on to form a third party or try to change the Democratic Party from within.

What’s your take on this matter?

In the 18th century, with all of its extreme flaws, the US constitutional system was a major step forward in democratic participation as compared with Europe.

Even the concept “we the people,” though grossly misleading, was a conceptual breakthrough. Over the years, however, by comparative standards the system increasingly ranks as quite regressive. It is doubtful, for example, that Europe would admit a country with the US system as a new member.

In particular, the system is radically rigged against any challenge to the governing duopoly.

To develop a basis for a third party would require a serious and sustained effort in popular mobilization — not impossible, but not now on the horizon.

There do seem to be possibilities to shift the character of the Democratic Party, at least back to its modern New Deal origins, and beyond (it already is considerably beyond in some respects as a result of the civilizing effect of the activism of the ‘60s and its aftermath).

There are possibilities for development of independent parties, beginning at the local level, adopting fusion policies for more general elections, perhaps gaining enough traction to take part more actively in the political system.

But we should never forget that electoral politics, while not to be dismissed, should not be the prime focus of serious radical political action, which aims to change the basic institutions that undergird the political system, to dismantle hegemonic ideologies, and to help develop the kind of mass consciousness that must be the basis for badly — even desperately — needed social and political change.

C.J. Polychroniou is a political economist/political scientist who has taught and worked in universities and research centers in Europe and the United States. His main research interests are in European economic integration, globalization, the political economy of the United States and the deconstruction of neoliberalism’s politico-economic project. He is a regular contributor to Truthout as well as a member of Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project. He has published several books and his articles have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, newspapers and popular news websites. Many of his publications have been translated into several foreign languages, including Croatian, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish. He is the author of Optimism Over Despair: Noam Chomsky On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change, an anthology of interviews with Chomsky originally published at Truthout and collected by Haymarket Books.

Press link for more: Global Policy

(AUSTRALIA) Once-in-100-year’ storm triggers Sydney chaos as heat fans fires Torrential rain and gale force winds lashed biggest city of Sydney on Wednesday causing commuter chaos, flooding streets, railway stations and homes, grounding flights and leaving hundreds of people without electricity AND Queensland, soaring temperatures near 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and strong winds exacerbated major bushfires #AceNewsDesk reports

Catastrophic climate change

Ace News Services

#AceNewsReport – Nov.28: Police called on motorists to stay off the roads. One person was killed in a car crash and two police seriously injured when a tree fell on them as they helped a stranded driver: Greg Transell, an office manager in Sydney’s north, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that strong winds caused widespread disruption to the tower block office where he works #AceNewsDesk reports

“I started to go upstairs to see if there was any damage and next minute there was an almighty bang and it ripped panels off the roof in the warehouse,” said Transell: Queensland State Emergency Service (SES) personnel launch boats to evacuate residents as a large bushfire approaches the area known as Baffle Creek, located north of the town of Bundaberg in Queensland, Australia, November 28, 2018. AAP/Paul Beutel via REUTERS 

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) Sydney got more than 100 mm…

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Game-Changing Promise of a #GreenNewDeal #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum #StopAdani

By Naomi Klein

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to activists with the Sunrise Movement protesting in the offices of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Washington D.C., on Nov. 13, 2018.

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times via Redux

Like so many others, I’ve been energized by the bold moral leadership coming from newly elected members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley in the face of the spiraling climate crisis and the outrageous attacks on unarmed migrants at the border. It has me thinking about the crucial difference between leadership that acts and leadership that talks about acting.

I’ll get to the Green New Deal and why we need to hold tight to that lifeline for all we’re worth. But before that, bear with me for a visit to the grandstanding of climate politics past.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

It was March 2009 and capes were still fluttering in the White House after Barack Obama’s historic hope-and-change electoral victory. Todd Stern, the newly appointed chief climate envoy, told a gathering on Capitol Hill that he and his fellow negotiators needed to embrace their inner superheroes, saving the planet from existential danger in the nick of time.

Climate change, he said, called for some of “that old comic book sensibility of uniting in the face of a common danger threatening the earth. Because that’s what we have here. It’s not a meteor or a space invader, but the damage to our planet, to our community, to our children, and their children will be just as great. There is no time to lose.”

Eight months later, at the fateful United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, all pretense to superheroism from the Obama Administration had been unceremoniously abandoned. Stern stalked the hallways of the convention center like the Grim Reaper, pulling his scythe through every proposal that would have resulted in a transformative agreement. The U.S. insisted on a target that would allow temperatures to rise by 2 degrees Celsius, despite passionate objections from many African and Pacific islander delegates who said the goal amounted to a “genocide” and would lead millions to die on land or in leaky boats. It shot down all attempts to make the deal legally binding, opting for unenforceable voluntary targets instead (as it would in Paris five years later).

Stern categorically rejected the argument that wealthy developed countries owe compensation to poor ones for knowingly pumping earth-warming carbon into the atmosphere, instead using much-needed funds for climate change protection as a bludgeon to force those countries to fall in line.

As I wrote at the time, the Copenhagen deal — cooked up behind closed doors with the most vulnerable countries locked out — amounted to a “grubby pact between the world’s biggest emitters: I’ll pretend that you are doing something about climate change if you pretend that I am too. Deal? Deal.”

Almost exactly nine years later, global emissions continue to rise, alongside average temperatures, with large swathes of the planet buffeted by record-breaking storms and scorched by unprecedented fires. The scientists convened in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have confirmed precisely what African and low-lying island states have long-since warned: that allowing temperatures to rise by 2 degrees is a death sentence, and that only a 1.5-degree target gives us a fighting chance. Indeed, at least eight Pacific islands have already disappeared beneath the rising seas.

Not only have wealthy countries failed to provide meaningful aid to poorer nations to protect themselves from weather extremes and leapfrog to clean tech, but Europe, Australia, and the United States have all responded to the increase in mass migration — intensified if not directly caused by climate stresses — with brutal force, ranging from Italy’s de facto “let them drown” policy to Trump’s increasingly real war on an unarmed caravan from Central America. Let there be no mistake: this barbarism is the way the wealthy world plans to adapt to climate change.

The only thing resembling a cape at the White House these days are all those coats Melania drapes over her shoulders, mysteriously refusing to use the arm holes for their designed purpose. Her husband, meanwhile, is busily embracing his role as a climate supervillain, gleefully approving new fossil fuel projects, shredding the Paris agreement (it’s not legally binding after all, so why not?), and pronouncing that a Thanksgiving cold snap is proof positive that the planet isn’t warming after all.

In short, the metaphorical meteor that Stern evoked in 2009 is not just hurtling closer to our fragile planet — it’s grazing the (burning) treetops.

And yet here’s the truly strange thing: I feel more optimistic about our collective chances of averting climate breakdown than I have in years. For the first time, I see a clear and credible political pathway that could get us to safety, a place in which the worst climate outcomes are avoided and a new social compact is forged that is radically more humane than anything currently on offer.

We are not on that pathway yet — very far from it. But unlike even one month ago, the pathway is clear. It begins with the galloping momentum calling on the Democratic Party to use its majority in the House to create the Select Committee for a Green New Deal, a plan advanced by Ocasio-Cortez and now backed by more than 14 representatives.

The draft text calls for the committee, which would be fully funded and empowered to draft legislation, to spend the next year consulting with a range of experts — from scientists to local lawmakers to labor unions to business leaders — to map out a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” capable of making the U.S. economy “carbon neutral” while promoting “economic and environmental justice and equality.” By January 2020, the plan would be released, and two months later would come draft legislation designed to turn it into a reality.

That early 2020 deadline is important — it means that the contours of the Green New Deal would be complete by the next U.S. election cycle, and any politician wanting to be taken seriously as a progressive champion would need to adopt it as the centerpiece of their platform. If that happened, and the party running on a sweeping Green New Deal retook the White House and the Senate in November 2020, then there would actually be time left on the climate clock to meet the harsh targets laid out in the recent IPCC report, which told us that we have a mere 12 years to cut fossil fuel emissions by a head-spinning 45 percent.

Pulling that off, the report’s summary states in its first sentence, is not possible with singular policies like carbon taxes. Rather, what is needed is “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” By giving the committee a mandate that connects the dots between energy, transportation, housing and construction, as well as health care, living wages, a jobs guarantee, and the urgent imperative to battle racial and gender injustice, the Green New Deal plan would be mapping precisely that kind of far-reaching change. This is not a piecemeal approach that trains a water gun on a blazing fire, but a comprehensive and holistic plan to actually put the fire out.

If the world’s largest economy looked poised to show that kind of visionary leadership, other major emitters — like the European Union, China, and India — would almost certainly find themselves under intense pressure from their own populations to follow suit.

Now, nothing about the pathway I have just outlined is certain or even likely: The Democratic Party establishment under Nancy Pelosi will probably squash the Green New Deal proposal, much as the party stomped on hopes for more ambitious climate deals under Obama. Smart money would bet on the party doing little more than resuscitating the climate committee that helped produce cap-and-trade legislation in Obama’s first term, an ill-fated and convoluted market-based scheme that would have treated greenhouse gases as late-capitalist abstractions to be traded, bundled, and speculated upon like currency or subprime debt (which is why Ocasio-Cortez is insisting that lawmakers who take fossil fuel money should not be on the Green New Deal select committee).

And of course, even if pressure on lawmakers continues to mount and those calling for the select committee carry the day, there is no guarantee that the party will win back the Senate and White House in 2020.

And yet, despite all of these caveats, we now have a something that has been sorely missing: a concrete plan on the table, complete with a science-based timeline, that is not only coming from social movements on the outside of government, but which also has a sizable (and growing) bloc of committed champions inside the House of Representatives.

Decades from now, if we are exquisitely lucky enough to tell a thrilling story about how humanity came together in the nick of time to intercept the metaphorical meteor, the pivotal chapter will not be the highly produced cinematic moment when Barack Obama won the Democratic primary and told an adoring throng of supporters that this would be “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” No, it will be the far less scripted and markedly more scrappy moment when a group of fed-up young people from the Sunrise Movement occupied the offices of Pelosi after the midterm elections, calling on her to get behind the plan for a Green New Deal — with Ocasio-Cortez dropping by the sit-in to cheer them on.

Sunrise Movement activists outside Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington D.C. on Nov. 13, 2018.

Photo: Briahna Gray/The Intercept

I realize that it may seem unreasonably optimistic to invest so much in a House committee, but it is not the committee itself that is my main source of hope. It is the vast infrastructure of scientific, technical, political, and movement expertise poised to spring into action should we take the first few steps down this path. It is a network of extraordinary groups and individuals who have held fast to their climate focus and commitments even when no media wanted to cover the crisis and no major political party wanted to do anything more than perform concern.

It’s a network that has been waiting a very long time for there to finally be a critical mass of politicians in power who understand not only the existential urgency of the climate crisis, but also the once-in-a-century opportunity it represents, as the draft resolution states, “to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone participating in the transformation.”

The ground for this moment has been prepared for decades, with models for community-owned and community-controlled renewable energy; with justice-based transitions that make sure no worker is left behind; with a deepening analysis of the intersections between systemic racism, armed conflict, and climate disruption; with improved green tech and breakthroughs in clean public transit; with the thriving fossil fuel divestment movement; with model legislation driven by the climate justice movement that shows how carbon taxes can fight racial and gender exclusion; and much more.

What has been missing is only the top-level political power to roll out the best of these models all at once, with the focus and velocity that both science and justice demand. That is the great promise of a comprehensive Green New Deal in the largest economy on earth. And as the Sunrise Movement turns up the heat on legislators who have yet to sign onto the plan, it deserves all of our support.

Of course there is no shortage of Beltway pundits ready to dismiss all of this as hopelessly naive and unrealistic, the work of political neophytes who don’t understand the art of the possible or the finer points of policy. What those pundits are failing to account for is the fact that, unlike previous attempts to introduce climate legislation, the Green New Deal has the capacity to mobilize a truly intersectional mass movement behind it — not despite its sweeping ambition, but precisely because of it.

This is the game-changer of having representatives in Congress rooted in working-class struggles for living-wage jobs and for nontoxic air and water — women like Tlaib, who helped fight a successful battle against Koch Industries’ noxious petroleum coke mountain in Detroit.

If you are part of the economy’s winning class and funded by even bigger winners, as so many politicians are, then your attempts to craft climate legislation will likely be guided by the idea that change should be as minimal and unchallenging to the status quo as possible.

After all, the status quo is working just fine for you and your donors.

Leaders who are rooted in communities that are being egregiously failed by the current system, on the other hand, are liberated to take a very different approach. Their climate policies can embrace deep and systemic change — including the need for massive investments in public transit, affordable housing, and health care — because that kind of change is precisely what their bases need to thrive.

As climate justice organizations have been arguing for many years now, when the people with the most to gain lead the movement, they fight to win.

Press link for more: The Intercept

CLIMATE OUTLOOK GRIM

Flying foxes are dying in Cairns due to extreme heat 43C
6C hotter than previous November record.

Wildlife is suffering because of climate change,

Towheeblog

Every four years American government scientists are supposed to issue an assessment of climate change and its effects.  This one is a doozy.  Here’s National Geographic’s summary: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/11/climate-change-US-report0/

We birders all know how birds are adjusting their wintering range, their breeding range, even their migrations. Don’t tell Trump that birds know more about climate change than he does, it would make him so sad and such an obvious loser, poor man has a tender ego.

How can we understand this administration releasing the climate change report that opposes everything Trump claims? The best the cold do was put it out on the Friday after Thanksgiving…pretty weak effort at suppression.  Saudi Arabia or Russia or other nations admired  by Trump would have been much firmer. There was apparently no effort to change or censor this report.  Perhaps Trupsters think their voters don’t give a crap about the planet, just think money…

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