Africa

The Age of Consequences #auspol 

“We are not your traditional environmentalists.” Gen. Gordon Sullivan (Retd), Fmr. Chief of Staff, U.S. Army
Four Corners brings you the views of distinguished former members of the US military and senior policy makers who warn that climate change is not only real, it’s a threat to global security.
“I’m here today not only representing my views on security implications of climate change, but on the collective wisdom of 16 admirals and generals.” Rear Admiral David Titley (Retd), U.S. Navy
They say climate change is impacting on vital resources, migration patterns and conflict zones.

“Climate change is one of the variables that must be considered when thinking about instability in the world.” Gen. Gordon Sullivan (Retd), Fmr. Chief of Staff, U.S. Army
Rear Admiral David Titley spent 32 years in the US military. He was the US Navy’s chief oceanographer and led the Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change. He argues climate change must be acknowledged.
“Our collective bottom line judgement is that climate change is an accelerating risk to our nation’s future.” Rear Admiral David Titley (Retd), U.S. Navy
The film analyses the conflict in Syria, the social unrest of the Arab Spring, and the rise of groups like ISIS and how these experts believe climate change is already acting as a catalyst for conflict.

“This is the heart of the problem in many ways. Climate change arrives in a world that has already been destabilised.” Dr Christian Parenti
Director Jared P Scott explores how water and food shortages, drought, extreme weather and rising sea-levels can act as accelerants of instability.
“We realised that climate change would be a threat multiplier for instability as people become desperate, because they have extreme weather and the seas are rising, and there are floods in one area and droughts in another, fragile states become more unpredictable.” Sherri Goodman, Fmr. Dept Undersecretary of Defense
These Pentagon insiders say a failure to tackle climate change, conducting ‘business as usual’, would lead to profound consequences.
“It’s a very dangerous thing to decide that there is one and only one line of events heading into the future and one and only one best response for dealing with that.” Leon Fuerth, Fmr. National Security Adviser, White House ’93-’01

Press link for more: abc.net.au

The Dance of Death #climatechange #neoliberalism #auspol 

The Dance of Death

By Chris Hedges

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build.

 They seek to destroy. 

They are agents of death. 

They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. 

Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated.

 Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished.

 Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch.

 Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. 

Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future.

 Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. 

State repression is indiscriminant and brutal.

 And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.

The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse.

 Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus.

 The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. 

Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population.

 The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.
The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war.

 President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. 

When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.
“The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence.”
The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. 

The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. 

No longer can any individual nation collapse. 

World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”
Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their “greatness.” 

Their illusions condemn them. 

They cannot see that the forces that gave rise to modern civilization, namely technology, industrial violence and fossil fuels, are the same forces that are extinguishing it.

 Their leaders are trained only to serve the system, slavishly worshipping the old gods long after these gods begin to demand millions of sacrificial victims.
“Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create even more dangerous messes,” Ronald Wright writes in “A Short History of Progress.” “Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.” 
The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed. Capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, is “a machine for demolishing limits.” There is no internal sense of proportion or scale. Once all external impediments are lifted, global capitalism ruthlessly commodifies human beings and the natural world to extract profit until exhaustion or collapse. And when the last moments of a civilization arrive, the degenerate edifices of power appear to crumble overnight.
Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence.

 It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II. 
“It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros,” Freud wrote. “But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinary high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”
The lust for death, as Freud understood, is not, at first, morbid. It is exciting and seductive. I saw this in the wars I covered. A god-like power and adrenaline-driven fury, even euphoria, sweep over armed units and ethnic or religious groups given the license to destroy anything and anyone around them. Ernst Juenger captured this “monstrous desire for annihilation” in his World War I memoir, “Storm of Steel.”
A population alienated and beset by despair and hopelessness finds empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical landscape. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources with abandon. It is seduced by the fantastic promises of demagogues and the magical solutions characteristic of the Christian right or what anthropologists call “crisis cults.”
Norman Cohn, in “The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements,” draws a link between that turbulent period and our own. Millennial movements are a peculiar, collective psychological response to profound societal despair. They recur throughout human history. We are not immune.
“These movements have varied in tone from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and in aim from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earth-bound materialism; there is no counting the possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it,” Cohen wrote. “But similarities can present themselves as well as differences; and the more carefully one compares the outbreaks of militant social chiliasm during the later Middle Ages with modern totalitarian movements the more remarkable the similarities appear. The old symbols and the old slogans have indeed disappeared, to be replaced by new ones; but the structure of the basic phantasies seems to have changed scarcely at all.”
These movements, Cohen wrote, offered “a coherent social myth which was capable of taking entire possession of those who believed in it. It explained their suffering, it promised them recompense, it held their anxieties at bay, it gave them an illusion of security—even while it drove them, held together by a common enthusiasm, on a quest which was always vain and often suicidal.
“So it came about that multitudes of people acted out with fierce energy a shared phantasy which though delusional yet brought them such intense emotional relief that they could live only through it and were perfectly willing to die for it. It is a phenomenon which was to recur many times between the eleventh century and the sixteenth century, now in one area, now in another, and which, despite the obvious differences in cultural context and in scale, is not irrelevant to the growth of totalitarian movements, with their messianic leaders, their millennial mirages and their demon-scapegoats, in the present century.”
The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion. It seeks momentary euphoria and meaning in tawdry entertainment and acts of violence and destruction, including against people who are demonized and blamed for society’s demise. It hastens its self-immolation while holding up the supposed inevitability of a glorious national resurgence. Idiots and charlatans, the handmaidens of death, lure us into the abyss.

Press link for more: commondreams.com

Sea-level rise is a ‘serious threat’ #ClimateChange #auspol 

Sea-level rise poses ‘a serious threat’ to millions of Europeans, scientists warnA new study spells out the threat of sea-level rise in coastal communities.

The 1824 flooding for St. Petersburg, Russia. Once-a-century floods could become commonplace as the planet heats up. CREDIT: Public Domain
By Marlene Cimons

The kind of devastating flooding that occurs once every century along Europe’s northern coastline could become an annual event if greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb, according to a recent study published in the journal Earth’s Future.

New analysis takes into account changes in sea-level rise, tides, waves, and storm surge over the 21st century and found that climate change could prompt extreme sea levels — the maximum levels seen during major storms, which produce massive flooding — to increase significantly along the European coastline by 2100.

This scenario will likely stress coastal protection structures beyond their capacity, leaving much of the European coastline vulnerable to dangerous flooding, according to study authors.

“Unless we take different protection measures, five million people will be exposed to coastal flooding on an annual basis,” said Michalis Vousdoukas, a coastal oceanographer at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission and lead author of the study.

The study described the projected rise in extreme sea levels as “a serious threat” to coastal communities, noting, “their safety and resilience depends on the effectiveness of natural and man-made coastal flood protection.”

Kevin Trenberth, a scientist with the climate analysis section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who was not involved in this research, said the signs of extreme sea levels are already worrisome, not just in Europe, but in the United States as well. “Witness the sunshine flooding in Florida already, the flooding that shows up even with no storm on many streets any time there is a slightly high tide,” he said.

A Florida road flooded by tropical storm Arlene in 2005. Florida is especially susceptible to rising seas. Source: FEMA

“Sea level is going up because the ocean is warming and hence expanding, and because land ice — glaciers, etc. — are melting and putting more water into the ocean. But it is not the gradual rise that matters,” Trenberth said. “Rather, it is the storm surge on top of a high tide riding on top of the increase in sea level that crosses thresholds and causes things to break.”

Richard Alley, professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, who also did not take part in this study, noted that the study didn’t consider the possible collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. “If that happens, then sea-level rise and impacts to coasts could be much higher than in this paper,” Alley said. “Rapid West Antarctic collapse could cause enough rise to make many of these other factors of secondary importance. So, the ‘worst case’ in this paper isn’t really the worst case.”

The new paper predicted that some regions could experience an even higher increase in the frequency of these extreme flooding events, specifically along the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, where the present day 100-year extreme sea level could occur as often as several times a year.

“The ‘worst case’ in this paper isn’t really the worst case.”

Information about the number of people at risk from flooding can be used to determine how large the social and economic impact of these events will be, said Marta Marcos, a researcher at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies in Spain, who was not involved in the new study. “In terms of adaptation strategies and policy-making, it is very relevant,” she said.

The researchers studied changes in extreme sea levels by 2100 under different greenhouse gas scenarios and considered how all these components — mean sea level, tides, waves, and storm surge — will be affected by climate change.

The Netherlands is particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise. Source: Pexels

If emissions continue to rise unabated throughout this century, extreme sea levels along Europe’s coastlines could increase by more than 2.5 feet, on average, by 2100. Under a more moderate situation, where greenhouse gas emissions peak in 2040, 100-year extreme sea levels still could jump by nearly 2 feet, on average, by the end of the century — with flooding events occurring every few years — according to study’s authors.

In a related study appearing in Geophysical Research Letters, scientists found that if greenhouse gases continue to rise, there could be disturbing changes by the end of the century in the energy that waves carry to the coast.

In the southern hemisphere, extreme waves could carry up to 30 percent more energy by 2100, according to the study, meaning that stronger waves will become more frequent, and have a greater impact on the coast, said Lorenzo Mentaschi, a researcher at the Joint Research Centre and lead author of the study.

The new study attributed the changes in wave energy to the intensification of weather patterns, like El Niño. The new research will be provided to European Union policymakers. The data will also be made public so it can be used by scientists, engineers, and coastal managers.

Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University, said the research once again underscored how climate change, “which has already increased the threat to our coastlines through a combination of sea-level rise and intensified coastal storms, will be catastrophic for coastal communities if we don’t reduce global carbon emissions.”

Marlene Cimons writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art & culture.

Press link for more: Think Progress

Health & #Climatechange : An Urgent Need For Action #science 

Health And Climate Change: An Urgent Need For Action


The human face of climate change is its impact on our health. 

Higher temperatures intensify air pollution and respiratory illness. 

Changing weather patterns lead to drought and then famine, while increasing rains in other areas will create the breeding ground for disease and pandemics. 

While the policy changes needed to blunt climate change are surely substantial, the cost of ignoring the science behind climate change will be felt through its harmful effects on our health. 


Recently, the CDC cancelled its Climate and Health Summit out of fear of retribution from the Trump administration.

 Working with Al Gore and others, Harvard worked to revive the meeting, which was held in Atlanta on February 16.

 This meeting reminded us that universities have a unique responsibility that we ensure a platform for key scientific issues that have a meaningful effect on people’s health. 

 Climate change is one such critical issue.


A century ago, one in three children died before age five. 

That number has been cut by 90 percent because of global investments in public health. 

Climate change, unchecked, puts these gains, and lives, at risk. 

Weather shifts from climate change will change the availability and reduce the nutritional content of food.


 The levels of protein and crucial micronutrients in key staple crops will drop, exposing billions of the world’s poorest people to worsening malnutrition. 

The gains we have made in saving the lives of children are fragile – and unlikely to withstand the challenges created by climate change unless we act now.


The effects of climate change on health will not stop with agriculture. 

Burning fossil fuels release a wide array of air pollutants that are a leading cause of asthma, heart disease, and strokes in our country and around the globe. 

Children are particularly vulnerable, and so are the elderly. 

The increasing number of heat waves is dangerous, but the interaction between high temperatures and air pollution becomes especially deadly.


The changing climate will likely shift the geographical range of insects that carry disease, including ticks carrying Lyme disease and mosquitos which carry malaria. 

The increasing number of infectious disease outbreaks such as Ebola and Zika appear to be linked, at least in part, to ongoing environmental shifts that exacerbate climate change. 

It is not hard to imagine that if we alter an ecosystem where we and other species live in equilibrium, there will be meaningful consequences.
Transitioning to energy sources that reduce carbon pollution will help the U.S. meet its commitments under the recent Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, importantly, will also benefit the health of all Americans. 

In a nation where our government already pays for the health care of our elderly and many of our children, reducing health burdens not only saves lives, but it can also be fiscally responsible. 

Our colleagues at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recently found that the health savings to the American people from the Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon standards will far outweigh the cost to industry within five years.
As these changes unfold, universities have a unique obligation, through research, education, and better communication, to understand and explain the impact of climate change on health and find ways to mitigate it. 

This research, at Harvard and at universities across our country, is dependent on a long-standing agreement between universities and the American people: universities will work on the most pressing issues facing our nation, and our citizens, through their government, will support that research.

 That agreement faces a serious challenge today from politicians skeptical about the science of climate change and the value of scientific investment. 


Yet it is more important than ever to renew our commitment to funding research on climate change and especially, its impact on health. 

Universities must commit to producing unbiased, high-quality data to guide decision- and policy-making, and the government should keep its commitment to supporting that work. 
Finally, it is essential that universities engage more effectively with the public regarding what the science tells us about the impact of climate change on health. Sharing data openly and transparently is crucial to helping policy-makers reach / agree on the best decisions.
This is a critical moment for our nation. 

Climate change is upon us. 

We can no longer think of it as an issue of temperature changes or sea level rises alone. 

We must remember that we will feel the effects of climate change most acutely on our health.

 We still have the time to mitigate these effects by focusing on reducing carbon pollution and slowing the warming of the planet.

 If we do, we will reap the benefits in terms of longer and healthier lives. 

 And our children will be the biggest beneficiaries.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

‘Dying one by one’ #auspol #ClimateChange Ignored. 

‘Dying one by one:’ Somalia drought crushes herders’ lives

‘Dying one by one:’ Somalia drought crushes herders’ lives

BANDAR BEYLA, Somalia (AP) — Ahmed Haji turns from his visibly dehydrated animals and whispers: “I am lost.”
Trying to flee the worsening drought, he trekked thousands of kilometers with a herd that once numbered 1,200. But hundreds perished during the arduous trip to Puntland, in northern Somalia, in search of greener pasture.
The land here dried up not long after he arrived, leaving his animals weak from hunger and thirst. “They are now dying one by one,” the 30-year-old said, shading his face from the scorching sun. His goats drank water from a plastic barrel and picked dry leaves from plants nearby.
“I don’t even think these remaining ones will survive in the next two months,” Haji said. He left his wife and five children behind on his eight-day trek, fearing they wouldn’t survive. Now he wonders about himself.
Somalia has declared this drought a national disaster, part of what the United Nations calls the largest humanitarian crisis since the world body was founded in 1945.
An estimated 6 million people in this Horn of Africa nation, or about half the population, need aid amid warnings of a full-blown famine. Two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall, longer in some areas, have caused large-scale crop failures, the U.N. humanitarian agency says.
It is not clear how many people, or animals, have died so far.
Animals are central to many in Somalia. The United Nations says more than half the population is engaged in the livestock industry. The drought threatens their main sources of nutrition and survival.
Many wells have dried up, forcing herders to risk long treks to remote areas. Water prices have spiked, with a single water tanker now going for $150.
The hot wind blows across the vast, barren land and carcasses of animals.
“The sad reality of the drought this severe, this long, this enduring is we’re starting to see these massive livestock deaths, livestock losses. Fifty, 60, 70 percent of livestock herds dying, which is an enormous hit for these pastoral families,” said Richard Trenchard, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization representative in Somalia.
The mass animal deaths, from hunger and thirst as well as disease, have caused herders to lose “just about everything,” Trenchard said, standing beside the carcass of a camel.
Even though rains are expected in mid-April, there are fears that effects of a heavy downpour could kill already weakened animals.
With their livestock gone, herders are ending up in camps with shortages of food, medicine and safe drinking water.
“Our journey here was so rough. There was no transport or water. We left behind everything. We are here now and we don’t have any proper shelter or transport,” said Dahiya Ahmed, a 48-year-old mother of eight at a camp in Qardho town.
She once herded 200 goats but now has just six. “The few of them that are still alive are too weak and cannot provide us with milk and meat,” she said. “They are just still alive but cannot benefit us at all.”
With the rise of disease-related deaths among the remaining animals, the United Nations is planning a major animal vaccination intervention. Some herders are being given basic training on vaccinating their animals and giving oral medications on their own.
“Hungry animals, starving animals are very vulnerable, very prone to disease,” Trenchard said.
Around two million animals are targeted for treatment against parasites, infectious disease and wounds, said Khalid Saeed, the FAO livestock sector coordinator, as he gave medicine to sick and weakened animals.
Somalia is part of a massive $4 billion aid appeal launched last month for four nations suffering from conflict and hunger. The others are Nigeria, Yemen and South Sudan, where famine already has been declared in two counties.

Press link for more: Yahoo.com

Carbon dioxide levels rising at record pace. #auspol #science 

Carbon dioxide levels rose at record pace for 2nd straight year | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Carbon dioxide levels measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory rose by 3 parts per million to 405.1 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, an increase that matched the record jump observed in 2015.
The two-year, 6-ppm surge in the greenhouse gas between 2015 and 2017 is unprecedented in the observatory’s 59-year record. And, it was a record fifth consecutive year that carbon dioxide (CO2) rose by 2 ppm or greater, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
“The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Tans said. “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”
Globally averaged CO2 levels passed 400 ppm in 2015 — a 43-percent increase over pre-industrial levels. In February 2017, CO2 levels at Mauna Loa had already climbed to 406.42 ppm.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory. Further information can be found on the ESRL Global Monitoring Division website. (NOAA)

Measurements are independently validated
NOAA has measured CO2 on site at the Mauna Loa observatory since 1974. To ensure accuracy, air samples from the mountaintop research site in Hawaii are shipped to NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, for verification. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which first began sampling CO2 at Mauna Loa in 1956, also takes independent measurements onsite.
Emissions from fossil-fuel consumption have remained at historically high levels since 2011 and are the primary reason atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing at a dramatic rate, Tans said. This high growth rate of CO2 is also being observed at some 40 other sites in NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
The greenhouse effect, explained
Carbon dioxide is one of several gases that are primarily responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere. This “greenhouse effect” maintains temperatures suitable for life on Earth. Increasing CO2 levels trap additional heat in the atmosphere and the oceans, contributing to rising global average temperatures.
Atmospheric CO2 averaged about 280 ppm between about 10,000 years ago and the start of the Industrial Revolution around 1760.

Press link for more: NOAA

Why Trump is an Existential Threat #auspol #climatechange #science

One of the Most Famous Scientists in the World Just Explained Why Trump Is an Existential Threat

SochAnam/Getty Images
This story was originally published by New Republic and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Earlier this month, thousands of scientists from around the world came together for their favorite nerd fest:

 The annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific organization and publisher of the renowned Science journals.

 There were panels on everything from climate change to robots, hornless cows to honeybees.

 But this year’s meeting was different than any other in its 168-year history, for one reason: Donald Trump was president. And scientists were freaking out.


“I haven’t seen anything like it in my many decades in science and science watching,” Dr. Rush Holt, the president of AAAS and executive publisher of the Science journals, told the New Republic.
Most scientists are uncomfortable talking politics because their work needs to be perceived as objective rather than partisan. But ever since America elected a president who’s made scientifically inaccurate statements on everything from vaccines to climate change, more and more scientists are stepping into the spotlight to stand up for their profession. That includes Holt, who announced Wednesday that AAAS would partner with the March for Science, an Earth Day rally with the primary goal of preserving and promoting evidence-based policymaking.
In a conversation with the New Republic, Holt—who is also a former U.S. Congressman—talked about the unprecedented level of political anxiety among American scientists, and how those scientists should navigate these murky waters.

TNR: We’ve reached this point where scientists are being thrown into the political spotlight, which I imagine is deeply uncomfortable for a lot of people in this profession. You just came from your annual conference, where thousands of scientists in attendance. What is the level of concern you observed from them about the Trump administration, and politics in general?
“The level of concern and anxiety among scientists—and I guess I’d say the science-friendly public—about the place of science in society in government, has gone beyond concern to anxiety.”
RH: The level of concern and anxiety among scientists—and I guess I’d say the science-friendly public—about the place of science in society in government, has gone beyond concern to anxiety. I haven’t seen anything like it in my many decades in science and science watching.
It used to be when that, when scientists in the hallways would talk about being worried about the state of science, what they really meant was, they were worried about the funding for their research. That’s not so much what we’re hearing now, although I do think scientists don’t realize what Congress seems to have in store for non-defense discretionary spending.
TNR: So you’re saying the concern among scientists has gone from, “will I get funding,” to something more existential.
RH: Existential might even be the right word. The concern now is whether policymakers even understand the meaning of evidence. Whether there is any truth to this descriptor of “fact-free era.” Whether policy is going to be made more and more in the absence of scientific input. There seems to be a concern about whether the public appreciation of science has eroded to a point where it has removed science from public debate and public decision making. Whether the public has come to regard evidence as optional.

TNR: You’ve only been at the head of AAAS some 2014, but compared to other years, was there a lot of political talk at this year’s annual meetings?
RH: That was the main hallways discussion, as well as discussion that broke out in panels on various scientific topics. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve also never seen as much of a spontaneous upsurge now of scientists and science-loving members of the public who want to defend science. We see that in the March for Science.
TNR: Regarding the march, though, some people have expressed concern that it’s going to politicize science even further. That it’s going to make science into a partisan issue.
RH: Well, the March for Science is not just a march. It’s a public education effort. It is a children’s science festival. It is emblematic of this public upsurge of interest in defending the idea of science. That’s really unusual. It’s also a rare opportunity for scientists to help get out the message of just how valuable, how powerful science is and how important it is—how it’s more important to lives of nonscientists than to the job of scientists.
TNR: So you don’t think that a march that will likely have politically-oriented signs will undermine science?
RH: There is a sense that science and politics are incompatible. I don’t think so at all. I think it’s important that scientists take great pains to make sure that ideology and personal bias and wishful thinking do not contaminate the collection and analysis and evidence. One must not politicize science. But the converse is not necessarily true. There’s no reason why scientists can not go into the public sphere. In fact, I would argue they should.
TNR: Does that mean you think more scientists should be running for political office?
RH: It doesn’t necessarily mean running for office. Every citizen, scientists included, has some obligation to be involved in public affairs and politics. I do think that in recent months I’ve seen a lot more public-directed attention from scientists. More and more scientists have called me up—strangers for the most part—who say, “I’m thinking about running for office. You’ve done it, how do you do it.” And I say, “just do it.”
TNR: Do you think all this concern is just because of Trump?
RH: Actually, the concerns that I heard raised at the annual meeting seemed to be rooted in trends that began years ago, quite independent of Donald Trump. It is true that when people are appointed to positions and talk without any appreciation or understanding of scientists, well, that gets scientists worried. And when public officials talk about alternative facts, people who have devoted their careers to trying to uncover facts are dismayed. But this type of rhetoric has been present in politics for some time.
TNR: Where do you think the conversation about science in policymaking needs to go from here? What needs to be done to communicate the stakes of an anti-science government?
RH: So much of this discussion in recent weeks and months has not been about specific issues, but about the place of science and science-based evidence in general. The phrase I hear most—more often than genetic engineering or nuclear power or anything like that—is “evidence-based decision-making.” I hear that phrase over and over.
There needs to be a public dawning—and it is beginning to dawn on some members of the public—that how science is practiced actually makes a difference in their lives. If evidence becomes optional, if ideological assertions or beliefs are just as good as scientifically vetted evidence, then their quality of life suffers. I think that’s dawning on people. There’s a level of concern unlike anything I’ve seen.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

Press link for more: motherjones.com

Car sick, we’re poisoning our kids. #auspol #wapol #science

A short, simple factsheet on the impacts of traffic pollution on children’s health

By George Monbiot, published on monbiot.com, 5th March 2017
I wrote this short factsheet for a local school suffering high levels of air pollution, that are caused in part by the parents, sometimes driving their children just 100 metres up the road. Part of the problem is that many people are unaware of the link between pollution and health issues.
When I looked for a summary – in clear and simple language, that most parents can quickly understand – of the damage that traffic pollution can do to children, I could not find one. Nor could the transport campaigns I consulted. So I decided to write my own.
Please feel free to reproduce it, adapt it and use it as you wish. Please also let me know whether and how it can be improved.
If you find it useful, you might like to ask your school to circulate it among the parents by email or on social media, or to print it out and stick it in places (such as classroom doors) where it is likely to be seen.
If we could circulate such materials widely among schools, we could make a material difference to the health of our children (and the rest of the population).

What Traffic Fumes Do to Our Children
Every year, we discover more about the harm being done to our children by the fumes that cars and other vehicles produce.
The more we learn, the worse it looks. In polluted places, the damage to their health can be very serious.
By driving them to school and by sitting in our cars with the engines idling, we are helping to poison our own children.
Here is what we now know about the harm that traffic pollution can do to children:
It can damage the growth of their lungs. This means that the lungs of children who have been affected don’t work so well. The damage can last for the rest of their lives.
It raises the risk of asthma and allergies. For children who already have asthma, pollution can make it worse.
It can damage the development of their brains. 

Air pollution can reduce children’s intelligence, making it harder for them to learn.
It can change their behaviour and reduce their happiness. Air pollution has been linked to anxiety, depression and Attention Deficit Disorder.
It raises the risk of heart disease later in their lives.
It can cause cancer, both in children and when they become adults.
Unborn children can also be affected by the pollution their mothers breathe. Air pollution is linked to babies being born prematurely and small.
Pollution inside your car can be much worse than pollution outside, because the fumes are concentrated in the small space.
We don’t mean to do this to our children. But once we know how much we are hurting them, we can stop it, by changing the way we travel. Walking and cycling are ideal.
Groups like Living Streets can help schools to turn this around. Together we can protect our children from harm.
The information sources for this factsheet can be found at https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/advpub/2016/6/EHP299.acco.pdf, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26825441, http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001792, https://www.rcplo ndon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution, https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1306770/, http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/air-pollution/children-and-air-pollution.html and https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/05/the-truth-about-londons-air-pollution

Press link for more:Monbiot.com

Climate Change Adaptation in SE Asia #auspol 

Moving Ahead
with Climate Change Adaptation in Southeast Asia

By Percy E. Sajise1

Climate change is a pervasive concern of the current as well as the future generation. 

It threatens the very survival of what life stands for, including that of the human species. 

The global community is currently confronting the threat of climate change in two ways (including its various combinations): through reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and through other forms of mitigation and adaptation.

The global community is still debating on the first strategy in terms of country targets. 

Meanwhile, another mitigation strategy is now being implemented such that those countries with higher GHG emissions pay those countries with lower emissions; the latter, in turn, plant trees or generate biomass to reduce the level of GHG emissions in the atmosphere. 


However, such strategy should not be construed as a license for these high-emitting countries to continue with their current GHG emission levels.

For small farm holders and fisherfolk who have less production resources and options for livelihoods, the only available and affordable option for them to deal with this challenge is to adapt to climate change; hence, the importance of the strategies and collective lessons on climate change adaptation (CCA). 

The Montpellier Panel Report recommends that governments, donors, and the private sector should invest more on initiatives that would scale-up proven community-based resilient adaptation projects, particularly those projects that would enhance soil, water, and nutrient management; conservation technologies; and risk management tools (Agriculture for Impact 2015).

This becomes doubly signifcant as the window of opportunity in addressing the climate change issue is getting narrower, especially for the most affected and most vulnerable groups.


According to the Center for Sustainable Development (2015), sustainable rural development is defined as “improving the life for rural poor by developing capacities that promote community participation and gender equality, health and education, food and nutrition security, environmental protection, and sustainable economic growth, thereby enabling community members to leave the cycle of poverty and achieve their full potential; its dimensions are human development, natural resources and environment, economic growth, infrastructure, science and technology, and policy and administration.”
CCA is a means of achieving sustainable rural development.

 This is also well-elucidated in the context of the recently launched UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which is the continuation of the Millennium Development Goals after 2015.

Based on the above premises, this climate change book provides a collection of actual cases of how this CCA strategy is being implemented in Southeast Asia. It illustrates cases in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia involving various hierarchical levels—from regional, subregional, country, village, to farm levels. It describes the enabling or constraining environments, methods, and processes of how CCA has been developed at one hierarchical level, and subsequently translated at other levels and scales.

This book is a good reference material for researchers, policy makers, NGOs, and development and extension workers involved in pursuing climate change concerns (in particular) and sustainable development (in general).

Press link for more: SEARCA

Cutting Foreign Aid & Doing Nothing about Climate Change is Immoral! #auspol 

NAIROBI — President Trump has proposed large cuts to foreign aid at a time of acute need across Africa and the Middle East, with four countries approaching famine and 20 million people nearing starvation, according to the United Nations.


It is the first time in recent memory that so many large-scale hunger crises have occurred simultaneously, and humanitarian groups say they do not have the resources to respond effectively. 

The United Nations has requested $4.4 billion by March to “avert a catastrophe,” Secretary General António Guterres said last week. 

It has so far received only a tiny fraction of that request.


The details of Trump’s budget proposal have not been released, and large cuts to foreign assistance will face stiff opposition from Congress.

 So far, U.S. funding for the hunger crises has come out of a budget approved last year under President Obama.

 But the famines or near-famines in parts of Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen underscore the reliance on continued U.S. assistance to save some of the world’s most desperate people.

In Nigeria, millions have been displaced and isolated by Boko Haram insurgents.

 In Somalia, a historic drought has left a huge portion of the country without access to regular food, as al-Shabab militants block the movement of humanitarian groups. 

In South Sudan, a three-year-old civil war has forced millions of people from their homes and farms. 

In Yemen, a civil war along with aerial attacks by the Saudi-led coalition have caused another sweeping hunger crisis.
In 2016, the United States contributed about 28 percent of the foreign aid in those four countries, according to the United Nations.

“Nobody can replace the U.S. in terms of funding,” said Yves Daccord, the director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who said of the current crises:

 “I don’t remember ever seeing such a mix of conflict, drought and extreme hunger.”
U.S. aid officials said they were still trying to discern what the White House was planning to allocate to humanitarian assistance.

 Even though foreign aid is typically around 1 percent of the government’s budget, that is enough to make the United States by far the world’s largest donor. 

Last year, the United States contributed $6.4 billion in humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations, more than a quarter of global funding.
“We remain committed to a U.S. foreign policy that advances the security, prosperity and values of the American people,” said a USAID spokesman, who added that he was not authorized to speak on the record.
But asked whether the United States planned to contribute to the new U.N. appeal for hunger relief, the USAID official said, “We have no new funding to announce at this time.”


Early reports said Trump planned to propose 37 percent cuts to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development budgets. 

Many experts said they expected that those cuts would exclude U.S. contributions to security assistance.
“That leaves a much smaller component, which takes us directly to cuts in humanitarian assistance,” said Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.
The four hunger crises pose an enormous challenge for the humanitarian community, which is now torn between those emergencies. 

The last time a famine was declared in Africa was in Somalia in 2011. 

Nearly 260,000 people died, and aid groups later determined that they had waited too long to act. 

Famine is only declared when at least 30 percent of a population is acutely malnourished, and two adults or four children per every 10,000 people are dying each day.


Humanitarian groups have tried to apply the lessons from the 2011 disaster by moving quickly at the signs of deepening food crises. 

But the number of countries at risk of famine simultaneously makes a swift, thorough response to each of them very difficult.
“The donors are struggling left, right and center with their own allocations,” said Silke Pietzsch, the technical director for Action Against Hunger.

 “There are just too many fires to take care of.”
The United Nations was, by its own admission, late to recognize the scale of the crisis in northeastern Nigeria. 

Last year, when aid workers from Doctors Without Borders began traveling to parts of the country that had been blocked by Boko Haram fighters, they found soaring malnutrition rates and scores of people dying of preventable illnesses. 

Now, huge swaths of the region are still inaccessible to aid workers.
“No one can go 15 miles outside of the local government capitals,” said Yannick Pouchalan, the country director for Action Against Hunger. 

“There are still many people without any access to humanitarian assistance.”
USAID has been the largest provider of assistance in the crisis, Pouchalan said.
“If that aid stops, it means we won’t reach the people in need,” he said.
None of the crises are strictly about a lack of food aid or humanitarian funding.
“These are man-made crises in need of political solutions,” Pietzsch said.
In South Sudan, where two counties are already in the midst of famine, continued clashes between government and opposition forces have restricted the access of aid workers and kept people from farming on their land. 

The United Nations and other humanitarian groups have frequently been targeted by armed groups affiliated with both sides of the conflict. 

During fighting in July, government forces stole 4,500 metric tons of food from a World Food Program compound in Juba, the capital, enough to feed more than 200,000 people.
More than 1 million children in the country are malnourished and could die without a rapid intervention, according to UNICEF.
The United States has given more than $2.1 billion to South Sudan since the start of the conflict in December 2013. USAID claims that American food donations reach 1.3 million people every month and “has saved lives and helped to avert famine for three consecutive years,” according to a State Department statement last week.
Yet as the situation there worsens and food prices continue to rise as a result of an unusually bad harvest across much of Africa, the need for humanitarian assistance is expected to grow.

 In South Sudan, 700,000 people are already in “phase four” of the hunger crisis, the last stage before famine.
In Somalia, Save the Children has warned that the country has reached a “tipping point” and could quickly enter a famine “far worse than the 2011 famine.”
Of the four crises, Somalia’s is the most clearly linked to drought conditions, but insecurity caused by al-Shabab militants frequently keeps humanitarian workers from reaching civilians.

Press link for more: Washington Post