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Australia scrubbed from UN climate change report after government intervention

GarryRogers Nature Conservation

Exclusive: All mentions of Australia were removed from the final version of a Unesco report on climate change and world heritage sites after the Australian government objected on the grounds it could impact on tourism.

Guardian Australia can reveal the report “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate”, which Unesco jointly published with the United Nations environment program and the Union of Concerned Scientists on Friday, initially had a key chapter on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as small sections on Kakadu and the Tasmanian forests.

But when the Australian Department of Environment saw a draft of the report, it objected, and every mention of Australia was removed by Unesco. Will Steffen, one of the scientific reviewers of the axed section on the reef, said Australia’s move was reminiscent of “the old Soviet Union”.

Source: Australia scrubbed from UN climate change report after government intervention |…

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May 27, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘I Do Not Want Any Children to Develop Cancer Like Me’, a Fukushima Resident Says

 

Independent filmmaker Ian Thomas Ash has uploaded to YouTube a four-part interview with a young woman from Fukushima Prefecture who has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Now 20, the interviewee was 15 years old when, following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex lost power and the ability to cool fuel in the reactors. The lack of cooling caused a series of hydrogen explosions that severely damaged four of the six reactors at the Daiichi complex.

As a result of the explosions and subsequent fires, nuclear contamination was spread over a large part of Japan’s northeast. The young woman interviewed in the documentary, who wishes to remain unidentified, is one of 166 Fukushima residents who were 18 or younger at the time of the nuclear disaster who have been diagnosed with or suspected of having thyroid cancer (as of February 2016).

While some attribute the rise in cases of thyroid cancer to more rigorous screening, Ash notes that 74.5% of young people aged 18-21 as of April 1, 2014 who were living in Fukushima at the time of the nuclear accident have not yet taken part in the official thyroid ultrasound examination.

“This young woman’s reason for speaking out is to motivate the families of children who have not yet received the thyroid ultrasound examination to have their children tested,” Ash says in his introduction to the interview.

The interview has been uploaded to YouTube in four parts: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

The woman says according to her doctors, her cancer was caught at the right moment. Had she waited any longer, they told her, the cancer could have spread. As a result of the illness, she had part of her thyroid removed.

She will begin working in a nursery school this year, and is pained to think of any other children going through what she has endured:

I would hate if any children I taught developed cancer. To tell the truth, I do not want any children to develop cancer like me.

Ash, based in Tokyo, makes short documentaries about life in Japan after the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

https://globalvoices.org/2016/05/27/i-do-not-want-any-children-to-develop-cancer-like-me-a-fukushima-resident-says/

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May 27, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | Leave a comment

In Fukushima, even robots can’t survive nuclear mayhem

The company that runs the Fukushima plant sent 5 robots to ground zero and not a single one survived. Incredibly high radiations in the block causes heat levels to rise and this melts the robots’ wiring.

A tsunami, triggered by an earthquake on March 11, 2011, initiated the Fukushima Daaiichi nuclear disaster in Japan which led to the evacuation of over 200,000 people.

Even after 5 years, there is still a tremendous amount of cleanup work left at ground zero. The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) which runs the plant has managed to clean up one building but is still struggling to do the same with other buildings which has burnt fuel rods. These fuel rods are nothing but chunks of radioactive waste weighing hundreds of metric tonnes.

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It took 2 years for TEPCO to design the robots for the job of extracting melted fuel rods and according to TEPCO’s head of decommissioning, Naohiro Masuda, the heat levels due to radiation are so extreme that it simply melts the robot’s wiring.

Japan had been trying out various methods to stop the radiations from damaging the area further. One such method was building “ice walls” to keep groundwater from reaching the reactors. A refrigerant chemical that forms an ice wall to block Fukushima’s fallout water and stop the ground water intrusion into the plant.

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A million metric tonnes of irradiated water is being stored on the site and is pumped in to cool down the reactors. Disposing the radioactive water is still a challenge for TEPCO as storage tanks have already leaked some of the material into the ocean.

After TEPCO’s robots not surviving the heat levels of the radiations, it’s a place for no man or machine. Toshiba has developed new robots for picking up the fuel rods and to clean up the scene which previous robots failed to.

The entire cleanup process is expected to take around 30 to 40 years, but TEPCO is being blamed for its lukewarm response to the incident and is facing flak from the Japanese government and the people alike.

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/in-fukushima-even-robots-cant-survive-nuclear-mayhem/1/678028.html

May 27, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let Them Drown The Violence of Othering in a Warming World

An impressive joining-the-dots article by Naomi Klein, connecting Palestine, climate change, fracking, the refugee crisis and “othering”. Worth reading all of this long essay, but here are some highlights for those without the time: We often hear climate change blamed on ‘human nature’, on the inherent greed and short-sightedness of our species. Or we are told we have altered the earth so much and on such a planetary scale that we are now living in the Anthropocene – the age of humans.

These ways of explaining our current circumstances have a very specific, if unspoken meaning: that humans are a single type, that human nature can be essentialised to the traits that created this crisis. In this way, the systems that certain humans created, and other humans powerfully resisted, are completely let off the hook. Capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy – those sorts of system. Diagnoses like this erase the very existence of human systems that organised life differently: systems that insist that humans must think seven generations in the future; must be not only good citizens but also good ancestors; must take no more than they need and give back to the land in order to protect and augment the cycles of regeneration.

These systems existed and still exist, but they are erased every time we say that the climate crisis is a crisis of ‘human nature’ and that we are living in the ‘age of man’. … We are running out of cheap and easy ways to get at fossil fuels, which is why we have seen the rise of fracking and tar sands extraction in the first place. This, in turn, is starting to challenge the original Faustian pact of the industrial age: that the heaviest risks would be outsourced, offloaded, onto the other – the periphery abroad and inside our own nations. It’s something that is becoming less and less possible. Fracking is threatening some of the most picturesque parts of Britain as the sacrifice zone expands, swallowing up all kinds of places that imagined themselves safe. So this isn’t just about gasping at how ugly the tar sands are. It’s about acknowledging that there is no clean, safe, non-toxic way to run an economy powered by fossil fuels. There never was. … The trouble is structural. Fossil fuels, unlike renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar, are not widely distributed but highly concentrated in very specific locations, and those locations have a bad habit of being in other people’s countries. Particularly that most potent and precious of fossil fuels: oil.

This is why the project of Orientalism, of othering Arab and Muslim people, has been the silent partner of our oil dependence from the start – and inextricable, therefore, from the blowback that is climate change. If nations and peoples are regarded as other – exotic, primitive, bloodthirsty, as [Edward] Said documented in the 1970s – it is far easier to wage wars and stage coups when they get the crazy idea that they should control their own oil in their own interests. In 1953 it was the British-US collaboration to overthrow the democratically elected government of Muhammad Mossadegh after he nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP). In 2003, exactly fifty years later, it was another UK-US co-production – the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. The reverberations from each intervention continue to jolt our world, as do the reverberations from the successful burning of all that oil. The Middle East is now squeezed in the pincer of violence caused by fossil fuels, on the one hand, and the impact of burning those fossil fuels on the other.

In his latest book, The Conflict Shoreline, the Israeli architect Eyal Weizman has a groundbreaking take on how these forces are intersecting. The main way we’ve understood the border of the desert in the Middle East and North Africa, he explains, is the so-called ‘aridity line’, areas where there is on average 200 millimetres of rainfall a year, which has been considered the minimum for growing cereal crops on a large scale without irrigation. These meteorological boundaries aren’t fixed: they have fluctuated for various reasons, whether it was Israel’s attempts to ‘green the desert’ pushing them in one direction or cyclical drought expanding the desert in the other. And now, with climate change, intensifying drought can have all kinds of impacts along this line. Weizman points out that the Syrian border city of Daraa falls directly on the aridity line. Daraa is where Syria’s deepest drought on record brought huge numbers of displaced farmers in the years leading up to the outbreak of Syria’s civil war, and it’s where the Syrian uprising broke out in 2011. Drought wasn’t the only factor in bringing tensions to a head. But the fact that 1.5 million people were internally displaced in Syria as a result of the drought clearly played a role. The connection between water and heat stress and conflict is a recurring, intensifying pattern all along the aridity line: all along it you see places marked by drought, water scarcity, scorching temperatures and military conflict – from Libya to Palestine, to some of the bloodiest battlefields in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But Weizman also discovered what he calls an ‘astounding coincidence’. When you map the targets of Western drone strikes onto the region, you see that ‘many of these attacks – from South Waziristan through northern Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Iraq, Gaza and Libya – are directly on or close to the 200 mm aridity line.’ The red dots on the map above represent some of the areas where strikes have been concentrated. To me this is the most striking attempt yet to visualise the brutal landscape of the climate crisis.

All this was foreshadowed a decade ago in a US military report. ‘The Middle East,’ it observed, ‘has always been associated with two natural resources, oil (because of its abundance) and water (because of its scarcity).’ True enough. And now certain patterns have become quite clear: first, Western fighter jets followed that abundance of oil; now, Western drones are closely shadowing the lack of water, as drought exacerbates conflict. Just as bombs follow oil, and drones follow drought, so boats follow both: boats filled with refugees fleeing homes on the aridity line ravaged by war and drought. And the same capacity for dehumanising the other that justified the bombs and drones is now being trained on these migrants, casting their need for security as a threat to ours, their desperate flight as some sort of invading army. Tactics refined on the West Bank and in other occupation zones are now making their way to North America and Europe. … A culture that places so little value on black and brown lives that it is willing to let human beings disappear beneath the waves, or set themselves on fire in detention centres, will also be willing to let the countries where black and brown people live disappear beneath the waves, or desiccate in the arid heat. When that happens, theories of human hierarchy – that we must take care of our own first – will be marshalled to rationalise these monstrous decisions. We are making this rationalisation already, if only implicitly. …

The most important lesson to take from all this is that there is no way to confront the climate crisis as a technocratic problem, in isolation. It must be seen in the context of austerity and privatisation, of colonialism and militarism, and of the various systems of othering needed to sustain them all. … Overcoming these disconnections – strengthening the threads tying together our various issues and movements – is, I would argue, the most pressing task of anyone concerned with social and economic justice. It is the only way to build a counterpower sufficiently robust to win against the forces protecting the highly profitable but increasingly untenable status quo.

 

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London Review of Books Vol. 38 No. 11 · 2 June 2016 pages 11-14 | 5422 words

Let Them Drown : The Violence of Othering in a Warming World By Naomi Klein

 

Edward Said was no tree-hugger. Descended from traders, artisans and professionals, he once described himself as ‘an extreme case of an urban Palestinian whose relationship to the land is basically metaphorical’.In After the Last Sky, his meditation on the photographs of Jean Mohr, he explored the most intimate aspects of Palestinian lives, from hospitality to sports to home décor. The tiniest detail – the placing of a picture frame, the defiant posture of a child – provoked a torrent of insight from Said. Yet when confronted with images of Palestinian farmers – tending their flocks, working the fields – the specificity suddenly evaporated. Which crops were being cultivated? What was the state of the soil? The availability of water? Nothing was forthcoming. ‘I continue to perceive a population of poor, suffering, occasionally colourful peasants, unchanging and collective,’ Said confessed. This perception was ‘mythic’, he acknowledged – yet it remained.

 

If farming was another world for Said, those who devoted their lives to matters like air and water pollution appear to have inhabited another planet. Speaking to his colleague Rob Nixon, he once described environmentalism as ‘the indulgence of spoiled tree-huggers who lack a proper cause’. But the environmental challenges of the Middle East are impossible to ignore for anyone immersed, as Said was, in its geopolitics. This is a region intensely vulnerable to heat and water stress, to sea-level rise and to desertification. A recent paper in Nature Climate Change predicts that, unless we radically lower emissions and lower them fast, large parts of the Middle East will likely ‘experience temperature levels that are intolerable to humans’ by the end of this century. And that’s about as blunt as climate scientists get. Yet environmental issues in the region still tend to be treated as afterthoughts, or luxury causes. The reason is not ignorance, or indifference. It’s just bandwidth. Climate change is a grave threat but the most frightening impacts are in the medium term. And in the short term, there are always far more pressing threats to contend with: military occupation, air assault, systemic discrimination, embargo. Nothing can compete with that – nor should it attempt to try.

 

There are other reasons why environmentalism might have looked like a bourgeois playground to Said. The Israeli state has long coated its nation-building project in a green veneer – it was a key part of the Zionist ‘back to the land’ pioneer ethos. And in this context trees, specifically, have been among the most potent weapons of land grabbing and occupation. It’s not only the countless olive and pistachio trees that have been uprooted to make way for settlements and Israeli-only roads. It’s also the sprawling pine and eucalyptus forests that have been planted over those orchards, as well as over Palestinian villages, most notoriously by the Jewish National Fund, which, under its slogan ‘Turning the Desert Green’, boasts of having planted 250 million trees in Israel since 1901, many of them non-native to the region. In publicity materials, the JNF bills itself as just another green NGO, concerned with forest and water management, parks and recreation. It also happens to be the largest private landowner in the state of Israel, and despite a number of complicated legal challenges, it still refuses to lease or sell land to non-Jews.

I grew up in a Jewish community where every occasion – births and deaths, Mother’s Day, bar mitzvahs – was marked with the proud purchase of a JNF tree in the person’s honour. It wasn’t until adulthood that I began to understand that those feel-good faraway conifers, certificates for which papered the walls of my Montreal elementary school, were not benign – not just something to plant and later hug. In fact these trees are among the most glaring symbols of Israel’s system of official discrimination – the one that must be dismantled if peaceful co-existence is to become possible.

 

The JNF is an extreme and recent example of what some call ‘green colonialism’. But the phenomenon is hardly new, nor is it unique to Israel. There is a long and painful history in the Americas of beautiful pieces of wilderness being turned into conservation parks – and then that designation being used to prevent Indigenous people from accessing their ancestral territories to hunt and fish, or simply to live. It has happened again and again. A contemporary version of this phenomenon is the carbon offset. Indigenous people from Brazil to Uganda are finding that some of the most aggressive land grabbing is being done by conservation organisations. A forest is suddenly rebranded a carbon offset and is put off-limits to its traditional inhabitants. As a result, the carbon offset market has created a whole new class of ‘green’ human rights abuses, with farmers and Indigenous people being physically attacked by park rangers or private security when they try to access these lands. Said’s comment about tree-huggers should be seen in this context.

 

And there is more. In the last year of Said’s life, Israel’s so-called ‘separation barrier’ was going up, seizing huge swathes of the West Bank, cutting Palestinian workers off from their jobs, farmers from their fields, patients from hospitals – and brutally dividing families. There was no shortage of reasons to oppose the wall on human rights grounds. Yet at the time, some of the loudest dissenting voices among Israeli Jews were not focused on any of that. Yehudit Naot, Israel’s then environment minister, was more worried about a report informing her that ‘The separation fence … is harmful to the landscape, the flora and fauna, the ecological corridors and the drainage of the creeks.’ ‘I certainly don’t want to stop or delay the building of the fence,’ she said, but ‘I am disturbed by the environmental damage involved.’ As the Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti later observed, Naot’s ‘ministry and the National Parks Protection Authority mounted diligent rescue efforts to save an affected reserve of irises by moving it to an alternative reserve. They’ve also created tiny passages [through the wall] for animals.’

 

Perhaps this puts the cynicism about the green movement in context. People do tend to get cynical when their lives are treated as less important than flowers and reptiles. And yet there is so much of Said’s intellectual legacy that both illuminates and clarifies the underlying causes of the global ecological crisis, so much that points to ways we might respond that are far more inclusive than current campaign models: ways that don’t ask suffering people to shelve their concerns about war, poverty and systemic racism and first ‘save the world’ – but instead demonstrate how all these crises are interconnected, and how the solutions could be too. In short, Said may have had no time for tree-huggers, but tree-huggers must urgently make time for Said – and for a great many other anti-imperialist, postcolonial thinkers – because without that knowledge, there is no way to understand how we ended up in this dangerous place, or to grasp the transformations required to get us out. So what follows are some thoughts – by no means complete – about what we can learn from reading Said in a warming world.*

 

He was and remains among our most achingly eloquent theorists of exile and homesickness – but Said’s homesickness, he always made clear, was for a home that had been so radically altered that it no longer really existed. His position was complex: he fiercely defended the right to return, but never claimed that home was fixed. What mattered was the principle of respect for all human rights equally and the need for restorative justice to inform our actions and policies. This perspective is deeply relevant in our time of eroding coastlines, of nations disappearing beneath rising seas, of the coral reefs that sustain entire cultures being bleached white, of a balmy Arctic. This is because the state of longing for a radically altered homeland – a home that may not even exist any longer – is something that is being rapidly, and tragically, globalised. In March, two major peer-reviewed studies warned that sea-level rise could happen significantly faster than previously believed. One of the authors of the first study was James Hansen – perhaps the most respected climate scientist in the world. He warned that, on our current emissions trajectory, we face the ‘loss of all coastal cities, most of the world’s large cities and all their history’ – and not in thousands of years from now but as soon as this century. If we don’t demand radical change we are headed for a whole world of people searching for a home that no longer exists.

 

Said helps us imagine what that might look like as well. He helped to popularise the Arabic word sumud (‘to stay put, to hold on’): that steadfast refusal to leave one’s land despite the most desperate eviction attempts and even when surrounded by continuous danger. It’s a word most associated with places like Hebron and Gaza, but it could be applied equally today to residents of coastal Louisiana who have raised their homes up on stilts so that they don’t have to evacuate, or to Pacific Islanders whose slogan is ‘We are not drowning. We are fighting.’ In countries like the Marshall Islands and Fiji and Tuvalu, they know that so much sea-level rise is inevitable that their countries likely have no future. But they refuse just to concern themselves with the logistics of relocation, and wouldn’t even if there were safer countries willing to open their borders – a very big if, since climate refugees aren’t currently recognised under international law. Instead they are actively resisting: blockading Australian coal ships with traditional outrigger canoes, disrupting international climate negotiations with their inconvenient presence, demanding far more aggressive climate action. If there is anything worth celebrating in the Paris Agreement signed in April – and sadly, there isn’t enough – it has come about because of this kind of principled action: climate sumud.

 

But this only scratches of the surface of what we can learn from reading Said in a warming world. He was, of course, a giant in the study of ‘othering’ – what is described in Orientalism as ‘disregarding, essentialising, denuding the humanity of another culture, people or geographical region’. And once the other has been firmly established, the ground is softened for any transgression: violent expulsion, land theft, occupation, invasion. Because the whole point of othering is that the other doesn’t have the same rights, the same humanity, as those making the distinction. What does this have to do with climate change? Perhaps everything.

 

We have dangerously warmed our world already, and our governments still refuse to take the actions necessary to halt the trend. There was a time when many had the right to claim ignorance. But for the past three decades, since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created and climate negotiations began, this refusal to lower emissions has been accompanied with full awareness of the dangers. And this kind of recklessness would have been functionally impossible without institutional racism, even if only latent. It would have been impossible without Orientalism, without all the potent tools on offer that allow the powerful to discount the lives of the less powerful. These tools – of ranking the relative value of humans – are what allow the writing off of entire nations and ancient cultures. And they are what allowed for the digging up of all that carbon to begin with.*

 

Fossil fuels aren’t the sole driver of climate change – there is industrial agriculture, and deforestation – but they are the biggest. And the thing about fossil fuels is that they are so inherently dirty and toxic that they require sacrificial people and places: people whose lungs and bodies can be sacrificed to work in the coal mines, people whose lands and water can be sacrificed to open-pit mining and oil spills. As recently as the 1970s, scientists advising the US government openly referred to certain parts of the country being designated ‘national sacrifice areas’. Think of the mountains of Appalachia, blasted off for coal mining – because so-called ‘mountain top removal’ coal mining is cheaper than digging holes underground. There must be theories of othering to justify sacrificing an entire geography – theories about the people who lived there being so poor and backward that their lives and culture don’t deserve protection. After all, if you are a ‘hillbilly’, who cares about your hills? Turning all that coal into electricity required another layer of othering too: this time for the urban neighbourhoods next door to the power plants and refineries. In North America, these are overwhelmingly communities of colour, black and Latino, forced to carry the toxic burden of our collective addiction to fossil fuels, with markedly higher rates of respiratory illnesses and cancers. It was in fights against this kind of ‘environmental racism’ that the climate justice movement was born.

 

Fossil fuel sacrifice zones dot the globe. Take the Niger Delta, poisoned with an Exxon Valdez-worth of spilled oil every year, a process Ken Saro-Wiwa, before he was murdered by his government, called ‘ecological genocide’. The executions of community leaders, he said, were ‘all for Shell’. In my country, Canada, the decision to dig up the Alberta tar sands – a particularly heavy form of oil – has required the shredding of treaties with First Nations, treaties signed with the British Crown that guaranteed Indigenous peoples the right to continue to hunt, fish and live traditionally on their ancestral lands. It required it because these rights are meaningless when the land is desecrated, when the rivers are polluted and the moose and fish are riddled with tumours. And it gets worse: Fort McMurray – the town at the centre of the tar sands boom, where many of the workers live and where much of the money is spent – is currently in an infernal blaze. It’s that hot and that dry. And this has something to do with what is being mined there.

 

Even without such dramatic events, this kind of resource extraction is a form of violence, because it does so much damage to the land and water that it brings about the end of a way of life, a death of cultures that are inseparable from the land. Severing Indigenous people’s connection to their culture used to be state policy in Canada – imposed through the forcible removal of Indigenous children from their families to boarding schools where their language and cultural practices were banned, and where physical and sexual abuse were rampant. A recent truth and reconciliation report called it ‘cultural genocide’. The trauma associated with these layers of forced separation – from land, from culture, from family – is directly linked to the epidemic of despair ravaging so many First Nations communities today. On a single Saturday night in April, in the community of Attawapiskat – population 2000 – 11 people tried to take their own lives. Meanwhile, DeBeers runs a diamond mine on the community’s traditional territory; like all extractive projects, it had promised hope and opportunity. ‘Why don’t the people just leave?’, the politicians and pundits ask. But many do. And that departure is linked, in part, to the thousands of Indigenous women in Canada who have been murdered or gone missing, often in big cities. Press reports rarely make the connection between violence against women and violence against the land – often to extract fossil fuels – but it exists. Every new government comes to power promising a new era of respect for Indigenous rights. They don’t deliver, because Indigenous rights, as defined by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, include the right to refuse extractive projects – even when those projects fuel national economic growth. And that’s a problem because growth is our religion, our way of life. So even Canada’s hunky and charming new prime minister is bound and determined to build new tar sands pipelines, against the express wishes of Indigenous communities who don’t want to risk their water, or participate in the further destabilising of the climate.

 

Fossil fuels require sacrifice zones: they always have. And you can’t have a system built on sacrificial places and sacrificial people unless intellectual theories that justify their sacrifice exist and persist: from Manifest Destiny to Terra Nullius to Orientalism, from backward hillbillies to backward Indians. We often hear climate change blamed on ‘human nature’, on the inherent greed and short-sightedness of our species. Or we are told we have altered the earth so much and on such a planetary scale that we are now living in the Anthropocene – the age of humans. These ways of explaining our current circumstances have a very specific, if unspoken meaning: that humans are a single type, that human nature can be essentialised to the traits that created this crisis. In this way, the systems that certain humans created, and other humans powerfully resisted, are completely let off the hook. Capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy – those sorts of system. Diagnoses like this erase the very existence of human systems that organised life differently: systems that insist that humans must think seven generations in the future; must be not only good citizens but also good ancestors; must take no more than they need and give back to the land in order to protect and augment the cycles of regeneration. These systems existed and still exist, but they are erased every time we say that the climate crisis is a crisis of ‘human nature’ and that we are living in the ‘age of man’. And they come under very real attack when megaprojects are built, like the Gualcarque hydroelectric dams in Honduras, a project which, among other things, took the life of the land defender Berta Cáceres, who was assassinated in March.*

 

Some people insist that it doesn’t have to be this bad. We can clean up resource extraction, we don’t need to do it the way it’s been done in Honduras and the Niger Delta and the Alberta tar sands. Except that we are running out of cheap and easy ways to get at fossil fuels, which is why we have seen the rise of fracking and tar sands extraction in the first place. This, in turn, is starting to challenge the original Faustian pact of the industrial age: that the heaviest risks would be outsourced, offloaded, onto the other – the periphery abroad and inside our own nations. It’s something that is becoming less and less possible. Fracking is threatening some of the most picturesque parts of Britain as the sacrifice zone expands, swallowing up all kinds of places that imagined themselves safe. So this isn’t just about gasping at how ugly the tar sands are. It’s about acknowledging that there is no clean, safe, non-toxic way to run an economy powered by fossil fuels. There never was.

There is an avalanche of evidence that there is no peaceful way either. The trouble is structural. Fossil fuels, unlike renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar, are not widely distributed but highly concentrated in very specific locations, and those locations have a bad habit of being in other people’s countries. Particularly that most potent and precious of fossil fuels: oil. This is why the project of Orientalism, of othering Arab and Muslim people, has been the silent partner of our oil dependence from the start – and inextricable, therefore, from the blowback that is climate change. If nations and peoples are regarded as other – exotic, primitive, bloodthirsty, as Said documented in the 1970s – it is far easier to wage wars and stage coups when they get the crazy idea that they should control their own oil in their own interests. In 1953 it was the British-US collaboration to overthrow the democratically elected government of Muhammad Mossadegh after he nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP). In 2003, exactly fifty years later, it was another UK-US co-production – the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. The reverberations from each intervention continue to jolt our world, as do the reverberations from the successful burning of all that oil. The Middle East is now squeezed in the pincer of violence caused by fossil fuels, on the one hand, and the impact of burning those fossil fuels on the other.

 

In his latest book, The Conflict Shoreline, the Israeli architect Eyal Weizman has a groundbreaking take on how these forces are intersecting.The main way we’ve understood the border of the desert in the Middle East and North Africa, he explains, is the so-called ‘aridity line’, areas where there is on average 200 millimetres of rainfall a year, which has been considered the minimum for growing cereal crops on a large scale without irrigation. These meteorological boundaries aren’t fixed: they have fluctuated for various reasons, whether it was Israel’s attempts to ‘green the desert’ pushing them in one direction or cyclical drought expanding the desert in the other. And now, with climate change, intensifying drought can have all kinds of impacts along this line. Weizman points out that the Syrian border city of Daraa falls directly on the aridity line. Daraa is where Syria’s deepest drought on record brought huge numbers of displaced farmers in the years leading up to the outbreak of Syria’s civil war, and it’s where the Syrian uprising broke out in 2011. Drought wasn’t the only factor in bringing tensions to a head. But the fact that 1.5 million people were internally displaced in Syria as a result of the drought clearly played a role. The connection between water and heat stress and conflict is a recurring, intensifying pattern all along the aridity line: all along it you see places marked by drought, water scarcity, scorching temperatures and military conflict – from Libya to Palestine, to some of the bloodiest battlefields in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

 

But Weizman also discovered what he calls an ‘astounding coincidence’. When you map the targets of Western drone strikes onto the region, you see that ‘many of these attacks – from South Waziristan through northern Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Iraq, Gaza and Libya – are directly on or close to the 200 mm aridity line.’ The red dots on the map above represent some of the areas where strikes have been concentrated. To me this is the most striking attempt yet to visualise the brutal landscape of the climate crisis. All this was foreshadowed a decade ago in a US military report. ‘The Middle East,’ it observed, ‘has always been associated with two natural resources, oil (because of its abundance) and water (because of its scarcity).’ True enough. And now certain patterns have become quite clear: first, Western fighter jets followed that abundance of oil; now, Western drones are closely shadowing the lack of water, as drought exacerbates conflict.

 

Just as bombs follow oil, and drones follow drought, so boats follow both: boats filled with refugees fleeing homes on the aridity line ravaged by war and drought. And the same capacity for dehumanising the other that justified the bombs and drones is now being trained on these migrants, casting their need for security as a threat to ours, their desperate flight as some sort of invading army. Tactics refined on the West Bank and in other occupation zones are now making their way to North America and Europe. In selling his wall on the border with Mexico, Donald Trump likes to say: ‘Ask Israel, the wall works.’

 

Camps are bulldozed in Calais, thousands of people drown in the Mediterranean, and the Australian government detains survivors of wars and despotic regimes in camps on the remote islands of Nauru and Manus. Conditions are so desperate on Nauru that last month an Iranian migrant died after setting himself on fire to try to draw the world’s attention. Another migrant – a 21-year-old woman from Somalia – set herself on fire a few days later. Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister, warns that Australians ‘cannot be misty-eyed about this’ and ‘have to be very clear and determined in our national purpose’. It’s worth bearing Nauru in mind the next time a columnist in a Murdoch paper declares, as Katie Hopkins did last year, that it’s time for Britain ‘to get Australian. Bring on the gunships, force migrants back to their shores and burn the boats.’ In another bit of symbolism Nauru is one of the Pacific Islands very vulnerable to sea-level rise. Its residents, after seeing their homes turned into prisons for others, will very possibly have to migrate themselves. Tomorrow’s climate refugees have been recruited into service as today’s prison guards.

 

We need to understand that what is happening on Nauru, and what is happening to it, are expressions of the same logic. A culture that places so little value on black and brown lives that it is willing to let human beings disappear beneath the waves, or set themselves on fire in detention centres, will also be willing to let the countries where black and brown people live disappear beneath the waves, or desiccate in the arid heat. When that happens, theories of human hierarchy – that we must take care of our own first – will be marshalled to rationalise these monstrous decisions. We are making this rationalisation already, if only implicitly. Although climate change will ultimately be an existential threat to all of humanity, in the short term we know that it does discriminate, hitting the poor first and worst, whether they are abandoned on the rooftops of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina or whether they are among the 36 million who according to the UN are facing hunger due to drought in Southern and East Africa.*

 

This is an emergency, a present emergency, not a future one, but we aren’t acting like it. The Paris Agreement commits to keeping warming below 2°c. It’s a target that is beyond reckless. When it was unveiled in Copenhagen in 2009, the African delegates called it ‘a death sentence’. The slogan of several low-lying island nations is ‘1.5 to stay alive’. At the last minute, a clause was added to the Paris Agreement that says countries will pursue ‘efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°c’. Not only is this non-binding but it is a lie: we are making no such efforts. The governments that made this promise are now pushing for more fracking and more tar sands development – which are utterly incompatible with 2°c, let alone 1.5°c. This is happening because the wealthiest people in the wealthiest countries in the world think they are going to be OK, that someone else is going to eat the biggest risks, that even when climate change turns up on their doorstep, they will be taken care of.

 

When they’re wrong things get even uglier. We had a vivid glimpse into that future when the floodwaters rose in England last December and January, inundating 16,000 homes. These communities weren’t only dealing with the wettest December on record. They were also coping with the fact that the government has waged a relentless attack on the public agencies, and the local councils, that are on the front lines of flood defence. So understandably, there were many who wanted to change the subject away from that failure. Why, they asked, is Britain spending so much money on refugees and foreign aid when it should be taking care of its own? ‘Never mind foreign aid,’ we read in the Daily Mail. ‘What about national aid?’ ‘Why,’ a Telegraph editorial demanded, ‘should British taxpayers continue to pay for flood defences abroad when the money is needed here?’ I don’t know – maybe because Britain invented the coal-burning steam engine and has been burning fossil fuels on an industrial scale longer than any nation on Earth? But I digress. The point is that this could have been a moment to understand that we are all affected by climate change, and must take action together and in solidarity with one another. It wasn’t, because climate change isn’t just about things getting hotter and wetter: under our current economic and political model, it’s about things getting meaner and uglier.

 

The most important lesson to take from all this is that there is no way to confront the climate crisis as a technocratic problem, in isolation. It must be seen in the context of austerity and privatisation, of colonialism and militarism, and of the various systems of othering needed to sustain them all. The connections and intersections between them are glaring, and yet so often resistance to them is highly compartmentalised. The anti-austerity people rarely talk about climate change, the climate change people rarely talk about war or occupation. We rarely make the connection between the guns that take black lives on the streets of US cities and in police custody and the much larger forces that annihilate so many black lives on arid land and in precarious boats around the world.

 

Overcoming these disconnections – strengthening the threads tying together our various issues and movements – is, I would argue, the most pressing task of anyone concerned with social and economic justice. It is the only way to build a counterpower sufficiently robust to win against the forces protecting the highly profitable but increasingly untenable status quo. Climate change acts as an accelerant to many of our social ills – inequality, wars, racism – but it can also be an accelerant for the opposite, for the forces working for economic and social justice and against militarism. Indeed the climate crisis – by presenting our species with an existential threat and putting us on a firm and unyielding science-based deadline – might just be the catalyst we need to knit together a great many powerful movements, bound together by a belief in the inherent worth and value of all people and united by a rejection of the sacrifice zone mentality, whether it applies to peoples or places. We face so many overlapping and intersecting crises that we can’t afford to fix them one at a time. We need integrated solutions, solutions that radically bring down emissions, while creating huge numbers of good, unionised jobs and delivering meaningful justice to those who have been most abused and excluded under the current extractive economy.

 

Said died the year Iraq was invaded, living to see its libraries and museums looted, its oil ministry faithfully guarded. Amid these outrages, he found hope in the global anti-war movement, as well as in new forms of grassroots communication opened up by technology; he noted ‘the existence of alternative communities across the globe, informed by alternative news sources, and keenly aware of the environmental, human rights and libertarian impulses that bind us together in this tiny planet’. His vision even had a place for tree-huggers. I was reminded of those words recently while I was reading up on England’s floods. Amid all the scapegoating and finger-pointing, I came across a post by a man called Liam Cox. He was upset by the way some in the media were using the disaster to rev up anti-foreigner sentiment, and he said so:

 

I live in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, one of the worst affected areas hit by the floods. It’s shit, everything has gotten really wet. However … I’m alive. I’m safe. My family are safe. We don’t live in fear. I’m free. There aren’t bullets flying about. There aren’t bombs going off. I’m not being forced to flee my home and I’m not being shunned by the richest country in the world or criticised by its residents.All you morons vomiting your xenophobia … about how money should only be spent ‘on our own’ need to look at yourselves closely in the mirror. I request you ask yourselves a very important question … Am I a decent and honourable human being? Because home isn’t just the UK, home is everywhere on this planet. I think that makes for a very fine last word.

 

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n11/naomi-…

 

 

May 27, 2016 Posted by | global warming | | Leave a comment

Obama’s Hiroshima Visit Is a Reminder that Atomic Bombs Weren’t What Won the War

highly-recommendedThe World Post, Gar Alperovitz Author, Political Economist, Historian05/24/2016 U.S. Book Decision to use Atomic BombPresident Barack Obama’s forthcoming visit to Hiroshima offers an opportunity to reconsider some of the myths surrounding the historic decision to use the atomic bomb. Such reconsideration also helps focus attention on how we can avoid any future use of weapons that are now thousands of times more powerful than the ones used in 1945.

A good place to start is with an unusual and little-noticed display at The National Museum of the United States Navy in Washington. A plaque explaining an exhibit devoted to the atomic bombings declares: “The vast destruction wreaked by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the loss of 135,000 people made little impact on the Japanese military. However, the Soviet invasion of Manchuria on 9 August — fulfilling a promise made at the Yalta Conference in February — changed their minds.”

Though the surprising statement runs contrary to the accepted claim that the atomic bombs ended World War II, it is faithful to the historical record of how and why Japan surrendered. The Japanese cabinet — and especially the Japanese army leaders — were not, in fact, jolted into surrender by the bombings. Japan had been willing to sacrifice city after city to American conventional bombing in the months leading up to Hiroshima — most dramatically in the March 9 firebombing of Tokyo, an attack that cost an estimated 100,000 lives.

What Japan’s military leaders were focused on was the Red Army, which was poised to take on the best of Japan’s remaining army in Manchuria. The historical record also makes clear that American leaders fully understood this. Indeed, before the atomic bomb was successfully tested, U.S. leaders desperately sought assurances that the Red Army would attack Japan after Germany was defeated. The president was strongly advised that when this happened, Japan was likely to surrender with the sole proviso that Japan be allowed to keep its emperor in some figurehead role.

Nor was this deemed a major problem. The U.S. military had long planned to keep the emperor in such a role to help control Japan during the postwar occupation. Once the atomic bomb was successfully tested, however, assurances for the emperor that were included in the 1945 Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender were eliminated, making it certain Japan would continue to fight. As the Navy museum plaque also accurately explains: “Truman’s political advisors overrode the views of the military leaders and foreign policy makers, insisting that Americans would not accept leniency towards the emperor.”

Although it goes on to suggest this was done for political, not military reasons, there are unresolved questions about this judgment. ……

early postwar critics pointed out that there is considerable evidence that diplomatic reasons concerning the Soviet Union — not military reasons concerning Japan — may have been important. For instance, after a group of nuclear scientists met with Truman’s chief adviser on the atomic bomb, U.S. Secretary of State James Byrnes, onereported that, “Mr. Byrnes did not argue that it was necessary to use the bomb against the cities of Japan in order to win the war … Mr. Byrnes’ … view [was] that our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more manageable.”……..

Gar Alperovitz is the author of two major studies of the atomic bombings: “Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam“ and “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,” where references to the key documentary sources in this piece can also be found. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gar-alperovitz/obama-hiroshima-bomb_b_10067434.html

May 27, 2016 Posted by | history, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Illinois Attorney General slams nuclear bailout legislation

 

taxpayer bailoutAttorney General Rips Exelon Legislation http://www.wandtv.com/story/32061349/attorney-general-rips-exelon-legislation  May 26, 2016 

By: Doug Wolfe, State Capitol – Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is opposing a bill in the legislature that central Illinois lawmakers say could save the Exelon nuclear power station in Clinton.

Madigan says the measure (Senate Bill 1585) would allow Exelon and its subsidiary ComEd to rack up billions of dollars in spending and profit paid for by consumers.

“It’s outrageous that Exelon and ComEd are again requesting a bailout when they are both profitable companies,” Madigan stated.  “The legislature has more important matters to address than padding ComEd and Exelon’s profits.”

Exelon has argued it needs the legislation in order to keep operating the Clinton plant.  Lawmakers like Senator Chapin Rose, (R) Mahomet, and Representative Bill Mitchell, (R) Forsyth, have said hundreds of jobs are on the line in central Illinois should the plant be closed.  Schools say they will lose millions of dollars in property taxes.

Exelon has threatened to close the plant in 2017 if the legislation, which changes some regulations, is not passed by the legislature by the end of the legislative session this month.

May 27, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

President Obama’s nuclear disarmament dream has turned into a nuclear arms race nightmare

Obama puppetObama’s Nuclear Paradox: Pushing For Cuts, Agreeing To Upgrades, NPR , PHILIP EWING  May 25, 2016    President Obama came into office with a dream of a world without nuclear weapons, and he’s sure to touch on this theme Friday when he becomes the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, site of the world’s first atomic bombing.

Yet Obama also has put the U.S. on course to spend around $1 trillion on upgrading its nuclear arsenal over the next three decades and, critics say……..

president who has opposed nuclear weapons all his life has wound up asking Congress to fund a new class of ballistic missile submarine, a new stealth bomber, upgrades to the current stock of nuclear weapons, a new cruise missile and billions of dollars of other programs.

The world’s other nuclear superpower, Russia, is rejuvenating its own nuclear arsenal and threatening to develop whole new weapons, including an intermediate range missile and what it claims is a new nuclear torpedo.

China, Russia, India and the United States all are developing new missiles that travel at least three times the speed of sound. Disarmament activists say no country should have these weapons.

“Obama and his successor, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, have a responsibility to pull back from a nuclear action-reaction cycle that would put both countries at greater risk and block further nuclear reductions for many more years to come,” declared Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association.

Kimball has called on Obama to propose new negotiations on global restraint, urge China, India and Pakistan to freeze their nuclear stockpiles and call for “a new push for a world without nuclear weapons.”…………

This year’s nuclear safety summit in Washington was viewed as a mere victory lap – which Russia boycotted. And by the final year of Obama’s term, it has become clear that the administration will have wound up  spending more on new weapons than on nonproliferation. A lot more.  …….http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/05/25/479498018/obamas-nuclear-paradox-pushing-for-cuts-

May 27, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

The USA Pentagon’s budget labyrinth for a planned $1 trillion splurge

missile-moneyThe Pentagon’s War on Accountability: Slush Funds, Smoke and Mirrors, and Funny Money Equal Weapons Systems Galore By William D. Hartung, Tom Dispatch, Reader Supported News, 24 May 16 Slush Funds Galore

“………If smokescreens and evasive maneuvers aren’t enough to hide the Pentagon’s actual priorities from the taxpaying public, there’s always secrecy.  The Secrecy Project at the Federation of American Scientists recently put the size of the intelligence portion of the national security state’s “black budget“ — its secret spending on everything from spying to developing high-tech weaponry — at more than $70 billion. That figure includes a wide variety of activities carried out through the CIA, the NSA, and other members of the intelligence community, but $16.8 billion of it was requested directly by the Department of Defense.  And that $70 billion is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to secret spending programs, since billions more in secret financing for the development and acquisition of new weapons systems has been squirreled away elsewhere.

The largest recent project to have its total costs shrouded in secrecy is the B-21, the Air Force’s new nuclear bomber. Air Force officials claim that they need to keep the cost secret lest potential enemies “connect the dots” and learn too much about the plane’s key characteristics.  In a letter to Senator McCain, an advocate of making the cost of the plane public, Ronald Walden of the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office claimed that there was “a strong correlation between the cost of an air vehicle and its total weight.” This, he suggested, might make it “decisively easier” for potential opponents to guess its range and payload.

If such assessments sound ludicrous, it’s because they are.  As the histories of other major Pentagon acquisition programs have shown, the price of a system tells you just that — its price — and nothing more.  Otherwise, with its classic cost overruns, the F-35 would have a range beyond compare, possibly to Mars and back. Of course, the real rationale for keeping the full cost estimate for the B-21 secret is to avoid bad publicity.  Budget analyst Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests that it’s an attempt to avoid “sticker shock” for a program that he estimates could cost more than $100 billion to develop and purchase.

The bomber, in turn, is just part of a planned $1 trillion splurge over the next three decades on a new generation of bombers, ballistic missile submarines, and ground-based nuclear missiles, part of an updating of the vast U.S. nuclear arsenal.  And keep this in mind: that trillion dollars is simply an initial estimate before the usual Pentagon cost overruns even begin to come into play.  Financially, the nuclear plan is going to hit taxpayer wallets particularly hard in the mid-2020s when a number of wildly expensive non-nuclear systems like the F-35 combat aircraft will also be hitting peak production.

Under the circumstances, it doesn’t take a genius to know that there’s only one way to avoid the budgetary equivalent of a 30-car pile up: increase the Pentagon’s already ample finances yet again.  Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Brian McKeon was referring to the costs of building new nuclear delivery vehicles when he said that the administration was “wondering how the heck we’re going to pay for it, and probably thanking our lucky stars we won’t be here to answer the question.”  Of course, the rest of us will be stuck holding the bag when all those programs cloaked in secrecy suddenly come out of hiding and the bills come fully due.

At this point, you may not be shocked to learn that, in response to McKeon’s uncomfortable question, the Pentagon has come up with yet another budgetary gimmick.  It’s known as the “National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund,” or as Taxpayers for Common Sense more accurately labels it, “the Navy’s submarine slush fund.” The idea — a longstanding darling of the submarine lobby (and yes, Virginia, there is a submarine lobby in Washington) — is to set up a separate slush fund outside the Navy’s normal shipbuilding budget. That’s where the money for the new ballistic missile submarine program, currently slated to cost $139 billion for 12 subs, would go.

Establishing such a new slush fund would, in turn, finesse any direct budgetary competition between the submarine program and the new surface ships the Navy also wants, and so avoid a political battle that might end up substantially reducing the number of vessels the Navy is hoping to buy over the next 30 years.  Naturally, the money for the submarine fund will have to come from somewhere, either one of the other military services or that operations and maintenance budget so regularly raided to help pay for expensive weapons programs.

Not to be outmaneuvered, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has now asked Congress to set up a “strategic deterrence fund” to pay for its two newest nuclear delivery vehicles, the planned bomber and a long-range nuclear-armed ballistic missile.  In theory, this would take pressure off other major Air Force projects like the F-35, but as with the submarine fund, it only adds up if a future president and a future Congress can be persuaded to jack up the Pentagon budget to make room for these and other weapons systems.

In the end, however the specifics work out, any “fund” for such weaponry will be just another case of smoke and mirrors, a way of kicking the nuclear funding crisis down the road in hopes of fatter budgets to come. Why make choices now when the Pentagon and the military services can bet on blackmailing a future Trump or Clinton administration and a future Congress into ponying up the extra billions of dollars needed to make their latest ill-conceived plans add up?

If your head is spinning after this brief tour of the Pentagon’s budget labyrinth, it should be. That’s just what the Pentagon wants its painfully complicated budget practices to do: leave Congress, any administration, and the public too confused and exhausted to actually hold it accountable for how our tax dollars are being spent. So far, they’re getting away with it.


William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and a senior adviser to the Security Assistance Monitor. He is the author of, among other books, Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower Worldhttp://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/37052-the-pentagons-war-on-accountability-slush-funds-smoke-and-mirrors-and-funny-money-equal-weapons-systems-galore

May 27, 2016 Posted by | Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

America’s risks of catastrophic fire in spent nuclear fuel pools

spent-fuel-rodsSpent fuel fire on U.S. soil could dwarf impact of Fukushima, Science, By Richard Stone May. 24, 2016  A fire from spent fuel stored at a U.S. nuclear power plant could have catastrophic consequences, according to new simulations of such an event.

A major fire “could dwarf the horrific consequences of the Fukushima accident,” says Edwin Lyman, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C. “We’re talking about trillion-dollar consequences,” says Frank von Hippel, a nuclear security expert at Princeton University, who teamed with Princeton’s Michael Schoeppner on the modeling exercise.

The revelations come on the heels of a report last week from the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on the aftermath of the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan. The report details how a spent fuel fire at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant that was crippled by the twin disasters could have released far more radioactivity into the environment.

The nuclear fuel in three of the plant’s six reactors melted down and released radioactive plumes that contaminated land downwind. Japan declared 1100 square kilometers uninhabitable and relocated 88,000 people. (Almost as many left voluntarily.) After the meltdowns, officials feared that spent fuel stored in pools in the reactor halls would catch fire and send radioactive smoke across a much wider swath of eastern Japan, including Tokyo. By a stroke of luck, that did not happen.

But the national academies’s report warns that spent fuel accumulating at U.S. nuclear plants is also vulnerable. After fuel is removed from a reactor core, the radioactive fission products continue to decay, generating heat. All nuclear power plants store the fuel onsite at the bottom of deep pools for at least 4 years while it slowly cools. To keep it safe, the academies report recommends that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and nuclear plant operators beef up systems for monitoring the pools and topping up water levels in case a facility is damaged. The panel also says plants should be ready to tighten security after a disaster.

At most U.S. nuclear plants, spent fuel is densely packed in pools, heightening the fire risk. NRC has estimated that a major fire at the spent fuel pool at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania would displace an estimated 3.46 million people from 31,000 square kilometers of contaminated land, an area larger than New Jersey. But Von Hippel and Schoeppner think that NRC has grossly underestimated the scale and societal costs of such a fire…….http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/05/spent-fuel-fire-us-soil-could-dwarf-impact-fukushima

 

May 27, 2016 Posted by | safety, USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Exelon and its allies rally for a bailout of nuclear power, despite its known dangers

Tax - payersIllinoisans Sound Off On Exelon/ComEd Bill As Report Unveils Dangers At Their Local Nuclear Sites http://www.progressillinois.com/news/content/2016/05/24/illinoisans-sound-over-exeloncomed-legislation   With the end of the regular Illinois legislative session looming, supporters of an Exelon and ComEd energy proposal were at the State Capitol Tuesday to advocate for the measure.

Exelon workers and their allies were among those rallying for the controversial Next Generation Energy Plan. Without the legislation, Exelon has warned that it will have to shutter its Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear power plants, which are reportedly struggling financially.

State Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet), whose district includes the Clinton nuclear plant, supports the legislation. …

Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan added: “We cannot afford to see a nuclear plant close.”

But Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the legislation is essentially a bailout for Exelon and its subsidiary ComEd.

“It’s outrageous that Exelon and ComEd are again requesting a bailout when they are both profitable companies,” Madigan said in a statement about her opposition to the legislation, SB 1585. “This proposal would force consumers to pay more only to boost the companies’ profits further. The legislature has more important matters to address than padding ComEd and Exelon’s profits.”

Abraham Scarr with the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) also weighed in on the energy legislation Tuesday. He told consumers not to believe “the hype” around the bill:

ComEd and Exelon want you to believe their ‘Next Generation Energy Plan’ will put Illinois on the path to a clean energy future. Don’t believe the hype. They claim their bill will jump start solar, but the solar industry opposes it. They claim their new rate structure helps consumers, but consumer advocates oppose it. They ask for ‘equal footing’ with wind and solar, without counting the $5.58 billion Illinois ratepayers have already poured into their nuclear fleet.

The ComEd-Exelon bill prioritizes private profits over public good. Demand charges, the nuclear bailout, the grossly overpriced micro-grid proposal and many other policies all aim to deliver more, and more consistent, revenue for ComEd and Exelon.

It is time to transition to a clean, renewable energy economy and do so in a way that is fair to consumers and to the communities most impacted by our energy system. But instead of rising to these challenges, the ComEd-Exelon bill seeks to forestall this transition and wring as much profit from ratepayers as possible while delivering little in return.

In other news, Exelon’s Illinois nuclear facilities were mentioned in a new report released Tuesday by Greenpeace.

The environmental group analyzed “near misses or accident precursors at U.S. nuclear power plants over the past decade.” The report adds that “risk analysts have determined” these events to be “precursors to a meltdown.”

The incidents were reported to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. From 2004 through 2014, NRC recored “61 events and 102 conditions at US nuclear plants that were near misses to a meltdown,” the report says.

All but three of Exelon’s 11 nuclear reactors in Illinois are reported to have had “near misses” over that decade, according to the research.

“As legislators and the governor move to decide Illinois energy future and whether to bailout three of Exelon’s aging and financially failing reactors, they should well consider the potential safety risks of staying with nuclear power, and whether or not the federal regulators are doing their job to adequately protect Illinois from enormous economic and environmental harm,” Dave Kraft, director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, an anti-nuclear group, said in reaction to the new Greenpeace report.    SOURCES  News links:  Journal Gazette & Times-Courier

May 27, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Illinois the perfect illustration of the plight of the nuclear and coal industries

  • fossil-fuel-fightback-1Flag-USAWhere Free Wind Meets Cheap Gas in U.S., Power Dynamics Changing
  • Illinois could lose more than 10 percent of power capacity
  • Exelon, Dynegy asking legislature to save aging plants
  • For a snapshot of the woes of the U.S coal and nuclear industries, take a look at Illinois.

    Following a four-year drop in electricity demand, power companies there announced the closing of coal and nuclear plants that account for more than 10 percent of generating capacity. The shutdowns come amid a fourfold increase in cheap wind from neighboring states and growing competition from generators burning low-cost natural gas.

  • Exelon Corp., the operator of 11 nuclear reactors in Illinois, and Dynegy Inc., which has 10 coal-fired plants in the state, are asking lawmakers to bail out their money-losing assets to prevent further job-cutting, closures
  • “You’ve got free wind power coming from the west and cheap gas coming from the east and that’s not a good place to be for coal and nuclear power plants,” said Travis Miller, a utility analyst for Morningstar Inc., an investment research firm.
  • Illinois isn’t alone. The power industry upheaval is playing out in more than a dozen states that deregulated their electricity markets, opening their borders to competition, over the past two decades. In those locations, owners of aging generators are particularly vulnerable as the average wholesale power price has dropped by about half since 2008. In response, electricity providers in places like Ohio and New York are asking for millions of dollars to keep their units running.

    Nowhere has the confluence of market forces produced such a profound dislocation as in Illinois.  Continue reading

May 27, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Weaponising the planet – the Pentagon’s secret “war budget”

secret-agent-Smweapons1The Pentagon’s War on Accountability: Slush Funds, Smoke and Mirrors, and Funny Money Equal Weapons Systems Galore By William D. Hartung, Tom Dispatch, Reader Supported News, 24 May 16 How to Arm the Planet

“……..In recent years, keeping tabs on how the Pentagon spends its money has grown even more difficult thanks to the “war budget” — known in Pentagonese as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account — which has become a nearly bottomless pit for items that have nothing to do with fighting wars.  The use of the OCO as a slush fund began in earnest in the early years of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and has continued ever since.  It’s hard to put a precise number on how much money has been slipped into that budget or taken out of it to pay for pet projects of every sort in the last decade-plus, but the total is certainly more than $100 billion and counting.

The Pentagon’s routine use of the war budget as a way to fund whatever it wants has set an example for a Congress that’s seldom seen a military project it wasn’t eager to pay for.  Only recently, for instance, the House Armed Services Committee chair, Texas Republican Congressman Mac Thornberry, proposed taking $18 billion from the war budget to cover items like an extra 11 F-35 combat aircraft and 14 F-18 fighter-bombers that the Pentagon hadn’t even asked for.

This was great news for Lockheed Martin, which needs a shot in the arm for its troubled F-35 program, already slated to be the most expensive weapons system in history, and for Boeing, which has been lobbying aggressively to keep its F-18 production line open in the face of declining orders from the Navy.  But it’s bad news for the troops because, as the Project on Government Oversight has demonstrated, the money used to pay for the unneeded planes will come at the expense of training and maintenance funds.

This is, by the way, the height of hypocrisy at a time when the House Armed Services Committee is routinely sending out hysterical missives about the country’s supposed lack of military readiness.  The money to adequately train military personnel and keep their equipment running is, in fact, there. Members of Congress like Thornberry would just have to stop raiding the operations budget to pay for big ticket weapons systems, while turning a blind eye to wasteful spending in other parts of the Pentagon budget.

Thornberry’s gambit may not carry the day, since both President Obama and Senate Armed Services Committee chair John McCain oppose it.  But as long as a separate war budget exists, the temptation to stuff it with unnecessary programs will persist as well.

Of course, that war budget is just part of the problem.  The Pentagon has so many budding programs tucked away in so many different lines of its budget that even its officials have a hard time keeping track of what’s actually going on.  As for the rest of us, we’re essentially in the dark.

Consider, for instance, the proliferation of military aid programs.  The  Security Assistance Monitor, a nonprofit that tracks such programs, has identified more than two dozen of them worth about $10 billion annually.  Combine them with similar programs tucked away in the State Department’s budget, and the U.S. is contributing to the arming and training of security forces in 180 countries.  (To put that mind-boggling total in perspective, there are at most 196 countries on the planet.)  Who could possibly keep track of such programs, no less what effect they may be having on the countries and militaries involved, or on the complex politics of, and conflicts in, various regions?

Best suggestion: don’t even think about it (which is exactly what the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex want you to do).  And no need for Congress to do so either.  After all, as Lora Lumpe and Jeremy Ravinsky of the Open Society Foundations noted earlier this year, the Pentagon is the only government agency providing foreign assistance that does not even have to submit to Congress an annual budget justification for what it does.  As a result, they write, “the public does not know how much the DoD is spending in a given country and why……….”http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/37052-the-pentagons-war-on-accountability-slush-funds-smoke-and-mirrors-and-funny-money-equal-weapons-systems-galore

May 27, 2016 Posted by | Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

China readies nuclear armed submarines for the Pacific

submarine-missileflag-ChinaChina to send nuclear-armed submarines into Pacific amid tensions with US
Beijing risks stoking new arms race with move although military says expansion of the US missile defence has left it with no choice
, Guardian,  , 26 May 16  [ video, excellent graphics] The Chinese military is poised to send submarines armed with nuclear missiles into the Pacific Ocean for the first time, arguing that new US weapons systems have so undermined Beijing’s existing deterrent force that it has been left with no alternative.

Chinese military officials are not commenting on the timing of a maiden patrol, but insist the move is inevitable.

They point to plans unveiled in March to station the US Thaad anti-ballistic system in South Korea, and the development of hypersonic glide missiles potentially capable of hitting China less than an hour after launch, as huge threats to the effectiveness of its land-based deterrent force.

A recent Pentagon report to Congress predicted that “China will probably conduct its first nuclear deterrence patrol sometime in 2016”, though top US officers have made such predictions before…….

Last Tuesday, a US spy plane and two Chinese fighter jets came close to colliding 50 miles of Hainan island, where China’s four Jin-Class ballistic missile submarines are based. A fifth is under construction.

The two countries’ navies have also come uncomfortably close around disputed islands in the same region, and the chance of a clash will be heightened by cat-and-mouse submarine operations, according to Wu Riqiang, an associate professor at the School of International Studies at the Renmin University in Beijing.

“Because China’s SSBNs [nuclear missile submarines] are in the South China Sea, the US navy will try to send spy ships in there and get close to the SSBNs. China’s navy hates that and will try to push them away,” Wu said.

The primary reason Chinese military officials give for the move towards a sea-based deterrent is the expansion of US missile defence, which Moscow also claims is disturbing the global strategic balance and potentially stoking a new arms race.

The decision to deploy Thaad anti-ballistic interceptors in South Korea was taken after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, and the stated mission of the truck-launched interceptors is to shield the south from missile attack.

But Beijing says the Thaad system’s range extends across much of China and contributes to the undermining of its nuclear deterrent. It has warned Seoul that relations between the two countries could be “destroyed in an instant” if the Thaad deployment goes ahead……

Under Xi’s assertive leadership, China seems determined that the Chinese nuclear deterrent will take finally to the ocean, and it has already taken thestep of putting multiple warheads on its missiles. Those steps are mostly in response to US measures, which in turn were triggered by unrelated actions by the North Koreans.

The law of unintended consequences is in danger of taking the upper hand. “The two sides may thus be stumbling blindly into severe crisis instability and growing competition by China with respect to strategic forces,” Lewis argues. “A competition between unevenly matched forces is inherently unstable.”http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/26/china-send-nuclear-armed-submarines-into-pacific-us

May 27, 2016 Posted by | China, oceans, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Donald Trump will pull the US out of the UN global climate accord, push coal, oil

USA election 2016Trump to undo climate agenda, push coal, THE AUSTRALIAN BY VALERIE VOLCOVICI AND EMILY STEPHENSON AAP MAY 27, 2016

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has promised to roll back some of America’s most ambitious environmental policies, actions that he said would revive the ailing US oil and coal industries and bolster national security.

Among the proposals, Trump said he would pull the US out of the UN global climate accord, approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, and rescind measures by President Barack Obama to cut US emissions and protect waterways from industrial pollution……..

It was Trump’s first speech detailing the energy policies he would advance if elected president. He received loud applause from the crowd of oil executives.

The comments painted a stark contrast between the New York billionaire and his Democratic rivals for the White House, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, who advocate a sharp turn away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy technologies to combat climate change.

Trump slammed both rivals in his speech, saying their policies would kill jobs and force the US “to be begging for oil again” from Middle East producers.

Trump’s comments drew quick criticism from environmental advocates, who called his proposals “frightening”.

“Trump’s energy policies would accelerate climate change, protect corporate polluters who profit from poisoning our air and water, and block the transition to clean energy that is necessary to strengthen our economy and protect our climate and health,” said Tom Steyer, a billionaire environmental activist.

But industry executives cheered the stance……..

Until Thursday, Trump had been short on details of his energy policy. He has said he believes global warming is a hoax, that his administration would revive the US coal industry, and that he supports hydraulic fracturing – an environmentally controversial drilling technique that has triggered a boom in US production……http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/trump-would-approve-keystone-pipeline/news-story/3ad66f7f374ab34cddf3d1a48fd14a56

May 27, 2016 Posted by | USA elections 2016 | Leave a comment

Climate change leading to mass migration crises if world does not act

Demonstrator at the Global Climate March on Nov. 29, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images)French minister warns of mass climate change migration if world doesn’t act
Hundreds of millions of people could be displaced by the end of the century due to conflict caused by global warming, says Ségolène Royal, Guardian, 
,  Global warming will create hundreds of millions of climate change migrants by the end of the century if governments do not act, France’s environment minister has warned.

Ségolène Royal told ministers from 170 countries at the UN environment assembly in Nairobi that climate change was linked to conflicts, which in turned caused migration.

“Climate change issues lead to conflict, and when we analyse wars and conflicts that have taken place over the last few years we see some are linked to an extent to climate change, drought is linked to food security crises,” she said.

“The difficulty of having access to food resources leads to massive migration, south-south migration [migration within developing countries]. The African continent is particularly hit by this south-south migration.

“If nothing is done to combat the negative impact of climate change, we will have hundreds of millions of climate change migrants by the end of the century.”……..http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/26/french-minister-warns-of-mass-climate-change-migration-if-world-doesnt-act

May 27, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | 1 Comment