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The world has a window of about 12 years left – to act on climate change

The Story of Sustainability in 2018: “We Have About 12 Years Left” Harvard Business Review 27th Dec 2018 Andrew Winston– We have about 12 years left. That’s the clear message from a monumental  study from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

To avoid some of the most devastating impacts of climate change, the world must slash carbon emissions by 45% by 2030, and completely decarbonize by 2050 (while, in the meantime, emissions are still rising).

The IPCC looked at the difference between the world “only” warming two degrees Celsius (3.8°F) — the agreed upon goal at global climate summits in Copenhagen and Paris — or holding warming to just 1.5 degrees. Even the latter, they say, will require a monumental effort “unprecedented in terms of scale.”

We face serious problems either way, but every half degree matters a great deal in human, planetary, and economic losses.

It wasn’t just the IPCC that told a stark story. Thirteen U.S. government agencies issued the U.S. National Climate Assessment, which concluded that climate change could knock at least 10% off of GDP. Other studies tell us that sea
level rise is going to be worse than we thought, Antarctica is melting three times faster than a decade ago, and Greenland is losing ice quickly as well. If both those ice sheets go, sea level rise could reach 200-plus feet, resulting in utter devastation, including the loss of the entire Atlantic seaboard (Boston, New York, D.C., etc.), all of Florida, London,
Stockholm, Denmark, Paraguay, and land now inhabited by more than 1 billion Asians).  https://hbr.org/2018/12/the-story-of-sustainability-in-2018-we-have-about-12-years-left

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December 29, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | 2 Comments

Chinese city residents protest over plans for nuclear research plant

Local suspicions over Changsha plant heightened by failure to officially announce the plans until one day before public consultation process was due to end, SCMP,  Mandy Zuo, 28 Dec 18,  Dozens of residents in a city in central China have staged a protest over plans to build a nuclear research institute near their homes.

The protesters fear that radioactive materials used at the planned facility in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, will pose a health risk.

The institute behind the project did not officially release their plans on Tuesday – after work had began on the site and one day before the public consultation period was supposed to end.

An environmental impact assessment into the project said No 230 Research Institute, a branch of the China National Nuclear Corporation, had acquired a space of over 20,000 square metres near a densely populated area to expand its offices and laboratories at the site, which will be dedicated to the geological exploration of uranium.

Although the facility is not intended to handle refined uranium, and scientists say that unprocessed material does not emit harmful levels of radiation, residents have expressed concerns about the possible health risks and have called for building work to be halted.

Their concerns were heightened by the failure to carry out an assessment of the radiological hazards and the decision to announce the plans a day before the consultation period was due to end.

Wu Xiaosha, one of the protesters, said people were also angry that the project is already being built without approval.

“The environmental impact assessment report lied about the population in the area – it said there are only 40,000 people in the area, but actually it’s nearly 250,000,” said Wu.

Yang Wenqiang, an official from the Changsha Urban Rural Planning Bureau, refused to comment on the matter, saying the government was holding an emergency meeting and would release a statement later……

Environmental concerns have fuelled a growing number of protests in China in recent years as public awareness of the possible health risks increases.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences reported that half of protests with more than 10,000 participants between 2001 and 2013 were sparked by concerns about pollution. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2179905/chinese-city-residents-protest-over-plans-nuclear-research-plant

December 29, 2018 Posted by | China, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

USA’s Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) a front for Israeli weapons smuggling, and a danger to 1000s of Americans

FBI and CIA’s ‘Duty To Warn’ Victims of Israeli Nuclear Smuggling  https://original.antiwar.com/smith-grant/2018/12/26/fbi-and-cias-duty-to-warn-victims-of-israeli-nuclear-smuggling/

$500 million Pennsylvania NUMEC toxic cleanup restarts   December 27, 2018 In 2015 the intelligence community acknowledged that it had a “duty to warn” U.S. persons of impending threats of “serious bodily injury.” The objective of that “duty” – which has many loopholes – is to compel intelligence agencies to warn individuals or organizations of threats so they can take evasive measures. It affirms a moral obligation intelligence agencies have to those funding – willingly or not – their operations. The duty to warn demands they no longer stand idly by – or worse attempt to exploit credible threats to Americans – as leverage or for other, secret intelligence purposes.Last fall the US Army Corps of Engineers announced it was finally ready to resume a $500 million toxic waste cleanup of the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) dump. An earlier attempt at the Pennsylvania site to excavate was stopped after the discovery of unexpected materials. NUMEC’s plant sites in Apollo and Parks Township have long been the subject of litigation over wrongful mass deaths and illnesses caused by toxic pollution.

NUMEC was launched and managed by Zalman Shapiro, a nuclear chemist credited with solving engineering issues for naval nuclear propulsion in the 1950s. His partner, David Luzer Lowenthal was a smuggler with murky ties to Israeli intelligence and industrialist. Luzer organized the emergence of NUMEC from a complicated merger and acquired facilities for NUMEC in a defunct steel mill in the middle of Apollo, Pennsylvania. The Zionist Organization of America, originally chartered to “do any and all things that may be necessary” to support Israel, supplied three of NUMEC’s executives. Zalman Shapiro, Pittsburgh region president of ZOA, Morton Chatkin and Ivan J. Novick who became ZOA’s national president.

Officially NUMEC was a startup supplier of highly-enriched fuel for the US Navy. But two Central Intelligence Agency officials claimed NUMEC’s true purpose was to amass and divert US government-owned highly enriched uranium into Israel’s nuclear weapons program. 300 kilograms of highly enriched uranium disappeared from NUMEC between 1957-1978, with most of it gone by 1966. Material stolen from NUMEC would have been the most likely source for Israel’s ability to ready nuclear weapons for use during the 1967 Six-Day War.

CIA Tel Aviv Station Chief John Hadden, who performed field operations to sample the environment around Dimona for highly enriched uranium – material Israel was incapable of producing on its own – claimed NUMEC was “an Israeli operation from the beginning.” CIA Directorate of Science and Technology Deputy Director Carl Duckett testified that “NUMEC material had been diverted by the Israelis and used in fabricating weapons.” There were other telltale signs.

Inside NUMEC’s underfunded, ramshackle facilities an Israeli scientist, Baruch Cinai, learned to handle samples of plutonium, a skill subsequently useful to plutonium production at Israel’s Dimona facility. Israeli covert operatives Raphael Eitan, Avraham Bendor and Ephraim Beigun all visited the facility at Shapiro’s invitation in 1968 undercover as various Israeli energy specialists, in the company of Avraham Hermoni, chief of Israel’s nuclear weapons development program. The FBI’s investigation of NUMEC-related activities ultimately shook loose eyewitness testimony that Shapiro was collaborating in the illicit diversion of highly enriched uranium from NUMEC’s U.S.-government owned stockpile to Israel. Under increasing pressure, NUMEC’s regulator, the Atomic Energy Commission, subsequently engineered NUMEC’s corporate buyout and the exit of its management team to save face, after many years of denial and providing easily refuted excuses for NUMECs extreme and inexplicable material “losses.”

That NUMEC was a front operation, following in the footsteps of Israel’s 1940s-era conventional weapons smuggling operations from the US such as Martech, Service Airways, and the Sonneborn Institute, is well-known by the FBI and CIA. Both have released extensive archives of intelligence reports and surveillance photographs of Israeli conventional weapons smuggling from the United States through overseas networks. But both FBI and CIA have fought attempts at full disclosure of clandestine Israeli nuclear weapons related activities in the US, ostensibly because such smuggling has been unpunished and unabated. It is also US policy, under penalty of prosecution, that no federal agency may admit that Israel has nuclear weapons or release information about its program.

A February 2015 lawsuit seeking all of the CIA’s “thousands” of files about NUMEC was ended when the presiding judge refused to allow adding the US Department of Justice – which has worn many hats in the NUMEC affair – as an additional defendant. However some CIA documents were released during the court battle, revealing how the CIA had refused to cooperate with two separate FBI investigations of NUMEC, preferring to cover up damning information obtained from clandestine CIA operations in Israel confirming the diversion.

Documents grudgingly released by the FBI so far reveal the intelligence community likely knows that cost-cutting at NUMEC to achieve its smuggling aims was what made it such a toxic polluter. On May 5, 1969, Shapiro discussed a major toxic spill caused by such shortcuts, most likely with David Lowenthal, since the acquisition of other US companies was also part of the conversation. Shapiro ordered NUMEC workers – who often worked with no protective gear of any kind – to dampen down the spill with picks and shovels to avoid the spread of toxic dust and rain runoff carrying away the waste. Shapiro’s call was wiretapped by the FBI.

The full phone call summary reveals how Shapiro – who commuted every day from Pittsburgh – considered NUMEC workers as mostly replaceable and expendable.

“It’s not only a bad spill but ‘actually they are operating outside compliance.’ They had the drums all together. They have about 200 drums and estimate that about six a day will corrode through. The trouble lay with a fluoride which was put in to help the decay, and this was not checked. CENSORED said they are also about $230,000 over on their construction costs for the scrap plant. Z [Zalman Shapiro] said if they could get other people, there would be a lot of firing.”

NUMEC workers and town residents, exposed to radiation levels hundreds of times higher than health standards allowed, continue to suffer fallout and death from NUMEC. In addition to residents, the US Army Corps of Engineer contractors restarting the cleanup could benefit greatly from knowing what material is likely present – as well as what is not – at the site. Residents and the cleanup crew would also benefit from knowing of any intelligence on the potential threat that materials stolen decades ago might be returned or buried under cover of the cleanup at the site for crews to “find.”

Legal precedents suggest such toxic exposure as occurs at NUMEC could amount to “oppression, fraud, or malice” and be sufficient for victims to recover damages from polluters. However, neither the CIA nor the FBI have met their current obligations under “duty to warn” to officially alert the victims of NUMEC and contractors precisely what dangers they are still facing as the cleanup recommences.

Such overdue disclosures could also allow NUMEC’s victims to pursue claims against the perpetrator and beneficiary of the fraud and pollution – the Israeli government. Evidence stored away in FBI and CIA files could fully reveal ZOA’s NUMEC involvement. If ZOA did more than unwittingly provide key members of management, ZOA’s $40 – plus million in current assets could go a long way toward compensating the long-suffering Pennsylvania victims of Israeli nuclear smuggling and partially shift the burden of paying to clean up after NUMEC away from American taxpayers.

Grant F. Smith is the author of the book Divert! NUMEC, Zalman Shapiro and the diversion of US weapons-grade uranium into the Israeli nuclear weapons program. He is director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington, D.C. and plaintiff in the 2015 lawsuit calling on the CIA to release all NUMEC-related files.

December 29, 2018 Posted by | Israel, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Disputes between Democrats and Republicans over nuclear weapons policy and procurement –

Nuclear Winter Is Coming: Nuclear ‘War’ To Hit Washington In 2019, Investor’s Business Daily , GILLIAN RICH, 12/18/2018

Nuclear weapons are about to explode as an issue on Capitol Hill, because partisan warfare is threatening to consume debates over nuclear procurement and policy in 2019.
Two events are converging that will blow up an already tenuous give-and-take deal between Republicans and Democrats. The first is the Trump administration’s threat to leave the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty early next year if Russia doesn’t come into compliance. The second is the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives next month.
There has been a “fragile bipartisan consensus” on nuclear weapons, according to Frank Rose, a senior fellow for security and strategy at the Brookings Institution.

During the Obama administration, a deal was brokered under which Republicans supported the New START treaty to reduce nuclear weapons while Democrats backed the modernization of the U.S.’ nuclear arsenal, he said.

All-out partisan warfare on the issue would come at a bad time for the Pentagon. In 2017, the Congressional Budget Office put the price tag of sustaining and modernizing the full nuclear triad of land-, air- and sea-based weapons at $1.2 trillion in constant dollars through 2046.

But, like other things that happened under Obama, the Republican-Democratic deal on nuclear weapons is starting to unravel under Trump.

Nuclear Weapons Treaties

In early December, the Trump administration gave Russia 60 days to come into compliance with the INF treaty or the U.S. will leave.

Trump’s threat raises questions about whether he will renew the New START treaty, which expires in 2021. Without the arms-control treaties, Democrats could block the funding of nuclear weapons in the 2020 budget with their new majority in the House.

“They can’t build a consensus to do something new or different — the Senate or president might not go along — but they can stop things from happening,” Tom Collina, director of policy at the Ploughshares Fund, which is focused on reducing nuclear weapons. “The power of ‘no’ is a significant force.”……….

Nuclear Weapons That May Go Boom Or Bust

To modernize the air-based leg of the nuclear weapons triad, the Air Force awarded the B-21 contract to Northrop Grumman (NOC) in 2015 to replace Cold War-era Boeing (BA) B-52s. The eventual procurement price tag is estimated at $80 billion.

Cancian believes that this new stealth bomber will survive upcoming procurement battles because of its ability to deliver conventional munitions as well.

New Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines will modernize the sea-based leg of the nuclear triad and replace Ohio-class “boomers.” General Dynamics’ (GD) Electric Boat is building them with total acquisition costs expected to hit $128 billion.

Cancian also believes that the Columbia-class submarine program will continue, saying ballistic subs are most likely to survive a nuclear attack because they are hidden underwater.

Then there are two missile programs without contract awards yet that have been more controversial. Lockheed and Raytheon (RTN) are competing for the Long-Range Standoff weapon (LRSO), a nuclear cruise missile to be launched from strategic bombers.

Northrop and Boeing are competing to build the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program to replace Boeing’s aging land-based Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system.

Former Defense Secretary William Perry and retired Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chair of the Joint Chiefs, argued last year that ICBMs and nuclear cruise missiles carry greater risks of accidentally setting off a nuclear war because they can’t be recalled once launched.

Canceling them would also save billions of dollars that could be used for other pressing national security needs, they said.  ………

High Anxiety Over Low-Yield Nuclear Weapons

The U.S. already has about 500 low-yield airdropped nuclear weapons in its arsenal. And Smith is extremely critical of the low-yield warheads for Lockheed’s Trident D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile.

“It makes no sense for us to build low-yield nuclear weapons,” Smith said at a Ploughshares conference in November. “It brings us no advantage and it is dangerously escalating. It just begins a new nuclear arms race with people just building nuclear weapons all across the board in a way that I think places us at greater danger.”……….

Pentagon Budget Uncertainty

Amid the policy and procurement debates, another source of uncertainty on defense spending is coming from Trump himself.

He blasted the current $716 billion Pentagon budget, tweeting earlier this month that it was “crazy.” But days later he reportedly said he wanted to give the Pentagon $750 billion, above the $733 billion the DOD requested…….https://www.investors.com/news/nuclear-weapons-upgrades-nuclear-treaties-inf-new-start/

December 29, 2018 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Will Nuclear Advocates Undermine the Green New Deal?

The Green New Deal Promises Peace and Progress. Will Nuclear Advocates Undermine it? The environmental policy centerpiece of the incoming Democratic House of Representatives has ignited tremendous grassroots enthusiasm.by Harvey Wasserman, The Progressive  December 27, 2018
he environmental policy centerpiece of the incoming Democratic House of Representatives is what’s now known as “The Green New Deal.” But it’s already hit deeply polarizing pushback from the old-line Democratic leadership. And it faces divisive jockeying over the future of nuclear power.The Green New Deal’s most visible public advocate, newly elected twenty-nine-year-old U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, has laid out a preliminary blueprint advocating an energy economy meant to be based entirely on “renewable” and “clean” sources. According to a report in The Hill, fossil fuels and nuclear power are “completely out” of her plan.

The draft proposal has ignited tremendous grassroots enthusiasm, with massively favorable poll readings, even among some Republicans. Substantial grassroots pressure has grown on presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to form a Green New Deal Committee chaired by Ocasio-Cortez.

But on December 20, the Democratic leadership announced it will not support a separate House Committee on the deal. Instead, it will proceed with a panel on climate change, to be chaired by Florida Representative Kathy Castor, who has taken substantial funding from the fossil fuel industry. It remains unclear whether Ocasio-Cortez will even get a seat on the committee.

But the grassroots push for a Green New Deal is clearly not going to go away. The youthful Sunrise Movement has vowed to fight for it, along with a wide range of others, including Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, a likely 2020 presidential contender………..

nuclear reactors do emit trace quantities of radioactive Carbon-14. The fuel rods that power reactor are produced with significant carbon in mining, milling, and enrichment. They pump huge quantities of waste heatdirectly into the eco-sphere, operating far less efficiently even than coal burners. They yield large quantities of radioactive waste, directly related to nuke weapons production. And five of them (Chernobyl 4 and Fukushima 1-2-3-4) have blown up.

Reactor enthusiasts like Senator Barrasso invariably conjure visions of a “new generation” of small, modular nukes, and other techno-variants like molten salt and thorium, alleged to be safe, cleaner and cheaper that the current fleet. But there are few tangible indications such alternative reactors can come on line anytime soon, or beat the price of wind and solar, which continue to plummet. The criticism that renewables are intermittent is also losing its sting as large-scale battery arrays are also dropping in price while rising in efficiency and capacity………..

outspoken peace groups like Code Pink are eager to move the money out of the military and into the social/infrastructure programs that can rebuild the nation. High-profile campaigns led by activists Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin were integral to the shocking defection of seven Republican Senators to deny the Trump Administration funding to support the Saudi war in Yemen.

Activists must now argue that the trillion-plus dollars we spend annually on arming the Empire should instead fund those wind turbines and solar panels at the heart of the Green New Deal.   https://progressive.org/dispatches/the-green-new-deal-promises-peace-and-progress-181227/

December 29, 2018 Posted by | politics, USA | 1 Comment

North Koreans very proud of ” nuclear weapons program completion”

[Photo] North Korea marks one-year anniversary of alleged nuclear weapons program completion, Daily NK, By Mun Dong Hui, 28 Dec 18, 
Daily NK previously reported that as North Korea celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding on September 9, the authorities ordered the delivery of lectures placing emphasis on the country’s “successful attainment of nuclear weapons” and [North Korea] as a “nuclear superpower.”

“The authorities released nationwide propaganda on November 29 to mark one year since the ‘completion of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program,’ calling it a major historical achievement and great victory for the Party’s Byungjin Line (parallel development of the economy and nuclear weapons),” a source in Pyongyang told Daily NK.

An additional source in Pyongyang added, “They’ve told us that thanks to Chairman Kim the threats of nuclear and imperialist aggression against our nation have ended.”

The lectures intend to reinforce national unity and highlight Kim Jong Un’s role in an unprecedented achievement in the country’s history and espouse his leadership skills.

Lecture materials from November obtained by Daily NK corroborate this information, reiterating the focus in “completing the country’s nuclear weapons program.”……..

The latest lectures turn the emphasis toward maintaining the country’s nuclear program.

The lecture materials also highlighted the other track of the Byungjin Line: building the economy. “Our Dear Respected Marshal’s (Kim Jong Un) immortal achievement of the nuclear weapons program will stay with us forever. Now let’s actively contribute to accelerating economic development to achieve the ultimate victory of the socialist cause!” https://www.dailynk.com/english/north-korea-marks-one-year-anniversary-of-completed-nuclear-weapons-program/

December 29, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Donald Trump and our imperilled planet

Trump Imperils the Planet https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/26/opinion/editorials/climate-change-environment-trump.html

Endangered species, climate change — the administration is taking the country, and the world, backward.

By The Editorial Board The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section. Dec. 26, 2018  

It’s hard to believe but it was only three years ago this month — just after 7 p.m., Paris time, Dec. 12, to be precise — that delegates from more than 190 nations, clapping and cheering, whooping and weeping, rose to celebrate the Paris Agreement — the first genuinely collective response to the mounting threat of global warming. It was a largely aspirational document, without strong legal teeth and achieved only after contentious and exhausting negotiations. But for the first time in climate talks stretching back to 1992, it set forth specific, numerical pledges from each country to reduce emissions so that together they could keep atmospheric temperatures from barreling past a point of no return.

  • Two weeks ago, delegates met at a follow-up conference in Katowice, Poland, to address procedural questions left unsettled in Paris, including common accounting mechanisms and greater transparency in how countries report their emissions. In this the delegates largely succeeded, giving rise to the hope, as Brad Plumer put it in The Times, that “new rules would help build a virtuous cycle of trust and cooperation among countries, at a time when global politics seems increasingly fractured.”
  • But otherwise it was a hugely dispiriting event and a fitting coda to one of the most discouraging years in recent memory for anyone who cares about the health of the planet — a year marked by President Trump’s destructive, retrograde policies, by backsliding among big nations, by fresh data showing that carbon dioxide emissions are still going up, by ever more ominous signs (devastating wildfires and floods, frightening scientific reports) of what a future of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions is likely to bring.
  • The conference itself showcased the very fossil fuels that scientists and most sentient people agree the world must rapidly wean itself from. Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, set the tone by declaring he had no intention of abandoning coal, which provides nearly four-fifthsof Poland’s electricity. The United States and three other major oil producers — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia — refused to endorse an alarming report issued in October by the United Nations scientific panel on climate change calling for swift reductions in fossil fuel use by 2030 to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, which it said were approaching much faster than anyone had thought.

Wells Griffith, Mr. Trump’s international energy and climate adviser, managed in one quote to summarize the dismissiveness of the American delegation and its fealty to the president’s apparently unshakable conviction that anything that helps the environment must inevitably hurt the economy. “The United States has an abundance of natural resources and is not going to keep them in the ground,” he said. “We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice their economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability.” The administration is full of zero-sum philosophers like Mr. Griffith. The idea that sustainability may be a necessary condition of future economic growth appears never to have crossed their minds.

Further depressing the proceedings were recent defections and political troubles in countries that, along with the United States, had been expected to lead the way to a low-carbon energy future. Germany, which long ago walked away from carbon-free nuclear power, is having a hard time cutting back on coal because of political opposition. In Australia, a prime minister was kicked out of officebecause he wanted to reduce the use of coal, which Australia produces in abundance. China, despite admirably aggressive investments in wind and solar power, has yet to get a firm grip on its emissions from coal-fired plants. The new president-elect of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, not only named an outspoken climate-change denier as his foreign minister but also, reversing his predecessors’ policy, pledged to open up the Amazon to mining and farming. This will threaten biodiversity in one of the world’s great rain forests while crippling its ability to act as a sink for carbon emissions.

No country’s backsliding, of course, compares with Mr. Trump’s. Determined to demolish President Barack Obama’s entire climate strategy, Mr. Trump has in the past year replaced Mr. Obama’s clean-power plan, which was aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, with an essentially useless substitute that would emit 12 times the pollution envisaged by the Obama plan. He has proposed weakening a major Obama regulation requiring automakers to nearly double the fuel economy of passenger vehicles by 2025. (This rollback, The Times reported this month, came after a lot of whining by oil interests, not, as one might suspect, from the auto companies, which had accepted the challenge.) And the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department have taken multiple steps to roll back Obama-era efforts to control emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas many times more powerful than carbon dioxide. These three programs formed the basis of Mr. Obama’s pledge at the 2015 Paris meeting to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

The health and environmental effects of the Trump rollbacks, as documented by a Times investigation published this week, are far-reaching and potentially devastating.

This holiday season has brought more gifts to fossil fuel interests; every day is Christmas Day for the likes of Murray Energy and ExxonMobil. This month, the E.P.A. proposed killing an Obama rule that would effectively block the construction of new coal-fired power plants. The Interior Department relaxed restrictions on oil and gas drilling in areas inhabited by the sage grouse, a threatened bird. Also in December, the department released an environmental-impact statement that would open all or part of the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to leasing and exploration. The area had been off limits to drilling for decades until Congress, late last year, approved an amendment sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, to open it up.

All this is fundamentally Mr. Trump’s doing. A series of early executive orders established the pro-fossil fuel policy framework; Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, and Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, filled in the details. Mr. Pruitt has left Washington and Mr. Zinke is in his final days, both finishing under ethical clouds. They will deserve, along with Mr. Trump, history’s censure for doing virtually nothing to move to a more responsible energy future — and for not doing so at just the moment when the world needed the kind of leadership that Mr. Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry (and Bill Clinton and Al Gore before them), tried to provide.

The numbers are not great. The goal in Paris was to keep warming from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels, and if possible to hold the line at 1.5 degrees, thresholds that scientists deemed unacceptably risky. Delegates knew that even if every country managed to fulfill its individual pledges, the world would be on pace for 3 degrees of warming in this century. So they agreed to tighten the targets as time went on, but instead they’ve slid backward. Many large emitters are not on track to meet their self-imposed goals. That includes America, despite the retirement of many coal-fired plants in favor of cleaner natural gas, the increasing cost competitiveness of renewable fuels like wind and solar power, and the valiant efforts of states like California to sharply reduce their own emissions and lead where Mr. Trump will not.

The bottom line, according to the Global Carbon Project, is that after three years in which emissions remained largely flat, global levels of carbon dioxide increased by 1.6 percent in 2017 and are on pace to jump by 2.7 percent this year. Some scientists have likened the increase in emissions to a “speeding freight train.” That has a lot to do with economic growth. It also has a lot to do with not moving much faster to less carbon-intensive ways of powering that growth. Or in Mr. Trump’s case, moving in the opposite direction.

December 29, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

High-Paying Jobs in Nuclear Power Aren’t Looking So Safe Anymore A wave of plant closings has workers—even highly trained engineers—on edge

By Erin Ailworth Dec. 28, 2018 

Christine DeSantis is a highly trained mechanical engineer with a high-paying job—and an extremely uncertain future.

The 32-year-old has worked for the last decade at Three Mile Island nuclear plant on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. ……. (subscribers only)  https://www.wsj.com/articles/high-paying-jobs-in-nuclear-power-arent-looking-so-safe-anymore-11545993000

December 29, 2018 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Australian Labor Party in a progressive move, plans to sign and ratify UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

Labor’s pledge to commit to nuclear disarmament puts the alternative party of government on the right side of history.

The gulf between the shenanigans of way too many politicians, and the growing urgency of grave and looming threats has rarely seemed wider. Action on crucial issues languishes while parliamentarians make naked grabs for power, acting in the interests only of themselves. Poor personal behaviour seems endemic. On the two unprecedented dangers looming over all humanity – nuclear war and climate disruption – Australia has been not just missing in action, but actively on the wrong side of history, part of the problem rather than the solution.

The government’s own figures demonstrate that our country, awash with renewable sun and wind, is way off track to meet even a third of its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target by 2030 – itself nowhere near enough.

Not only is nuclear disarmament stalled, but one by one, the agreements that reduced and constrained nuclear weapons, hard-won fruit of the end of the first cold war, are being trashed. All the nuclear-armed states are investing massively not simply in keeping their weapons indefinitely, but developing new ones that are more accurate, more deadly and more “usable”. The cold war is back, and irresponsible and explicit threats to use nuclear weapons have proliferated. Any positive effect that Australia might have on reducing nuclear weapons dangers from the supposed influence afforded us by our uncritical obsequiousness to the US is nowhere in sight. Our government has been incapable of asserting any independence even from the current most extreme, dysfunctional and unfit US administration. The US has recently renounced its previous commitments under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT); we have said nothing.

The one bright light in this gathering gloom is the 2017 UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. For its role in helping to bring this historic treaty into being, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican) was awarded the Nobel peace prize for 2017 – the first to an entity born in Australia. This treaty provides the first comprehensive and categorical prohibition of nuclear weapons. It sets zero nuclear weapons as the clear and consistent standard for all countries and will help drive elimination of these worst weapons of mass destruction, just as the treaties banning biological and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions have played a decisive role in progressing the elimination of those other indiscriminate and inhumane weapons. The treaty lays out a clear pathway for all states, with and without nuclear weapons, to fulfil their binding legal obligation to accomplish nuclear disarmament. It is currently the only such pathway.

Regrettably, the Australian government was the most active “weasel” in opposing the treaty’s development at every step and was one of the first to say it would not sign, even though we have signed every other treaty banning an unacceptable weapon.

Hence the Labor party’s commitment at its recent national conference in Adelaide that “Labor in government will sign and ratify the Ban Treaty” is an important and welcome step. It is a clear commitment, allowing no room for weaselling.

The considerations articulated alongside this commitment are fairly straightforward and consistent with the commitment. First, recognition of the need for “an effective verification and enforcement architecture” for nuclear disarmament. The treaty itself embodies this. Governments joining the treaty must designate a competent international authority “to negotiate and verify the irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons” and nuclear weapons programmes, “including the elimination or irreversible conversion of all nuclear-weapons-related facilities”. Australia should also push for the same standard for any nuclear disarmament that happens outside the treaty.

Second, the Labor resolution prioritises “the interaction of the Ban Treaty with the longstanding Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”. The treaty has been carefully crafted to be entirely compatible with the NPT and explicitly reaffirms that the NPT “serves as a cornerstone of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime”, and that its full and effective implementation “has a vital role to play in promoting international peace and security”. All the governments supporting the treaty support the NPT, and the NPT itself enshrines a commitment for all its members to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”. The UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, and the International Committee of the Red Cross are among those who have affirmed that the treaty and the NPT are entirely consistent, complementary and mutually reinforcing. Even opponents of the treaty recognise that prohibition is an essential part of achieving and sustaining a world free of nuclear weapons.

Third, the Labor resolution refers to “Work to achieve universal support for the Ban Treaty.” This too is mirrored in one of the commitments governments take on in joining the treaty, to encourage other states to join, “with the goal of universal adherence of all States to the Treaty.”

An Australian government joining the treaty would enjoy wide popular support in doing so – an Ipsos poll last month found that 79% of Australians (and 83% of Labor voters) support, and less than 8% oppose, Australia joining the treaty.

Australia would also stop sticking out like a sore thumb among our southeast Asian and Pacific Island neighbours and be able to work more effectively with them. Brunei, Cook Islands, Fiji, Indonesia, Kiribati, Laos, New Zealand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Palau, Philippines, Samoa, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Vietnam have already signed the treaty.

Most importantly, joining the treaty and renouncing nuclear weapons would mean that Australia would become part of the solution rather than the problem of the acute existential peril that hangs over all of us while nuclear weapons exist, ready to be launched within minutes. Time is not on our side. Of course this crucial humanitarian issue should be above party politics. The commitment from the alternative party of government to join the treaty and get on the right side of history when Labor next forms government is to be warmly welcomed. It is to be hoped that the 78% of federal parliamentary Labor members who have put on record their support for Australia joining the treaty by signing Ican’s parliamentary pledge will help ensure Labor keeps this landmark promise.

 Dr Tilman Ruff is co-founder of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican) and Nobel peace prize winner (2017)

December 29, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, politics, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

George H.W. Bush’s shameful involvement in the Regime Change in Nuclear-Free Palau

December 29, 2018 Posted by | OCEANIA, politics international, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Israel has the World’s Most Secretive Nuclear Weapons Program

Introducing the World’s Most Secretive Nuclear Weapons Program (Not North Korea) Who could that be? National Interest, by Kyle Mizokami 24 Dec 18 

That can only mean one nation…

In a private email leaked to the public in September of 2016, former secretary of state and retired U.S. Army general Colin Powell  alluded to Israel  having an arsenal of “200 nuclear weapons.” While this number appears to be an exaggeration, there is no doubt that Israel does have a small but powerful nuclear stockpile, spread out among its armed forces. Israeli nuclear weapons guard against everything from defeat in conventional warfare to serving to deter hostile states from launching nuclear, chemical and biological warfare attacks against the tiny country. …….

Not much is known about early Israeli weapons, particularly their yield and the size of the stockpile. The strategic situation, in which Israel was outnumbered in conventional weapons but had no nuclear adversaries, meant Israel likely had smaller tactical nuclear weapons to destroy masses of attacking Arab tanks, military bases and military airfields. Still, the relatively short ranges between Israel and its neighbors meant that the Jericho missile, with only a three-hundred-mile range, could still hit Cairo and Damascus from the Negev desert.

Israel does not confirm nor deny having nuclear weapons. Experts generally assess the country as currently having approximately eighty nuclear weapons, fewer than countries such as France, China and the United Kingdom, but still a sizeable number considering its adversaries have none. These weapons are spread out among Israel’s version of a nuclear “triad” of land-, air- and sea-based forces scattered in a way that they deter surprise nuclear attack.

…….. Israel’s first land-based nuclear weapons were based on Jericho I missiles developed in cooperation with France. Jericho I is believed to have been retired, replaced by Jericho II and -III ballistic missiles. Jericho II has a range of 932 miles, while Jericho III, designed to hold Iran and other distant states at risk, has a range of at least 3,106 miles. The total number of Israeli ballistic missiles is unknown, but estimated by experts to number at least two dozen.

Like other nuclear-armed nations, the Israeli Navy has reportedly deployed nukes to what is generally agreed to as the most survivable seagoing platform: submarines. Israel has five German-built Dolphin-class submarines, which experts believe are equipped with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. The cruise missiles are reportedly based off the Popeye air-to-ground missile or the Gabriel antiship missile. This ensures a so-called “second-strike capability”—as long as one submarine is on patrol, some portion of Israel’s nuclear deterrent remains invulnerable to a nuclear first strike, guaranteeing the ability to launch a nuclear counterattack.

The establishment of a nuclear triad demonstrates how seriously Israel takes the idea of nuclear deterrence. The country will likely not declare itself a nuclear power any time soon; ambiguity over ownership of nukes has served the country very well. The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and general instability across the Middle East has ensured that Israel will likely remain the only nuclear-armed state in the region for the foreseeable future, but a collapse of the agreement or some new nuclear program could easily change that.https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/introducing-worlds-most-secretive-nuclear-weapons-program-not-north-korea-39722

December 29, 2018 Posted by | Israel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

UK’s Ministry of Defence setting up a smokescreen about the British nuclear bombing disgrace in Australia

Hiding Britain’s H-bomb secrets https://www.theguardian.com/global/2018/dec/27/hiding-britains-h-bomb-secrets   Sue Rabbitt Roff is alarmed at files being withdrawn by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority That the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has withdrawn files relating to the development of the British H-bomb in Australia 70 years ago (Nuclear weapons and energy files removed from archives, 24 December) is indeed alarming to those of us trying to get behind the smokescreens already set up by the Ministry of Defence’s closing access to files over the past decades.

My own research has been into why Sir Mark Oliphant, Australia’s premier nuclear physicist and a prime mover in the Tube Alloys group that showed the Americans how to build atomic bombs in time to use in the second world war, never spoke out about the contamination (from H-bomb tests) of his beloved home state of South Australia and further eastward just weeks before the 1956 Olympic Games took place in Melbourne.

He told me in 1993: “The Brits thought they could ensure any fallout or contamination was not too big. They were very pigheaded about it. The people in control were very haphazard about the estimates.” Why didn’t he speak out about the residual radioactive contamination at Monte Bello, Maralinga and Emu Field, even when he was governor of South Australia? He replied: “You can really decontaminate Maralinga by leaving it alone. Plutonium alpha particles contamination, I think, is grossly overplayed. The Aborigines are using it to the full. At the same time it was very naughty of the British to leave it, and to think of spreading it that way in the first place was very nasty. The British people were very reticent about revealing contamination, especially regarding food contamination. They hugged that to their chests very closely.”

I suggest that Sir Mark Oliphant was Australia’s – and Britain’s – J Robert Oppenheimer. The evidence is set out on my website www.rabbittreview.com and was mostly found in the files I accessed in the UK National Archives.

December 29, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, secrets,lies and civil liberties, UK | Leave a comment