nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

A legal breakthrough for French Polynesia’s nuclear test victims.

Mururoa-test-1971Big shift afoot in French nuclear compo law  http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/323947/big-shift-afoot-in-french-nuclear-compo-lawThe French joint law commission has decided to remove the term negligible risk from the nuclear compensation law in what is seen as a breakthrough for French Polynesia’s test victims.

The unanimous decision is now to go to the National Assembly and the Senate for approval as Paris is to make good on its promise to loosen the law.

The compensation law, drawn up by Herve Morin when he was the defence minister in 2009, has been widely criticised for being too restrictive because almost all claims have been thrown out.

A month ago, two French lawmakers urged the social affairs minister Marisol Touraine to amend the decree on compensation to ensure that unsuccessful claimants can resubmit their files.

One of the MPs Jean-Patrick Gille said veterans would find it incomprehensible if the earlier rejection of their compensation bids were to be final.

France tested its atomic weapons first in Algeria and then from 1966 to 1996 in the South Pacific in a programme which involved more than 100,000 personnel.

February 8, 2017 Posted by | Legal, OCEANIA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

South Pacific island ditches fossil fuels to run entirely on solar power

Ta’u island in American Samoa will rely on solar panels and Tesla batteries as it does away with diesel generators, Guardian Eleanor Ainge Roy, 28 Nov 16, A remote tropical island has catapulted itself headlong into the future by ditching diesel and powering all homes and businesses with the scorching South Pacificsun.

Using more than 5,000 solar panels and 60 Tesla power packs the tiny island of Ta’u in American Samoa is now entirely self-sufficient for its electricity supply – though the process of converting has been tough and pitted with delays……https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/28/south-pacific-island-ditches-fossil-fuels-to-run-entirely-on-solar-power

November 30, 2016 Posted by | decentralised, OCEANIA | Leave a comment

Marshall Islands, ,nuclear bombed decades ago, still afflicted by American bombing today

Bikini-Atoll-bombBikini was just the beginning, bombs still threaten the islanders, New Internationalist DECEMBER 2016  John Pilger visits the Marshall Islands and its bomb survivors, still blighted by US nuclear weapons. “……..The explosion vaporized an entire island, its fall-out spreading over a vast area. There was a ‘miscalculation’, according to the official history; the wind ‘changed suddenly’. These were the first of many lies, as declassified documents and the victims’ testimony have since revealed.

Gene Curbow, a meteorologist assigned to monitor the test site, said, ‘They knew where the radioactive fall-out was going to go. Even on the day of the shot, they still had an opportunity to evacuate people, but [people] were not evacuated; I was not evacuated… The United States needed some guinea pigs to study what the effects of radiation would do.’

The secret of the Marshall Islands was Project 4.1. Official files describe a scientific programme that began as a study of mice and became a study of human beings exposed to the radiation of a nuclear weapon. Most of the women I interviewed had suffered from thyroid cancer; many in their communities did not survive.

The US Navy returned the population of Rongelap atoll, which is downwind of Bikini, even though the food was unsafe to eat and the water unsafe to drink. As a result, reported Greenpeace – which eventually sent a ship to rescue them – ‘a high proportion of their children suffered from genetic effects’.

Archive film refers to them as ‘amenable savages’. A US Atomic Energy Agency official boasts that Rongelap is ‘by far the most contaminated place on earth’, adding, ‘It will be interesting to get a measure of human uptake when people live in a contaminated environment.’

Holding a photograph of herself as a child, with terrible facial burns and most of her hair missing, Nerje Joseph told me, ‘We were bathing at the well. White dust started falling from the sky. I reached to catch the powder. We used it as soap to wash our hair. A few days later, my hair started falling out.’

Lemoyo Abon said, ‘Some people were in agony. Others had diarrhoea. We were terrified. We thought it must be the end of the world.’

Human radiation experiments

As a nine-year-old, Tony de Brum witnessed the Bravo bomb. He became foreign minister of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, an indefatigable voice demanding justice for his people. Clutching the evidence, he stood up at the United Nations in 2005 and said, ‘United States government documents clearly demonstrate that its scientists conducted human radiation experiments with Marshallese citizens. Some of our people were injected with or were coerced to drink fluids laced with radiation. Other experiments involved the resettling of people on islands highly contaminated to study how human beings absorbed radiation from the food and environment.’

The Marshall Islands were, until 1986, a Trust Territory administered by the United States with a legal obligation to ‘protect the inhabitants against the loss of their land and resources’ and to ‘protect their health and well-being’. In 2004, the US Cancer Institute reported to Congress that future Marshallese generations were likely to contract 530 cancers.

The US relinquished direct control of the islands only after the Marshallese had agreed to accept a mere $150 million as compensation for their suffering and to allow the huge US base on Kwajalein atoll, with its ‘mission to combat communist China’ and known as the Ronald Reagan Missile Test Facility.

Commanding the Pacific all the way to Asia and China, the base continues to subject the islanders to the testing of weapons of mass destruction. Missiles are launched at night, or fired into the lagoon from California. Following each ‘shot’, islanders fall sick with a ‘mystery illness’. The Environmental Protection Agency says fish in the bay cannot be eaten; fish was once the staple. The cost of firing one missile is $100 million, or two-thirds of the compensation paid to the islanders……..

In 2014, President Obama announced that the US was ‘creating the world’s largest marine reserve in the Pacific, banning fishing and other commercial activities across pristine sea dotted with coral atolls’.

In fact, as part of Obama’s military build-up in the Pacific, known as the ‘pivot to Asia’, the US has taken control of nine million square miles of ocean – an area double the size of the mainland United States. Under cover of a marine reserve, a ‘marine range complex’ will be run by the Pentagon, with torpedoes, underwater mines and numerous other detonations. Bikini was just the beginning. https://newint.org/features/2016/12/01/bikini-was-just-the-beginning/

November 28, 2016 Posted by | OCEANIA, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Pacific Island Nations appeal to USA to save them from global warming

The participants also agreed the Marrakech Proclamation, a statement re-affirming the intentions of all 197 signatories to the Paris deal.Seen as show of unity on the issue in the light a possible US withdrawal, countries stated they would live up to their promises to reduce emissions. The proclamation also called on all states to increase their carbon cutting ambitions, urgently.

Some of the poorest nations in the world announced that they were moving towards 100% green energy at this meeting.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum said that the 47 member countries, including Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Yemen, would achieve this goal between 2030 and 2050. And they challenged richer countries to do the same.

Despite these steps forward there were still some areas of significant difference between the parties, especially over money. The talks will continue in 2017 with a new US delegation picked by the Trump administration.

sea-level-rise_mainClimate talks: ‘Save us’ from global warming, US urged http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38034171 19 November 2016  The next head of the UN global climate talks has appealed for the US to “save” Pacific islands from the impacts of global warming.

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said that the islands needed the US now as much as they did during World War Two. He was speaking as global climate talks in Marrakech came to an end.

Mr Bainimarama said that climate change was not a hoax, as US President-elect Donald Trump has claimed. Mr Trump has promised to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement and scrap all payments for UN global warming projects.

But as he accepted the role of president of the Conference of the Parties for the year ahead, the Fijian leader took the opportunity to call on to the next US president to step away from his scepticism.

“I again appeal to the President-elect of the US Donald Trump to show leadership on this issue by abandoning his position that man-made climate change is a hoax,” said Mr Bainimarama.

“On the contrary, the global scientific consensus is that it is very real and we must act more decisively to avoid catastrophe.” He also made a direct call to the American people to come to their aid in the face of rising seas, driven by global warming. Continue reading

November 21, 2016 Posted by | climate change, OCEANIA | Leave a comment

Nuclear free New Zealand to hear pioneer antinuclear hero, Helen Caldicott

Helen did not hold back, explaining that nuclear war means “blindness, burning, starvation, disease, lacerations, haemorrhaging, millions of corpses and an epidemic of disease”. Helen’s dramatic and blunt style reduced many in her audiences to tears. She always ended her talks with a call to action – especially to parents – as she strongly believes that nuclear disarmament is “the ultimate medical and parenting issue of our time.”

To those who would claim New Zealand was not a target she had a short reply: “Trident submarines in ports are targeted. They are a first strike target. It is much easier to destroy subs when they are in dock than it is when they are submerged in the ocean.”

The new Labour Government of 1984 passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act in 1987, the world’s first national nuclear-free legislation. Dr Helen Caldicott’s influence had culminated in the passage of the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy.

Caldicott,-Helen-4Marilyn Waring on the Australian hero of nuclear-free New Zealand http://thespinoff.co.nz/society/14-11-2016/the-australian-hero-of-nuclear-free-new-zealand/  November 14, 2016 The former National MP whose decision to support anti-nuclear legislation led to the 1984 snap election writes on the transformative influence of the passionate Australian physician Helen Caldicott, who speaks in Auckland this week

If you were growing up in New Zealand and Australia post World War II, there’s a chance you knew about the United States using the Marshall Islands as a nuclear testing site from 1947 until 1962. In an agreement signed with the United Nations, the US government held the Marshall Islands as a “trust territory” and detonated nuclear devices in this pristine area of the Pacific Ocean – leading, in some instances, to huge levels of radiation fall-out, health effects, and the permanent displacement of many island people. In all, the US government conducted 105 underwater and atmospheric tests. You would have also known that the British conducted seven atmospheric tests between 1956 and 1963 on traditional Aboriginal land, in Maralinga, Australia.

It may be that you read Neville Shute’s 1957 novel On the Beach, in which people in Melbourne, Australia wait for deadly radiation to spread from a Northern Hemisphere nuclear war. This book made a memorable impact on Helen when she read it as a teenager.

Both Helen and I saw Peter Watkin’s The War Game, a BBC documentary drama about nuclear war and the consequences in an English city. In New Zealand the film was restricted for children unless accompanied by an adult, so I had to get my father to take me. The War Game won the Oscar for the best documentary in 1965.

France began its series of over 175 nuclear tests at Mururoa, in the South Pacific, in 1966. At least 140 of these tests were above ground. In 1973, the New Zealand and Australian governments took France to the World Court for continued atmospheric testing, and forced the last tests underground. The testing finally came to an end in 1976.

In New Zealand the US Navy made regular visits between 1976 and 1983 with nuclear-powered and, most likely, nuclear-armed, ships. These visits produced spectacular protest fleets in the Auckland and Wellington harbours, when hundreds of New Zealanders — in yachts of all sizes, in motor boats and canoes, even on surf boards — surrounded the vessels and tried to bring them to a complete stop. By 1978, a campaign began in New Zealand to declare borough and city council areas nuclear-free and, by the early 1980s, this symbolic movement had quickly gained momentum, covering more than two-thirds of the New Zealand population.

Helen Caldicott and I had not met up to this point, but these were shared parts of our history and consciousness when Helen visited New Zealand in 1983. Helen Caldicott graduated with a medical degree from University of Adelaide Medical School in 1961. She moved to the United States, becoming an Instructor in paediatrics at Harvard Medical School and was on the staff of the Children’s Hospital Medical Centre in Boston, Massachusetts. In the late 1970s, Helen became the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility. This group was founded when Helen was finishing medical school, quickly making its mark by documenting the presence of Strontium-90, a highly radioactive waste product of atmospheric nuclear testing, in children’s teeth. The landmark finding eventually led to the Limited Nuclear Test Ban treaty, which ended atmospheric nuclear testing.

But it was the Three Mile Island accident that changed Helen’s life. An equipment failure resulted in a loss of cooling water to the core of a reactor at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania, causing a partial meltdown. Operator failure meant that 700,000 gallons of radioactive cooling water ended up in the basement of the reactor building. It was the most serious nuclear accident to that date in the US Helen published Nuclear Madness the same year. In it she wrote: “As a physician, I contend that nuclear technology threatens life on our planet with extinction. If present trends continue, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink will soon be contaminated with enough radioactive pollutants to pose a potential health hazard far greater than any plague humanity has ever experienced.” In 1980, Helen resigned from her paid work positions to work full time on the prevention of nuclear war.

In 1982, Canadian director Terre Nash filmed a lecture given by Helen Caldicott to a New York state student audience. Nash’s consequent National Film Board of Canada documentary If You Love this Planet was released during the term of US President Ronald Reagan, at the height of Cold War nuclear tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The US Department of Justice moved quickly to designate the film “foreign propaganda,” bringing a great deal of attention to the film. It went on to win the 1982 Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject. That same year, Helen addressed about 750,000 people in Central Park, New York in the biggest anti-nuke rally in the United States to that date.

In 1983, I was serving as a member of the New Zealand parliament, having been elected eight years earlier at the age of 23. Our parliament established a Disarmament and Arms Control Select Committee to conduct hearings on the possibility of making New Zealand a nuclear-free zone. During this critically important time, Helen was invited to New Zealand on a lecture tour. The documentary If You Love This Planet was shown at her speaking engagements.

I did not get to meet her, nor hear any of her lectures in person, as I was working in parliament every night. But I did follow the media coverage.

Helen told the Listener about having observed five-star generals in US congressional and senate committees complaining that the Russian missiles were bigger than the American ones. “The Russian missiles are very big [and] inaccurate and clumsy. America has very small, very accurate missiles, which are better at killing people and destroying targets,” she explained. A frequent message in her talks to New Zealand audiences was the redundant overkill capacity of both superpowers. Caldicott noted to her audiences that “The US has 30,000 bombs and Russia 20,000.”

I had sat in a New Zealand parliamentary committee hearing some months earlier, when a government colleague, brandishing a centrefold of a Russian submarine, excitedly called for us to “Look at how big it is.” I had thought that no one would believe me if I had repeated such an inane banality – when an adult male was more impressed by the size of the submarine than its capacity to destroy life on this planet.

Helen’s public addresses were grounded in the potential impact of nuclear weapons. “Imagine a 20-megaton bomb targeted on Auckland,” she told audiences in New Zealand. “The explosion, five times the collective energy of all the bombs dropped in the Second World War, digs a hole three-quarters of a mile wide by 800 feet deep and turns people, buildings and dirt into radioactive dust. Everyone up to six miles will be vaporised, and up to 20 miles they will be dead or lethally injured. People will be instantly blinded looking at the blast within 40 miles. Many will be asphyxiated in the fire storm.”

Helen did not hold back, explaining that nuclear war means “blindness, burning, starvation, disease, lacerations, haemorrhaging, millions of corpses and an epidemic of disease”. Helen’s dramatic and blunt style reduced many in her audiences to tears. She always ended her talks with a call to action – especially to parents – as she strongly believes that nuclear disarmament is “the ultimate medical and parenting issue of our time.”

To those who would claim New Zealand was not a target she had a short reply: “Trident submarines in ports are targeted. They are a first strike target. It is much easier to destroy subs when they are in dock than it is when they are submerged in the ocean.”

In 2015, I asked Helen how she managed to deliver such bad news and yet keep her audiences with her. “Being a doctor helps because you have to learn to negotiate with a patient and with language they can understand,” she explained. “You have to convert the medical diagnosis and treatment to lay language. I also have to keep them awake sometimes by letting them laugh because it relieves their tension and because the stuff I say is pretty awful.” Helen told me that she practises “global preventative medicine”.

Helen’s tour through New Zealand in 1983 had a huge, and lasting, impact. At one stop, Helen addressed over 2,000 people at a public event in Auckland. The librarian with whom I corresponded looking for old newspaper reports of Helen’s visit, wrote to me: “Her chillingly detailed description of the effects of a nuclear device detonated over the hall in which we were sitting remains rooted in my psyche to this day! …The other message I most recall is the dichotomy she evoked between the destructive drive of ‘old men’ rulers, the instigators of war, versus the procreative energy of mothers most impelled to oppose them — which, however reductive, retains the compelling logic of a truism!”

Helen’s approach was transformative in New Zealand. Helen’s speaking events packed auditoriums, and overflows of audiences had to be accommodated using loud speaker systems. People responded strongly to this woman, whose life work involved caring for children, speaking about medical effects of fallout, and speaking without the use of the clichéd military and defence ideological rhetoric that treated people as if they were simpletons who couldn’t understand. Her speeches inspired people to act. After Helen spoke, the volume of mail delivered to my parliamentary office increased—particularly from women.

On May 24, 1983, 20,000 women wearing white flowers and armbands and holding banners with peace signs marched quietly up a main street in Auckland to hold a huge rally and call for New Zealand to be nuke-free. It was one of the largest women’s demonstrations in New Zealand’s history. In her book, Peace, Power and Politics – How New Zealand Became Nuclear Free, Maire Leadbetter writes: “I am one of many activists who think of Helen Caldicott’s visit as the point when the peace movement began to grow exponentially … Helen had a magical ability to motivate previously passive citizens to become activists.”

Shortly after Helen’s visit to New Zealand, in 1984, I advised that I intended to vote for the opposition-sponsored nuclear-free New Zealand legislation. This prompted conservative Prime Minister Rob Muldoon to call a snap election. Muldoon told media that my “feminist anti-nuclear stance” threatened his ability to govern.

The new Labour Government of 1984 passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act in 1987, the world’s first national nuclear-free legislation. Dr Helen Caldicott’s influence had culminated in the passage of the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy.

This essay is one of 28 stories by notable women about remarkable women peacemakers, When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. Dr Caldicott speaks at AUT on Tuesday November 15.

November 14, 2016 Posted by | history, New Zealand | Leave a comment

Bigger battles beyond the climate agreement – climate crises for vulnerable countries

The ‘flexible’ carbon mitigation mechanism of National Determined Contributions that makes contribution to emission cuts voluntary allows for the watering down of the historic and current responsibility of big polluter countries like the United States and China. Pressure is unjustly put on low carbon economies of developing countries when there should be none in the first place.

There are no concrete commitments and mechanisms that will ensure adequate and unconditional support for climate vulnerable countries. Even more marginalized was the proposed mechanism for ‘Loss and Damage’ that sought to facilitate compensation from industrialized nations to vulnerable nations that are already suffering climate impacts.

Transnational corporations and financial institutions, meanwhile, are given free rein to promote multi-billion dollar false climate solutions such as mega hydro, clean coal, and nuclear power plants, timber plantations, carbon credits, and other projects that displace communities and degrade the environment.

These are just the tip of the iceberg.

There are bigger battles outside the Paris Agreement   http://opinion.inquirer.net/98960/there-are-bigger-battles-outside-the-paris-agreement   November 04, 2016   LEON DULCE
Campaign Coordinator Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
We write with regard to the resurgence of debate on President Rodrigo Duterte’s ambivalence over the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, as it comes in a time when deeper public discourse and action on the climate crisis is urgently needed.

World leaders will gather at the United Nations “COP22″ climate talks once again to attempt to concretize the Paris Agreement’s agreed common actions on mitigating carbon emissions that induce climate change, adapting communities to worsening climate impacts, and ensuring financing, technology transfer, capacity building, and loss and damage mechanisms.

COP22’s commencement fittingly coincides with the Philippines’ commemoration of the third anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan). World leaders should be reminded that some 16 million people were severely affected by Yolanda’s powerful winds, floods and storm surges across the Philippines, and that these impacted communities are still struggling to recover three years later—a preview of what future climate norms are in store for us if climate disruption is left unfettered.

An alarming evidence of this was the findings of current Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo that at least 200,000 Yolanda survivors have yet to receive emergency shelter assistance from the state because of discrimination by local politics during the Aquino administration.

Meanwhile, the specter of ‘disaster capitalism’ continues to haunt Yolanda survivors. Initial findings of an environmental investigation mission held by the Center for Environmental Concerns and scientist group AGHAM regarding the proposed P7.9-billion Leyte Tide Embankment Project revealed how the biggest post-Yolanda mega-infrastructure solution actually threatens the livelihood and environment of some 10,000 residents across the east coast of Leyte.

Unfortunately, there is still a yawning gap between the abject plight of Yolanda survivors and other frontline communities and the reality of the Paris Agreement.

The ‘flexible’ carbon mitigation mechanism of National Determined Contributions that makes contribution to emission cuts voluntary allows for the watering down of the historic and current responsibility of big polluter countries like the United States and China. Pressure is unjustly put on low carbon economies of developing countries when there should be none in the first place.

There are no concrete commitments and mechanisms that will ensure adequate and unconditional support for climate vulnerable countries. Even more marginalized was the proposed mechanism for ‘Loss and Damage’ that sought to facilitate compensation from industrialized nations to vulnerable nations that are already suffering climate impacts.

Transnational corporations and financial institutions, meanwhile, are given free rein to promote multi-billion dollar false climate solutions such as mega hydro, clean coal, and nuclear power plants, timber plantations, carbon credits, and other projects that displace communities and degrade the environment.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. It is hard not to cast a shadow of doubt over the Paris Agreement and the uphill battle to step up the pact’s ambition in the upcoming COP22. It is actually commendable how President Duterte asserts our people’s right to develop as the foundation of his argument, a right of vulnerable and poor nations that is given only tokenisms in the agreement.

The climate talks, however, are still a legitimate venue to advance the concrete needs and aspirations of our people.

President Duterte can take a leaf from the book of Bolivian President Evo Morales, who called out global capitalism as the root of the climate and environmental crises in his plenary speech at COP21 last year, or from Pope Francis who also called for system change with his encyclical “Laudato Sii.”

At COP22, Duterte can take up the cudgels for the Filipino people struggling for climate justice, from the Lumad, Igorot, and other indigenous peoples resisting big coal and metallic mines to the Yolanda survivors that will march once again on ‘ground zero’ come November 8 to assert their demands for resilient homes and livelihoods.

These are the bigger battles outside the Paris Agreement that need to be fought, as these are the ones winning the struggle against the global system that perpetuates climate injustice. Let these stories of struggles in the frontlines be at the core of the climate talks.

November 5, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, Philippines, politics international | Leave a comment

Philippines Senator supports President Duterte’s stand against the use of nuclear power

text-NoGatchalian with Duterte on stand vs nuclear power By:  / @TarraINQ  / November 04, 2016  Sen.Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday expressed agreement with President Rodrigo Duterte’s stand against the use of nuclear power, saying further studies must first be undertaken to ensure that it would be a viable and safe energy source for the Philippines.

Gatchalian, chair of the Senate energy committee, said the Department of Energy should first “formulate a comprehensive nuclear energy policy” before forging ahead with the use of nuclear power.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi  earlier proposed the use of the long-mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, but Gatchalian expressed reservations, citing safety concerns over the aged facility.

“The President and I see eye to eye on this matter. More research should be done to prove that nuclear power is a safe and viable energy option for the Philippines. At this point, I am not convinced,” said Gatchalian in a statement.

He said he was willing to hear out advocates of nuclear power but proposed to shift focus first on more viable energy sources……http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/841149/gatchalian-with-duterte-on-stand-vs-nuclear-power

November 5, 2016 Posted by | Philippines, politics | Leave a comment

Climate Change – a critical issue for the Marshall Islands

Climate Change Is A ‘Matter Of Life And Death’ For The Marshall Islands, Honolulu Civil Beat,   The first female head of state of a Pacific island nation talks about the biggest threat her country faces. 4 Nov 16  By   It takes a combination of guts, grit and gray matter to face off against what is arguably the world’s biggest threat — a planet in the throes of environmental and climate upheaval.

November 5, 2016 Posted by | climate change, OCEANIA | Leave a comment

Examining health impacts of climate change on Pacific Island Countries

Pacific Island Countries and Climate Change: Examining Associated Human Health Vulnerabilities, Environmental Health Perspectives,   1 Nov 16 Nancy Averett writes about science and the environment from Cincinnati, OH. Her work has been published in Pacific StandardAudubonDiscoverE/The Environmental Magazine, and a variety of other publications.

Climate change presents a significant and growing threat to human health, with diverse impacts projected for different regions.1Investigators now report that Pacific island countries including Fiji, Tonga, and the Marshall Islands are among the nations most vulnerable to climate-related health problems due to their particular geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic characteristics.2 Their new paper is a synthesis of the key technical findings and policy implications of the 2015 World Health Organization report Human Health and Climate Change in Pacific Island Countries, written by the same group.3

First author Lachlan McIver, an associate professor in the College of Public Health, Medical, and Veterinary Sciences at Australia’s James Cook University, says that when teams of climate change and health consultants began their assessment in 2011, not many regions or countries had undertaken vulnerability and adaptation assessments or been able to derive results and act upon them, “so we were really on a bit of a crest of the wave in that sense.” He says the teams found that not all “best practices” described in the literature for assessing climate change health vulnerabilities actually worked in practice in the Pacific island countries due, in part, to a lack of data in some countries. Thus, he says, the consultants found they had to be flexible and use both quantitative and qualitative methods in their research and analysis.

The authors examined 13 Pacific island countries in terms of 3 categories of climate-related health concerns that they termed “direct,” “indirect,” and “diffuse.” Direct effects included physical and psychological trauma related to an extreme weather event such as a hurricane or a heat wave. Indirect effects included increased burdens of disease resulting from climate-related disruption—for instance, a rise in vector-borne diseases if ecological disruption were to create conditions favorable to the spread of pathogen-carrying pests. Finally, diffuse effects included increased mental health problems, injuries, and violent deaths that could result as societal dysfunction unfolds; this unfolding would be due to such phenomena as loss of livelihood or a lack of basic resources including water, food, and housing.2

The teams worked with stakeholders in each country to develop lists of their highest-priority climate-sensitive health risks then decide which ones to address in their adaptation plans. Some countries chose to include all relevant risks; others picked just those deemed to be the greatest threat. Because of that variation, the report contains this caveat: “The climate-sensitive health risks presented … should be considered a synthesis of each country’s priorities rather than a true cross-country comparison of risks.”2

Most countries placed water security, food security, vector-borne diseases, and direct health impacts of extreme weather events among their top priorities. Pacific island populations also face a unique climate-related health risk in terms of their extremely high levels of noncommunicable diseases, including obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Noncommunicable diseases are already leading causes of death in these populations,4 partly because of a high dependence on energy-dense, high-calorie imported foods rather than locally grown products.5 In an example of a diffuse effect, climate change could exacerbate these trends because higher temperatures, altered rainfall patterns, and sea level rise will make it even more difficult to grow local food; increased reliance on imported foods could, in turn, lead to food insecurity.2

Kathryn Bowen, a senior research fellow at the Australian National University, says the work was an important first step. …….

For coauthor Kristie Ebi, a professor of environmental and occupational health science at the University of Washington, the concern is whether there will be enough outside funding to help these nations implement their plans. “These islands are suffering the consequences of climate change, and they’re not responsible for it,” she says. “Their total greenhouse gas emissions are tiny … so to ask them to take on [the health burdens associated with climate change] without additional funding really isn’t fair.” http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/124-A208/

November 4, 2016 Posted by | climate change, health, OCEANIA | Leave a comment

When the law really IS an ass – International Court of Justice rejects Marshall Islands’ nuclear weapons case

law-an-assNuclear Standoff, CounterPunch,  OCTOBER 14, 2016 …………the Republic of the Marshall Islands has lost its case in the International Court of Justice. On a technicality, no less! Phon van den Biesen, lead attorney for the tiny island nation, which had sued the world’s nine nuclear powers — the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea — to begin real nuclear disarmament negotiations, said the case was dismissed earlier this month on a “micro formality,” which in my layman’s grasp of the matter might be called, instead, a desperate legal cop out.

The case, which, technically, was brought against only three of the nine nuclear powers, Great Britain, India and Pakistan (because those are the only three nations that acknowledge the binding authority of the ICJ), was dismissed — in a split decision that could be called the First World against the rest of humanity — on the grounds that there wasn’t sufficient evidence of a dispute between the parties, so the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case on its merits.

Huh?

JOHN PILGER – Breaking The Silence – 2016

The ICJ’s dissenting judges (in the case against Great Britain, the verdict to dismiss was 9-7, against India and Pakistan it was 8-8), expressed as much incredulity as I did on hearing the news.

The Marshall Islands lawsuits (a second suit was also filed, specifically against the United States, in U.S. federal court, and is still pending) demanded compliance with Article VI of the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, signed by the U.S. in 1970, which reads: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes 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, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

“General and complete disarmament — do these words actually have meaning?” I asked last January. “Right now the Marshall Islands stand alone among the nations of Planet Earth in believing that they do.”

This tiny nation of islands and atolls — this former U.S. territory — with a population of about 70,000, was the scene of 67 nuclear test blasts in the 1950s, back when bigger was better. Some people’s homes were destroyed for eternity. The islanders suffered ghastly and often lethal levels of radiation and were essentially regarded, by their U.S. overlords, as human guinea pigs — a fantastic opportunity to study the effects of nuclear fallout. Eventually, the U.S. atoned for its destruction by paying the Republic of the Marshall Islands a pathetic $150 million “for all claims, past, present and future.”

Now this nation is trying to save the rest of the planet by insisting that nuclear disarmament negotiations must get underway.

In a dissenting opinion, ICJ Judge Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade of Brazil lamented that the world needed to recognize the “prevalence of human conscience” over national interests.

As Rick Wayman of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation pointed out, of the ICJ justices who voted not to hear the case on its merits, six were from nuclear-armed nations (the U.S., Russia, China, France, Great Britain and India) and the other two from nations (Japan, Italy) “deeply invested in the U.S. ‘nuclear umbrella.’”

The nations of the dissenting judges included Brazil, Somalia, Jamaica, Australia and Morocco…….. The human conscience is dismissed on a technicality……. http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/14/nuclear-standoff/

October 15, 2016 Posted by | Legal, OCEANIA | Leave a comment

UN court rejects Marshall Islands nuclear arms lawsuit

legal actionMarshall Islands nuclear arms lawsuit thrown out by UN’s top court, Guardian, 6 Oct 16 
Pacific atoll took India, Pakistan and Britain to international court of justice arguing they had failed to honour non-proliferation treaty 
The UN’s highest court has narrowly thrown out landmark cases brought by theMarshall Islands against India, Pakistan and Britain for allegedly failing to halt the nuclear arms race.

In majority and sharply divided decisions a 16-judge bench at the international court of justice (ICJ) ruled there was no evidence that the islands’ government had a prior dispute with any of the three nuclear powers or had sought negotiations on the issue.

“The court upholds the objection to jurisdiction” raised by each of the countries, presiding judge Ronny Abraham said in separate rulings, and therefore the tribunal “cannot proceed to the merits of the case”.

The Pacific island republic, population 55,000, was ground zero for a string of devastating nuclear tests on its pristine atolls between 1946-58, carried out by the United States as the cold war arms race gathered pace.

After the hearings the Marshalls government said it would “study the ruling”, which is final and without avenue of appeal……..https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/06/marshall-islands-nuclear-arms-lawsuit-thrown-out-by-uns-top-court

October 6, 2016 Posted by | Legal, OCEANIA | Leave a comment

New Zealand moves ahead to ratify Paris climate agreement

NZ takes final step on historic climate change agreement, NZ Herald, 

New Zealand’s ambassador in New York, Gerard van Bohemen, was to take the formal step to ratify the agreement at the United Nations overnight.

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett said it was earlier than anticipated but had been fast-tracked with support of Opposition parties.

That was done to beat the European Union and ensure New Zealand was one of the countries to ratify before the threshold at which the agreement will come into force.

To come into force, at least 55 countries accounting for at least 55 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions have to ratify it.

Bennett said the European Union was initially not expected to ratify until next year, but had now moved to do so within the next week. The EU’s entry would push it over the 55 per cent of emissions required.

As a result New Zealand moved its own date forward from November when it had aimed to ratify in time for the next major climate change summit in Marrakesh.

“That means we are part of the first tranche. It is as much symbolic as anything else, to be part of that first tranche. But there have been noises that the ’55-club’ may be able to sit in different committees that are deciding accounting processes round forestry and international trading and that sort of thing.”

As of Tuesday night, 62 of the 191 countries to have signed the Paris Agreement had ratified, accounting for 51.89 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

They included major emitting countries such as China, the United States, India and Brazil……….http://www.nzherald.co.nz/environment/news/article.cfm?c_id=39&objectid=11722496

October 6, 2016 Posted by | climate change, New Zealand | Leave a comment

Marshall Islanders culture threatened: emigration as sea level rises

climate-changeLives in the balance: climate change and the Marshall Islands [excellent video]

The numerous atolls that make up the island nation are now regularly swamped due to sea level rise. But as more people flee for the US, many fear their culture will be lost to a country that has already taken so much from them, Guardian, by  and  in Majuro, Marshall Islands, and Springdale, Arkansas, 15 Sept 16

There may be music in the roar of the sea, as Byron eulogized, but the waves can also bring creeping unease. On low-lying fragments of land like the Marshall Islands, the tides are threatening to take away what they previously helped support: life.

Hilda Heine surveys the latest temporary sea wall that cleaves her property from the waves. It has been knocked down twice since February by floods and she frets about her plants that will probably face a salty demise.

Her vista would, sadly, be unremarkable in the Marshall Islands were it not for the policeman languidly guarding the corrugated metal wall – Heine is the president of the Pacific island nation. Here, no one is spared the rising seas.

“I need a better wall, one with rocks,” Heine mutters. Her presidency will probably be defined by climate change. Heine took charge in January and immediately declared a state of emergency over a drought so dire that water was rationed in the capital, Majuro. The nation also faces the existential threat of sea level rise and, with it, the potential exodus of its population.

“The numbers are increasing, of people leaving,” Heine says. “We see that almost every day. It concerns us. I think to a certain extent there are people who are thinking about the sea level rise and they’re wanting to make sure they’re on secure land.”

Better job prospects and a college education are major pulls, but climate change is now elbowing its way on to the list of considerations. A third of the Marshall Islands’ 60,000-strong population now resides in the US and some of those left behind fret that many more will follow, with the archipelago’s unique culture blemished by each departure. The Marshallese government has openly worried “about massive outmigration in recent years” – a fifth of the population left between 1999 and 2011.

As the seas rise, the pathway to the US could be closing. A compact of free association, which allows Marshallese people to live and work in the US without a visa, ends in 2023 and there are no guarantees it will be extended. Those already living in the US would be able to stay but, if the agreement isn’t extended, those living in the Marshall Islands will be treated like hopeful migrants from any other country……..

In 2014, after five-meter swells inundated Majuro for the third time in a year (historically, something that only happened once every few decades), the US Geological Survey released sobering research that shows that a mix of sea level rise and marauding waves means “many atoll islands will be flooded annually, salinizing the limited freshwater resources and thus likely forcing inhabitants to abandon their islands in decades, not centuries, as previously thought”.

The escape route is there, for now, but it has come at a cost. The option of moving to the US was born from the Marshall Islands’ misfortune of being under US administration during the cold war.

Between 1946 and 1958, the US conducted nuclear weapons testing on the islands, peppering Bikini atoll alone with 23 bombs. The largest, known as the Bravo shot, was 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb and vaporized three small islands.

While Bikini was evacuated, the wind blew radioactive detritus on to the inhabited atolls of Rongelap and Utrik. “Within hours, the atoll was covered with a fine, white, powder-like substance,” says Jeton Anjain, who led the eventual evacuation of Rongelap. “No one knew it was radioactive fallout. The children played in the snow. They ate it.”

Cancers, particularly of the thyroid, riddled many of those who came into contact with this radioactivity. But the wounds of dispossession are the ones that run deepest, 70 years on. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/15/marshall-islands-climate-change-springdale-arkansas

September 16, 2016 Posted by | climate change, OCEANIA | Leave a comment

Australia, the Pacific pariah on climate change

It is the world’s largest coal exporter, and both major political parties are financially backed by the coal lobby. Rather than move away from coal, the government is seeking to expand exports dramatically, with public subsidies and taxpayer-funded infrastructure.

The contrast could not be starker. While Pacific leaders are praised for their efforts to develop global climate solutions, Australia faces ignominy. Unless Australia changes direction, it will continue to be seen as an irresponsible middle power – a rogue state undermining global efforts to tackle climate change.

australias-politiciansPacific pariah: how Australia’s love of coal has left it out in the diplomatic cold, https://theconversation.com/pacific-pariah-how-australias-love-of-coal-has-left-it-out-in-the-diplomatic-cold-64963 The Conversation, , 7 Sept 16, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will have some explaining to do when he attends the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ meeting in Pohnpei, Micronesia, this week.

Australia’s continued determination to dig up coal, while refusing to dig deep to tackle climate change, has put it increasingly at odds with world opinion. Nowhere is this more evident than when Australian politicians meet with their Pacific island counterparts.

It is widely acknowledged that Pacific island states are at the front line of climate change. It is perhaps less well known that, for a quarter of a century, Australia has attempted to undermine their demands in climate negotiations at the United Nations.

The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) – organised around an annual meeting between island leaders and their counterparts from Australia and New Zealand – is the Pacific region’s premier political forum. But island nations have been denied the chance to use it to press hard for their shared climate goals, because Australia has used the PIF to weaken the regional declarations put forward by Pacific nations at each key milestone in the global climate negotiation process. Continue reading

September 7, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change, OCEANIA | Leave a comment

Philippines bishop, climate movement, oppose revival of mothballed nuclear plant

Philippines: Alarm sounded over revival of mothballed nuclear plant, http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/09/01/philippines_alarm_over_revival_of_mothballed_nuclear_plant_/1255178  A diocese in the northern Philippines has voiced opposition to a government plan to revive a nuclear power plant constructed in the 1970s.

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Morong in Bataan province was constructed during the term of former president Ferdinand Marcos. Costing US$.2.3 billion by the time of its completion in 1984, it remains intact though never fueled. Successive governments have not tried to operate the plant after studies revealed it was built near a major geological fault line and lies close to the then dormant Mount Pinatubo volcano.

“We don’t want to put the lives of people in danger … we don’t want our sources of livelihood destroyed,” read a pastoral letter issued by Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga. “The diocese has already spoken on this, and we are again making our position known,” said Bishop Santos “For us, life is more precious than profit or money that will come from cheap electricity” he added and “we want to take care of God’s creation in response to His call to take care, not destroy and abuse creation”. Bishop Santos said the government should tap other sources of energy instead of reviving the nuclear plant.

The proposal to revive the plant came during a three-day international conference this week to discuss the prospects of nuclear power in the Asia-Pacific region. Philippine Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi told journalists on the sidelines of the conference that the country should consider nuclear power to address power shortages and the high cost of electricity. Cusi said the government is already working on a road map and consulting experts on nuclear power.

The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice said that while nuclear energy is not a major contributor to climate change it poses “more danger to humanity than any kind of calamity or disaster known.” The faith-based group warned that the Philippines, with its high poverty incidence, “cannot withstand the disaster that may be brought about by a nuclear accident.”

A safety inquiry in the 1980s, revealed that the Bataan nuclear plant had over 4,000 defects.

September 2, 2016 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, Philippines | Leave a comment