Daily Archives: January 19, 2014

Timescale Matters: 800,000 years of CO2 (NOAA)


Uploaded on Nov 11, 2011

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration produced this video showing the unique nature of the modern spike in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.
More at http://www.noaa.gov

Global Climate Change
Environmental Justice
Environment Ethics

Rigged rules mean economic growth increasingly “winner takes all” for rich elites all over world

“Without a concerted effort to tackle inequality, the cascade of privilege and of disadvantage will continue down the generations. ”
Winnie Byanyima
Executive Director, Oxfam International

Published: 20 January 2014

Wealth of half the world’s population now the same as that of tiny elite

Wealthy elites have co-opted political power to rig the rules of the economic game, undermining democracy and creating a world where the 85 richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population, worldwide development organization Oxfam warns in a report published today.

Working For the Few, published ahead of this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, details the pernicious impact that widening inequality is having in both developed and developing countries, helping the richest undermine democratic processes and drive policies that promote their interests at the expense of everyone else.

The report says that there is a growing global public awareness of this power-grab. Polls done for Oxfam in six countries (Brazil, India, South Africa, Spain, the UK and US) show that most people questioned in all those countries believe that laws are skewed in favor of the rich.

Social stability and security are at risk: urgent action needed

Inequality has shot up the global agenda in recent years: US President Obama has made it a key priority for 2014. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has identified widening income disparities as the second greatest worldwide risk in the next 12-18 months. WEF’s Global Outlook report, published in November, warned inequality is undermining social stability and ‘threatening security on a global scale.’

Oxfam wants governments to take urgent action to reverse the trend. It is asking those attending the WEF to make six-point personal pledge to tackle the problem.

Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam Executive Director who will attend the Davos meetings, said: “It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world’s population own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all sit comfortably in a single train carriage.

Facing inequality is key

“We cannot hope to win the fight against poverty without tackling inequality. Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table.

“In developed and developing countries alike, we are increasingly living in a world where the lowest tax rates, the best health and education and the opportunity to influence are being given not just to the rich but also to their children.

“Without a concerted effort to tackle inequality, the cascade of privilege and of disadvantage will continue down the generations. We will soon live in a world where equality of opportunity is just a dream. In too many countries economic growth already amounts to little more than a ‘winner takes all’ windfall for the richest.”

Wealth and power

Policies successfully imposed by the rich in recent decades include financial deregulation, tax havens and secrecy, anti-competitive business practice, lower tax rates on high incomes and investments and cuts or underinvestment in public services for the majority. Since the late 1970s, tax rates for the richest have fallen in 29 of the 30 countries for which data are available, meaning that in many places the rich not only get more money but also pay less tax on it.

A recent US study presented compelling statistical evidence that the interests of the wealthy are overwhelmingly represented by the US Government compared with those of the middle classes. The preferences of the poorest had no impact on the votes of elected officials.

This capture of opportunities by the rich at the expense of the poor and middle classes has helped create a situation where seven out of every ten people in the world live in countries where inequality has increased since the 1980s and one per cent of the world’s families now own 46% of its wealth ($110 trillion).

The report says:

  • Globally, the richest individuals and companies hide trillions of dollars away from the tax man in a web of tax havens around the world. It is estimated that $21 trillion is held unrecorded and off-shore;
  • In the US, years of financial deregulation directly correlates to the increase in the income share of the top one per cent which is now at its highest level since the eve of the Great Depression;
  • In India, the number of billionaires increased tenfold in the past decade, aided by a highly regressive tax structure and the wealthy exploiting their government connections, while spending on the poorest remains remarkably low;
  • In Europe, austerity has been imposed on the poor and middle classes under huge pressure from financial markets whose wealthy investors have benefited from state bailouts of financial institutions;
  • In Africa, global corporations – particularly those in extractive industries – exploit their influence to avoid taxes and royalties, reducing the resources available to governments to fight poverty.

Oxfam is calling on those gathered at WEF to pledge to:

  • Support progressive taxation and not to dodge their own taxes;
  • Refrain from using their wealth to seek political favors that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens;
  • Make public all the investments in companies and trusts for which they are the ultimate beneficial owners;
  • Challenge governments to use tax revenue to provide universal healthcare, education and social protection for citizens;
  • Demand a living wage in all companies they own or control;
  • Challenge other members of the economic elite to join them in these pledges.

Oxfam is calling on governments to tackle inequality by cracking down on financial secrecy and tax dodging, including through the G20; investing in universal education and healthcare; and agreeing a global goal to end extreme inequality in every country as part of the post 2015 negotiations.

…(read more)

Environmental Justice
Environment Ethics

Working for the Few | Oxfam International

Political capture and economic inequality


Published: 17 January 2014
Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva, Head of Research, Oxfam GB; Nicholas Galasso, Research and Policy Advisor, Oxfam America

Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population, and seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years. The World Economic Forum has identified economic inequality as a major risk to human progress, impacting social stability within countries and threatening security on a global scale.

This massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a real threat to inclusive political and economic systems, and compounds other inequalities – such as those between women and men. Left unchecked, political institutions are undermined and governments overwhelmingly serve the interests of economic elites – to the detriment of ordinary people.

In this paper, Oxfam shows how extreme inequality is not inevitable, with examples of policies from around the world which have reduced inequality and developed more representative politics, benefiting all, both rich and poor. Oxfam calls on leaders at the 2014 World Economic Forum at Davos to make the commitments needed to counter the growing tide of inequality.

Environmental Justice
Environment Ethics
Cyprus International Institute (CII) (Harvard School of Public Health) http://Cyprus-Institute.us

Direct Action Must Be Remembered As Part of Dr. King’s Legacy

E120, e145.

40 more maps that explain the world



Maps seemed to be everywhere in 2013, a trend I like to think we encouraged along with August’s 40 maps that explain the world. Maps can be a remarkably powerful tool for understanding the world and how it works, but they show only what you ask them to. You might consider this, then, a collection of maps meant to inspire your inner map nerd. I’ve searched far and wide for maps that can reveal and surprise and inform in ways that the daily headlines might not, with a careful eye for sourcing and detail. I’ve included a link for more information on just about every one.

Environmental Justice
Environment Ethics

Nuclear Nation – Review

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Nuclear Nation (2013)

Director Atsushi Funahashi    Documentary96 minutes

Review by Joyce Kulhawik December 11, 2013

At one point in this new Japanese documentary about the Fukushima Daiichi power plant disaster, the camera focuses on a sign above a town turned to rubble. Loosely translated, the sign says, “Atomic energy makes our town prosperous.” One can’t help but recall another sign, “Arbeit Macht Frei,” hovering above the site of another human tragedy. The mocking words in each case point up the horror beyond. But in the case of Fukushima the tragedy involves a conundrum of culpability, and the reaction to the immediate disaster has been strangely muffled. “Nuclear Nation” means to make some noise, but is only partially successful. If you were looking for a documentary to blow the lid off the secrecy around the extent of the destruction, and lack of restitution—in other words outrage à la Michael Moore—you will not find it here, but there is much that is worthy and troubling.

What you will find is a young filmmaker, Atsushi Funahashi, who uses his camera as silent witness to what, up to now, has not been fully seen and acknowledged. Here’s what we already knew: On March 11, 2011, a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan causing a hydrogen explosion at the number 1 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station; radiation was released. The town of Futaba, 3 kilometers from the explosion, was ordered to evacuate immediately and those who fled had no time to take anything—not clothes, not food, not pets or livestock. Eventually, two more reactors would be crippled. The earthquake and tsunami left 20,000 dead or missing in northeastern Japan.

The filmmakers started shooting within three weeks of the disaster to show us what we didn’t know. The movie opens quietly—with the sound of wind and a shot of reactors in the hazy distance, then a close-up on cherry blossoms catching the breeze on a spring day. We later learn that the wind blew radiation in the direction of those fleeing ground zero. We also learn that the Japanese government failed to report the level of radiation and those residents were contaminated. Fourteen hundred of Futaba’s inhabitants fled to an abandoned high school 250 kilometers away, and a year later, 500 still live there on the floor, in classrooms, eating rice gruel, trying to pass the time, mourning their dead relatives and friends, and feeling betrayed by a government and a corporation (The Tokyo Electric Power Company, TEPCO) that has not apologized to them individually or told them what will become of their town or if they might ever go home.

Home is now a landscape leveled; people cloaked in masks and protective garb have been gradually allowed back briefly to gather belongings from splintered homes. But it’s the sight of the rotted, mummified corpses of livestock, left behind to die a slow death from starvation, that sickened me most, and that tacitly carries the film’s message: the inhabitants who worked the plants have been left behind in the dark, not knowing what’s to become of them.

…(read more)

Environmental Justice
Environment Ethics

“Education Is a System of Indoctrination of the Young” – Noam Chomsky

The Chomsky Videos

Published on Aug 29, 2013

Environment Ethics

Global-Warming Denial Hits a 6-Year High

Climate skeptics became more numerous, and more sure of themselves, in 2013. Here’s a theory about why.

By Chris Mooney | Fri Jan. 17, 2014 3:00 AM GMT

Global-warming denial hits a 6-year high

Social Dek:
Climate skeptics became more numerous, and more sure of themselves, in 2013. Here’s a theory about why.

The latest data [1] is out on the prevalence of global warming denial among the US public. And it isn’t pretty.

The new study, from the Yale and George Mason University research teams on climate change communication, shows a 7-percentage-point increase in the proportion of Americans who say they do not believe that global warming is happening. And that’s just since the spring of 2013. The number is now 23 percent; back at the start of last year, it was 16 percent:

The increase in climate science disbelief Yale and George Mason University teams on Climate Change Communication. [2]

The percentage of Americans who believe global warming is human-caused has also declined, and now stands at 47 percent, a decrease of 7 percent since 2012.

At the same time, the survey also shows an apparent hardening of attitudes. Back in September 2012, only 43 percent of those who believed that global warming isn’t happening said they were either “very sure” or “extremely sure” about their views. By November of last year, that number had increased to 56 percent.

Overall, more Americans now say they have all the information they need to make up their minds about the climate issue, and fewer say they could easily change their minds:

Increasing righteousness about global warming, on both sides of the issue Yale and George Mason teams on Climate Change Communication. [1]

The obvious questionis, what happened over the last year to produce more climate denial?

According to both Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale and Ed Maibach of George Mason, the leaders of the two research teams, the answer may well lie in the so-called global warming “pause” [3]—the misleading idea that global warming has slowed down or stopped over the the past 15 years or so. This claim was used by climate skeptics, to great effect, in their quest to undermine the release of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report in September 2013—precisely during the time period that is in question in the latest study.

….(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environmental Justice
Environment Ethics

Pa.’s climate change plan doesn’t make the grade: Greg Vitali

By PennLive Op-Ed    on January 19, 2014 at 10:00 AM, updated January 19, 2014 at 10:10 AM

By Greg Vitali Pennsylvania’s new Climate Change Action Plan is woefully inadequate.

It fails to set greenhouse gas reduction goals, fails to provide clear, quantifiable recommendations to meet those goals, and fails to sufficiently incentivize renewable energy.

Regrettably, this plan, recently released by the state Department of Environmental Protection, is consistent with Gov. Tom Corbett’s total lack of leadership on climate change.

The most important environmental problem facing this planet is climate change. Leading scientist Richard Alley, a professor of climatology at Pennsylvania State University, recently testified that greenhouse gases have caused temperatures across the globe to rise by one degree. He said that if temperatures continue to increase, it will be more difficult to grow crops, there will be more floods, droughts, and stronger storms, and sea levels will continue to rise.

Pennsylvania produces 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, and it has a responsibility to develop a climate-change action plan to address its share of this problem.

The very essence of a climate change action plan is the setting of greenhouse-gas reduction goals and a clearly defined strategy to meet those goals.

The best way to increase renewable energy production in the utility sector is to expand PennsylvaniaâÂÂs alternative energy portfolio standard.

It’s hard to believe the Corbett administration would submit a plan without these basic elements. The first plan, drafted by the Rendell administration in 2009, called for a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020. Act 70 of 2008 requires the DEP to submit a plan every three years.

Not surprisingly, Corbett’s plan emphasizes the expansion of natural-gas usage and pays insufficient attention to renewable energy.

….(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environmental Justice
Environment Ethics

‘Neglected Topic’ Winner: Climate Change – NYTimes.com

JAN. 18, 2014   Nicholas Kristof
   HERE’S a scary fact about America: We’re much more likely to believe that there are signs that aliens have visited Earth (77 percent) than that humans are causing climate change (44 percent).

That comes to mind because a couple of weeks ago, I asked readers for suggestions of “neglected topics” that we in the news business should cover more aggressively in 2014. Some 1,300 readers recommended a broad range of issues, which I look forward to pilfering (with credit!) — and many made a particularly compelling case for climate change.

A reader from Virginia quoted James Hansen, the outspoken climate scientist: “Imagine a giant asteroid on a direct collision course with Earth. That is the equivalent of what we face now.”

Another reader, Daria, acknowledged that the topic isn’t sexy but added: “Whether we ‘believe in it’ or not, all species on Earth are being subject to frightening disruptions in our weather, food supply, land.”

You would think that we would be more attentive, with the federal government a few days ago declaring parts of 11 states disaster areas because of long-term drought. More than 60 percent of California is now in extreme drought.

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environmental Justice
Environment Ethics