Originally Published: 11/14/2015
COP21: On November 30th more than 190 nations will gather in Paris to discuss a new global agreement on climate change. The talks are called COP (Conference of Parties) and this is the 21st conference. They will continue negotiations until November 11th. EcoWatch has a quick video on why this conference is different from the first 20. This is probably the most important meeting in our lifetime because of recent research into the global climate problems.
In the 1970s, Yale professor William Nordhaus alluded to the danger of passing a threshold of 2° Celsius (35.6° Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels in a now famous paper. Nordhaus suggested that warming of more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels would push the climate beyond the limits humans were familiar with. (Can We Control Carbon Dioxide?) Then, in 1990, a team of researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) looked at the impacts of rising greenhouse gas emissions. In their report they suggested that to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, a limit should be set at 2° Celsius but, they warned, the higher the temperature rise, the bigger the risks from climate change. Since that time, a global temperature rise under 2° Celsius has been the goal. But this year, global temperatures are set to reach 1° Celsius. (Met Office)
Think this is bad news? It aint’ all. During the Pliocene geologic era, carbon dioxide levels reached 415 parts per million (ppm) and, thus, 400 ppm has become the threshold that scientist say we should not cross. (Scripps) However, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced this week that greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere continued their “relentless rise which is fueling climate change and will make the planet more dangerous and inhospitable for future generations.” Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, reached a new high last year of 397.7 ppm. In the Northern hemisphere CO2 concentrations “crossed the symbolically significant 400 ppm level” in spring of 2014. Spring is when CO2 is most abundant. “In spring 2015 the global average concentration of CO2 crossed the 400 ppm barrier. ‘We will soon be living with globally averaged CO2 levels above 400 parts per million as a permanent reality.’” [Emphasis added.] The Keeling Curve is “an iconic record of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Here it is, measuring carbon dioxide levels taken from 1958 to present, “widely recognized” as a “record of mankind’s impact on the Earth, linking rising levels of carbon dioxide from man’s burning of fossil fuels to the warming of the planet.” (Scripps)
Israel & Palestine: The European Union is insisting that “some goods produced on land seized in the 1967 war must be labeled ‘made in settlements,’” rather than “made in Israel.” The rule has “exacerbated already simmering tensions between Israel and Europe as Israeli politicians condemned it as an echo of the Holocaust-era branding of European Jews and their storefronts with yellow stars.” While Europe is Israel’s top trading partner, products from the occupied West Bank, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem are less than 1% of Israel’s annual exports to Europe. (NY Times)
California: Last year a U.S. District Court ruled that California’s death penalty system “is so arbitrary and plagued with delay” that it is unconstitutional. (TWW, California’s Death Penalty, 7/19/14) But this week a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the 2014 decision was “improper on technical grounds” and overturned it. Citing a Supreme Court decision, the panel said that the court “may not retroactively apply ‘new rules of constitutional criminal procedure’ to overrule a state criminal court’s decision.” (NY Times) I expect the decision will be appealed.
Illinois: The Grinch tried to steal Christmas from Illinois. Its Secretary of State, Jesse White (D), whose office oversees the Capitol, announced last week that there would be no Christmas lights on the Capitol Dome this year “because the money used to power the lights could better be used elsewhere.” But austerity didn’t go over well with the Basic Crafts Council of Mid-Central Illinois, “a union group made up of the Operating Engineers Local 965, Laborers Local 477, and Carpenters Local 270.” The group paid $7,300 to the Springfield municipal power company to cover the electricity costs. (Chicago Tribune)
Utah: Juvenile Judge Scott Johansen ordered a foster child, in the process of being adopted by the foster parents, removed from the home because the foster parents are lesbians. The decision came during a “routine hearing” and a welfare official “confirmed there were no issues.” Johansen said he believed the child would be better off with a heterosexual couple. (Guardian) There was quite a furor over the decision and even Utah’s Republican governor said he was “puzzled” that Johansen was not following the law. On Friday, Johansen “struck language from his original order that he believed that same-sex marriages are less stable than heterosexual ones” and that “children of such relationships have emotional problems.” But he still cites his “concern that research has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home.” He set a hearing for December 4th and ordered the child to remain in the home until the hearing. (Washington Post)
NDAA: The House passed the bill I reported on last week. (TWW, NDAA, 11/7/15) This week the Senate passed the same version, with the prohibition against transporting Guantánamo Bay detainees to the United States, one of the reasons President Obama vetoed the first bill. (Guardian) But the White House said Obama will sign the bill anyway. (Al Jazeera) I knew he would.
Cromnibus Bill: This is the disastrous long-term omnibus bill with a short-term continuing resolution that Congress passed last December. (TWW, The Budget, 12/20/14; Budget Deal, 12/13/14) The Cromnibus Bill included changes to Section 716 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which had banned banks from trading certain derivatives with consumer savings insured by the federal government.” Representative Elijah Cummings (D, MD) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D, MA) spent a year investigating the results of the Section 716 changes, the “swaps push-out” policy, and recently released their report. They found that the deal “left taxpayers this year insuring Wall Street bets worth about $9.7 trillion.” [Emphasis added.] Their conclusion “was based on estimates” from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Cummings and Warren sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) asking them to enact tougher regulations. They wrote: “Your agencies are finalizing new rules on swaps trades and are in position to respond to these legal and regulatory rollbacks. We write today to urge that you act quickly to mitigate the risks posed by uncleared swap activities by imposing strong margin requirements for swaps between bank affiliates and other entities under your agencies’ authority.” For more information on the lobbying and other political shenanigans that led to the repeal of Section 716, see the District Sentinel.
The Counted: Up to 993 from last week's 970. (Guardian) That's 23 people killed by law enforcement this last week.
NRA Advertising: Boy these people are determined to scare the bejesus out of us, aren’t they? The National Rifle Association has begun a new pro-gun advertising campaign called “Freedom’s Safest Place” which attempts to scare us to death about Islamic extremists and, I suppose, encourage us to buy guns to protect ourselves. Watch it. (Ring of Fire Radio)
Immigration: A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, in a 2 to 1 decision, upheld a lower court’s injunction that blocks President Obama’s plan to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. “The decision means that one of Obama’s signature immigration initiatives remains on hold nearly a year after he announced it through executive action and leaves in doubt whether the program will begin before his term expires in January 2017.” (Washington Post)
MMR Vaccine & Autism: Robert Kennedy, Jr. published a summary of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) coverup of its findings regarding the link between the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, particularly in black males. 4 scientists studying the vaccine in 2004 found a 250% increased risk for black male children who were given the vaccine prior to their 3rd birthday. CDC supervisors ordered the findings destroyed. Now, a whistleblower has come out and exposed the lie. CBS reporter Ben Swann has the story. By the way, the problem - as we’ve known - is with thimerosal, which is included in lots of medications still being prescribed. (EcoWatch)
Monsanto Loses in Mexico: Mexico’s Supreme Court blocked “a move that would allow the cultivation of GMO soy in the Mexican states of Campeche and Yucatan.” Also, in a separate decision, a federal appeals judge “upheld a 2013 ruling that barred companies such as Monsanto and DuPont/Pioneer from planting or selling their GMO corn within the country’s borders.” (EcoWatch)
Pacific Garbage Patch: A crowdfunded, 100 km (62 mile) boom is going to be used to “clean up a vast expanse of plastic rubbish in the Pacific.” They’ve completed successful tests on the prototype in the Netherlands and they’re planning further trials off the Dutch and Japanese coasts next year. “If they are successful, the world’s largest ever ocean cleanup operation will go live in 2020, using a gigantic V-shaped array, the like of which has never been seen before.” I wonder how bad the Pacific Garbage Patch will be by 2020. It is made up largely of “tiny bits of plastic trapped by ocean currents” and is estimated to be bigger than Texas. “It is growing so fast that, like the Great Wall of China, it is beginning to be seen from outer space.” (Guardian) You can find lots of information on the project at The Ocean Cleanup.
Global Recession: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported that global GDP is expected to grow only by 2.9%, “down from 3% forecast in September.” It stated that “trade had dropped to levels perilously close to those ‘associated with global recession.’” It still, however, is forecasting 3.3% for 2016. (BBC)