Climate Change

Climate and the Money Trail

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/10/2019 - 11:03pm in

Whatever one may believe about the dangers of CO2 and risks of global warming creating a global catastrophe in the next roughly 12 years, it is worth noting who is promoting the current flood of propaganda and climate activism.

Democrats on the Issue(s) in the 2020 Campaign

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/10/2019 - 4:37pm in

Democrats were poised to wage a substantial campaign based on the issues against Donald Trump next year. The likely front runner at this point, Elizabeth Warren, has a plan for everything. These are issues that most working Americans care about, like the minimum wage and healthcare. But now that they’ve decided to impeach Trump, the odds of those issues getting any serious play have all but evaporated.

A Warning from Australia on Scheer’s Climate Non-Plan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/10/2019 - 6:45am in

Andrew Scheer argues carbon pricing is the wrong way to limit GHG emissions. He has pledged to eliminate the federal carbon pricing system, promising that scrapping it will bring down the cost of living and unleash more business investment.

Most economists disagree. And all of the other major parties
include carbon pricing of some form in their respective plans to meet Canada’s
Paris commitments. So Scheer’s approach is a clear outlier, both intellectually
and politically.

Scheer claims his plan to eliminate carbon pricing, eliminate energy efficiency standards, and provide subsidies to “green” corporate investments would still allow Canada to meet its Paris targets. Most climate policy experts scoff at this claim. On Friday September 27 – the same day almost a million Canadians marched as part of the global Climate Strike initiative – he announced a new pledge to build bigger roads, laughably suggesting that too would reduce emissions.

There’s a real-world natural experiment to help judge the
impact that Scheer’s plan to eliminate carbon pricing, and replace it with
broad subsidies to business, would have on Canadian greenhouse emissions.
Interestingly, Canada’s election debate on this issue is almost a perfect
reprise of the 2013 federal election in Australia. The then-government there,
under the Labor Party (led alternately by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard), had
just implemented a national carbon pricing system. Beginning in 2012, about
two-thirds of Australian emissions began to be taxed at $23 (Aus.) per tonne of
CO2 equivalent. Gasoline (called petrol down under) did not directly incur the
carbon tax, but fuel taxes were raised by an equivalent amount.

Revenue from the new taxes was recycled back into the
economy, primarily through income tax cuts targeted at low- and middle-income
households.  In particular, the government dramatically raised the
low-income tax threshold, substantially increasing the number of low-income
Australians who pay no income tax at all. Therefore, as in Canada today, the
net distributional impact of carbon pricing plus offsetting tax measures was
mildly progressive.

The right-wing Coalition party (led then by Tony Abbott)
railed against the carbon tax, damning its supposed effects on energy prices,
household finances, and business investment. It was an important issue in the
election, and Abbott (whose position was strongly backed by the right-wing
commercial media and powerful mining interests) won the election.

The tax was then eliminated effective July 2014, replaced by
a scheme offering incentives to companies for improving energy efficiency
(called the Emission Reduction Fund).  This is almost a deja vu scenario
to the choice facing Canadians today.

The results of the Australian natural experiment are stark:

Rarely are the impacts of an economic policy so clear and irrefutable. Emissions fell by about 4% in just the 2 initial years of the carbon pricing scheme. But since eliminating the price in mid-2014, emissions have grown by 7% – and they continue to grow. The government claims Australia is still committed to its Paris targets, but Australian emissions are steadily rising, not falling: it’s now one of just a handful of OECD countries whose emissions are higher than they were even a decade ago.

As far as the impact on consumer prices and business
investment, Australia’s economy has performed worse on both counts than
Canada’s since 2014. For example, the OECD’s aggregate measure of energy price
inflation grew 8% in Australia between mid-2014 (when carbon pricing was axed)
and end-2018. In Canada, average energy prices fell 7% over the same time.

Business capital spending in Australia has been abysmal since
carbon pricing was removed: real business investment fell by a cumulative 17%
over the five years after carbon pricing was eliminated. That’s not because of the change in
carbon pricing, of course; but Abbott’s claim that stopping this “tax
grab” would somehow unleash the forces of private accumulation was always
nonsense. The decline in Australian business investment over this time was
twice as steep as the parallel decline in Canada. Investment in both countries
has been historically dependent on resource projects, and that’s a problem for
both Canada and Australia: but that’s a structural issue that is neither solved
nor exacerbated by carbon pricing.

n sum, neither consumers nor businesses in Australia realized
benefits from the elimination of carbon pricing there. Australia’s
international reputation on GHG policy has been (rightly) trashed: PM Scott
Morrison’s recent combative speech to the UN climate meeting was widely
ridiculed. And Australia was the sole member country at the recent Pacific
Islands Forum blocking consensus on a statement regarding actions to reduce
emissions – seriously damaging relations between Australia and its neighbours
(many of whom will literally be submerged by rising sea levels).

Perhaps worst of all, the political legacy of that 2013
election defeat has been a destructive polarization in public discourse around
climate policy. It’s so virulent that the opposition Labor Party, which just
lost another election in which climate policy loomed large, has been left
confused and paralyzed: cowed by the power of the mining industry and the
private media, and now furiously backpedaling on several climate issues because
they have been convinced (wrongly in my view) that it cost them at least 2
elections.

This very negative experience confirms that the stakes on climate policy are incredibly high in this Canadian election. Scheer’s claim that he can abolish carbon pricing and efficiency regulations, yet somehow keep us on track for Paris, is as laughable as Abbott’s similar claim in 2013. Canada would surely experience the same outcome as Australia: a reversal of current (modest gains) and a resumption of increasing GHGs. And if Canada’s existing (imperfect) climate policy framework is defeated and replaced with Scheer’s non-plan, the political damage will be felt globally. In the wake of Trump’s wrecking crew, Morrison’s re-election in Australia, and other backsliding around the world, a Scheer victory would constitute an enormous defeat for the climate.

So by all means, let’s have continuing debate about how to strengthen Canada’s approach. But preventing Scheer from emulating Australia’s U-turn on climate policy should clearly be an overarching priority.

A Warning from Australia on Scheer’s Climate Non-Plan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/10/2019 - 6:45am in

Andrew Scheer argues carbon pricing is the wrong way to limit GHG emissions. He has pledged to eliminate the federal carbon pricing system, promising that scrapping it will bring down the cost of living and unleash more business investment.

Most economists disagree. And all of the other major parties
include carbon pricing of some form in their respective plans to meet Canada’s
Paris commitments. So Scheer’s approach is a clear outlier, both intellectually
and politically.

Scheer claims his plan to eliminate carbon pricing, eliminate energy efficiency standards, and provide subsidies to “green” corporate investments would still allow Canada to meet its Paris targets. Most climate policy experts scoff at this claim. On Friday September 27 – the same day almost a million Canadians marched as part of the global Climate Strike initiative – he announced a new pledge to build bigger roads, laughably suggesting that too would reduce emissions.

There’s a real-world natural experiment to help judge the
impact that Scheer’s plan to eliminate carbon pricing, and replace it with
broad subsidies to business, would have on Canadian greenhouse emissions.
Interestingly, Canada’s election debate on this issue is almost a perfect
reprise of the 2013 federal election in Australia. The then-government there,
under the Labor Party (led alternately by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard), had
just implemented a national carbon pricing system. Beginning in 2012, about
two-thirds of Australian emissions began to be taxed at $23 (Aus.) per tonne of
CO2 equivalent. Gasoline (called petrol down under) did not directly incur the
carbon tax, but fuel taxes were raised by an equivalent amount.

Revenue from the new taxes was recycled back into the
economy, primarily through income tax cuts targeted at low- and middle-income
households.  In particular, the government dramatically raised the
low-income tax threshold, substantially increasing the number of low-income
Australians who pay no income tax at all. Therefore, as in Canada today, the
net distributional impact of carbon pricing plus offsetting tax measures was
mildly progressive.

The right-wing Coalition party (led then by Tony Abbott)
railed against the carbon tax, damning its supposed effects on energy prices,
household finances, and business investment. It was an important issue in the
election, and Abbott (whose position was strongly backed by the right-wing
commercial media and powerful mining interests) won the election.

The tax was then eliminated effective July 2014, replaced by
a scheme offering incentives to companies for improving energy efficiency
(called the Emission Reduction Fund).  This is almost a deja vu scenario
to the choice facing Canadians today.

The results of the Australian natural experiment are stark:

Rarely are the impacts of an economic policy so clear and irrefutable. Emissions fell by about 4% in just the 2 initial years of the carbon pricing scheme. But since eliminating the price in mid-2014, emissions have grown by 7% – and they continue to grow. The government claims Australia is still committed to its Paris targets, but Australian emissions are steadily rising, not falling: it’s now one of just a handful of OECD countries whose emissions are higher than they were even a decade ago.

As far as the impact on consumer prices and business
investment, Australia’s economy has performed worse on both counts than
Canada’s since 2014. For example, the OECD’s aggregate measure of energy price
inflation grew 8% in Australia between mid-2014 (when carbon pricing was axed)
and end-2018. In Canada, average energy prices fell 7% over the same time.

Business capital spending in Australia has been abysmal since
carbon pricing was removed: real business investment fell by a cumulative 17%
over the five years after carbon pricing was eliminated. That’s not because of the change in
carbon pricing, of course; but Abbott’s claim that stopping this “tax
grab” would somehow unleash the forces of private accumulation was always
nonsense. The decline in Australian business investment over this time was
twice as steep as the parallel decline in Canada. Investment in both countries
has been historically dependent on resource projects, and that’s a problem for
both Canada and Australia: but that’s a structural issue that is neither solved
nor exacerbated by carbon pricing.

n sum, neither consumers nor businesses in Australia realized
benefits from the elimination of carbon pricing there. Australia’s
international reputation on GHG policy has been (rightly) trashed: PM Scott
Morrison’s recent combative speech to the UN climate meeting was widely
ridiculed. And Australia was the sole member country at the recent Pacific
Islands Forum blocking consensus on a statement regarding actions to reduce
emissions – seriously damaging relations between Australia and its neighbours
(many of whom will literally be submerged by rising sea levels).

Perhaps worst of all, the political legacy of that 2013
election defeat has been a destructive polarization in public discourse around
climate policy. It’s so virulent that the opposition Labor Party, which just
lost another election in which climate policy loomed large, has been left
confused and paralyzed: cowed by the power of the mining industry and the
private media, and now furiously backpedaling on several climate issues because
they have been convinced (wrongly in my view) that it cost them at least 2
elections.

This very negative experience confirms that the stakes on climate policy are incredibly high in this Canadian election. Scheer’s claim that he can abolish carbon pricing and efficiency regulations, yet somehow keep us on track for Paris, is as laughable as Abbott’s similar claim in 2013. Canada would surely experience the same outcome as Australia: a reversal of current (modest gains) and a resumption of increasing GHGs. And if Canada’s existing (imperfect) climate policy framework is defeated and replaced with Scheer’s non-plan, the political damage will be felt globally. In the wake of Trump’s wrecking crew, Morrison’s re-election in Australia, and other backsliding around the world, a Scheer victory would constitute an enormous defeat for the climate.

So by all means, let’s have continuing debate about how to strengthen Canada’s approach. But preventing Scheer from emulating Australia’s U-turn on climate policy should clearly be an overarching priority.

We’re All in the Same Lifeboat Now, Pt. 2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/10/2019 - 2:00am in

Climate change comes for farmers – from Mozambique to Iowa

By Timothy A. Wise

Originally published at  Medium, as a contribution to Climate Media Week as people the world over strike for climate action and justice.  Find Part 1 here

Part 2: Iowa: implicated in climate change

As Amnesty International’s secretary general Kumi Naidoo told the BBC, “There is one inescapable and burning injustice we cannot stress enough. The people of Mozambique are paying the price for dangerous climate change when they have done next to nothing to cause this crisis.”

You can’t say the same about Iowa. Every part of Iowa’s industrial model of agriculture is implicated and threatened by climate change. Implicated because industrial agriculture is a major emitter of greenhouse gasses; 14 percent are attributed directly to agriculture. That jumps to 23 percent, according to a recent UN report, when deforestation from agriculture-induced land-use changes, is taken into account. High rates of nitrogen-fertilizer applied to Iowa’s corn fields contribute to emissions of nitrous oxide, more potent than carbon dioxide. The state’s factory farms add to the problem when concentrated manure is sprayed on farmers’ fields.

Threatened because the evil twins of climate change are coming for Iowa’s farmers too. NASA modeling for Iowa shows a high probability of more intense storms, like the recent cyclone, with a growing threat of long droughts. Rising temperatures are making nights too warm for optimal production, and high daytime temperatures are drying out the plants in soil no longer rich enough in organic matter to retain much moisture. Summer rains are less consistent; farmers can’t count on rain in that critical two-week period after the corn tassels.

Many years it is now just too hot and too dry, depressing yields. A University of Minnesota study estimated that by 2075 Iowa corn yields could be 20-50% lower than they are today.

Like their Mozambican counterparts, some Iowa farmers could face the loss of two years of production to the recent flooding. Many lost this year’s crop to late planting, and some lost last year’s as they watched storm waters destroy last year’s stored crops to water damage. They hadn’t sold their corn and beans because prices were so low and President Trump’s trade war had destroyed the export markets they have come to depend on.

Many farmers now fear losing their farms. Debt levels are rising and farm prices remain low despite the flooding. Most vulnerable are those who owe on mortgages or farm equipment, purchased in the boom years when ethanol drove crop prices to unprecedented highs. Those who rent land are also struggling, and more than half of Iowa’s farmland is now rented. Many expect the floodwaters will add to a wave of consolidation as large landowners and outside investors buy up distressed farms at auction, further hollowing out rural areas.

Losing Iowa, little by little

Because of the way they farm, even those who keep their farms are losing them – little by little. Iowa has lost half its topsoil to erosion, from excessive row-cropping with little attention to soil-saving measures like cover-cropping. Half-a-million acres of land came out of conservation in the last decade as farmers planted every inch of land trying to cash in on high corn prices from the ethanol boom. When the cyclone hit, most agricultural land lay bare, with no cover crop to hold the topsoil in place. The sediment-filled floodwaters flowed straight into rivers and streams with no conserved grasslands to filter the run-off. Eventually, the soil and chemicals run all the way down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

Experts estimate that Iowa is losing topsoil four times faster than it can create it. Soil is only a renewable resource if you farm it in a way that protects and renews it.

Same with that other renewable resource – water. Iowa’s agriculture is mainly rain-fed, but meat and ethanol production is draining the Jordan and Dakota aquifers. It takes five gallons of water a day to raise a hog, three to distill a gallon of ethanol from corn. Experts predict that those huge aquifers will run dry if ethanol and meat production grow at projected rates.

Meanwhile, Iowa’s drinking water is contaminated with agricultural pollutants. The state’s streams and rivers flow with nitrates, threatening drinking water in Des Moines and other urban areas. Well-water may be no safer. A recent report showed that barely one-quarter of the nearly 300,000 private wells in the state have had the water tested, and many of those that have show unsafe levels of nitrates and bacteria. Nitrate contamination nearly doubled between 2002 and 2017. The report’s authors cite fertilizer from agriculture as the cause.

In diversity lies strength

Proposals for a Green New Deal have focused welcome attention on the unsustainable nature of Midwest agriculture, from climate emissions to vulnerability. The question is what to do about it. Iowa’s farm landscape will never resemble Mozambique’s, but Iowa may well have something to learn from those small-scale farmers on the other side of the globe when it comes to climate resilience.

One key lesson: In diversity lies strength.

Iowa’s farmers won’t be intercropping their corn and soybeans; their machines are designed for monocultures. But they could add diversity to their two-crop rotations by letting some of their fields go to grasslands and by letting those grasses feed cattle. That was the norm on a lot of farms before Iowa’s agriculture overspecialized into corn, soy, hogs, and then ethanol. It could be again.

Iowa State scientists have demonstrated that extending the corn-soy rotation to include grasslands could have dramatic environmental and economic benefits. Their Marsden Farm project shows an 85% reduction in fertilizer use, a 97% drop in herbicide use, the elimination of soil erosion and water pollution from runoff, and improved soil fertility over time. Those grasslands would not only sequester carbon in the soil, they would do wonders for climate resilience, rebuilding stable, moisture-holding topsoil instead of washing it away.

The economic benefits are huge as well; this is no trade-off between economics and the environment. Marsden researchers report no loss in productivity with reduced input use, and the farm is as or more profitable than a conventional farm. The added economic benefit, if such practices were widespread, would be a rise in farm prices for corn and soybeans, as reduced corn and soy acres cut into today’s chronic oversupply of both crops. If farmers grazed cattle on their renewed grasslands, they would not only get more for the crops they grow, they would also diversify their incomes with the production of grass-fed beef, which now gets a nice premium price.

Sounds like the kind of “win-win-win” solution we’re all looking for, right? Not if you’re agribusiness. Public (and farmer) gains are company losses. Reductions in fertilizer use cut into sales and profits. Seed and chemical companies lose sales if land is pulled out of corn and soybeans. So do equipment manufacturers. And higher crop prices for farmers? Those look like higher feed costs for Smithfield, Tyson, and other factory farmers. Higher corn prices increase operating costs for Archer Daniels Midland’s ethanol refineries.

“The answers are at hand”

Art Cullen, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of the tiny Storm Lake Times in northwest Iowa, says the time has come for the U.S. government to mandate and pay for the kind of shift implied by the Green New Deal. He argues that Iowa is currently growing about 30% more corn and soybeans than anyone wants, and chasing competitive export markets won’t change that, even if President Trump somehow wins his trade war.

The U.S. government used to condition participation in its subsidies and farm programs on better land stewardship. Such measures were a sound and effective response to the economic and environmental devastation of the Dust Bowl, the drought-induced soil storms that plagued the prairie states in the mid-1930s. Key to the effectiveness of those programs were measures to curb market incentives for individual farmers to overplant and over-fertilize their land. Farmers were rewarded with higher prices for their crops and with conservation payments, what we now refer to as payments for environmental services.

New studies show that as much as one-third of Iowa’s corn and soybean land is of low enough quality that it is unprofitable to cultivate, giving farmers yet another reason to diversify. Why farm land that loses money?

Cullen is not naïve about the challenges of winning government support for a shift to more sustainable, climate-resilient policies. He won his Pulitzer, after all, for uncovering a secret agribusiness fund, bankrolled by Monsanto, Koch Fertilizer, and other companies, to defeat a lawsuit seeking to control water pollution from agricultural fields around Storm Lake and other districts along the Upper Raccoon River.

“Nature will demand that we comply, or else,” Cullen writes in his post-Pulitzer book, Storm Lake.  “The good news is that the answers are at hand…. Instincts are awakening in Iowa. We all know we have a problem. We know what is true and what really works.”

By moving back toward diverse farming, Iowa’s agro-industrial complex can stop spewing its own greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Those eventually rain down on poor farmers on the other side of the world, farmers who are just doing their best to grow food – and resilience – on their small farms in the face of an increasingly angry climate.

As Iowa’s own farmers are realizing, climate change rains on them too, in torrents, and it’s only going to get worse. They have a lot to gain by listening to what their fellow flood victims from Mozambique are telling them: Diversify. For our sake and your own.

Timothy A. Wise is the author of the new book, Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food  (The New Press, Feb. 2019). Based in Cambridge, Mass., he is a senior researcher at the Small Planet Institute, where he directs the Land and Food Rights Program. He is also a senior research fellow at Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute, where he founded and directed its Globalization and Sustainable Development Program. More info is available here.

We’re All in the Same Lifeboat Now

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/09/2019 - 2:38am in

Climate change comes for farmers – from Mozambique to Iowa

By Timothy A. Wise

Originally published at  Medium, as a contribution to Climate Media Week as people the world over strike for climate action and justice.

Part 1: Mozambique

It felt ominous when I was in Iowa in March that both Iowa and Mozambique were underwater from cyclone-induced flooding widely attributed to climate change. I’d studied and written about both places in my recent book. These farming communities are as distant from one another – geographically and developmentally – as they could be, yet there they were in the same metaphorical lifeboat trying to save their families and farms from the floods.

I saw the devastation in central Mozambique in June – houses still missing their roofs, schools barely functioning, and farmers without seeds for the coming rainy season. The March cyclone wiped out crops that were nearly ready for harvest, leaving communities dependent for the present on food aid and without seeds for this year’s planting.

Parts of Iowa were underwater when I was there in March, and today Iowa and much of the Midwest is still suffering periodic flooding from the wettest year on record. Many farmers couldn’t plant because the ground was too wet, or they got their crops in late, reducing yields. There were only three reported deaths from the flooding; Iowa had the lifeboats to get people out of danger. But they are not out of the destructive path of climate change, and I sensed a new awareness of that danger, suddenly clear and present.

With farmers on opposite sides of the globe suffering the same types of severe storms provoked by a changing climate, I imagined them all in the same lifeboat. They would have a lot to learn from one another. The Mozambicans might tell their Iowan boat-mates that U.S. farmers, with their greenhouse-gas-emitting industrial-scale farms, bore at least some of the responsibility for the rising waves of climate catastrophe. But those African peasants might also share their secret to surviving climate change, one that could help reverse Iowa’s own self-destructive agricultural path. Listen closely, Iowa, can you hear it? Diversidade, whisper the Mozambicans. Diversity. It may just be the key to climate resilience, from Africa to Iowa.

A tale of two cyclones

The U.S. and African storms were both described as “devastating,” and they were. But devastation looks much, much worse in a place as poor as Mozambique, on the east coast of Southern Africa. And they don’t have many lifeboats.

Cyclone Idai struck the central Mozambique coastline March 15 as one of the most powerful storms ever to hit Sub-Saharan Africa. That is, until Cyclone Kenneth slammed into northern Mozambique six weeks later as a Category 4 storm with winds of 140 mph.

Cyclone Idai delivered the more crushing blow. It came ashore in central Mozambique near Beira, the country’s fourth largest city and its most important port. Idai then took a destructive path inland to Malawi and Zimbabwe. A weaker version of the storm had already dumped heavy rain on the region a week earlier before heading out to sea and gaining strength to make another pass through the already-ravaged landscape. The nine-day rampage left at least at least 1,300 dead across the region, but many remain missing, feared lost in floodwaters that swept many out to sea.

Climate denial may sit in the U.S. White House, but few in Africa seem to doubt that the intensity of Cyclone Idai, the worst ever in the area, was related to climate change. Rising water temperatures in the Indian Ocean are increasing the severity and duration of cyclones. They are also dumping more rain on affected areas, exactly as we saw with Idai and then Kenneth. Storm surges are also more damaging with sea levels an estimated eight inches higher due to global warming.

Climate change: A clear and present danger

Indeed, climate change is no looming future threat for farmers in Southern Africa. It is a clear and present danger. Over the last five years, I’d heard story after story from farmers in the region about erratic rains, severe storms, rising temperatures, and long droughts. I’d also witnessed their climate resilience, which many attributed to their ecological farming methods.

The town of Marracuene lies about 45 minutes up the coast from Maputo, both mercifully south of Idai’s path. There, some 7,000 farmers affiliated with UNAC, the national peasants union, have ridden a climate rollercoaster over the last five years. For the last seven years, rains have been inconsistent, and two severe droughts have wiped out food crops. Temperatures have climbed to unprecedented highs, topping 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Irrigation water from the Incomati River dried up, then rising sea levels drove salt water back up the dried streambed and into farmers irrigation channels, poisoning their fields. Severe storms have brought flooding rains, washing away newly planted seeds from the fields.

I call drought and floods the evil twins of climate change, from Mozambique to Iowa. These farmers were under assault.

I asked how they were surviving, how their families were eating. One after another told me things were hard but they were okay for now. They credited ecological farming for their climate resilience. How could farming practices save them from such a wide range of calamities? They recounted the ways.

They inter-plant a variety of crops in wide raised beds instead of planting only corn in rows. They nourish it with composted manure rather than synthetic fertilizer. The soil has gained fertility, including the addition of rich organic material. That helps retain moisture when rains fail. And soils don’t wash away so quickly in a flood since they are held in place with well-rooted crops.

Most important for food security, crop diversity gives them not only diet diversity but climate resilience. If drought kills the corn crop, they have cassava, sweet potatoes, or sorghum that survive to get their families through the hungry season. Their organizations’ seed banks provide insurance against crop losses, so last season’s crop failure doesn’t turn into this season’s seed shortage.

As farmer Florentina Samuel told me, taking a break from preparing her two acres of land: “We are still suffering, but if this next crop is good we will be okay…. The soil is better now, softer, and good for different crops.” She crumbled some dark, rich soil in her fingers.

They have eschewed the prevailing advice from their government and international donors to use high-yield commercial corn seeds and synthetic fertilizers, part of the push for an African Green Revolution and what donors call “climate-smart agriculture.” Marracuene’s farmers call monocultures of seeds that can’t be replanted, fed by fossil-fuel-based inputs, “climate-stupid agriculture.”

In Buzi, one of the areas hardest hit by Idai, they were living on food aid in June and worrying about eating tomorrow, because they lost this year’s seeds, which they would have saved from the last harvest. They had nothing to plant and they feared that the only seeds aid agencies would provide would be commercial varieties of corn and rice they would then have to buy every year, since those seeds are bred to produce well for only one season. They can’t be saved. That leaves farmers dependent on purchased inputs they can scarcely afford. And it robs them of the kind of crop diversity that makes them more resilient in the face of climate change.

Cyclone Idai struck on the Ides of March, a date in the Roman calendar considered a deadline for the settling of debts. This year, it served as a painful reminder that industrialized countries have yet to settle the climate debt they owe the rest of the world for having disrupted Earth’s life-support systems.

As Amnesty International’s secretary general Kumi Naidoo told the BBC, “There is one inescapable and burning injustice we cannot stress enough. The people of Mozambique are paying the price for dangerous climate change when they have done next to nothing to cause this crisis.”

Part 2, on Iowa, will be posted early next week. 

Timothy A. Wise is the author of the new book, Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food  (The New Press, Feb. 2019). Based in Cambridge, Mass., he is a senior researcher at the Small Planet Institute, where he directs the Land and Food Rights Program. He is also a senior research fellow at Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute, where he founded and directed its Globalization and Sustainable Development Program. More info is available here.

The Anti-Thunberg Hysteria.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/09/2019 - 6:01pm in

[A]This year’s UN Climate Summit in New York came and went with little achieved and if something memorable came out of it it was the global protests preceeding it and Greta Thunberg’s scathing speech, delivered with impressive frankness and lucidity by a 16 year-old girl away from home, before the cameras and a huge audience of high-ranking strangers. And to top it all off, Thunberg, whose mother language is Swedish, made her speech in faultless English.

An admirable and articulate and brave young woman, if you ask me.

And brave and strong she will need to be for she, knowingly or not, is wearing the same bullseye Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib (US) or Jeremy Corbyn (UK) have been wearing for a while, the main difference being that Thunberg is young enough to be their daughter or even granddaughter.

The first sign I noticed that Thunberg would not be spared the vileness of the powerful came from Australia.

Last May, days before the so-called federal elections on climate change, Amanda Vanstone (formerly a COALition senator and Minister in the Howard Government, who got a gig paid for by the Australian Treasury in the allegedly Left-wing Radio National) interviewed British calumnist Brendan O’Neill (a kind of Norman Podhoretz/Sidney Hook knockoff, sans the pretence of intellectual sophistication) over Thunberg. O’Neill’s thesis was that Thunberg was the obtuse pawn in a diabolically clever Left conspiracy against capitalism: nobody would dare say anything against her, however crazy her utterances (to wit, do what the scientists say) might be. You know, young and female -- in O’Neill’s mind -- equals bimbo. To which Vanstone, the no longer young female defender of capitalism, can only agree.

In late July, Andrew Bolt, never reluctant to plumb the depths of filth, proved O’Neill entirely wrong: Thunberg -- Bolt wrote in an opinion piece -- was the “deeply disturbed” “priestess of the [climate change] cult”, whose “following” just so happen to include virtually every single scientist on the planet. The Elders of Zion cabal of thousands of reputable, well-known, knowledgeable scientists, evidently, underestimated Andrew Bolt, their better.

Over time, the character assassination attempts against Thunberg seem to oscillate between those two extremes: O’Neill’s patronising faux compassion, and Bolt’s outright vitriolic personal invective.

An exception in that pattern, surprising by its originality and indeed moderation, came a few days ago, right after Thunberg’s speech, from no one else than Donald Trump (credit where it is due).

On the other hand, some American bottom feeder named Michael Knowles chose the more direct and openly hateful approach: Thunberg was a “mentally ill Swedish child”.

Scott Morrison, the Trump toady, preferred the more hypocritical approach: he is deeply concerned about those silly kids’ eco-anxiety, which he refuses to alleviate by actually doing something about climate change. Instead, he would give them a virtual lobotomy bullshit them into stupidity.

So far Thunberg seems to have managed that onslaught admirably well.

But, brace yourself, Greta and kids: the latrine overflowed and many writhing shapes can be seen among the fetid vapours.

I wonder, wouldn’t that have something to do with those kids’ anxiety?

Image Credits:
[A] “On 16 April 2019, Greta Thunberg is invited by the European Parliament to close the sessions of the Committee on the Environment”. Source: Wikimedia. Author: European Parliament from EU. File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. The licensor does not endorse me or my use of the file.

Panicked ScoMo Accidentally Leaves Lump Of Coal In Taxi Before UN Speech

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/09/2019 - 8:23am in

morrison

Panicked Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has realised too late that he left his favourite prop of choice, a lump of coal in a taxi and was unable to use it whilst giving his speech to the United Nations.

“Scott is absolutely devastated not to be able to bring his favourite lump of coal to the UN,” said Political commentator John Kett. “This despite looking great in the papers has not been a good trip for Scott.”

“First he was not allowed to bring his favourite Pastor to the Whitehouse then he forgot to bring his favourite lump of coal to the UN.”

“Poor bugger, well at least he got to regale the UN with tales of the Sharks and Engadine Maccas. The lump of coal will have to wait till next time.”

The Prime Minister wraps up his American visit today with a tour of Manhatten McDonald’s restaurants before heading home to Engadine.

Mark Williamson
www.twitter.com/MWChatShow

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How the Green New Deal was born - New Statesman

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/09/2019 - 9:31pm in

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Climate Change, UK

The following article and interview with PRIME’s director written by Hettie O’Brien, appeared in the New Statesman on 24th September, 2019. Please note the error at the end of the piece: Since the Paris Climate Agreement three years ago, J.P. Morgan Chase have reportedly lent $196 billion, not $1.96 billion to fossil fuel industries, oil, coal and gas. The figure is drawn from the Rainforest Action Network’s 2018 Report, Banking on Climate Change.

Eleven years ago, a group of economists and green thinkers devised a radical plan to transform the economy and protect the environment. Today, their ideas have been embraced by Labour and US Democrats.

Since a group of Labour activists began agitating for the party leadership to adopt a Green New Deal in March this year, the radical environmental policy has come suddenly and fiercely into play. On the final day of the party’s annual conference, delegates overwhelmingly voted for a version of the plan that would commit a Labour government to net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

The Green New Deal connects economic and environmental policy, encompassing a dramatic increase in green energy investment, an end to airport expansion and fracking, and a programme of green jobs creation. These ideas have precedents – most obviously in the form of F.D. Roosevelt’s eponymous state investment programme in the wake of the 1930s Great Depression.  But the origins of the UK’s Green New Deal are more recent.

Shortly after the 2008 financial crisis, a group of economists and environmentalists, including the future Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, met regularly at a small Baker Street flat belonging to the economist Ann Pettifor. They argued furiously, sustained by comfort food and wine, and drafted a plan to overhaul the economy and protect the environment. Little did they know that their ideas, which were met with a tepid response at the time, would later become a focus of the current US presidential campaign, or a key plank of the Labour Party policy.

I spoke earlier today with Pettifor about the origins of the Green New Deal, and why it took eleven years for the idea to achieve political prominence. Our conversation has been edited for clarity.

You were one of the godmothers of the Green New Deal as we know it. Why was it ignored when you first proposed the idea in 2008?

It was the nature of the crisis. People didn’t understand what had happened in August 2007, when the whole system froze. The ATMs closed down, and it took until a year and a half later, in October 2008, before people realised there was something wrong. And when I say people I mean economists, government, policy makers and journalists.

The report was eclipsed by the collapse of Lehman Brothers. At the time, everybody thought, “oh, just a bunch of lefties, what wishful thinking”.

It didn’t grip the public’s imagination in the way that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has managed. She happened upon the demonstration of the Sunrise Movement in Congress, which triggered the profile of the movement – and raised it dramatically.

This is always a bottom-up thing. You’ve got to build the movement; sometimes it takes eleven years.

What were the ideas behind your original thinking?

Our proposal was a creative, collective process. What made it unique was that we understood that the finance sector, the economy and the ecosystem are tightly interconnected. You can’t deal with one without dealing with the other. You can’t have a capitalist, carbon-belching economy, or delusions of exponential growth, and believe you can achieve ecological targets within that. We argued that finance, economy, and the environment are integrated – and that you need a joined-up policy that deals with all three.

When I studied the history of Roosevelt’s New Deal, I saw how he did the same thing; he met the challenges of unemployment and economic collapse, fixed the dust bowl, and had to subordinate the financial system to the interests of the democratic state.

We spent a year fighting and arguing at my flat, in an old mansion block off Baker Street. The economists had enormous arguments with the environmentalists, who weren’t persuaded by what we were saying, and were very sceptical about our position on the finance and banking sectors. It took the economists a long time to persuade the green members of the group that they had to think like us. And the green members of the group had to educate us, about understanding the scale of the crisis. It was a mutually beneficial relationship – we sulked, and got cross with each other, and had real arguments about how to do all this.

We found that the green movement talk about behavioural change and community change, which is terribly important, but you can’t talk about changing our relationship with nature without also changing the economy. The finance sector issues credit, which fuels consumption and production, and consumption and production fuel emissions. So we argued that there is a line running between credit creation, consumption, production and emissions – and unless you draw that line, and manage the whole of it, you’ll never address the problem.

So what does the Green New Deal have to do with F.D.R’s New Deal?

The really key thing about the New Deal was that it transformed the financial system. Roosevelt decided he was going to act to dismantle the Gold Standard, a global financial system decided by private authority – i.e. with Wall Street and the City of London calling the shots. He said no: he was responding to high levels of unemployment, the ecological crisis of the dust bowl, and he saw that it had to be government calling the shots, not Wall Street.

Roosevelt demanded that the banks hand over their gold. Everyone thought he closed the banks to fix the banks, but it was actually to force them to hand over their gold so he could stop United States’ currency being measured in terms of gold. His position was that the value of the American currency should depend on the health of the American economy. That was a profound move. Of course, historians and economists largely ignore that aspect – it’s a bit of history they’d like to forget.

People have criticised environmental movements like Extinction Rebellion for being a largely middle-class affair. How could something like the Green New Deal get working-class support?

I’m always reminded by people of Ken Livingstone when he introduced the congestion charge – all of his advisers said this would be the political death of him. On the day he introduced the congestion charge he put 300 new buses on the streets of London. That gave people an alternative.

The gilets jaunes in France don’t have an alternative for getting around rural areas. The government hasn’t provided them with an alternative transport system, and then it’s clobbered them with the carbon tax, so rightly they’re objecting. The government has to invest in alternative energy, transport, and land use systems. We can do this in a way that is really very good for working people.

OK, but what are the challenges you can foresee with this type of radical action?

My reservations come back to the question of financing. To achieve zero carbon by 2030, we’d have to close down coal, gas and oil companies, and compensate them, and provide for and support their workers.

I very much doubt that Labour can mobilise this domestically, because the global financial system is still in the driving seat of deciding who gets financing for what. Research from the Rainfores Alliance shows J.P. Morgan Chase has reportedly lent $1.9bn dollars to fossil fuel firms since the Paris climate agreement was reached. The banks are the robber barons of coal, gas and oil.

To return to the key point about the original New Deal, the very first thing Roosevelt did was to subordinate Wall Street to the interests of the country. Labour won’t talk about this very specifically – but it won’t be able to mobilise the finance needed within a very short time without better management of finance. To talk about these ambitious goals, we have to talk about the money system.

Only the Working Class Can Save the Planet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/09/2019 - 8:03pm in

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Only in a communist world without states and borders will human beings be able to really tackle the damage that has been done to their natural surroundings.

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