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07 Dec

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

Recommended:

Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>

Spiegel>>

Le Monde>>

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Preparations Begin for the Climate Change Deluge

Addressing the Inevitable

Global sea levels are rising steadily as a result of climate change and the IPCC believes the deluge has already begun. What will it mean for humankind? And what changes will this bring to our coasts and our way of life?

By DER SPIEGEL Staff

Flooding on St. Mark's Square in Venice Oct. 30

SOEVERMEDIA/ ACTION PRESS

Flooding on St. Mark’s Square in Venice Oct. 30

A few weeks ago, Ioane Teitiota, a resident of the island nation of Kiribati, climbed into a fishing boat with six other men for a trip to visit relatives in London, Paris and Poland. The passage took eight days, and when they arrived, London, Paris and Poland were virtually empty.

The three settlements on Kiribati’s eastern atoll Kiritimati were once given those names by the British explorer James Cook. And now, London, Paris and Poland are halfway submerged. The strip of land has become so narrow that waves rolling in from one side crash into the sea on the other.

The dikes, the mangrove breakwaters and the cement walls weren’t enough, leading the residents to abandon their homes to the ocean. London, Paris and Poland have gone under.

The country that Teitiota calls home has a population of around 110,000 people who are spread across 32 atolls and an island, small dots in the vast blue ocean that are distributed across an area as large as India. The country’s average altitude isn’t even 2 meters above sea level.

Fourteen-thousand kilometers away from Teitiota’s fishing boat, on the other side of the world, London, Paris and Gdansk are located safely and securely above sea level. It is a completely different world. There is, in fact, only one thing connecting Europe’s coastal cities with the Pacific atoll of Kiritimati.

The sea.

There is only one of them. It is the same water in Miami, Shanghai or the North Sea island of Hallig Hooge. And the sea is rising. Nobody knows for sure how quickly or how high the ocean level might ultimately become. But rise it will.

On Monday, the United Nations Climate Change Conference began in the Polish city of Katowice, the focus of which is the implementation of the Paris Agreement — following a summer of possibly record-breaking droughts and extreme hurricanes.

Three years ago, the international community agreed in Paris to limit the average global temperature increase to significantly below 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels. But the deluge has already begun. And it won’t go away after 150 days like the one in the Bible. This one is here to stay.

It will take millennia for the polar ice caps to completely disappear, and perhaps they never will. But the fact that the sheet of ice covering Greenland is melting and the ice sheets of Antarctica are shifting, their edges breaking off more quickly: All of that can already be measured today.

There is a point of no return for the climate, and that point already lies behind us. The carbon dioxide is already in the atmosphere and it will remain there for longer than human civilization exists. And it will continue to warm the Earth’s climate.

It is all really quite simple and follows the laws of physics: Water expands when it warms. Since industrialization, the Earth has warmed by about 1 degree Celsius, with the pace of warming having increased over the last several decades. Without an immediate and significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, NASA calculations indicate that an average temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius will have been reached by the middle of this century. A further increase to 3 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures, according to a report compiled by the German Advisory Council on Global Change, would result in sea levels rising by 5 meters (16.5 feet), though it might take hundreds of years for that level to be reached. The uncertainties inherent in such calculations are, of course, significant. But determined action taken by the international community would render such uncertainties superfluous.

Every coastline is in danger of flooding, whether in Kiribati, Manhattan, Dhaka or Rotterdam. We are all, if you will, in the same boat.

Memories of vast floods are deeply embedded in human memory. For the Mesopotamians, floods were a punishment, an apocalypse that would swallow up all that was impure. Christians transformed the flood into a kind of global baptism, a vision of hope: Noah didn’t sit around bemoaning his fate, he grabbed his tools and started preparing.

Building an Ark

That’s what this text is about. Around the world, coastal residents, municipal authorities, urbanists, insurance underwriters and port engineers are hard at work building an ark. They are evaluating such concepts as floating homes and salt-resistant seeds, intelligent dikes and porous roads.

They are wondering whether it really makes sense that a quarter of the 100 busiest airports in the world are fewer than 10 meters above sea level. In Indonesia, they are making plans to move the capital city while the residents of Micronesia are buying land to ensure that they don’t disappear. All are looking for ways to escape the water.

But what do we actually know today? What do we expect to happen and when? Who will be hit hardest? What can, what must, be done now? Is it sufficient to rely on technical solutions or do we have to radically change our approach?

A team of eight DER SPIEGEL reporters traveled to New Orleans and Bangladesh, to Venice and the Dutch island of Texel, and to Ioane Teitiota in the Pacific. Not to document the end of the world, but to emulate Noah’s dove and its search for an olive branch. To search for models, initiatives, experiments and, ultimately, hope.

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Global warming is harming people’s lives and humanity will not be able to cope, say scientists

Low water level at Swinsty reservoir near Harrogate, Yorkshire, during the UK’s summer heatwave

Low water level at Swinsty reservoir near Harrogate, Yorkshire, during the UK’s summer heatwave. Photograph: Andrew Mccaren/LNP/REX/Shutterstock

The sweltering heat that hit the UK this summer was made 30 times more likely by human-caused climate change, a Met Office analysis has found.

Scientists said the research showed global warming was already harming people’s lives and was not only a future threat.

Without rapid cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, such heatwaves would happen every other year by mid-century, the Met Office said. Its analysis showed the average UK temperature during June, July and August was more than 2C above pre-industrial levels.

Hundreds more early deaths than usual occurred at the height of the heatwave, while farmers struggled for water and hay and thousands of houses suffered subsidence.

The research was launched at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, and the Met Office’s Prof Peter Stott, who led the work, said: “World leaders should be listening not just to scientists but also to the people who are being affected by extreme weather events right now. They are seeing it with their own eyes and suffering from it. Humanity just won’t be able to cope with the world we are heading for.”

Stott said scientists were making links across the world between extreme weather events and climate change, from heatwaves in Japan to wildfires in California: “We’re seeing it happen again and again across the world. This whole sequence of events would not have happened without climate change.”

Prof Mark Maslin, at University College London, said: “The analysis clearly shows climate change has already changed our weather patterns and is having adverse effects on people’s lives. It is beholden on all governments to take heed of these warnings and start cutting carbon emissions as quick as possible.”

John Sauven, an executive director at Greenpeace UK, said: “The link between climate change and extreme weather used to be a fingerprint, it now looks more like a smoking gun. The science is leaving world leaders nowhere to hide. They are the first generation of political leaders with a clear view of the precipice we’re heading towards and may be the last to be able to swerve away from it.”

The heatwave showed the vulnerability of farming and food security to global warming, said Minette Batters, the president of the National Farmers Union. “Our industry is on the forefront of climate change impacts. The summer heatwave was hugely challenging and should be a wake-up call for us all.” She said long-term drought policies were needed, such as making it easier to get planning permission for new reservoirs.

The Met Office analysis used sophisticated computer models to estimate the probability of such a hot summer in the UK in a world with manmade global warming and in a world without it. If humanity’s fossil fuel burning had not more than doubled the CO2 in the atmosphere, there would have been a less than one in 200 chance of the 2018 heat. But in today’s warming world, the probability was one in eight.

The 30-fold increased risk surprised Stott: “It is a large number, but we checked it very carefully.” The methodology used has been peer-reviewed and the new analysis would be, too, but the Met Office said it was important to make the information public as early as possible.

Stott’s team also looked at the Central England temperature record which stretches back to 1659. They found just one summer, 1826, as hot as 2018 in the two centuries up until 1850, when CO2 emissions began to rise fast. In contrast, there have been two other summers just as hot as 2018 in the last two decades, in 2003 and 2006.

An earlier analysis of the summer heat in Europe also found that climate change had increased its risk, though it looked at the hottest three-day periods, not the whole season. Scores of extreme weather events around the world, including droughts and severe rainfalls, have been linked to global warming, including the Storm Desmond downpour that caused extensive severe flooding in the UK.

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Most viewed in environment

In 1981, the annual number of deaths among people with Aids was 451. By the time Bush left office, that figure was 40,000

‘Bush’s homophobia contributed to Washington’s culture of denial about the spread of the virus.’

‘Bush’s homophobia contributed to Washington’s culture of denial about the spread of the virus.’ Photograph: Mona Chalabi

One of the negative legacies of George HW Bush’s presidency was his inaction in the face of an Aids epidemic that has killed over half a million Americans. In the obituaries that followed his death, Bush’s record on Aids was often only mentioned briefly, if at all.

During his term in office, from 1989 to 1993, Bush’s homophobia contributed to Washington’s culture of denial about the spread of the virus. He emphasized “behavioral change” among the LGBTQ community rather than developing treatments. He also, in office, described same-sex relationships as “lifestyles that are, in my view, not the normal lifestyle.”

You can see the impact of his inaction in the chart here. In 1981, the estimated annual number of deaths among persons living with Aids in the United States was 451. By the time he was leaving office in 1993, that figure had soared to over 40,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That year, HIV infection was the leading cause of death for men in the United States from 25 to 44.

Bush signed two bills which helped tackle the crisis. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 protected those with the disease from discrimination and the Ryan White Care Act became the largest federally funded program for HIV and Aids patients. But activists like Urvashi Vaid, who led the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force from 1989 to 1992, point out that both bills only came into being after intense pressure by Aids activists.

In the years since Bush left office, the annual rate of US Aids deaths has fallen considerably as new treatments have been developed. But those drugs remain too expensive for many.

The CDC’s latest estimates show that the virus continues to spread. There were approximately 38,500 new infections in 2015 and currently over 1.1 million people in the US are living with the virus.

World Politics

France

A gilets jaunes roadblock in Toulouse to protest against the lower living standards and purchasing power.

A gilets jaunes roadblock in Toulouse to protest against the lower living standards and purchasing power. Photograph: Matthieu Rondel for the Guardian

On the grass verge of a village roundabout north of Toulouse, Céline stood at a barricade built from pallets of wood and old tyres, a bonfire burning behind her. French flags were flying alongside signs calling for Emmanuel Macron’s resignation.

“I’m prepared to spend Christmas protesting at this roundabout with my children – we won’t back down and we’ve got nothing to lose,” said the 41-year-old, who voted for Macron in last year’s presidential election. “He gave good speeches and I really believed his promises that he would change France. But not any more.”

Céline, a classroom assistant for children with special needs, earns €800 (£710) a month. She cannot afford rent so lives with her four children in a relative’s house in the suburbs of Toulouse, in the south-west of France.

“Macron’s first move in office was to slash the wealth tax for the mega-rich while cutting money from poor people’s housing benefits,” she said. “That is a serious injustice. The country is rising up and he’s staying silent, he’s hiding in an ivory tower, that’s what disturbs me, he’s not taking responsibility.”

At the roundabout barricade in Lespinasse, 20 people from surrounding villages – builders, nurses, workers in the local aviation industry – protested near a crucial fuel depot, wearing the yellow high-visibility vests that define France’s gilets jaunes movement. Passing trucks and cars beeped in support. Drivers leaned out of their windows and shouted “Don’t give up!”

This grassroots citizens’ protest, which began as a spontaneous revolt against fuel tax rises last month, has morphed into an anti-government and anti-Macron movement and is now the young centrist president’s biggest crisis. The demonstrators say that Macron is an arrogant would-be monarch. He presents himself abroad, they say, as a progressive hero who can hold back the tide of nationalism, but at home he symbolises a distant political elite, stoking distrust and pushing people towards populism.

[Macron] misread these protests … he thought he was the saviour of France

Robert, carpenter

“I always feared that there was an element of dictator in the way Macron did things,” said Robert, 64, a leftwing Toulouse carpenter and cabinet maker. “He’s well-presented and he speaks nicely – but he misread these protests because he thought he was the saviour of France. He wasn’t listening, he forgot the human factor.”

Last Saturday saw the worst street unrest in central Paris in decades, as fringe elements of the otherwise peaceful protesters fought running battles with riot police and set cars alight. Tourist attractions and museums in Paris will be closed on Saturday, and the government has warned that thousands of rioters might come to the capital to “smash” or even “kill”. Yet gilets jaunes across France are determined to march in towns and cities this weekend anyway.

Gilets jaunes protesters clash with riot police at the Arc de Triomphe on 1 December.

Gilets jaunes protesters clash with riot police at the Arc de Triomphe on 1 December. Photograph: Abdulmonam Eassa/AFP/Getty Images

Crucially, the government fears violence not just in Paris but outside it. Local government offices were torched in the small central town of Puy-en-Velay last weekend. In Toulouse, there were running battles with riot police with several injured. Motorway toll-booths have been burned down and vandalised in southern France, and when high-school students staged demonstrations this week against university and school reforms, riot police fired teargas at several demonstrations. The entrance hall of a high school in Blagnac outside Toulouse was burned to the ground.

One transport worker in his 20s who took part in a street march in the small country town of Montauban in the south-west said he was shocked by the teargas. “Things will kick off for sure again this weekend, there could be violence anywhere in France,” he said.

The roundabouts and motorway toll-booths that gilets jaunes continue to blockade are often near small towns and villages that do not normally make the news. Main cities are often far away, meaning residents cannot work or take children to school without a car – hence their fury at fuel tax rises.

A gilet jaune demonstrator gestures in front of a burning barricade in Toulouse.

A gilet jaune demonstrator gestures in front of a burning barricade in Toulouse. Photograph: Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images

Demonstrators of all backgrounds and political views seem united on one point – a personal disgust with Macron, whose “arrogance” they cite from televised examples, including the time he told an unemployed person to just “cross the road” to find a job, or when he wagged a finger to tell pensioners they shouldn’t complain. Then there is the outrage over refurbishments to the Élysée Palace and the construction of a holiday pool in the presidential summer retreat. One poll this week showed Macron’s approval ratings down to 18%.

Isabelle, 41, a single mother, had never taken part in a protest movement before. She works at a sandwich stand at Toulouse airport for the minimum wage – less than €1,200 a month – and her daily shifts begin at 3am. She was among many who had deliberately spoiled her ballot paper in last year’s presidential election final round, unwilling to choose between Macron or the far-right Marine Le Pen.

“This is now about so much more than fuel tax,” she said. “We seem to live in a world gone mad where the rich pay next to nothing and the poor are constantly taxed. We’ve had enough of the elite.”

This feels like a historic moment in France. I’d liken it to the Arab spring

A philosophy student

The gilets jaunes movement is unlike any other seen in postwar France because it sprang up online without a leader, trade union or party behind it. Along the barricades there is a broad mix of people, some apolitical, some on the left who feared nationalism, some who had voted for the nationalist Le Pen, some environmentalists. Many were against the European Union, feeling it enshrined rampant capitalism.

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United States

Ben Jennings on Donald Trump and climate change – cartoon

Ben Jennings cartoon 04.11.2018

Donald Trump Guardian Opinion cartoon Climate change

President says Barr, who served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993, ‘was my first choice from day one’

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