The Climate War Comes to Australia: The Great Barrier Reef is in Jeopardy


The last of the world’s greatest eco-treasures, the Great Barrier Reef, is in jeopardy.

For the past five years, I've had the opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative as a filmmaker and a press correspondent. During that time, I have personally seen the tremendous growth of CGI, and the various non-profits, NGO’s, business leaders come together under one umbrella to solve the world’s problems. This year at CGI the attendance was higher than normal with a greater attention on the climate crisis. In light of the global warming, which some today feel is just a myth, the reality is coming home sooner to others in a more radical way. In Australia, one of the most treasured environmental icons, the Great Barrier Reef is under siege.

In 2007, the International Panel on Climate Change predicted that, if nothing is done, by 2020, up to 60% of the Great Barrier Reef would bleach every second year. In response to the climate crisis in Australia, one organization is pulling together the resources to help preserve this great ecological treasure.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) was today welcomed as the first Australian not-for-profit into the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). Attending the CGI from Australia was Judith Stewart, Chief Executive Officer of the GBRF. Her announcement reinforces the economic and environmental significance of the Great Barrier Reef on a global scale.

“The GBRF commitment was selected specifically as an exemplary approach to addressing challenges in the priority area of the Environment and market based solutions. The benefit of this financing approach is the delivery of substantial, up-front research funding up front to commission this urgent body of research.” Continued...


BP well is finally dead


So are fish, shrimp, birds, turtles, dolphins, whales, livelihoods... Nearly five months after the largest environmental oil disaster in U.S. history began, the U.S. announced today that the relief well has successfully been plugged with cement.

“We can finally announce that the Macondo 252 well is effectively dead,” Thad W. Allen, the former Coast Guard admiral who leads the federal spill response, said in a statement. The well, he said, “poses no continuing threat to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Crews aboard the Development Driller III drill rig conducted a successful pressure test early Sunday on cement that had been pumped into the bottom of the once-gushing well through a relief well. The tests confirmed that the cement formed an effective, and final, seal to prevent oil and gas from coming up from a formation about 13,000 below the seabed.
It is still to be determined how to get BP to take full responsibility for this catastrophe, after their self-issued report that pointed the finger at their sub-contractors (a peek into their legal defense strategy):

With a conclusion unlikely to be taken as seriously as independent investigations, BP has issued its own internal report on the Gulf oil disaster that shifts the blame to its subcontractors -- primarily Transocean and Halliburton -- as the primary potential plaintiffs in the disaster.
There is also an ongoing dispute as to the disposition of the millions of gallons of oil and oxygen depleted-greenhouse gas, methane, that made its way into the Gulf. Continued...

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Key steps on global warming on which agreement is needed in Mexico later this year


Greenhouse gas emissions by country
including land-use change
This December, 194 countries will be in Cancun, Mexico to continue negotiations on international efforts to address climate change. My colleagues and I are in Mexico City this week for a series of discussions with key government officials, NGOs, businesses, and members of the media so we’ve been reflecting on Cancun. The Cancun climate negotiation session (COP16) must serve three critical functions to ensure the continued progress on international climate change efforts and to rebuild some of the trust lost during and after Copenhagen.

First, at Cancun, the international community needs to prove to countries and the world public that it can work together to address climate change. It is essential that countries make some progress in Cancun and show that the international system can work. This is paramount, as a perceived failure will make it even more difficult to build political momentum within the UN system and may lead the public and countries to disengage.

Second, Cancun needs to produce agreement on aspects of the key implementing activities to be delivered by the international agreement –e.g., clean energy technology deployment, deforestation reductions, improving the resilience of countries to the impacts of climate change, etc. While it is unlikely that every aspect of these issues will be resolved in Cancun, it is possible to make significant progress on each of these issues at Cancun. The notion of “nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed” must be set aside in favor of re-establishing confidence by progressively building the agreement component by component. Continued...

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BP's Report on Gulf Oil Spill Shifts Blame to Transocean and Halliburton


With a conclusion unlikely to be taken as seriously as independent investigations, BP has issued its own internal report on the Gulf oil disaster that shifts the blame to its subcontractors -- primarily Transocean and Halliburton -- as the primary potential plaintiffs in the disaster:
While it puts some responsibility on BP for errors made — such as misreading pressure data that indicated a blowout was imminent — the report tries to undermine the notion that the company acted with gross negligence. Among its most significant conclusions, the report said that the blowout came up the center of the pipe and not up the outside of the well casing, the area known as the annulus.

If true, the finding is significant because it plays down the importance of certain BP decisions that have been criticized as negligent. One such decision was BP’s choice of a type of well casing that internal documents indicated the company knew was cheaper but riskier. Another such decision was BP’s use of fewer-than-advised centralizers, devices that are meant to keep the casing properly positioned.
The 193 page report shifts the blame to BP's contractors, Halliburton for their cementing of the well and Transocean who operated the rig. Continued...

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Termites Foretell Climate Change in Africa’s Savannas


Termite Mound in Tanzania
The Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology has mapped over 40,000 termite mounds across the African savanna. Why would they do this? It turns out that termites are exceptionally sensitive to heat and moisture in the soil. By mapping where the termites choose to place their mounds, the insects are providing an indicator of climate change across regions.
Palo Alto, CA—Using sophisticated airborne imaging and structural analysis, scientists at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology mapped more than 40,000 termite mounds over 192 square miles in the African savanna. They found that their size and distribution is linked to vegetation and landscape patterns associated with annual rainfall. The results reveal how the savanna terrain has evolved and show how termite mounds can be used to predict ecological shifts from climate change. The research is published in the September 7, 2010, advanced online edition of Nature Communications.
“By understanding the patterns of the vegetation and termite mounds over different moisture zones, we can project how the landscape might change with climate change,” explained co-author Greg Asner at Carnegie. “Warming is expected to increase the variability of future precipitation in African savannas.” Continued...


The Coming Climate Election


State Capitol
On November 2, America’s attention will focus on the mid-term elections for Congress. But those of us who believe government must act against global climate change had better pay attention to another set of races: the election of 37 governors and scores of state legislators.

In the years ahead, the people we elect to our 50 statehouses may be more important than the people we elect to Congress.

Consider the impact on international climate treaty negotiations. At the end of November, negotiators from more than 190 nations will gather for the 16th Conference of the Parties in Cancun to continue working on a global climate pact.

Few experts expect that a treaty will be signed in Cancun, but there’s hope the meeting will narrow the gaps nations have failed to bridge in the negotiations so far. One positive development would be a concrete, credible, verifiable plan by the United States to cut its greenhouse emissions.

The chief U.S. negotiator, Todd Stern, has just reaffirmed Obama’s goal to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. But with no climate bill from Congress again this year, U.S. negotiators reportedly are pondering how to show the United States will achieve the goal with “other available tools”. Continued...

President Obama's Vision for the Economy (Video)


President Obama gave a defining speech on the economy where he drew a line in the sand between his policies and those of Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), calling out the congressional minority leader eight times for obstruction, while he defined his own economic vision.

It was a statement of policy and the moment when the president stood up against those who opposed him and said, in essence,  this is what I have been doing and what I'm going to do to revive our economy.  What are my opponents doing other than obstructing?  What are they going to do that's different than what brought us to the brink of a second Great Depression?

This was the choice he presented along with several proposals for tax cuts for the middle class to compensate for declining wages, putting Americans to work here, rather than subsidizing business to send work offshore, and infrastructure investments.  He pointed out that John Boehner and his associates have blocked all of these initiatives and more and that they were also obstructing the tax cuts for the middle class in an effort to preserve the 700 billion dollars in tax cuts for the top two percent.

See: Politifact's analysis of statements by Rep. John Boehner.

Excerpts from the President's remarks:

"With all the other budgetary pressures we have -– with all the Republicans’ talk about wanting to shrink the deficit -- they would have us borrow $700 billion over the next 10 years to give a tax cut of about $100,000 each to folks who are already millionaires. And keep in mind wealthy Americans are just about the only folks who saw their incomes rise when Republicans were in charge. And these are the folks who are less likely to spend the money -- which is why economists don’t think tax breaks for the wealthy would do much to boost the economy.

So let me be clear to Mr. Boehner and everybody else: We should not hold middle-class tax cuts hostage any longer. (Applause.) We are ready, this week, if they want, to give tax cuts to every American making $250,000 or less. (Applause.) That's 98-97 percent of Americans. Now, for any income over this amount, the tax rates would just go back to what they were under President Clinton.

This isn’t to punish folks who are better off –- God bless them. It’s because we can’t afford the $700 billion price tag." Continued...


President Obama's Labor Day Speech (Video)


President Obama kicked off the 2010 midterm election season with a rousing Labor Day speech in Milwaukee at the annual Laborfest event. The speech is notable for its focus on green and infrastructure jobs and for its tone, which shows a more direct approach to the ongoing obstruction by special interests of programs the president has proposed to revive the economy.

A notable excerpt is where the president when off script to remark that powerful special interests talked about him "like a dog":

"We didn’t come this far by letting the special interests run wild. We didn’t do it just by gambling and chasing paper profits on Wall Street. We built this country by making things, by producing goods we could sell. We did it with sweat and effort and innovation. (Applause.) We did it on the assembly line and at the construction site.

We did it by investing in the people who built this country from the ground up –- the workers, middle-class families, small business owners. We out-worked folks and we out-educated folks and we out-competed everybody else. That’s how we built America.

...Over the last two years, that’s meant taking on some powerful interests -- some powerful interests who had been dominating the agenda in Washington for a very long time. And they’re not always happy with me. They talk about me like a dog. That’s not in my prepared remarks, it’s just -- but it’s true." Continued...


Pakistan Floods Threaten Fragile Government


Pakistan's historic floods have displaced millions of people and covered over one-fifth of the nuclear armed South Asian state.  They now threaten to destabilize its government. The scope of the crisis is so vast with the aid flowing in so slowly, the Taliban has seized the initiative to capitalize on growing anger to turn desperate people to their cause.

Aid is difficult with Pakistan because of a history of corruption and suspicion that monies will flow either to officials or to the Taliban with little going to the people in need. NGOs such as Save the Children, UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders have pointed out that their aid does not flow through the Pakistani government, but is sent to support the people directly.   Continued...

The U.S. Military's 1947 Warning on Intolerance


A film produced by the U.S. Military in 1947 was meant to present the case for the desegregation of the armed forces. Though not initially intended for broadcast to the general public, it speaks to the divisions present in society today.

The production is dated by current standards. The message is prescient given the current strife and division: the ostracization of the "other," whether through protests of mosques, by Glenn Beck's scheduled through-the-looking-glass rally at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, or by the funding of climate science denial and extreme tea party activism against the current administration by the Koch Brothers, two of the biggest polluters on the planet.

The film was shot to convince members of the military that desegregation was the right idea. The subsequent integration of African-Americans into the armed forces has since become an integral part of the command structure with our strategy in war. (See: Powell Doctrine).

It now serves as a warning to the future as produced by a military that had fought years of heartbreaking war where millions had lost their lives due to prejudice and intolerance. Continued...


Hurricane Earl Intensifies into Massive Storm (Video)


NASA has provided footage of Hurricane Earl as a Category 4 storm in the mid-Atlantic as it approaches the East Coast of the United States. The Hurricane is so large that, even if it does not make landfall, it is dangerous because of its winds, high waves, surges and rip currents.

NASA has provided footage of Hurricane Earl from the Space Station. The Hurricane has grown so large that it is expected to do some damage as far north as New England even without landfall. The governors of North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia have declared a state of emergency. President Obama has declared a national state of emergency for North Carolina. Mandatory evacuations are underway. Other states are expected to follow suit once there is more certainty of its path. Continued...