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U.N. Panel Releases Draft of Treaty to Ban Nuclear Arms

In Environment, Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Peace, Politics on May 23, 2017 at 9:47 pm

by Rick Gladstone, New York Times, May 22, 2017

A United Nations disarmament panel presented the first draft on Monday of a proposed global treaty to ban nuclear weapons, which advocates called an important step that could hasten completion of a final text by early July.

Nuclear powers including the United States have boycotted the negotiations for such a treaty, calling its goals naïve and unattainable — especially at a time when North Korea has threatened to launch nuclear-armed missiles at its enemies.

But those nations’ longstanding argument for deterrence — that the best way to keep nuclear arms from being used is to hold the ability to retaliate in kind — has failed to halt the momentum in the negotiations. The first round was held in March, and the effort is supported by more than 120 countries.

Treaty supporters have argued that if enough countries ratified an international agreement outlawing nuclear weapons, the political and moral coercive pressure would eventually persuade holdouts to reconsider.

Similar strategies were pursued in negotiations that led to global treaties banning other indiscriminate weapons, including chemical arms, cluster bombs and land mines. As more countries have joined those treaties, the shaming effect has grown on those that decline.
The nuclear draft text would commit treaty signers to “never use nuclear weapons” and never “develop, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

Signers would also promise to never “carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.”

Less clear from the draft text is precisely how nuclear-armed countries that renounce those weapons could join the treaty, and under what conditions.

But language in the draft specifies that the treaty is intended to strengthen — and not replace — the existing treaties meant to stop the spread and testing of nuclear weapons.

The draft’s preamble specifies that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the landmark agreement that entered into force in 1970, would remain “an essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament.”

The draft is now subject to revision at a three-week round of negotiations at the United Nations scheduled for mid-June.

Supporters of the negotiations said the draft’s existence by itself was significant.

“The draft language is strong and categorically prohibits nuclear weapons,” Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said in a statement.

The disarmament group called the draft “an essential milestone in the yearslong effort to ban these indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction and an important step toward their eventual elimination.”

Elayne G. Whyte Gómez, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and chairwoman of the conference that is overseeing the negotiations, said in a telephone interview that she expected revisions to the draft.

Ms. Gómez, who was responsible for writing the draft, said she had sought to “synthesize the many areas where the views of states converged.”

There was no comment from the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, who led a group of envoys from member states who had publicly rejected the negotiations when they began two months ago.

Aides to Ms. Haley said that she was traveling but that the American position had not changed.

Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a disarmament research and advocacy group in Washington, said he regarded the minimum number of ratifications to put the treaty into effect — 40 — to be relatively low, possibly limiting its coercive impact. Mr. Kimball also noted that the text of the treaty draft did not explicitly prohibit the financing of nuclear weapons or the issuing of nuclear threats. Nonetheless, he said he supported the negotiations and objective.

“The vast majority of world states say nuclear weapons are not essential for security, and that we want to reduce their salience by banning them,” he said. “That is a contribution to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Besides the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia — four countries are known to possess nuclear weapons: India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel. None support the negotiations.

United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on May 23, 2017 at 7:12 am

 

New York, 27-31 March 2017 and 15 June-7 July 2017

22 May 2017 Original: English

Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Submitted by the President of the Conference

The States Parties to this Convention,

Deeply concerned about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons and the consequent need to make every effort to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances,

Cognizant that the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons transcend national borders, pose grave implications for human survival, the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security and for the health of future generations, and of the disproportionate impact of ionizing radiation on maternal health and on girls,

Mindful of the suffering of the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (Hibakusha) as well as of those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons,

Basing themselves on the principles and rules of international humanitarian law, in particular the principle that the right of parties to an armed conflict to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited and the rule that care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long term and severe damage, including a prohibition of the use of methods or means of warfare which are intended or may be expected to cause such damage to the natural environment and thereby to prejudice the health or survival of the population,

Declaring that any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law,

Reaffirming that in cases not covered by this convention, civilians and combatants remain under the protection and authority of the principles of international law derived from established custom, from the principles of humanity and from the dictates of public conscience,

Determined to contribute to the realization of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

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Bearing in mind that the prohibition of nuclear weapons would be an important contribution towards comprehensive nuclear disarmament,

Stressing the urgent need to achieve further effective measures of nuclear disarmament in order to facilitate the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery,

Determined to act towards that end,
Determined also to act with a view to achieving effective progress towards general

and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control,

Affirming that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control,

Reaffirming the crucial importance of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as the cornerstone of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and an essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, the vital importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty as a core element of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, and the contribution of the treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones toward strengthening the nuclear non- proliferation regime and to realizing the objective of nuclear disarmament,

Stressing the role of public conscience in the furthering of the principles of humanity as evidenced by the call for the total elimination of nuclear weapons and recognizing the efforts to that end undertaken by the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, numerous non-governmental organizations and the Hibakusha,

Have agreed as follows: Article 1

General obligations

1. Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:

(a) Develop, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;

(b) Transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly;

(c) Receive the transfer or control over nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices directly, or indirectly;

(d) Use nuclear weapons;
(e) Carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion;

(f) Assist, encourage, or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention;

(g) Seek or receive any assistance, in any way, from anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.

2. Each State Party undertakes to prohibit and prevent in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control:

(a) Any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;

(b) Any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.

Article 2 Declarations

1. Each State Party shall submit to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, not later than 30 days after this Convention enters into force for it a declaration in which it shall declare whether it has manufactured, possessed or otherwise acquired nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices after 5 December 2001.

2. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall transmit all such declarations received to the States Parties.

Article 3 Safeguards

Each State Party undertakes to accept safeguards, with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, as provided in the Annex to this Convention.

Article 4
Measures for States that have eliminated their nuclear weapons

1. Each State Party that has manufactured, possessed or otherwise acquired nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices after 5 December 2001, and eliminated all such weapons or explosive devices prior to the entry into force of the Convention for it, undertakes to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency for the purpose of verification of the completeness of its inventory of nuclear material and nuclear installations.

2. Unless otherwise agreed by the States Parties, arrangements necessary for the verification required by this Article shall be concluded in an agreement between the State Party and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Negotiation of such an agreement shall commence within 180 days of the submission of the declaration provided for in Article 2. Such agreements shall enter into force not later than eighteen months after the date of the initiation of negotiations.

3. For the purpose of performing the verification required by this Article, the International Atomic Energy Agency shall be provided with full access to any location or facility associated with a nuclear weapon programme and shall have the right to request access on a case-by-case basis to other locations or facilities that the Agency may wish to visit.

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Article 5
Measures for situations not covered by Article 4

Proposals for further effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament, including provisions for the verified and irreversible elimination of any remaining nuclear weapon programmes under strict and effective international control, which may take the form of additional protocols to this Convention, may be considered at the Meetings of States Parties or Review Conferences. All States represented at the meeting or review conference may participate fully in such consideration. The meeting or review conference may agree upon additional protocols which shall be adopted and annexed to the Convention in accordance with its provisions.

Article 6 Assistance

1. Each State Party in a position to do so shall with respect to individuals affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons in areas under its jurisdiction or control, in accordance with applicable international humanitarian and human rights law, adequately provide age- and gender-sensitive assistance, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support, as well as provide for their social and economic inclusion.

2. Each State Party with respect to areas under its jurisdiction or control contaminated as a result of activities related to the testing or use of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, shall have the right to request and to receive assistance toward the environmental remediation of areas so contaminated.

3. Such assistance may be provided, inter alia, through the United Nations system, international, regional or national organizations or institutions, non-governmental organizations or institutions, or on a bilateral basis.

Article 7
National implementation

1. Each State Party shall, in accordance with its constitutional processes, adopt the necessary measures to implement its obligations under this Convention.

2. Each State Party shall take all appropriate legal, administrative and other measures, including the imposition of penal sanctions, to prevent and suppress any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention undertaken by persons or on territory under its jurisdiction or control.

Article 8
International cooperation

1. Each State Party shall cooperate with other States Parties to facilitate the implementation of the obligations of this Convention.

2. In fulfilling its obligations under this Convention each State Party has the right to seek and receive assistance.

Article 9
Meeting of States Parties

1. The States Parties shall meet regularly in order to consider and, where necessary, take decisions in respect of any matter with regard to the application or implementation of this Convention and on the further elaboration of effective measures for nuclear disarmament, including:

(a) The operation and status of this Convention;

(b) Reports by States Parties on the implementation of their obligations under this Convention;

(c) Matters arising from the declarations submitted under Article 2 of this Convention;

(d) Proposals for effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament, including provisions for the verified and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapon programmes, including additional protocols to this Convention.

2. The first Meeting of States Parties shall be convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations within one year of the entry into force of this Convention. Further Meetings of States Parties shall be convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on a biennial basis, unless otherwise agreed by the States Parties.

3. After a period of five years following the entry into force of this Convention, the Meetings of States Parties may decide to convene a conference to review the operation of this Convention with a view to assuring that the purposes of the preamble and the provisions of the Convention, including the provisions concerning negotiations on effective measures for nuclear disarmament, are being realized.

4. States not party to this Convention, as well as the United Nations, other relevant international organizations or institutions, regional organizations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and relevant non-governmental organizations may be invited to attend the Meetings of States Parties and the Review Conferences as observers.

Article 10 Costs

1. The costs of the Meetings of the States Parties and the Review Conferences shall be borne by the States Parties and States not parties to this Convention participating therein, in accordance with the United Nations scale of assessment adjusted appropriately.

2. The costs incurred by the Secretary-General of the United Nations under Article 2 of this Convention shall be borne by the States Parties in accordance with the United Nations scale of assessment adjusted appropriately.Article 11 Amendments

1. At the Meetings of States Parties or Review Conferences consideration may be given to any proposal for amendments of this Convention. The meeting or review conference may agree upon amendments which shall be adopted by a majority of two- thirds of the States Parties present and voting at the meeting or review conference.

2. The amendment shall enter into force for each State Party that deposits its instrument of ratification of the amendment upon the deposit of such instruments of ratification by a majority of the States Parties. Thereafter, it shall enter into force for any other State Party upon the deposit of its instrument of ratification of the amendment.

Article 12
Settlement of disputes

1. When a dispute arises between two or more States Parties relating to the interpretation or application of this Convention, the parties concerned shall consult together with a view to the expeditious settlement of the dispute by negotiation or by other peaceful means of the parties’ choice, including recourse to the Meetings of States Parties and, by mutual consent, referral to the International Court of Justice in conformity with the Statute of the Court.

2. The Meeting of States Parties may contribute to the settlement of the dispute by whatever means it deems appropriate, including offering its good offices, calling upon the States Parties concerned to start the settlement procedure of their choice and recommending a time limit for any agreed procedure.

Article 13 Universality

Each State Party shall encourage States not party to this Convention to ratify, accept, approve or accede to this Convention, with the goal of attracting the adherence of all States to this Convention.

Article 14 Signature

This Convention shall be open for signature to all States before its entry into force.

Article 15 Ratification

This Convention shall be subject to ratification by signatory States.

Article 16 Entry into force

1. This Convention shall enter into force 90 days after the fortieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession has been deposited.

2. For any State that deposits its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession after the date of the deposit of the fortieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, this Convention shall enter into force 90 days after the date on which that State has deposited its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

Article 17 Reservations

The Articles of this Convention shall not be subject to reservations.

Article 18 Duration

1. This Convention shall be of unlimited duration.

2. Each State Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Convention if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Convention, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Convention and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.

3. Such withdrawal shall only take effect three months after the receipt of the instrument of withdrawal by the Depositary. If, however, on the expiry of that three- month period, the withdrawing State Party is engaged in the situations referred to in Article 2 common to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 for the Protection of War Victims, including any situation described in paragraph 4 of Article 1 of Additional Protocol I to these Conventions, the Party shall continue to be bound by the obligations of this Convention and of any annexed Protocols until the end of the armed conflict or occupation.

Article 19
Relations with other agreements

This Convention does not affect the rights and obligations of the States Parties under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Article 20 Depositary

The Secretary-General of the United Nations is hereby designated as the Depositary of this Convention.

Article 21 Authentic texts

The Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish texts of this Convention shall be equally authentic.

A predictable nuclear accident at Hanford

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy on May 18, 2017 at 7:56 am

By Hugh Gusterson is a professor of anthropology and international affairs at George Washington University. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists online

Last week’s accident at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation should have come as no surprise.

On May 9, workers discovered a 20-foot-diameter hole where the roof had collapsed on a makeshift nuclear waste site: a tunnel, sealed in 1965, encasing old railroad cars and equipment contaminated with radiation through years of plutonium processing. Potential radiation levels were high enough that some workers were told to shelter in place while others donned respirators and protective suits as they repaired the hole.

The Hanford complex, which dates back to 1943, produced the plutonium for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Half the size of Rhode Island, it is often described as the most contaminated place in the United States. Until its last reactor closed in 1987, it churned out plutonium for the roughly 70,000 nuclear weapons the United States built during the Cold War. As the historian Kate Brown documents in her book Plutopia, which explores the uncanny similarities between Hanford and its Soviet counterpart Ozersk, Hanford has been a slow-motion environmental disaster since its opening, constantly excreting radioactive contaminants into the air and water. More dangerous than the tunnels are the giant tanks of liquid nuclear waste: 177 of them containing 56 million gallons of radioactive soup whose composition is only approximately known. The contents of some have to be stirred periodically to prevent the formation of hydrogen bubbles that would cause the tanks to explode. One million gallons of this witches’ brew have already leaked into the groundwater from tanks that were built to last only 20 years. The US government projects that it will cost more than $107 billion to clean up the site, with remediation finished by 2060. Few knowledgeable people put much credence in either number.

It would be nice to say that Hanford is a unique canker on the US nuclear landscape, but it is not. It may be the most contaminated, but it is far from alone. At the Rocky Flats facility outside Denver, where workers fashioned Hanford’s plutonium into cores (or “pits”) for nuclear weapons, there were major fires in 1957 and 1969; each sent plutonium-laced plumes of smoke over nearby communities. Enough plutonium dust gathered in the facility’s ductwork that some worried about a spontaneous criticality event—that is, an accidental and uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction. Eventually President George H.W. Bush closed Rocky Flats in 1992 after an FBI investigation found that the facility was secretly (and illegally) burning nuclear waste in the middle of the night.

At Ohio’s Fernald plant, which processed uranium for the weapons complex, operators dumped radioactive waste into makeshift pits where it contaminated local groundwater, and blew uranium dust particles out of the smokestacks when the filters failed, as they did with some regularity. Similar stories could be told for the nuclear weapons facilities at Savannah River in North Carolina and Oak Ridge in Tennessee, which hushed up criticality accidents while contaminating nearby air and water.

There are three reasons these Cold War nuclear facilities turned into such environmental catastrophes. First, the Cold War American state, fixated on winning the arms race, put a premium on beating the Soviets at all costs. Producing uranium, plutonium, and weapons components was a higher priority than protecting the health of nearby residents or the workers at the plants, a disproportionate number of whom died of cancer. Ironically, since 1945, American nuclear weapons, intended to keep the country safe, have mainly killed Americans.

A second factor was state secrecy. As leading Cold War public intellectuals such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Edward Shils argued, abuse thrives in the dark, and Cold War secrecy provided much cover of darkness to places like Hanford. For decades, government officials and the contractors that ran the plants were able to deflect civilian regulators, nosy journalists, local citizens, even congressmen, by hiding behind the skirts of national security. Officials defined vital nuclear secrets expansively, to include not just the design and deployment details of weapons, but also the secret harms inflicted on Americans through their production. Anyone who revealed the extent of contamination risked losing his clearance or being incarcerated. The harms concealed at production facilities were mostly caused by accidents and bureaucratically ingrained negligence, but they were sometimes deliberate—as in the now infamous 1949 “Green Run,” when Hanford deliberately released a substantial invisible cloud of radioactive iodine and xenon to see how it would disperse.

Finally, we should not underestimate how novel and complex nuclear technology was in the early decades of the Cold War. Physicists, engineers, and technicians were still learning how the technology worked, how esoteric radioactive materials behaved in a range of conditions, and how toxic waste products were absorbed into the environment. As in any endeavor, you learn by making mistakes. Unfortunately, those mistakes left a legacy of contaminated Cold War production sites around the country that are beginning to look like a permanent archipelago of national sacrifice zones. “Will Hanford ever be cleaned up?” was the title of a 2013 Seattle Times article noting how little progress had been made after spending $36 billion on cleaning the site.

If the pathology of the Cold War was secrecy and an atmosphere of emergency, we have the opposite pathology now. Department of Energy websites catalogue the contamination in great detail—after all, the more contaminated the site, the more money Congress should provide to clean it—and official timelines for cleanup stretch interminably beyond the lifetimes of many living Americans. In a perverse way, radioactive contamination has gone from a shameful secret to be concealed to an asset to be milked. The cleanup campaign is becoming like the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan, America’s longest war. It takes place on the periphery of American public vision; it greatly enriches contractors; and there is always light at the end of the tunnel, but the only way we get near the light is when the tunnel collapses.

World Beyond War

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Politics, War on May 11, 2017 at 9:43 am

Please read the very informative article at http://worldbeyondwar.org/f-35-incinerating-ski-slope/  As my friend Bob Kinsey says, “Not the usual Greenwash stuff but real facts in context.”

Thanks, LeRoy

Sparking Fears of Airborne Radiation, Wildfire Burns in Fukushima ‘No-Go Zone’

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Politics, Public Health on May 2, 2017 at 8:32 am

By Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams, May 1, 2017

A wildfire broke out in the highly radioactive “no-go zone” near the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant over the weekend, reviving concerns over potential airborne radiation.

Japanese newspaper The Mainichi reports that lightning was likely to blame for sparking the fire Saturday on Mount Juman in Namie, which lies in the Fukushima Prefecture and was one of the areas evacuated following the 2011 meltdown. The area continues to be barred to entry as it is designated a “difficult-to-return zone” due to continually high radiation levels.

Local officials were forced to call in the Japanese military, the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), to help battle the blaze, which continued to burn on Monday. At least 10 hectares of forest have burned so far.

“A total of eight helicopters from Fukushima, Miyagi and Gunma prefectures as well as the SDF discharged water on the site to combat the fire,” The Mainichi reports. “As the fire continued to spread, however, helicopters from the GSDF, Fukushima Prefecture and other parties on May 1 resumed fire extinguishing operations from around 5 am [local time].”

An official with the Ministry of the Environment said Monday that there has been “no major changes to radiation levels” in the region, according to the newspaper, but added that they will “continue to closely watch changes in radiation doses in the surrounding areas.”

In a blog post last year, Anton Beneslavsky, a member of Greenpeace Russia’s firefighting group who has been deployed to fight blazes in nuclear Chernobyl, outlined the specific dangers of wildfires in contaminated areas.

“During a fire, radionuclides like caesium-137, strontium-90 and plutonium rise into the air and travel with the wind,” Beneslavsky wrote. “This is a health concern because when these unstable atoms are inhaled, people become internally exposed to radiation.”

Contaminated forests such as those outside fallout sites like Fukushima and Chernobyl “are ticking time bombs,” scientist and former regional government official Ludmila Komogortseva told Beneslavsky. “Woods and peat accumulate radiation,” she explained “and every moment, every grass burning, every dropped cigarette or camp fire can spark a new disaster.”

March for Science: Can science and political activism coexist?

In Climate change, Democracy, Environment, Politics on April 27, 2017 at 3:34 am

Amanda Paulson, Christian Science Monitor, APRIL 21, 2017

Jenny Tam spent much of her life avoiding politics. She grew up in a small town in Arkansas, as the child of Chinese immigrants who had seen the dangers of political backlash, and she always tried to stay nonpolitical.

All that changed for Dr. Tam, now an immunologist and biophysicist at Massachusetts General Hospital, as she watched the current administration dismiss facts and saw a lack of understanding of how rigorous peer-reviewed studies really are. Suddenly, she felt the need to march into the fray, helping to found the group FACTS (Fostering Advocacy and Collaboration Through Science).

Tam isn’t alone among scientists who feel compelled to step out of the lab or the field to stand up for science. On Saturday, which is also Earth Day, these newly minted activists and other science supporters plan to gather in Washington, D.C., and in more than 500 other cities for a March for Science.
The foray into activism and politics is a tough one for some scientists. And although the organizers have taken pains to note the march is nonpartisan, concern that the focus will become political has sparked some controversy and debate among scientists.

Many supporters of the march note that science is already political, and that ignoring its importance to policy is disingenuous. The march is needed, they say, due to the increased attacks on science, threats to slash funding for research, and lack of understanding of what scientists do.

But critics worry that despite all the declarations that the march is “non-partisan,” it will be viewed by many Americans as anti-Trump and anti-Republican, and that it will only increase the partisan divide and cement the impression in some people’s minds that scientists are driven by ideology rather than evidence.

“I worry there will be people there carrying signs that have incendiary messages, and it’s that one percent that will become the meme for the conservative blogosphere,” says Robert Young, a coastal geologist at Western Carolina University. He cringes imagining rural America’s reaction to, say, a sign saying “Make America smart again.”

Dr. Young has seen first-hand the ways politicians can try to delegitimize science when he helped author a report on sea-level rise that had data that developers didn’t want to hear and state legislators dismissed. And back in his 20s, he says, he might have joined Saturday’s march himself.

But Young says he’s also become more pragmatic with experience, and he worries that a march – one that he says will certainly be viewed as partisan by much of America – will only solidify barriers. “If you want to make a difference and you want to live within the political realities we live in right now, then calling these people out and embarrassing them is not going to help us win,” Young says.

Other scientists say they hear that argument and acknowledge there is a risk but suggest that there is a much greater risk to not doing anything.

“It’s absurd to think of science as being apolitical,” says Alan Townsend, an environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder. “It doesn’t mean it should be partisan, but it’s embroiled in the world of politics as well, and we have to engage.” Certain groups may use the march to attack scientists, he acknowledges, but says there’s nothing new in that narrative. “And the upside potential is more meaningful and needed.”

The backing for the science march has been widespread, including behemoths like the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific society, as well as dozens of research groups, museums, small scientific organizations, and nonprofits.

A huge piece of the march is simply making both science and scientists more accessible and visible to the public. Most marches have planned education stations; in Washington, nearly two dozen “teach-ins” are being offered, on topics ranging from food solutions and creek critters to carbon innovation and the physics of superheroes.

“We’ll have booths set up by a variety of organizations to talk about the science they’re doing, so that the public begins to get a more expansive view of what science is,” says Scott Franklin, a physicist at the Rochester Institute of Technology and one of the organizers of the march in Rochester, N.Y. “The more visible scientists are in the community the more normalized we get.”

Some participants also say that, while the march may have been catalyzed in part by the Trump administration – with its proposed cuts for research funding, its loose use of “facts,” and the nomination of some climate-change critics to prominent roles – the antagonism toward science among some policymakers in particular, has been building for several decades, and has reached a point where scientists need to push back, whatever the risks.

Climate change is just one example. Once it became associated with Al Gore around the 2000 election, some Republicans who had previously proposed climate action solidified in opposition and started denying the reality of climate change, says John Holdren, a senior adviser to former President Obama on science and technology. Partisan opposition to Mr. Obama, who supported action on climate change, just intensified the divide.

Is there a risk that the march will further alienate people? Of course, says Dr. Holdren. “The very notion of marching will aggravate some people. But you know it is pretty well-established reality that nothing one does in the domain of political action pleases everybody…. My own view is that the potential benefits do outweigh the downsides.”

The March for Science grew out of the momentum of the Women’s March in January and has faced similar criticisms and internal turmoil about inclusion of diverse peoples and perspectives.

Public critics have also suggested that the inclusion of certain advocacy groups, which they say ignore science on issues like GMOs, could make the march problematic. Those critics note that antagonism toward science is not partisan – just as climate-change denial is associated with the right, some on the left are leading the charge to dismiss science around GMOs or vaccines.

“Science is not a buffet where people can pick and choose the parts that they like and disregard the rest,” wrote Alma Laney, a plant virologist and blogger, in a blog post about why he was not marching. “Climate change denial, young earth creationism, anti-vaccine and anti-genetic engineering arguments are not equal to the science on those topics. It’s incredibly sad to see a group that purports to be standing up for all science to willingly partner with groups that are antiscience or hold antiscience positions.”

Still, for all the criticism and disagreements, most observers have noted just how broad the support for the science march has been, including many people and groups who disagree politically, but feel deeply that a strong commitment to high-quality science and research is necessary.

Many supporters of the march see it as an opportunity to shed positive light on science. As Tam, the immunology researcher, says, the march “should be a celebration of the science our country has really excelled at.”

And, rather than marching for one concrete goal – increased NIH funding, say, or a broader acceptance of climate change – many of the organizers and participants express hope that the march could help demystify the scientific process for some Americans, and also encourage more scientists to be engaged in the public sphere, whether through serving on local town councils or committees, reaching out to lawmakers, or simply talking to people in their community about what they do.

Michael Eisen, a computational biologist at the University of California in Berkley who recently announced his Senate candidacy, will be speaking at the march in San Francisco because “it’s about standing up for a worldview and a way of approaching problems.”

“Too often we think of it as this kind of priesthood, with scientists who work in labs and produce science. But really, I think most people are basically scientists in the way they live,” and the way they apply the scientific method in their daily lives, he says. Eisen hopes the march will help connect scientists and the public and to express that science truly is for everyone.

Holdren, Obama’s science advisor, sees the march as something of an experiment.

“We are trying something new compared to the historical approach of writing sober op-editorial pieces, and giving talks to rotary clubs, and folks at universities talking to each other, the national academies of science, and engineering, and medicine, holding their meetings and issuing their press releases,” he says. “The more we get people talking about society’s interest in science and technology, the better. If the March advances that conversation and persuades more people to engage in that conversation in more different ways, then it will have been a success.”

• Eva Botkin-Kowacki contributed to his report.

Climate Change as Genocide: Inaction Equals Annihilation

In Climate change, Cost, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Politics, Public Health on April 23, 2017 at 12:17 am

By Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch

Not since World War II have more human beings been at risk from disease and starvation than at this very moment. On March 10th, Stephen O’Brien, under secretary-general of the United Nations for humanitarian affairs, informed the Security Council that 20 million people in three African countries — Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan — as well as in Yemen were likely to die if not provided with emergency food and medical aid. “We are at a critical point in history,” he declared. “Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the U.N.” Without coordinated international action, he added, “people will simply starve to death [or] suffer and die from disease.”

Major famines have, of course, occurred before, but never in memory on such a scale in four places simultaneously. According to O’Brien, 7.3 million people are at risk in Yemen, 5.1 million in the Lake Chad area of northeastern Nigeria, 5 million in South Sudan, and 2.9 million in Somalia. In each of these countries, some lethal combination of war, persistent drought, and political instability is causing drastic cuts in essential food and water supplies. Of those 20 million people at risk of death, an estimated 1.4 million are young children.

Despite the potential severity of the crisis, U.N. officials remain confident that many of those at risk can be saved if sufficient food and medical assistance is provided in time and the warring parties allow humanitarian aid workers to reach those in the greatest need. “We have strategic, coordinated, and prioritized plans in every country,” O’Brien said. “With sufficient and timely financial support, humanitarians can still help to prevent the worst-case scenario.”

All in all, the cost of such an intervention is not great: an estimated $4.4 billion to implement that U.N. action plan and save most of those 20 million lives.

The international response? Essentially, a giant shrug of indifference.

To have time to deliver sufficient supplies, U.N. officials indicated that the money would need to be in pocket by the end of March. It’s now April and international donors have given only a paltry $423 million — less than a tenth of what’s needed. While, for instance, President Donald Trump sought Congressional approval for a $54 billion increase in U.S. military spending (bringing total defense expenditures in the coming year to $603 billion) and launched $89 million worth of Tomahawk missiles against a single Syrian air base, the U.S. has offered precious little to allay the coming disaster in three countries in which it has taken military actions in recent years. As if to add insult to injury, on February 15th Trump told Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that he was inclined to sell his country 12 Super-Tucano light-strike aircraft, potentially depleting Nigeria of $600 million it desperately needs for famine relief.

Moreover, just as those U.N. officials were pleading fruitlessly for increased humanitarian funding and an end to the fierce and complex set of conflicts in South Sudan and Yemen (so that they could facilitate the safe delivery of emergency food supplies to those countries), the Trump administration was announcing plans to reduce American contributions to the United Nations by 40%. It was also preparing to send additional weaponry to Saudi Arabia, the country most responsible for devastating air strikes on Yemen’s food and water infrastructure. This goes beyond indifference. This is complicity in mass extermination.

Like many people around the world, President Trump was horrified by images of young children suffocating from the nerve gas used by Syrian government forces in an April 4th raid on the rebel-held village of Khan Sheikhoun. “That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me — big impact,” he told reporters. “That was a horrible, horrible thing. And I’ve been watching it and seeing it, and it doesn’t get any worse than that.” In reaction to those images, he ordered a barrage of cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base the following day. But Trump does not seem to have seen — or has ignored — equally heart-rending images of young children dying from the spreading famines in Africa and Yemen. Those children evidently don’t merit White House sympathy.

Who knows why not just Donald Trump but the world is proving so indifferent to the famines of 2017? It could simply be donor fatigue or a media focused on the daily psychodrama that is now Washington, or growing fears about the unprecedented global refugee crisis and, of course, terrorism. It’s a question worth a piece in itself, but I want to explore another one entirely.

Here’s the question I think we all should be asking: Is this what a world battered by climate change will be like — one in which tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of people perish from disease, starvation, and heat prostration while the rest of us, living in less exposed areas, essentially do nothing to prevent their annihilation?

Famine, Drought, and Climate Change

First, though, let’s consider whether the famines of 2017 are even a valid indicator of what a climate-changed planet might look like. After all, severe famines accompanied by widespread starvation have occurred throughout human history. In addition, the brutal armed conflicts now underway in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen are at least in part responsible for the spreading famines. In all four countries, there are forces — Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabaab in Somalia, assorted militias and the government in South Sudan, and Saudi-backed forces in Yemen — interfering with the delivery of aid supplies. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that pervasive water scarcity and prolonged drought (expected consequences of global warming) are contributing significantly to the disastrous conditions in most of them. The likelihood that droughts this severe would be occurring simultaneously in the absence of climate change is vanishingly small.

In fact, scientists generally agree that global warming will ensure diminished rainfall and ever more frequent droughts over much of Africa and the Middle East. This, in turn, will heighten conflicts of every sort and endanger basic survival in a myriad of ways. In their most recent 2014 assessment of global trends, the scientists of the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that “agriculture in Africa will face significant challenges in adapting to climate changes projected to occur by mid-century, as negative effects of high temperatures become increasingly prominent.” Even in 2014, as that report suggested, climate change was already contributing to water scarcity and persistent drought conditions in large parts of Africa and the Middle East. Scientific studies had, for instance, revealed an “overall expansion of desert and contraction of vegetated areas” on that continent. With arable land in retreat and water supplies falling, crop yields were already in decline in many areas, while malnutrition rates were rising — precisely the conditions witnessed in more extreme forms in the famine-affected areas today.

It’s seldom possible to attribute any specific weather-induced event, including droughts or storms, to global warming with absolute certainty. Such things happen with or without climate change. Nonetheless, scientists are becoming even more confident that severe storms and droughts (especially when occurring in tandem or in several parts of the world at once) are best explained as climate-change related. If, for instance, a type of storm that might normally occur only once every hundred years occurs twice in one decade and four times in the next, you can be reasonably confident that you’re in a new climate era.

It will undoubtedly take more time for scientists to determine to what extent the current famines in Africa and Yemen are mainly climate-change-induced and to what extent they are the product of political and military mayhem and disarray. But doesn’t this already offer us a sense of just what kind of world we are now entering?

History and social science research indicate that, as environmental conditions deteriorate, people will naturally compete over access to vital materials and the opportunists in any society — warlords, militia leaders, demagogues, government officials, and the like — will exploit such clashes for their personal advantage. “The data suggests a definite link between food insecurity and conflict,” points out Ertharin Cousin, head of the U.N.’s World Food Program. “Climate is an added stress factor.” In this sense, the current famines in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen provide us with a perfect template for our future, one in which resource wars and climate mayhem team up as temperatures continue their steady rise.

The Selective Impact of Climate Change

In some popular accounts of the future depredations of climate change, there is a tendency to suggest that its effects will be felt more or less democratically around the globe — that we will all suffer to some degree, if not equally, from the bad things that happen as temperatures rise. And it’s certainly true that everyone on this planet will feel the effects of global warming in some fashion, but don’t for a second imagine that the harshest effects will be distributed anything but deeply inequitably. It won’t even be a complicated equation. As with so much else, those at the bottom rungs of society — the poor, the marginalized, and those in countries already at or near the edge — will suffer so much more (and so much earlier) than those at the top and in the most developed, wealthiest countries.

As a start, the geophysical dynamics of climate change dictate that, when it comes to soaring temperatures and reduced rainfall, the most severe effects are likely to be felt first and worst in the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Latin America — home to hundreds of millions of people who depend on rain-fed agriculture to sustain themselves and their families. Research conducted by scientists in New Zealand, Switzerland, and Great Britain found that the rise in the number of extremely hot days is already more intense in tropical latitudes and disproportionately affects poor farmers.

Living at subsistence levels, such farmers and their communities are especially vulnerable to drought and desertification. In a future in which climate-change disasters are commonplace, they will undoubtedly be forced to choose ever more frequently between the unpalatable alternatives of starvation or flight. In other words, if you thought the global refugee crisis was bad today, just wait a few decades.

Climate change is also intensifying the dangers faced by the poor and marginalized in another way. As interior croplands turn to dust, ever more farmers are migrating to cities, especially coastal ones. If you want a historical analogy, think of the great Dust Bowl migration of the “Okies” from the interior of the U.S. to the California coast in the 1930s. In today’s climate-change era, the only available housing such migrants are likely to find will be in vast and expanding shantytowns (or “informal settlements,” as they’re euphemistically called), often located in floodplains and low-lying coastal areas exposed to storm surges and sea-level rise. As global warming advances, the victims of water scarcity and desertification will be afflicted anew. Those storm surges will destroy the most exposed parts of the coastal mega-cities in which they will be clustered. In other words, for the uprooted and desperate, there will be no escaping climate change. As the latest IPCC report noted, “Poor people living in urban informal settlements, of which there are [already] about one billion worldwide, are particularly vulnerable to weather and climate effects.”

The scientific literature on climate change indicates that the lives of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed will be the first to be turned upside down by the effects of global warming. “The socially and economically disadvantaged and the marginalized are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change and extreme events,” the IPCC indicated in 2014. “Vulnerability is often high among indigenous peoples, women, children, the elderly, and disabled people who experience multiple deprivations that inhibit them from managing daily risks and shocks.” It should go without saying that these are also the people least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming in the first place (something no less true of the countries most of them live in).

Inaction Equals Annihilation

In this context, consider the moral consequences of inaction on climate change. Once it seemed that the process of global warming would occur slowly enough to allow societies to adapt to higher temperatures without excessive disruption, and that the entire human family would somehow make this transition more or less simultaneously. That now looks more and more like a fairy tale. Climate change is occurring far too swiftly for all human societies to adapt to it successfully. Only the richest are likely to succeed in even the most tenuous way. Unless colossal efforts are undertaken now to halt the emission of greenhouse gases, those living in less affluent societies can expect to suffer from extremes of flooding, drought, starvation, disease, and death in potentially staggering numbers.

And you don’t need a Ph.D. in climatology to arrive at this conclusion either. The overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists agree that any increase in average world temperatures that exceeds 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial era — some opt for a rise of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius — will alter the global climate system drastically. In such a situation, a number of societies will simply disintegrate in the fashion of South Sudan today, producing staggering chaos and misery. So far, the world has heated up by at least one of those two degrees, and unless we stop burning fossil fuels in quantity soon, the 1.5 degree level will probably be reached in the not-too-distant future.

Worse yet, on our present trajectory, it seems highly unlikely that the warming process will stop at 2 or even 3 degrees Celsius, meaning that later in this century many of the worst-case climate-change scenarios — the inundation of coastal cities, the desertification of vast interior regions, and the collapse of rain-fed agriculture in many areas — will become everyday reality.

In other words, think of the developments in those three African lands and Yemen as previews of what far larger parts of our world could look like in another quarter-century or so: a world in which hundreds of millions of people are at risk of annihilation from disease or starvation, or are on the march or at sea, crossing borders, heading for the shantytowns of major cities, looking for refugee camps or other places where survival appears even minimally possible. If the world’s response to the current famine catastrophe and the escalating fears of refugees in wealthy countries are any indication, people will die in vast numbers without hope of help.

In other words, failing to halt the advance of climate change — to the extent that halting it, at this point, remains within our power — means complicity with mass human annihilation. We know, or at this point should know, that such scenarios are already on the horizon. We still retain the power, if not to stop them, then to radically ameliorate what they will look like, so our failure to do all we can means that we become complicit in what — not to mince words — is clearly going to be a process of climate genocide. How can those of us in countries responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions escape such a verdict?

And if such a conclusion is indeed inescapable, then each of us must do whatever we can to reduce our individual, community, and institutional contributions to global warming. Even if we are already doing a lot — as many of us are — more is needed. Unfortunately, we Americans are living not only in a time of climate crisis, but in the era of President Trump, which means the federal government and its partners in the fossil fuel industry will be wielding their immense powers to obstruct all imaginable progress on limiting global warming. They will be the true perpetrators of climate genocide. As a result, the rest of us bear a moral responsibility not just to do what we can at the local level to slow the pace of climate change, but also to engage in political struggle to counteract or neutralize the acts of Trump and company. Only dramatic and concerted action on multiple fronts can prevent the human disasters now unfolding in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen from becoming the global norm.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @mklare1.

Risk of ‘catastrophic’ nuclear accident as world relations worsen, UN warns

In Environment, Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on April 21, 2017 at 9:31 pm

By Will Worley, Independent. April 21,  2017

There will be “catastrophic” consequences when “luck runs out” on nuclear deterrence, the United Nations (UN) has warned in a major report which highlights the massive risk of an accidental or deliberate use of the world’s most deadly weapons.

The “poor relations” between nuclear powers has contributed to an atmosphere that “lends itself to the onset of crisis,” said the report by the UN Institute for Disarmament Research.

The rise in cyber warfare and hacking has left the technical vulnerabilities of nuclear weapons systems exposed to risk from states and terrorist groups, it added.

“Nuclear deterrence works—up until the time it will prove not to work,” it said. “The risk is inherent and, when luck runs out, the results will be catastrophic.
“The more arms produced, particularly in countries with unstable societies, the more potential exists for terrorist acquisition and use of nuclear weapons.”

It comes as Donald Trump of the US and Vladmir Putin of Russia have both indicated support for expanding their country’s nuclear weapon arsenals.

Deterrence is at the “greatest risk of breaking down” in North Korea and between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir, it said .
North Korea has continued with its nuclear weapons development programme, despite heavy sanctions being imposed against it by various countries and international bodies.

While the secretive Communist state has conducted several tests with nuclear bombs, in order to launch a nuclear attack on its neighbours, it needs to be able to make a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on to a missile.

There is no consensus on exactly where North Korea is in terms of miniaturising a nuclear device so that it can be delivered via a missile.

President Trump has said he will “deal with” the country and has not ruled out military action against it.

The report also cited a string of recent attacks and threats between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Pakistan raised the stakes in January, when it fired its first submarine-launched nuclear capable cruise missile.

In addition, the report expressed concern over tensions between the West and Russia, which have grown since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. President Putin has maintained Russia would use nuclear weapons if it felt sufficiently threatened.
Denuclearisation would require “visionary leadership”, the report said, but added this was “sadly rare” as many powerful states “increasingly turn inward”.

It added that new technology and spending on nuclear weapons had “enhanced” the risk of a detonation. However, it acknowledged the secrecy surrounding the programmes made it difficult to accurately assess their true scope.

Increased reliance technology has also introduced new problems, the report said. In the past, accidental nuclear detonations have been averted by a human decision. Replacing military officers with computers could therefore rule out a potential safety check on the weapons, and open the possibility of hacking a nuclear weapon.

The report also referenced the January 2017 decision of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science to move the publication’s Doomsday Clock two and a half minutes to midnight over nuclear fears – the most risky it had been since 1953.

The UN maintained risk was inherent to nuclear weapons and the only way to truly eliminate it was to get rid of the bombs.

Nuclear war has become thinkable again – we need a reminder of what it means

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on April 18, 2017 at 11:09 pm

By Paul Mason, The Guardian, April 18, 2017

Last week, Donald Trump deployed his superweapon Moab, the “mother of all bombs” – 10 tonnes of high explosive detonated in mid-air in such a way as to kill, it is claimed, 94 Isis militants. The Russian media immediately reminded us that their own thermobaric bomb – the “father of all bombs” – was four times as powerful: “Kids, meet Daddy,” was how the Kremlin mouthpiece Russia Today put it. But these are child’s play compared with nuclear weapons. The generation waking up to today’s Daily Mail strapline – “World holds its breath” – may need reminding what a nuclear weapon does.

The one dropped on Hiroshima measured 15 kilotons; it destroyed everything within 200 yards and burned everybody within 2km. The warhead carried by a Trident missile delivers a reported 455 kilotons of explosive power. Drop one on Bristol and the fireball is 1km wide; third-degree burns affect everybody from Portishead to Keynsham, and everything in a line from the Bristol Channel to the Wash is contaminated with radiation. In this scenario, 169,000 people die immediately and 180,000 need emergency treatment. Given that there are only 101,000 beds in the entire English NHS, you can begin to imagine the apocalyptic scenes for those who survive. (You can model your own scenario here.)

But a Trident missile carries up to eight of these warheads, and military planners might drop them in a pattern around one target, creating a firestorm along the lines that conventional Allied bombing created in Hamburg and Tokyo during the second world war.

I don’t wish to alarm you, but right now the majority of the world’s nuclear warheads are in the hands of men for whom the idea of using them is becoming thinkable.

For Kim Jong-un, it’s thinkable; for Vladimir Putin, it’s so thinkable that every major Russian wargame ends with a “nuclear de-escalation” phase: that is, drop one and offer peace. On 22 December last year, Trump and Putin announced, almost simultaneously, that they were going to expand their nuclear arsenals and update the technology.

Right now, a US aircraft carrier strike force is steaming towards North Korea (the DPRK) to menace Kim’s rogue regime. We don’t know what secret diplomacy went on between Xi Jinping and Trump at Mar-a-Lago, but the US is sounding confident that China will rein the North Koreans in.

What we do know is that Trump has been obsessed since the 80s with nuclear weapons, that he refuses to take advice from military professionals and that he seems not to understand the core Nato concept of nukes as a political deterrent, as opposed to a military superweapon.

This sudden mania for speaking of nuclear warfare, among men with untrammeled power, should be the No 1 item on the news, and the No 1 concern of democratic and peace-loving politicians.

The video fireworks on US cable news channels have progressed in the space of 10 days from cruise missile launches to bunker-busting airburst porn. One US news host referred to the former as “beautiful”.

I will always remember the Botoxed faces of the US news anchors when they arrived in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It was as if they had been woken up from a dream, and the best of them realised how they had been sleepwalking towards the disaster.

Katrina shows what happens when a disaster hits a fragile, poverty-stricken and socially fragmented city. In New Orleans, for a few days, civilisation fell apart. Policemen, suddenly called on to haul their overweight frames into self-sacrificing and arduous work, quit on the spot. The modern equivalent of lynchings happened. Central government and unified military command of the situation broke down. My experience there convinced me that, in the event of mass fatalities being inflicted on a developed world city, the real problem would be social chaos, not mass radiation sickness.

Trump is ramping up the military rhetoric for a horribly simple reason: two weeks ago, the isolationist wing of his team got outflanked by generals; they tried some war to see how it went down and it went down well.

We may get lucky. It may be that the Chinese leadership is prepared to put serious pressure on North Korea to prevent Kim’s regime staging some kind of provocation against the US navy. Or we may get unlucky: the DPRK has a nuclear weapon, even if the missiles needed to deliver it are unstable.
It has been human nature, given the scale of devastation a nuclear war would bring, to blank the possibility from our minds, to worry about small risks because the big one is incalculable. But from the 50s to the 00s, we had – in all nuclear powers – military/industrial complex politicians who understood the value of multilateralism. All around us high politics is becoming emotion driven, unilateral, crowd-pleasing and falling under the control of erratic family groups and mafias, rather than technocrats representing ruling elites.

For the warmongers, true multilateralism is a serious annoyance; that’s why so many of the world’s autocrats are busy forcing NGOs to register, cutting off foreign funds to them and decrying the presence of international observers or sabotaging their work.

If Theresa May wanted to send a useful message at Easter it could have been: in compliance with the non-proliferation treaties, we will never use our nuclear weapons first; we will stick to diplomatic and economic pressure to get the DPRK to comply; and we will use our own, independent diplomatic clout to strengthen disarmament and non-proliferation.

That is what a responsible nuclear-armed power would do. The UK’s silence as Trump toys with military escalation and nuclear rearmament is criminal.

Climate Catastrophe Will Hit Tropics Around 2020, Rest Of World Around 2047, Study Says

In Climate change, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Peace, Politics, Public Health, War on April 6, 2017 at 9:57 pm

By Eric Zuesse, Huffington Post

The first study to integrate all prior scientific research in order to project approximately when climate change will produce permanent catastrophic consequences has been accepted and will soon be published in the scientific journal Nature, and it finds that things will start going haywire in the tropics at around the year 2020, and in our part of the world at around 2047.

Nature shares with Science and PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) the distinction of being tied as the world’s three most prestigious scientific journals, and an article is not published in these journals unless it has undergone extremely rigorous scientific peer-revue; so, climate-change deniers will have no professional credibility in attacking this study, as the Koch brothers and their friends can reasonably be expected to do, since they profit so much from what causes global warming – the burning of carbon-based fuels.

According to this study, the tropics, which are the near-equatorial region of this planet that’s almost 100% impoverished, and that has thus contributed virtually nothing to global warming, will begin the period of permanent catastrophe starting in approximately 2020; but the (cooler) moderate-latitude countries, such as in North America and Europe, will begin this catastrophic period in or around 2047.

This isn’t to say that things won’t continue to get worse after then; it’s only to say that this is, as the article will be titled, “The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability.”

This landmark article was co-authored by a team of 14 climate-scientists. It says: “Unprecedented climates will occur earliest in the tropics and among low-income countries.” It explains that the reason for this is that the countries near the equator have far less variability in their weather than do the moderate-climate countries, and so the species that constitute the ecosystems there cannot tolerate temperatures outside their narrow range, which has existed within that narrow range for thousands of years. Consequently, species-extinctions will soar there much faster and earlier than here. The existing impoverished economies, within around 2,500 miles of the equator (where average per-capita incomes are less than 10% of the average in the moderate-latitude countries such as ours), will become unlivable.

This study notes the “obvious disparity between those who benefit from the process leading to climate change and those who will have to pay for most of the environmental and social costs.” Of course, “those who benefit from the process leading to climate change” are the oil companies, and the coal companies, and the natural gas companies, and the pipeline and service companies, and ultimately their owners: especially the aristocratic families who control them. It would be false to assume that any poor people, even in countries such as the United States, will benefit from continuation of “the process leading to climate change.” However, some of the chief financial backers of the Republican Party and of other conservative political parties in the moderate-latitude countries benefit enormously from that “process.” Thus, many people who will not benefit from climate change end up voting for climate change; and, of course, their children and subsequent descendants will suffer greatly from their votes.

A previous article I wrote reports further on this problem of greater danger for the equatorial countries. Another reports on a study in Science showing that there is already too much carbon in the atmosphere for life as we have known it to be able to continue on much longer, and that, consequently, there will be sharp increases in human conflict (crimes, wars, etc.) resulting from this carbon build-up in the atmosphere. Another reports on a study in PNAS explaining that though the near-term predictions about the effects of this atmospheric carbon build-up contain far less certainty than do the long-term predictions, there is essentially no question that two thousand years from now, life on this planet will be hellish for everyone, even if the near-term consequences of the atmosphere’s existing carbon overload are far less certain. None of this is science fiction; all of it is science fact, though the Koch brothers and their friends do everything they possibly can to deceive the masses that it’s not true and that the conspiracy to deceive the public is to be found amongst the 97+% of climate scientists who say that global warming is happening and that its chief cause is human atmospheric carbon emissions. Though the numbers of the Kochs suckers might be declining, it’s already too late; the Kochs were successful for far too long to avert disaster now. From now on, efforts to reduce climate-change will be efforts to reduce the extent of the catastrophe, not to prevent the catastrophe.

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.