Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

Monday, 5 December 2016

Standing Rock: US Army refuses N Dakota pipeline access

From the BBC:

"The US Army has decided not to allow an oil pipeline to cross under a reservoir on land it controls in North Dakota in a move praised by protesters.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe hailed an "historic decision" and said it was "forever grateful" to President Obama.

Instead, the US Army Corps of Engineers will look at alternative routes, a statement by the campaigners said.

The Sioux have been protesting since April against the pipeline which is near a reservation.

"Today, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline," the tribe's statement read.

"Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes."

The multi-billion dollar pipeline, which runs close to the Standing Rock Sioux Native American Indian reservation, is nearly 1,200 miles (1,900km) long.

It is nearly complete except for the lake section.

The Dakota Pipeline stand-off explained

The Sioux, along with other Native Americans, oppose the pipeline because they fear it will contaminate drinking water and run over sacred burial sites.

Hundreds of US military veterans joined the activists last week. The campaigners, who have numbered thousands, have endured bitter temperatures and had been ordered to leave the area by Monday."

Britain's coastal towns and nuclear power stations are at serious risk from TSUNAMIS caused by undersea landslides, scientists warn

From the Mail:

"Scientists have warned that Britain's coastal areas and infrastructure are under threat from tsunamis.

New research has revealed how the British Isles have been hit by giant waves at a much higher and intense frequency that previously believed.

One tsunami reached more than 60ft in height, with warnings that the waves could devastate coastal installations such as power stations and shipping ports.

The natural phenomenon is typically caused by earthquakes and they therefore never been thought of as a serious threat to Britain.

However new evidence has shown that underwater landslides are causing billions of tons of mud to shift from the sea bed - creating giant waves below the surface, the Sunday Times reported.

Researchers are now suggesting that response plans should be created in Britain for tsunamis in the same way they are for other disasters such as floods.

The Landslide-Tsunami Consortium spent weeks on a research vessel surveying and sampling the sea bed from Scotland to the Norwegian islands of Svalbard.

Professor Peter Talling, a Durham University marine geologist who led the £2.3m study in Southampton, said: ‘We believe the government should consider adding tsunamis to the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies.’

The evidence showed that a massive tsunami smashed into Britain's northern coast and the Shetland Islands about 8,200 years ago.

A piece of sea bed bigger than Scotland detached near Norway, resulting in a 65ft wave that made its way south-west.

In 1580 a tsunami sank several ships in Dover after an earthquake created a landslide in the English Channel, with a 10ft tsunami hit Cornwall in 1755."

The full article can be read here.

Last winter's flooding 'most extreme on record' in UK

From the BBC:

"Flooding across parts of the UK last winter was the most extreme on record, experts have said.

Gales and heavy rain swept across large parts of the UK, causing devastating flooding in Cumbria and Lancashire, as well as parts of southern Scotland.

On the first anniversary of Storm Desmond, experts say November to January were the wettest three months since UK records began in 1910.

Review author Terry Marsh said flooding was "extensive and repetitive".

Storm Desmond began battering parts of the UK on 5 December, depositing a record month's worth of rain on Cumbria in just one day.

More than 700 families in Cumbria have still not been able to return to their homes.
One year on from Storm Desmond
What was Storm Desmond?
Stories from the devastation in Cumbria

About 5,200 homes were flooded in Cumbria and Lancashire, while tens of thousands more lost power after an electricity sub-station in Lancaster was flooded.

The storm caused an estimated insurance bill of more than £1.3bn.

The appraisal of the winter floods of 2015-2016 reveals they rank alongside the devastating flooding of March 1947 as the largest event of the past century.

As well as Desmond, major storms Abigail, Frank and Gertrude also hit the UK last winter."

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Standing Rock: authorities will retreat from bridge if protesters agree to terms

From The Guardian - officials say they will move from north of Backwater Bridge if Dakota Access pipeline protesters stay south and go there only if meeting is planned

"North Dakota authorities have said they will move away from a key bridge near the main Dakota Access pipeline protest camp by Sunday afternoon if demonstrators agree to certain conditions.

A Morton County sheriff’s office news release detailed the conditions as outlined on Saturday by the Cass County sheriff, Paul Laney.

“The question was asked if we would consider pulling back from the Backwater Bridge,” Laney said of a conversation between law enforcement and the organizers of Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, a group that will arrive on the reservation Sunday.

“And the answer is yes! We want this to de-escalate.”

Authorities will move from the north end of the Backwater Bridge by 4pm on Sunday, they said, if protesters stay south of the bridge in the Oceti Sakowin camp, where thousands are camped out in protest against the four-state, $3.8bn pipeline, and come to the bridge only if there is a prearranged meeting with law enforcement."

The full article can be found here.

Kinder Morgan pipeline: Canadians intensify huge opposition to expansion

From the Guardian - Trudeau’s approval of project some find analogous to Standing Rock incited thousands of activists, politicians and First Nations members to increase action

"Opponents of a contentious Canadian pipeline project are preparing for a lengthy, multifaceted battle that will see thousands take to the country’s streets, courts and legislatures to contest the government’s recent approval of the project.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday that the Liberal government had cleared the way for Kinder Morgan’s C$6.8bn Trans Mountain Expansion project. Designed to transport Alberta’s landlocked bitumen to international markets via Vancouver’s harbour, the project will expand an existing pipeline to nearly triple capacity on the artery to 890,000 barrels a day.

But the decision will run into a roar of opposition, said grand chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs. “The marches and rallies will intensify. It will become more litigious, it will become more political and the battle will continue.”

The full article can be read here.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Climate scientists condemn article claiming global temperatures are falling

From the Guardian - a Republican-led panel promoted a misleading tabloid story alleging earth may not be warming, relying on data that leaves out important points of context

"Climate scientists have denounced the House committee on science, space and technology after the Republican-held panel promoted a misleading story expressing skepticism that the earth is dangerously warming.

On Thursday afternoon, the committee tweeted a Breitbart article alleging: “Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence from Climate Alarmists”. The story linked to a British tabloid, the Daily Mail, which claimed that global land temperatures were plummeting, and that humans were not responsible for years of steadily increasing heat.

The Daily Mail story cited “Nasa satellite measurements of the lower atmosphere” without specifics, exaggerated the degree of the fall and left out three important points of context: how El Niño systems affect oceans and atmosphere, how ocean temperatures are rising, and the clear upward pattern of year-on-year changes.

“They’re not serious articles,” said Adam Sobel, a Columbia University climate scientist. “They paint it as though it’s an argument between Breitbart and Buzzfeed when it’s an argument between a snarky Breitbart blogger and the entire world’s scientific community, and the overwhelming body of scientific evidence.”

The full article can be read here.

The $40m 'magic pipe': Princess Cruises given record fine for dumping oil at sea

From the Guardian - Caribbean Princess discharged thousands of gallons of polluted bilge waste along British coast, while other ships used rigged sensors to hide contamination

"Princess Cruise Lines will pay a US$40m penalty after pleading guilty to seven federal charges in an illegal ocean pollution case that involved one ship’s use of a so-called magic pipe to divert oily waste into the waters.

Miami US attorney Wifredo Ferrer told a news conference the penalty was the largest ever of its kind. A plea agreement filed in federal court also requires Carnival, the UK and US-listed parent company of the Princess line, to submit 78 cruise ships across its eight brands to a five-year environmental compliance programme overseen by a judge.

Ferrer said the illegal practices came to light when an engineer aboard the Caribbean Princess discovered the “magic pipe” in 2013 off the coast of Britain and told investigators about it.

Authorities later learned the 952ft ship had been illegally discharging oily water into the ocean since 2005.

“Our open seas are not dumping grounds for waste,” Ferrer said. “One thing we must never do is take our clear blue oceans for granted.”

A single illegal discharge dumped 4,227 gallons of oil-contaminated waste about 20 miles off the coast of England on 26 August 2013, according to court documents.

The documents also show illegal practices were found on four other Princess ships, including use of clean ocean water to fool onboard sensors that would otherwise detect dumping of improperly contaminated bilge water. Authorities say cost savings was the motive and that the ship’s officers and crew conspired to cover up what was going on."

The full article can be read here.

Friday, 2 December 2016

This is the most dangerous time for our planet - Stephen Hawking

From the Guardian - we can’t go on ignoring inequality, because we have the means to destroy our world but not to escape it

"As a theoretical physicist based in Cambridge, I have lived my life in an extraordinarily privileged bubble. Cambridge is an unusual town, centred around one of the world’s great universities. Within that town, the scientific community that I became part of in my 20s is even more rarefied.

And within that scientific community, the small group of international theoretical physicists with whom I have spent my working life might sometimes be tempted to regard themselves as the pinnacle. In addition to this, with the celebrity that has come with my books, and the isolation imposed by my illness, I feel as though my ivory tower is getting taller.

So the recent apparent rejection of the elites in both America and Britain is surely aimed at me, as much as anyone. Whatever we might think about the decision by the British electorate to reject membership of the European Union and by the American public to embrace Donald Trump as their next president, there is no doubt in the minds of commentators that this was a cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders.

It was, everyone seems to agree, the moment when the forgotten spoke, finding their voices to reject the advice and guidance of experts and the elite everywhere.

I am no exception to this rule. I warned before the Brexit vote that it would damage scientific research in Britain, that a vote to leave would be a step backward, and the electorate – or at least a sufficiently significant proportion of it – took no more notice of me than any of the other political leaders, trade unionists, artists, scientists, businessmen and celebrities who all gave the same unheeded advice to the rest of the country.

What matters now, far more than the choices made by these two electorates, is how the elites react. Should we, in turn, reject these votes as outpourings of crude populism that fail to take account of the facts, and attempt to circumvent or circumscribe the choices that they represent? I would argue that this would be a terrible mistake."

Four of world's biggest cities to ban diesel cars from their centres

From the Guardian - Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City will ban the most polluting cars and vans by 2025 to tackle air pollution

"Four of the world’s biggest cities are to ban diesel vehicles from their centres within the next decade, as a means of tackling air pollution, with campaigners urging other city leaders to follow suit.

The mayors of Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City announced plans on Friday to take diesel cars and vans off their roads by 2025.

Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, led the initiative at the C40 conference of mayors on climate change, taking place in Mexico this week. She said: “Mayors have already stood up to say that climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face. Today, we also stand up to say we no longer tolerate air pollution and the health problems and deaths it causes, particularly for our most vulnerable citizens.”

“Soot from diesel vehicles is among the big contributors to ill health and global warming,” added Helena Molin Valdés, head of the United Nations’ climate and clean air coalition, noting that more than nine out of 10 people around the globe live where air pollution exceeds World Health Organisation safety limits.

Miguel Ángel Mancera, mayor of Mexico City, said increasing investments in public transport would also help clean the city’s air, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Giorgos Kaminis, mayor of Athens, said his goal was to remove all cars from the city centre. The city authorities will also work with national governments and manufacturers, and promote electric vehicles and cleaner transport.

Recent research has uncovered the scale of the problem, with 3 million premature deaths a year attributed to dirty air, as well as millions of other illnesses, particularly in children.

Green campaigners welcomed the announcement, saying it showed that it was possible to clean up big cities."

The full article can be read here.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Climate change escalating so fast it is 'beyond point of no return'

From the Independent - new study rewrites two decades of research and author says we are 'beyond point of no return'

"Global warming is beyond the “point of no return”, according to the lead scientist behind a ground-breaking climate change study.

The full impact of climate change has been underestimated because scientists haven't taken into account a major source of carbon in the environment.

Dr Thomas Crowther’s report has concluded that carbon emitted from soil was speeding up global warming.

The findings, which say temperatures will increase by 1C by 2050, are already being adopted by the United Nations.

Dr Crowther, speaking to The Independent, branded Donald Trump’s sceptical stance on climate change as “catastrophic for humanity”.

“It’s fair to say we have passed the point of no return on global warming and we can’t reverse the effects, but certainly we can dampen them,” said the biodiversity expert.

“Climate change may be considerably more rapid than we thought it was.”

The report, by an exhaustive list of researchers and published in the Nature journal, assembled data from 49 field experiments over the last 20 years in North America, Europe and Asia.

It found that the majority of the Earth’s terrestrial store of carbon was in soil, and that as the atmosphere warms up, increasing amounts are emitted in what is a vicious cycle of “positive feedbacks”.

The study found that 55bn tonnes in carbon, not previously accounted for by scientists, will be emitted into the atmosphere by 2050.

“As the climate warms, those organisms become more active and the more active they become, the more the soil respires – exactly the same as human beings," said Dr Crowther, who headed up the study at Yale Climate & Energy Institute, but is now a Marie Curiefellow at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.

“Our study shows that this major feedback has already certainly started, and it will have a significant impact on the climate in the coming decades. This information will be critical as we strive to understand how the climate is going to change in the future. And it will also be critical if we are to generate meaningful strategies to fight against it.”

Dr Crowther, a 30-year-old Cardiff University Phd graduate originally from North Wales, predicts climate change will lead to widespread migrations and antagonism among communities.

The full article can be read here.