Category Archives: Corpocracy

Climate change: Penalizing those least responsible


While it’s the industrialized nations hat produce the most emissions of greenhouse gases, it’s the poorer nations and other low-emissions countries that will bear the biggest cost as climate change accelerates, according to a new scientific study, as exemplified in these maps:

(a) Climate change equity for 2010. (b) Climate change equity for 2030. Countries with emissions in the highest quintile and vulnerability in the lowest quintile are shown in dark red (the climate free riders), and those countries with emissions in the lowest quintile and vulnerability in the highest quintile are shown in dark green (the climate forced riders). Intermediate levels of equity are shown in graduating colours, with countries in yellow producing GHG emissions concomitant with their vulnerability to the resulting climate change. Data deficient countries are shown as grey. Maps generated using ESRI ArcGIS.

(a) Climate change equity for 2010. (b) Climate change equity for 2030. Countries with emissions in the highest quintile and vulnerability in the lowest quintile are shown in dark red (the climate free riders), and those countries with emissions in the lowest quintile and vulnerability in the highest quintile are shown in dark green (the climate forced riders). Intermediate levels of equity are shown in graduating colours, with countries in yellow producing GHG emissions concomitant with their vulnerability to the resulting climate change. Data deficient countries are shown as grey. Maps generated using ESRI ArcGIS.

Details from the Wildlife Conservation Society:

SECOND HAND SMOKE: Nations That Produce Fewer Greenhouse Gases Most Vulnerable to Climate Change, Study Says

  • Conversely, nations that produce most greenhouse gases less vulnerable
  • Study shows “enormous global inequality” between emitters versus impacted nations
  • Countries like U.S., Canada, Russia, and China are climate “free riders,” which dis-incentivizes mitigating their emissions
  • Problem will worsen in coming decades

A new study by University of Queensland and WCS shows a dramatic global mismatch between nations producing the most greenhouse gases and the ones most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The study shows that the highest emitting countries are ironically the least vulnerable to climate change effects such as increased frequency of natural disasters, changing habitats, human health impacts, and industry stress.

Those countries emitting the least amount of greenhouse gases are most vulnerable.

The majority of the most vulnerable countries are African and Small Island States. These countries are exposed to serious environmental change such as oceanic inundation or desertification. They are also generally the least developed nations, having few resources available to cope with these issues.

“There is an enormous global inequality in which those countries most responsible for causing climate change are the least vulnerable to its effects,” said lead author Glenn Althor of University of Queensland.  “It is time that this persistent and worsening climate inequity is resolved, and for the largest emitting countries to act.”

“This is like a non-smoker getting cancer from second-hand smoke, while the heavy smokers continue to puff away. Essentially we are calling for the smokers to pay for the health care of the non-smokers they are directly harming,” said co-author James Watson of University of Queensland and WCS.

The study found that 20 of the 36 highest emitting countries – including the U.S. Canada, Australia, China, and much of Western Europe – were least vulnerable.  Eleven of the 17 countries with low to moderate emissions were most vulnerable to climate change. Most were found in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.  The authors say the finding acts as a disincentive for high-emitting “free-rider” countries to mitigate their emissions.

The number of acutely vulnerable countries will worsen by 2030 say the authors as climate change related pressures such as droughts, floods, biodiversity loss and disease mount.

“The recent Paris agreement was a significant step forward in global climate negotiations” said study co-author Richard Fuller.  “There now needs to be meaningful mobilization of these policies, to achieve national emissions reductions while helping the most vulnerable countries adapt to climate change”.

The study appears today in the journal Scientific Reports [and though it’s from Nature, there’s no paywallesnl].

New study: Organic ag better for feeding the world


Here at esnl, we’ve long believed that agroecology, the science of working with rather than against the natural environment, is the best solution for feeding us big-brained bipeds.

While modern industrial agriculture treats the environment as an externality, something of no value in itself other than as a source of profit, agroecology looks at raising living things for our own consumption as an integral process, in which the environment is to be embraced.

Think of the difference between the two system as similar to the difference between war and peace. In one, nature is seen as something to be conquered; in the other, the natural environment is embraced in a relationship of mutuality.

One way to perceive the relationship is embodied in this chart, from a groundbreaking the study from Washington State University, published in Nature Plants, sadly hidden behind a $35 paywall [and click on the image to enlarge]:

An assessment of organic farming relative to conventional farming illustrates that organic systems better balance the four areas of sustainability.

An assessment of organic farming relative to conventional farming illustrates that organic systems better balance the four areas of sustainability.

The lead author learned agroecology at two University of California campuses, Berkeley and Davis, back when Berkeley had a thriving agroecology program. Sadly, Berkeley has radically downsized agroecology while major corporate grants have transformed the curriculum to one which places heavy emphases on creating GMO crops.

And now for details on the new study, via the Washington State University newsroom:

40 years of science: Organic ag key to feeding the world

Washington State University researchers have concluded that feeding a growing global population with sustainability goals in mind is possible. Their review of hundreds of published studies provides evidence that organic farming can produce sufficient yields, be profitable for farmers, protect and improve the environment and be safer for farm workers.

The review study, “Organic Agriculture in the 21st Century,” is featured as the cover story for the February issue of the journal Nature Plants and was authored by John Reganold, WSU regents professor of soil science and agroecology, and doctoral candidate Jonathan Wachter.

It is the first study to analyze 40 years of science comparing organic and conventional agriculture across the four goals of sustainability identified by the National Academy of Sciences: productivity, economics, environment and community well being.

“Hundreds of scientific studies now show that organic ag should play a role in feeding the world” said lead author Reganold. “Thirty years ago, there were just a couple handfuls of studies comparing organic agriculture with conventional. In the last 15 years, these kinds of studies have skyrocketed.”

Organic production accounts for one percent of global agricultural land, despite rapid growth in the last two decades.

Critics have long argued that organic agriculture is inefficient, requiring more land to yield the same amount of food. The review paper describes cases where organic yields can be higher than conventional farming methods.

“In severe drought conditions, which are expected to increase with climate change, organic farms have the potential to produce high yields because of the higher water-holding capacity of organically farmed soils,” Reganold said.

However, even when yields may be lower, organic agriculture is more profitable for farmers because consumers are willing to pay more. Higher prices can be justified as a way to compensate farmers for providing ecosystem services and avoiding environmental damage or external costs.

Numerous studies in the review also prove the environmental benefits of organic production. Overall, organic farms tend to store more soil carbon, have better soil quality and reduce soil erosion. Organic agriculture creates less soil and water pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s more energy efficient because it doesn’t rely on synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.

It is also associated with greater biodiversity of plants, animals, insects and microbes as well as genetic diversity. Biodiversity increases the services that nature provides, like pollination, and improves the ability of farming systems to adapt to changing conditions.

Reganold said that feeding the world is not only a matter of yield but also requires examining food waste and the distribution of food.

“If you look at calorie production per capita we’re producing more than enough food for 7 billion people now, but we waste 30 to 40 percent of it,” he said. “It’s not just a matter of producing enough, but making agriculture environmentally friendly and making sure that food gets to those who need it.”

Reganold and Wachter suggest that no single type of farming can feed the world. Rather, what’s needed is a balance of systems, “a blend of organic and other innovative farming systems, including agroforestry, integrated farming, conservation agriculture, mixed crop/livestock and still undiscovered systems.”

Reganold and Wachter recommend policy changes to address the barriers that hinder the expansion of organic agriculture. Such hurdles include the costs of transitioning to organic certification, lack of access to labor and markets and lack of appropriate infrastructure for storing and transporting food. Legal and financial tools are necessary to encourage the adoption of innovative, sustainable farming practices.

Quote of the day: Parsing an existential threat


From Naomi Klein in an interview on the deep implications of climate change by Michael Winship for BillMoyers.com [emphasis added]:

We have to change the kind of free trade deals we sign. We would have to change the absolutely central role of frenetic consumption in our culture. We would have to change the role of money in politics and our political system. We would have to change our attitude towards regulating corporations. We would have to change our guiding ideology.

You know, since the 1980s we’ve been living in this era, really, of corporate rule, based on this idea that the role of government is to liberate the power of capital so that they can have as much economic growth as quickly as possible and then all good things will flow from that. And that is what justifies privatization, deregulation, cuts to corporate taxes offset by cuts to public services — all of this is incompatible with what we need to do in the face of the climate crisis. We need to invest massively in the public sphere to have a renewable energy system, to have good public transit and rail. That money needs to come from somewhere, so it’s going to have to come from the people who have the money.

And I actually believe it’s deeper than that, that it’s about changing the paradigm of a culture that is based on separateness from nature, that is based on the idea that we can dominate nature, that we are the boss, that we are in charge. Climate change challenges all of that. It says, you know, all this time that you’ve been living in this bubble apart from nature, that has been fueled by a substance that all the while has been accumulating in the atmosphere, and you told yourself you were the boss, you told yourself you could have a one-way relationship with the natural world, but now comes the response: “You thought you were in charge? Think again.” And we can either mourn our status as boss of the world and see it as some cosmic demotion — which is why I think the extreme right is so freaked out by climate change that they have to deny it. It isn’t just that it is a threat to their profits. It’s a threat to a whole worldview that says you have dominion over all things, and that’s extremely threatening.

Cancer: Another reason to loathe the TPP


The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multinational Pacific Rim trading pact, negotiated in secret under the sway of corporate lobbyists and signed today in New Zealand, must be approved by Congress in order to take effect.

Hillary Clinton loves it, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren  don’t.

There are many reasons to loathe the TPP, including its secret tribunal capable of fining nations huge sums for enacting environmental, public health, and other barriers to protect citizens from unalloyed corporate rapacity.

Now comes another good reason, cancer.

From RT’s The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann:

What Today’s TPP Signing Means

Program notes:

Melinda St. Louis, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch & Zahara Heckscher, Writer/Educator/Social Justice Advocate join Thom. Representatives from 12 countries are gathering in the world’s most remote capital to finally sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership. What effect will this have on the effort to block the deal here in the US?

Atlas Shrugged, the Peewee Vermin edition


From Reuters:

Shkreli laughs off questions from lawmakers, calls them ‘imbeciles’

Former drug executive Martin Shkreli laughed off questions about drug prices and tweeted that lawmakers were imbeciles on Thursday, when he appeared at a U.S. congressional hearing against his will.

And from the Guardian:

Drug company boss Martin Shkreli refuses to testify to Congress

  • Shkreli invokes fifth amendment right not to answer questions about HIV drug
  • So-called ‘most hated man in America’ hiked price of Daraprim 5,000%

And the Washington Post:

‘Pharma bro’ Shkreli stays silent before Congress, calls lawmakers ‘imbeciles’ in tweet

Shkreli, the former chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, who gained notoriety for jacking up a little-known drug’s price, was excused from a House hearing on drug prices after he refused to answer any questions — other than how to pronounce his name correctly, or to confirm that, yes, he was listening.

And a screencap of the London Daily Mail homepage teaser for this story:

BLOG Shrek

And the Los Angeles Times:

Smirking pharma CEO Martin Shkreli leaves lawmakers infuriated after hourlong showing

Shkreli appeared to smirk throughout his hourlong appearance, and moments after it ended, insulting tweets began to appear under his official Twitter account calling the lawmakers “imbeciles.”

“Appeared to smirk”?

We’ll let you, dear reader, be the judge. For your assistance, via vlogger TacoBurritoLegend:

Martin Shkreli Pharma Bro Smirking Compilation

Program note:

Martin Shkreli smirked this much during his 10 minute hearing with Congress. Will he be held in contempt?

Headlines of the day III: Trade deals, up, down


Two headlines from teleSUR, first dealing with the first of the two major trade deals now being promulgated:

Controversial TPP Deal Signed Amid Protests

The signing of the controversial trade deal took place in New Zealand as thousands of people protested against the deal

And the second, reporting a setback for the star chamber at the heart of all new neoliberal trade pacts:

German Judges Issue Landmark Opposition to TTIP Corporate Court

Germany’s largest association of judges warned Wednesday the sovereignty of European Union countries could be undermined by a proposed corporate court linked to the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Quote of the day: A California faux progressive


From Ralph Nader, writing at his blog:

Minority House Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi has unleashed her supine followers to start wounding and depreciating Sanders. Pelosi acolyte Adam Schiff (D. California) tells the media he doubts Sanders’s electability and he could have “very significant downstream consequences in House and Senate races.”

Mr. Schiff somehow ignores that the House and Senate Democratic leadership repeatedly could not defend the country from the worst Republican Party in history, whose dozens of anti-human, pro-big business votes should have toppled many GOP candidates. Instead, Nancy Pelosi has led the House Democrats to three straight calamitous losses (2010, 2012, 2014) to the Republicans, for whom public cruelties toward the powerless is a matter of principle.

Pelosi threw her own poisoned darts at Sanders, debunking his far more life-saving, efficient, and comprehensive, full Medicare-for-all plan with free choice of doctor and hospital with the knowingly misleading comment “We’re not running on any platform of raising taxes.” Presumably that includes continuing the Democratic Party’s practice of letting Wall Street, the global companies and the super-wealthy continue to get away with their profitable tax escapes.