Monthly Archives: June 2013

Statement on Uttarakhand Catastrophe by India Climate Justice.

The following is a statement from India Climate Justice

We cannot ignore the climate crisis anymore!

25 June 2013

The India Climate Justice collective notes with deep anguish the devastating loss of life, livelihoods, and homes in Uttarakhand and beyond. The death toll is likely in the thousands, way beyond current official figures. We extend our deep condolences to the families and friends of those killed, and our support to those still fighting for survival, and to local populations whose livelihoods will take years to rebuild.

This tragedy was triggered by extreme unseasonal rains in North India, 2-3 weeks in advance of what is normal for this region. The Director of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Dehradun, said that 340 mm fell in a single day at Dehradun, a record not seen for five decades. Such extreme and unseasonal rainfall seems to us to indicate a global warming induced climate change phenomenon. Warmer air due to global warming has the capacity to hold more moisture, leading to more intense bursts of rainfall. The natural monsoon cycle in India has already been badly disrupted, and a new cycle of extreme rainfall events and prolonged droughts have been reported from all over the country in the recent past. Thus, contrary to statements by senior politicians, the Uttarakhand disaster is not natural: it is no less man-made than the other contributors to the tragedy. And if it is indeed induced by global warming, similar catastrophes could recur with increasing frequency and intensity anywhere in the country in the coming years.

In Uttarakhand, a chaotic process of ‘development’ that goes back many years exacerbated the effects of this extreme rain. Extensive deforestation of mountain tracts, by the state and more recently due to ‘development’ projects, led to soil erosion and water run-off, thus destabilizing mountain slopes and contributing to more intense and frequent landslides and floods. Unchecked hill tourism has resulted in the huge growth of vehicular traffic, spread of roads not suitable to this mountainous terrain, and the construction of poorly designed and unregulated hotels and structures, many near rivers. Sand mining along river banks has intensified water flows into rivers.

Most of all, the construction and planning of hundreds of small, medium and large dams across the Himalayan states from Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the northern Himalayas to Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the east, have destabilized an already fragile ecosystem and threatened biodiversity. A staggering 680 dams are in various stages of planning, or construction in Uttarakhand alone! These dams have a direct connection with the extent of the damage that can be caused in such flooding events, in that the tunnelling and excavation in the so-called run-of-the-river projects cause huge and unregulated dumping of excavated debris into river basins, leading to increased siltation, and in turn aggravating the flood situation. The electrical power generated by these dams will be consumed by urban elites elsewhere. It is ironic that these dam projects, while adversely impacting people’s access to their river commons, claim to be climate change solutions in the guise of renewable and green energy, and have already made huge profits by fraudulently claiming CDM (clean development mechanism) status. In 2009, the CAG had warned the government of Uttarakhand that the “potential cumulative effect of multiple run-of-the-river projects can turn out to be environmentally damaging”. Like many other warnings by environmentalists and local community groups in the past, this was also ignored. And now we are facing one of the biggest disasters that the country has seen in decades.

The central government of India and various state governments, including the govt of Uttarakhand, have prepared action plans for combating climate change. Any such plan ought to include the establishment of a disaster-prediction and warning mechanism. The Uttarakhand government has taken no measures to prepare for this kind of eventuality, though it has paid lip service to climate action plans over the last three years. In the present case, the IMD issued inadequate warning, which was disregarded by the state government. An urgent prior warning could have ensured that pilgrims don’t move forward and retreat to relative safety, that locals reduce their exposure to risk to the extent possible. Thousands of pilgrims from different states, locals, workers in hotels and dharamshalas, and transport animals have been killed. Cars with people inside them were washed away. Those who have survived had to go without food for several days. Thousands are still stranded at different points, or in forests, and we are still counting the dead.

There has also been extensive devastation of local lives and the regional economy. Serious devastation has been reported from over 200 villages, so far. Innumerable locals, including agricultural workers, drowned in the raging waters or were submerged under mud and debris. Houses have collapsed or been washed away. Tourism and the local employment it generates have been hit indefinitely at the peak of the tourist season. Floods, landslides and debris have devastated agriculture along the rivers. Irrespective of whether these extreme rains are due to climate change or not, this is what a climate change world in the Himalayas looks like. This devastation is a glimpse into a climate uncertain future.

We see this tragedy as a result of cumulative and widespread injustice and wrongdoing: not only against the Himalayan environment, but also against mountain communities whose survival depends on that environment. This tragedy is also a crime, because our policy makers and administrators are also part of the larger climate injustice at a global scale that threatens, displaces and kills the marginal and the poor everywhere. On another plane, they simply let it happen. We believe that adaptation to disasters does not just mean desperate rescue work during and after the event, but also reducing vulnerability and risk before. Effective adaptation involves a series of measures that need to be adopted on a war footing. The sustainable development of a hill economy, and equity – not profit for a few – should be at its core.

India Climate Justice demands:

  • That the governments at the central and state level retreat to a low carbon pathway of development that has equity, decent employment, and sustainability at its core.
  • That the planning and construction of dams in the entire Indian Himalayas be reviewed, and all construction be halted until such a review is carried out.
  • That the use of explosives in all such infrastructure development works is completely stopped.
  • That, given the likelihood of extreme rainfall events and other climate extremes in the future, extensive and sub-regional warning systems are put in place urgently across all the Himalayan states, the coastal areas and beyond.
  • That a proper assessment of the carrying capacity of specific ecosystems is carried out.
  • That the stretch from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi be declared an eco-sensitive zone without further delay.
  • That a river regulation zone be enforced such that no permanent structures are allowed to be constructed within 100 metres of any river.
  • That the residents and their organizations are thoroughly consulted in a democratic plan on climate change, in the revival of the local hill economy, and the generation of decent employment.
  • That all working people be compensated for the loss of life and livelihood, and that urgent plans are put in place for the revival of local livelihoods and agriculture.
  • That the central government learn from the Uttarakhand catastrophe to put in place prior adaptation measures not just for the mountainous regions but beyond, for coastal and the drought-prone interiors as well.

-INDIA CLIMATE JUSTICE

Endorsing Organizations

All India Forum of Forest Movements; Pairvi; Beyond Copenhagen; South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People; National Alliance of People’s Movements; Himalaya Niti Abhiyan; New Trade Union Initiative; All-India Union of Forest Working People; Chintan; Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha; Toxics Watch Alliance; Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh; Rural Volunteers Centre, Assam; Vettiver Collective, Chennai; Himal Prakriti, Uttarakhand; Maati, Uttarakhand; Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti; River Basin Friends (NE); India Youth Climate Network; Intercultural Resources; Kabani, Kerala; Human Rights Forum, Andhra Pradesh; National Cyclists Union, India; Equations; Posco Pratirodh Solidarity, Delhi; Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives; Science for Society, Bihar; Nagarik Mancha; SADED; JJBA, Jharkhand; BIRSA; Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee; Adivasi Mulvasi Astitva Raksha Manch; National Adivasi Alliance; Bank Information Centre; Focus on the Global South; Jatiyo Sramik Jote, Dhaka; Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan; People’s Union for Democratic Rights; All India Students Association; All India Progressive Women’s Association

Individuals

Badri Raina, Kamal Mahendroo, Benny Kuruvilla, Subrat Sahu, Arun Bidani, Saurav Shome, Amitava Guha

India Climate Justice is a collective comprising social movements, trade unions, other organizations and individuals. It was formed in 2009 to respond to the growing climate crisis, from a perspective of justice and equity.

Climate Change Items

A few climate change related items I know you will be interested in, especially since you will want to be very current for the big event Tuesday.

There is now a new profession: Extreme Weather Architect. (Hat tip: Paul Douglas)

You may hear again and again that climate change is over, that warming has stopped. This is wrong in many many ways, and I’ve written about that here. Dana Nuccitelli has this important piece as well: We haven’t hit the global warming pause button. Also, see this brand new item for a detailed discussion of how surface warming varies across time.

You’ve heard of the Heartland Institute, the fake think tank that gained notoriety when it claimed years ago that smoking tobacco was harmless, and more recently by equating people concerned with the environment to the Unibomber. One of their “experts” has apparently claimed a link to and Australian university. He seems to have been making that up. Which, of course, qualifies him to be an expert at a fake think tank, I suppose!

Speaking of the Heartland Institute:

Last year Heartland put up a billboard in downtown Chicago comparing climate scientists to the Unabomber. They made it worse online by calling scientists “murderers, tyrants and madmen.” Eventually the group had to pull the billboard down after a public outcry, and promptly lost a great deal of its corporate funding.

Not willing to let sleeping dogs lie, however, Heartland has now landed itself in yet another scandal of its own making, though this time on the other side of the planet. And, unlike American scientists who have largely stopped paying attention to Heartland’s anti-science stunts, the Chinese Academy of Sciences is anything but amused.

Yes, they decided to mess with the Chinese. It is not going well for them.

Meanwhile over on Fox, climate expert Donald Trump explains why global warming is not real.

Addressing Climate Change is Legacy Building Stuff. YOUR Legacy.

On Tuesday, President Obama will make a speech outlining his administration’s plans to address climate change. The Right Wing has already responded by calling those concerned with climate change “Terrorists.” How have the progressive and left wings responded? Badly. Very badly. Here is a selection, some paraphrased to ensure anonymity (though these are all public), of comments by people that I know are well meaning climate change activists or otherwise concerned about global warming and such.

  • Obama’s speeches and verbal plans make no difference. It’s what he DOES that counts.

  • He’ll say: “I will see to it that the State Dept. will approve the XL Pipeline so nothing else I’ve said means shit”

  • If his past proclamations are indicative don’t expect much action.

  • Don’t hold your breath. He wont do a thing that would make the Oil guys uphappy

  • Or these strong words and some targeted actions in the near term will allow him to OK Keystone XL

  • NOTHING will happen under Wbama’s “leadership”. He IS a shill for the CorpoRats.

  • politicians. They are parasites

Some of these statements, maybe all of them, express perfectly legitimate concerns. The thing is, of all the statements I’ve seen on public media in response to this announcement, almost all of them are of this type. Hardly anyone has said:

“Great, let’s find out what President Obama is going to push for, and make sure he understands that we activists will strongly support this, and work towards those goals.”

In fact, we need to do more than that. I assure you of the following: President Obama and his people both in the White House and in the political machine are watching. If they see strong and effective support for initiatives announced on Tuesday, this will give them a clue that if the administration ends up nixing Keystone XL, that they will get support for that as well.

Or, they could see a lot of belly aching and whining like we are seeing so far, and not gain the resolve they would need to have in order to do the right thing on Keystone.

Having said that, I don’t want to give you the impression that this is all about Keystone. It is about whatever it is that is announced. Regardless of Keystone, we want better and more effective regulations on coal burning plants, even if Ben Stein sees fit to call those of us who want that “terrorists.” Regardless of Keystone, we want far more effort put into developing alternatives and renewables. Regardless of Keystone, we want new efficiency standards. And so on.

It might be true that the Obama administration has done much less than we would like about climate change. I say “might” because I’m thinking that you’re thinking that the Obama administration has done nothing at all, and you’d be wrong. They’ve actually done things, and perhaps you just don’t know about them. It is also true (no qualification here) that we are concerned that the Obama administration will not nix Keystone XL. But, again (OK, so there is a qualification) you might be thinking that the delay in addressing Keystone means that they are just putting off the bad news, and Obama fully intends to support it. In that case, you would be wrong again; we simply do not know what is going to happen with Keystone, and the delay is not (necessarily) a political strategy, but rather, more or less, process. You can pretend there is no process but there is one.

Here’s the thing: In a couple of days from now, President Obama is going to announce some things. These will be good things. You might not think they are good enough, you might think they mean nothing if Keystone is not addressed, you might think all sorts of other things. But, if you are actually, truly, interested in addressing climate change and concerned about global warming and our planet’s future, not to mention our species’ future, then you will need to get over yourself.

This is not about you and your dissatisfaction with the government, politicians, Washington, or a particular president. So, please stop making this about you. Make this about the planet, and the future, and our children’s future. In order to prepare yourself for this, I offer the following evaluative quiz:

TODAY’S QUIZ. (Fill in the blank/multiple choice)

People interested in serious, effective climate change activism will take what happens on Tuesday and _________

Select only one answer to complete this statement:

  • a) whine and moan about Obama
  • b) carry out the most effective possible actions to increase the likelihood that pro-environment and pro-energy efficiency and anti-global warming initiatives come to fruition, which might involve fighting congress, will involve fighting the deniers, and will involve fighting the oil companies.

Correct answer: b

Listen: The right wing is already off the mark. They are running full steam down the field intent on intercepting this particular pass. Meanwhile, the progressives are sitting on the bench crying in their beers and feeling sorry for themselves. This is not good, and frankly, it is more than a little embarrassing.

Time to put on the big boy pants, people! When opportunity knocks, that is not a cue to complain about the door knocker.

You might consider signing this petition.

Obama’s National Plan To Address Climate Change

On Tuesday, just after 1:30 PM Eastern Time, at Georgetown University, President Barack Obama will announce a vision for future steps to address and prepare for ongoing and future climate change. Below is a video teaser for the address, but first, this is what is likely to be in the plan:

<ul>
  • New EPA rules on emissions from power plants
  • <li>Increased use of public lands to develop renewable energy</li>
    
    <li>New efficiency standards.</li>
    
    <li>Climate disaster related preparedness.</li>
    
    <li>He'll probably review recent administration actions as well.</li>
    
    <li>Regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline, the president is not expected to say anything at all, or at least, not anything substantive, because that project (which he should reject) is still under review.</li></ul>
    

    I’m mostly guessing here, and extrapolating from the video and the brief statement that came out with the video.

    Here is 350.org’s Bill McKibben’s statement on the upcoming talk:

    “It’s awfully good to see the president starting to move forward on climate action–after the hottest year in American history, it’s appropriate that the White House would move to act. And the solutions agenda they’ve begun to advance moves the country in a sane direction.

    “Today’s announcement also makes me think it’s more likely the White House will reject the Keystone Pipeline, which is the biggest environmental battle in a generation–the president is a logical man, and taking two steps forward only to take two back would make no sense.

    “The world desperately needs climate leadership, and today Barack Obama showed he might turn out to be the guy who provided it.”

    Kickstarter “We were wrong” about reddit rape book project

    Kickstarter has said this, about this:

    Dear everybody,

    On Wednesday morning Kickstarter was sent a blog post quoting disturbing material found on Reddit. The offensive material was part of a draft for a “seduction guide” that someone was using Kickstarter to publish. The posts offended a lot of people — us included — and many asked us to cancel the creator’s project. We didn’t.

    We were wrong.

    Why didn’t we cancel the project when this material was brought to our attention? Two things influenced our decision:

  • The decision had to be made immediately. We had only two hours from when we found out about the material to when the project was ending. We’ve never acted to remove a project that quickly.
  • Our processes, and everyday thinking, bias heavily toward creators. This is deeply ingrained. We feel a duty to our community — and our creators especially — to approach these investigations methodically as there is no margin for error in canceling a project. This thinking made us miss the forest for the trees.
  • These factors don’t excuse our decision but we hope they add clarity to how we arrived at it.

    Let us be 100% clear: Content promoting or glorifying violence against women or anyone else has always been prohibited from Kickstarter. If a project page contains hateful or abusive material we don’t approve it in the first place. If we had seen this material when the project was submitted to Kickstarter (we didn’t), it never would have been approved. Kickstarter is committed to a culture of respect.

    Where does this leave us?

    First, there is no taking back money from the project or canceling funding after the fact. When the project was funded the backers’ money went directly from them to the creator. We missed the window.

    Second, the project page has been removed from Kickstarter. The project has no place on our site. For transparency’s sake, a record of the page is cached here.

    Third, we are prohibiting “seduction guides,” or anything similar, effective immediately. This material encourages misogynistic behavior and is inconsistent with our mission of funding creative works. These things do not belong on Kickstarter.

    Fourth, today Kickstarter will donate $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organization called RAINN. It’s an excellent organization that combats exactly the sort of problems our inaction may have encouraged.

    We take our role as Kickstarter’s stewards very seriously. Kickstarter is one of the friendliest, most supportive places on the web and we’re committed to keeping it that way. We’re sorry for getting this so wrong.

    Thank you,

    Kickstarter

    One can argue (endlessly, cuz INTERNET) as to weather or not 4 hours was enough time, or how the money should be handled, etc. etc. but none of that matters. The point is, Kicksarter does not have and had not earned a reputation for being a cesspool like Reddit is, they got thrown a curve ball, they fixed it. Good for them. Kickstarter is good.

    Regarding the money getting through to the project, that is clearly irrelevant. Bad people gave some bad person some money to do something bad. We’ll see how that goes. It will be funny when it does not go as planned.

    Anyway, good job Kickstarter and good job Internet for acting responsibly.


    Photo Credit: sizeofguam via Compfight cc

    Kickstarter’s Guide to Reddit Style Rape.

    Humanity truly sucks and I can prove it. One word: Reddit.

    UPDATE: ONLY PART OF HUMANITY SUCKS SEE THIS NEWS

    OK, you may want some background.

    A Reddit Regular, perhaps a Reddit celeb (or at least he is now) wants to write a book on how guys seduce women, and he’s asking for money on Kickstarter. One of his tips is this: You move in close, pull out your penis, take the woman’s hand and …. whatever.

    I find it interesting that many commenters are referring to that as inappropriate, or sexual assault, by way of objecting to it. I’m pretty sure, though, that it is rape. Probably depends on the state. In any event, now that I’ve revealed one of Ken Hoinsky’s helpful tips for how to get women to like you, I’ll quickly add just in case you didn’t know: Guys, don’t do that. Just. Don’t. Do. That. Don’t.

    The book rape-apologist and redditor Ken Hoinsky intends to “write” is mostly going to consist of previously written garbage he’ll steal from the Reddit “Seduction” community. Clearly, Hoinsky is a loser of the lowest level if that’s all he’s go. Ctrl-c, Ctrl-v, give me money.

    Here’s a question that is being asked: Why does Kickstarter allow projects that are basically rape handbooks? And why should anybody ever even visit the Kickstarter site, or give any money to any project of any kind, or take any of your projects to Kickstarter, as long as they Kickstarter is run by boneheaded idiots who think this monstrous project is OK?

    Here’s a petition you can sign to tell the Kickstarter CEO to do the right thing.

    Here’s the story in more detail.

    Climate Change Worsens Drought, Strains Economy….

    Here we have a nice new infographic for you to gaze at, share around on your facebook accounts, and so on. (It is below.) Here in Minnesota, we’ve got a problem getting that last one million acres of corn planted (about 1/8th of the normal amount), not because of drought, but because of excessive rain. However, all that extra rain is not expected to alleviate the effects of our drought long term, so we get to have both. If the price or availability of major food types (“commodities”) goes south (up and down, respectively) here and there, adjustments can be made. But if climate change induced shortages happen in several places at once, what happens then?

    Anyway, here’s the graphic from Climate Nexus:

    drought[1]

    Buckled Roads, Broken Buoys, and Doomed Satellites

    Two related things came across my desk this morning that should concern anyone who sees climate change as an important issue.

    In Germany, the roads are buckling and breaking because of excessive heat, and there seems to be inadequate funding to re-engineer them. Here’s a photograph from Spiegel Online of what happens when the rubber meets the road (where the rubber is global warming):

    "Crack on the A93 at Abensberg: Here the pad burst through the intense heat, a motorcyclist built so a fatal accident." (google translated)
    “Crack on the A93 at Abensberg: Here the pad burst through the intense heat, a motorcyclist built so a fatal accident.” (google translated)

    Meanwhile, over at The Guardian, John Abraham has a post describing the decline in numbers of critically important instruments measuring climate data. This includes sea moorings that collect temperature data and satellites that collect all sorts of data. Funding to maintain these and other types of equipment is lacking, and we can expect that over just a few years from now large amounts of important data will be unavailable unless this situation is reversed.

    John tells us that these data collection programs…

    …require adequate funding for equipment and personnel. Presently, many systems – in particular satellite platforms – are headed for declines in coverage. This means we will be operating blindly, in an information deficit. If we are to make good decisions about how to react to greenhouse gas increases, we need good information. When the economic costs of climate change are compared with the very modest costs of measurement, it seems that maintaining a robust measurement capacity is a no-brainer.


    Egg Earth Photo Credit: AZRainman via Compfight cc

    Breaking: Former Obama Campaign Staff’s Letter on Keystone XL

    A letter signed by (so far) 145 former Obama campaign staff calls on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. There is no doubt that President Obama’s action on climate change will be a large part of his legacy, and at this point, President Obama’s position on Keystone XL is unclear. It is true that the Obama administration is doing some good things (like this) but building the Keystone Pipeline is one of the worst things he could allow to happen.

    Frustrated with this situation, the people who helped put President Obama in the White House, twice, are speaking out. Here is the letter:

    President Barack Obama
    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
    Washington, DC 20500

    Dear President Obama,

    On November 7th, the day after Election Day, we took a break from entering last-minute data or cleaning our OFA field offices and crowded around iPhones and laptops to listen to you talk.From strip malls, grungy basements, and non-descript headquarters in our adoptedcommunities of Petersburg, VA or Manchester, NH or Aurora, CO, we paused for five minutes tohear from the man who inspired us to leave our homes and give every last ounce of energy tore-elect our President, a leader so awe-inspiring that we’d tear up just knowing he’d be in our zip code. You told us on the phone that day, “When I was your age, I had this vague inklingabout making a difference, but I didn’t know how to do it…I ended up becoming a communityorganizer.” So did we.

    It’s in that spirit that we write to ask you to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. We trust you tomake the right decision after you weigh all arguments, but one thing you taught us as organizersis that nothing can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change. Mr. President, weare just a few of the millions of young people across the country who are frightened at theprospect of runaway climate change. One of the reasons we came to work for you in the firstplace is because we trust you understand how big this challenge is.

    You can help cement your legacy as a climate champion by rejecting this pipeline. You alreadyknow all the reasons we can’t afford this pipeline — that it will lock in gigatons of carbon pollutionover the next four decades and that it could spill into our nation’s most valuable water sources –we’re just asking you to think of us when you make up your mind. Dozens of supporters acrossthe country told us they were casting their ballot for someone they could count on to make thetough calls when it came to our security and our health care and our climate. They voted for you,Mr. President, because we told them you’d be on the right side of history when you had to makethese calls. Because we knew you’d do the right thing and stop this pipeline.

    You closed out our call on November 7th by saying to us, “Over the last four years when peopleask me how do you put up with the frustrations of Washington, I just look to you. I think aboutwhat you guys are going to do. That’s the source of my hope and my inspiration, and I know thatyou guys won’t disappoint me.” For so long you have been the source of our hope andinspiration. Please don’t disappoint us. Reject Keystone XL.

    Sincerely,

    Then there are 145 signatures (see this document)

    If you are a former Obama campaign staffer, you can click here to add your name.

    HERE is the press release from We Are Power Shift