Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Could climate change become a security issue — and threaten democracy?

Indeed it could. Warmists often say that democracy has to be limited to get the actions they want.  It is warmists, not warming that is the threat to democracy

Action to address climate change has been left so late that any political response will likely become an international security issue — and could threaten democracy.

That's the view of Ole Wæver, a prominent international relations professor at the University of Copenhagen, who also says climate inaction could lead to armed conflict.

"At some point this whole climate debate is going to tip over," he tells RN's Late Night Live.

"The current way we talk about climate is one side and the other side. One side is those who want to do something, and the other is the deniers who say we shouldn't do anything."

He believes that quite soon, another battle will replace it. Then, politicians that do 'something' will be challenged by critics demanding that policies actually add up to realistic solutions.

When decision-makers — after delaying for so long — suddenly try to find a shortcut to realistic action, climate change is likely to "be securitised".

Professor Wæver, who first coined the term "securitisation", says more abrupt change could potentially threaten democracy.

"The United Nations Security Council could, in principle, tomorrow decide that climate change is a threat to international peace and security," he says.

"And then it's within their competencies to decide 'and you are doing this, you are doing this, you are doing this, this is how we deal with it'."

A risk of armed conflict?

Professor Wæver says despite "overwhelmingly good arguments" as to why action should be taken on climate change, not enough has been done.

And he says that could eventually lead to a greater risk of armed conflict, particularly in unstable political climates.

"Imagine these kinds of fires that we are seeing happening [in Australia] in a part of Africa or South-East Asia where you have groups that are already in a tense relationship, with different ethnic groups, different religious orientations," he says.

"And then you get events like this and suddenly they are not out of each other's way, they'll be crossing paths, and then you get military conflicts by the push."

He isn't the first expert to warn of the security risks of climate change.

Professor Wæver argues that delayed action will lead to more drastic measures. "The longer we wait, the more abrupt the change has to be," he says.

"So a transformation of our economy and our energy systems that might have been less painful if we had started 20 years ago, 30 years ago. "If we have to do that in a very short time, it becomes extremely painful.

"And then comes the question: can you carry through such painful transformations through the normal democratic system?"

He says classifying climate change as a security issue could justify more extreme policy responses.

"That's what happens when something becomes a security issue, it gets the urgency, the intensity, the priority, which is helpful sometimes, but it also lets the dark forces loose in the sense that it can justify problematic means," he says.

This urgency, he says, could lead to more abrupt action at an international level.

"If there was something that was decided internationally by some more centralised procedure and every country was told 'this is your emission target, it's not negotiable, we can actually take military measures if you don't fulfil it', then you would basically have to get that down the throat of your population, whether they like it or not," he says.

"Aa bit like what we saw in southern Europe with countries like Greece and the debt crisis and so on.

"There were decisions that were made for them and then they just had to have a more or less technocratic government and get it through."


Venice’s floods are not signs of a ‘climate apocalypse’

There is no reason why local solutions cannot be found to the flooding.

Venice has endured a terrible two weeks of flooding. On 12 November, over 80 per cent of the city was flooded. The reading on the local tide gauge reached 187cm – the highest level recorded for 53 years. Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro tweeted: ‘This is the result of climate change.’ His claim was widely repeated by the media. Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, added that ‘We are faced with total apocalyptic devastation’.

The floods were certainly dramatic and damaging. In Venice’s city centre, St Mark’s Church was flooded and there are concerns about damage to the crypt, columns and floor mosaics. Three water buses sank and some banked on to public walkways. Boats and docking platforms were damaged throughout the lagoon due to high winds of 100km per hour and a tornado close to St Mark’s Square.

The worst damage was on the island of Pellestrina, where an elderly man died when he was struck by lightning. Pumping flood waters was a significant problem for flooded properties on this island. Other coastal areas of the region also experienced flooding and damage, including Chioggia, Jesolo and Caorle.

The damage is estimated to have cost hundreds of millions of euros. Churches, businesses, transport organisations and residents have suffered damage to their properties and boats. The height of the tide was underestimated. Winds were stronger than expected, leaving most people unprepared. On 14 November, the government declared a state of emergency and earmarked €20million to support Venice and its population.

But despite all the damage, the statement by Veneto governor Zaia, that Venice faced ‘total apocalyptic devastation’, is both inaccurate and historically ignorant. Venetians have suffered far more from past flooding than they have over the past two weeks. Fewer flood defences, less sturdy buildings and weaker infrastructure have hugely exacerbated the consequences of flooding.

Given its location, Venice has faced devastating floods throughout its history of over 1,500 years. In 1106 severe flooding wiped away every single building in the Venetian town of Malamocco. Historical accounts of flooding in 782, 840, 875, 1102, 1240, 1268 and 1794 reveal people frequently died from drowning or being stranded in cold water.

In modern times, during the floods of November 1966, the tides reached up to 194cm and 100 per cent of the city was flooded. Several thousand people were made homeless and the city was without electricity or telephones for days. The consequences of the 1966 floods were far more severe than today’s ‘total apocalyptic devastation’. Since 1966, measures such as the construction of jetties and breakwaters, waterproofing, raised paths and improved drainage mean that Venice is much better protected today – especially against low- and medium-level floods.

But as the recent floods clearly attest, Venice is still vulnerable. High-level floods – measured as above 110cm on the tide gauge – have become more frequent over the past century. These are caused by short-term weather effects, especially high winds blowing a greater volume of water from the Adriatic Sea into the Venetian lagoon, combined with rainfall and water from the surrounding rivers.

In addition, there has been a long-term rise in the mean sea level relative to the land. This correlates strongly with the increasing frequency of high floods.

The increase in the mean sea level in Venice has two causes. One is a sea-level rise related to climate change. The other is subsidence – meaning that the land around Venice is getting lower. The principal reason for so much subsidence is that groundwater used to be extracted from the aquifer under the lagoon between the 1930s and 1970s. Between 1897 and 1983, the relative sea level to the land in Venice rose by 23cm – with 12cm due to subsidence and 11cm caused by rising sea levels. Since the 1970s, subsidence has slowed and sea levels have risen by approximately 5cm.

Venice’s mayor was therefore wrong to say that the recent floods were only the result of climate change. Sea-level rise due to climate change has certainly contributed more to high floods in recent years, but land subsidence has been a major cause over the longer term.

Understanding these various causes is important in formulating responses. Blaming the ‘climate emergency’ misses the fact that the worst of the flooding could have been prevented – and can be prevented in future – with the right infrastructure. For instance, one long-term proposal being considered is whether to pump water back into the ground to raise the land level across the lagoon.

The most recent floods might have been blocked had the MOSE mobile dams been completed on time. These dams were designed to protect Venice and its lagoon from tides of up to 3m high. They began construction in 2003 and were due to be completed in 2011. Unfortunately, completion has been delayed due to environmental objections (including from the EU), technical and funding problems, frequent changes of government, and a local corruption scandal in 2014. The earliest the dams are estimated to be fully functioning is 2022.

Venice’s problems need to be dealt with as a matter of urgency. They are serious. But they are not apocalyptical. We are more than capable of solving them.


Can we go back to the pre-fossil fuel era?

Seems like an easy yes or no answer, but there are numerous financial costs and social change ramifications of going Green that make the answer weighty. If everyone can recall history, the worlds already experienced life without fossil fuels just a few short centuries ago.

We never had the oil industry before the 1900’s, so why do we believe society can adjust to living in those medieval times with just electricity? With no infrastructures to move things that are the basis of commerce, and no chemicals to make the products that are the basis of our lifestyles.

The Green New Deal (GND) may be in larval form right now, but the fact that it’s being seriously discussed in Congress (and around the world) is a quantum leap for politics. If nothing else, the advancing of Ocasio-Cortez and Markey’s bill signals that some of our elected officials are on board with inviting Americans to dream again — to imagine a better future for ourselves, even if the road between now and then hasn’t come entirely into focus yet.

What the GND affirms for Millennials, Gen Z and other young people is that we are not living in the best of times, and that recalibrating the world for sustainability and economic justice will not come from taking polite baby steps. We simply don’t have the time for that.

I know politicians both here and abroad are supportive of the GND to sunset the oil industry, BUT imagine how life was without that industry just a few hundred years ago before 1900 when we had NO militaries, NO communications systems, including cell phones, computers, and I Pads, NO vehicles, NO airlines that now move 4 billion people around the world, NO  cruise ships that now move 25 million passengers around the world, NO merchant ships that are now moving billions of dollars of products monthly throughout the world, NO tires for vehicles, and NO asphalt for roads, NO water filtration systems, NO sanitation systems, NO space program, NO medications and medical equipment, NO vaccines, NO fertilizers to help feed billions.

Even more important than living without the above-mentioned infrastructures, before the 1900’s we had NONE of the 6,000 products that come from oil and petroleum products.

For now, forget about the questions of how to finance the GND’s guaranteed jobs for everyone with no infrastructures to work and high-quality healthcare for all with no medications or medical equipment. Just imagine living in those pioneer days with only electricity available and nothing to power since virtually everything we have today is made with the chemicals and by-products manufactured from crude oil.

Turning to the oil industry after 1900 we found that nothing powers economies the way refined oil does; oil can be turned into an array of products: cosmetics, athletic equipment, shoelaces, bowling balls, milk jugs, medications and the aviation, diesel and gasoline fuels. The two prime movers that have done more for the cause of globalization are the diesel engine and the jet turbine. Both get their fuels from oil and without this fuel transportation and commerce return to the pre-Industrial revolution age. In short, oil may be the single most flexible substance ever discovered, so why sunset that industry?

Renewables, such as solar, wind, and biofuels, require taxpayer financial subsidies that are derived from the infrastructures supported by fossil fuels. They require countryside-devouring land mass sprawl due to their low-power density to produce significant electricity, i.e., precious land that will be required to feed the billions on this earth.

How do we provide subsidies to the renewables industries when so many people living on earth survive on less than $10 a day? Today, across southern Asia, portions of Europe, parts of Africa and Australia, there are families attempting to live on virtually nothing. As hard as it is to believe, it is a truism.

How do we provide healthcare to those children in underdeveloped countries? Mostly from energy starved countries that are experiencing 11 million child deaths every year, and mainly from preventable causes when we have no transportation infrastructures to deliver the “medicine man”, since there will be no medications and medical equipment without the oil industry.

For those that support sun-setting the oil industry that is currently running this world’s economy and embark on those unknown GND roads, negotiate its many turns, obstacles and possibly suffer the consequences of removing an industry before we have an alternative industry to replace it, then keep supporting the GND proponents.

For those that believe we should have an alternative replacement for the oil industry before abandoning the industry responsible for international commerce, then it may be time to change our political leaders.

While developed countries with thriving economies continue to seek out an “alternative energy” that can maintain our economy, the billions of people in undeveloped countries may find difficulty adapting to a world without the oil industry as they are just starting to enhance their lifestyles and commerce.


New EU leaders take office vowing to tackle climate change

Virtue signalling

BRUSSELS — A new team of leaders took office at the helm of the European Union on Sunday, pledging to put the fight against climate change at the top of their agenda and foster European unity despite the likely departure of Britain from the 28-nation bloc.

Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen replaced Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the EU’s powerful executive arm, which polices EU laws and negotiates trade on behalf of member countries. The former German defense minister becomes the first woman in the post.

Former Belgian premier Charles Michel succeeded Donald Tusk as president of the European Council, meaning he will chair summits of national leaders and drive their common agenda forward.

In the company of European Parliament President David Sassoli and new European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde, von der Leyen and Michel marked the start of their five-year terms in Brussels with events marking the 10th anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU’s rule book.

“Today we can present a unified face to the rest of the world. With more weight and greater coherence in a rules-based world,” Michel said. “Today we do more than look back, we celebrate a new beginning, with great enthusiasm and hope.”

Sassoli urged the EU’s main institutions and the new team to deliver on the hopes invested in them by the more than 500 million citizens who make up the world’s biggest trading bloc.

“We need to turn the promises of the past few months into results that improve people’s lives,” he said. “From the fight against climate change to tackling the rise in the cost of living, Europeans want to see real action.”

At the commission’s headquarters, as workers were still moving in office furniture and equipment, von der Leyen outlined her schedule, seeming somewhat relieved to be at work after “a difficult and bumpy start” getting her policy commissioners approved by the European Parliament.

Setting the tone for what she describes as “geopolitical commission,” von der Leyen held phone talks with the leaders of China, South Korea, Turkey, Indonesia, and Australia, with more due later. She showed she is hitting the ground running on an issue of major European concern, heading Monday to Madrid for the international climate conference.

“The European Union wants to be the first climate neutral continent in 2050. Europe is leading in this topic, and we know that we have to be ambitious for our planet,” she told reporters.

On Friday, von der Leyen makes her first foreign trip and has chosen Africa. In Addis Ababa, she will meet with Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, as well as the president and prime minister of Ethiopia.

The future of Britain’s place in the EU should become clearer after its Dec. 12 election.


Rare earths industry welcomes new US-Australian deal to ensure critical minerals supply

A newly-signed deal between Australia and the United States focusing on critical minerals could be the push to create a thriving rare earths industry in Australia and more specifically, central Australia, according to some mineral experts and rare earths industry players.

The deal comes months after the world's rare earths supply was thrust into the spotlight after Beijing threatened to restrict the rare earth trade as part of its ongoing trade war with the US.

On the other side of the world in outback Australia, Nolans Bore, a rare earths project north of Alice Springs, has welcomed the new deal.

The facility has been more than 15 years in the making, and the company behind it, Arafura Resources, said pending native title approval and finance, it was planning to start construction late next year.

Full details of the deal have not been made public but Brian Fowler, general manager for the Northern Territory with Arafura, said it was a sign that politicians were realising how geopolitically threatened rare earths are due to China's dominance in the market.

"[China] controls 85 per cent of the world's supply of rare earths," he said.

According to the company, the $1 billion project has a large, globally significant rare earth deposit of roughly 56 million tonnes.

"We have the potential to supply somewhere in the region of 8 to 10 per cent of the world's requirement for neodymium and praseodymium, two of the rare earths minerals," Mr Fowler said.

"Their role is in the production of the highest strength magnets on the planet, they are the absolute essential elements in the electrification of motor vehicles and in the production of clean energy using things like wind turbines."

Mr Fowler said considering the amount of car companies looking to make electric models, the current global supply of neodymium and praseodymium was not adequate to meet the predicted demand going forward.

Chris Vernon, processing research director for CSIRO's mineral resources, agreed that demand was about to soar. He said that although Australia had a significant supply of rare earths and sophisticated technology, investment had been holding the industry back. "[The deal] looks very promising," he said.

"One of the bottlenecks to getting a project off the ground in Australia was the financing and the uncertainty [so] if government is stepping in and providing some surety about getting finance, that can only be a good thing."

He reiterated that the China-US trade war was to thank for throwing rare earths into focus. "The rare earths market is about to explode, simply because we expect to put so many electric vehicles on the road; every one of those requires rare earths for their magnets," he said.

"There's also a burgeoning market in other technology uses.

"A car only takes a few tens of kilograms of rare earths but when you're looking at some high-tech military equipment for example, you could be looking at hundreds of kilograms of rare earths.

"There is a real hunger for more rare earths."

While Nolan's Bore has the required environmental approvals, a local advocacy group said it still had concerns around the mine.

However, they conceded that rare earths were needed for the transition to green energy by increasing the use of electric cars and wind turbines.

Alex Read, policy officer with the Arid Lands Environment Centre [ALEC], said the organisation was cautiously supportive of the project, providing that environmental regulations were followed.

"We understand the importance of having a supply of these metals for electric vehicles and renewable energy but we need to take a cautious approach to this," he said. "And we need to have a broader conversation about the costs and benefits of these projects."

The Northern Territory Government will soon start consultation on draft environment protection regulations after passing the Environment Protection Bill earlier this year.

But ALEC would like to see proposed legislation changes in place before any new mines come online.

"One of the key flaws in the current framework is there is no way for directors to be held personally liable if they don't comply with their environmental requirements," Mr Read said.

"We want to make sure they have a chain of responsibility framework to make sure they're held personally responsible and we want to make sure that the rehabilitation program is completed as they say it would be.

"Rare earth mining comes with a lot of risks.

"Particularly with this project, we're seeing it's associated with elevated levels of radionuclides and we understand that they're going to be significant risks to groundwater, surface water [and] public health."

Mr Read said ALEC would also like to see changes put into place to ensure mining companies had to pay for their water licences.



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