Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Some wisdom from 2004 about 2020

Mark Townsend and Paul Harris in The Guardian below -- on Sun 22 Feb 2004. How wrong can you be?

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.'

The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority.

The report was commissioned by influential Pentagon defence adviser Andrew Marshall, who has held considerable sway on US military thinking over the past three decades. He was the man behind a sweeping recent review aimed at transforming the American military under Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Climate change 'should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern', say the authors, Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network.

An imminent scenario of catastrophic climate change is 'plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately', they conclude. As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions.

Last week the Bush administration came under heavy fire from a large body of respected scientists who claimed that it cherry-picked science to suit its policy agenda and suppressed studies that it did not like. Jeremy Symons, a former whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said that suppression of the report for four months was a further example of the White House trying to bury the threat of climate change.

Senior climatologists, however, believe that their verdicts could prove the catalyst in forcing Bush to accept climate change as a real and happening phenomenon. They also hope it will convince the United States to sign up to global treaties to reduce the rate of climatic change.

A group of eminent UK scientists recently visited the White House to voice their fears over global warming, part of an intensifying drive to get the US to treat the issue seriously. Sources have told The Observer that American officials appeared extremely sensitive about the issue when faced with complaints that America's public stance appeared increasingly out of touch.

One even alleged that the White House had written to complain about some of the comments attributed to Professor Sir David King, Tony Blair's chief scientific adviser, after he branded the President's position on the issue as indefensible.

Among those scientists present at the White House talks were Professor John Schellnhuber, former chief environmental adviser to the German government and head of the UK's leading group of climate scientists at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. He said that the Pentagon's internal fears should prove the 'tipping point' in persuading Bush to accept climatic change.

Sir John Houghton, former chief executive of the Meteorological Office - and the first senior figure to liken the threat of climate change to that of terrorism - said: 'If the Pentagon is sending out that sort of message, then this is an important document indeed.'

Bob Watson, chief scientist for the World Bank and former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, added that the Pentagon's dire warnings could no longer be ignored.

'Can Bush ignore the Pentagon? It's going be hard to blow off this sort of document. Its hugely embarrassing. After all, Bush's single highest priority is national defence. The Pentagon is no wacko, liberal group, generally speaking it is conservative. If climate change is a threat to national security and the economy, then he has to act. There are two groups the Bush Administration tend to listen to, the oil lobby and the Pentagon,' added Watson.

'You've got a President who says global warming is a hoax, and across the Potomac river you've got a Pentagon preparing for climate wars. It's pretty scary when Bush starts to ignore his own government on this issue,' said Rob Gueterbock of Greenpeace.

Already, according to Randall and Schwartz, the planet is carrying a higher population than it can sustain. By 2020 'catastrophic' shortages of water and energy supply will become increasingly harder to overcome, plunging the planet into war. They warn that 8,200 years ago climatic conditions brought widespread crop failure, famine, disease and mass migration of populations that could soon be repeated.

Randall told The Observer that the potential ramifications of rapid climate change would create global chaos. 'This is depressing stuff,' he said. 'It is a national security threat that is unique because there is no enemy to point your guns at and we have no control over the threat.'

Randall added that it was already possibly too late to prevent a disaster happening. 'We don't know exactly where we are in the process. It could start tomorrow and we would not know for another five years,' he said.

'The consequences for some nations of the climate change are unbelievable. It seems obvious that cutting the use of fossil fuels would be worthwhile.'

So dramatic are the report's scenarios, Watson said, that they may prove vital in the US elections. Democratic frontrunner John Kerry is known to accept climate change as a real problem. Scientists disillusioned with Bush's stance are threatening to make sure Kerry uses the Pentagon report in his campaign.

The fact that Marshall is behind its scathing findings will aid Kerry's cause. Marshall, 82, is a Pentagon legend who heads a secretive think-tank dedicated to weighing risks to national security called the Office of Net Assessment. Dubbed 'Yoda' by Pentagon insiders who respect his vast experience, he is credited with being behind the Department of Defence's push on ballistic-missile defence.

Symons, who left the EPA in protest at political interference, said that the suppression of the report was a further instance of the White House trying to bury evidence of climate change. 'It is yet another example of why this government should stop burying its head in the sand on this issue.'

Symons said the Bush administration's close links to high-powered energy and oil companies was vital in understanding why climate change was received sceptically in the Oval Office. 'This administration is ignoring the evidence in order to placate a handful of large energy and oil companies,' he added.


German weather site says Australia's 1974 fires were bigger

Three bush fires on the borders of the two states of New South Wales and Victoria in Australia combined into one giant fire at night. The fire covers an area of ​​around 600,000 hectares. This corresponds to about a third of the area of ​​Rhineland-Palatinate.

In some of the areas affected by the devastating bush fires, temperatures reached 44 degrees on Friday. Wind speeds of 90 kilometers per hour ignite the flames. More than 3,500 firefighters were deployed in New South Wales. There were still over 140 fires blazing this morning.

In the summer of 1974/1975, an area about the size of Spain and France burned down in Australia.

To sum up: Bush fires are generally not unusual in the Australian summer. Large areas are often affected. Most recently, huge fires raged in February 2009. The so-called Black Saturday Bushfires killed over 170 people and destroyed 1,800 houses. An area the size of the Saarland burned down.

Since the big bushfires started in October 2019, more than 100,000 square kilometers of land have been burned across Australia, which is roughly the size of Bavaria and Baden-W├╝rttemberg combined. Thousands of houses were destroyed.

But it is even more powerful: in the summer of 1974/1975, the flames blazed over an area of ​​around one million square kilometers. This corresponds to an area that is about three times larger than Germany.


EPA Science Could Torpedo Roundup Lawsuits

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a finding that could – and certainly should – undermine some of the most outrageous lawsuits and jury awards in American history.

Bolstered by San Francisco area juries that have given multi-multi-million-dollar awards to clients who claim glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup weedkiller) caused their cancer, jackpot justice lawyers have recruited some 20,000 additional “corporate victims” who hope to reap their own fortunes.

Their cases are based on the assertion that: (a) Bayer-Monsanto negligently or deliberately failed to warn consumers that the glyphosate it manufactures is carcinogenic; (b) the plaintiffs used Roundup at some point in their lives; and (c) their short or long-term use of the chemical caused their Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma or other cancer. Those claims are dependent on several essential factors.

First and foremost, a 2015 determination by the France-based International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) that glyphosate is a Group 2A probable human carcinogen. Second, a 2017 decision by the State of California to add the chemical to its Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop 65) official list of carcinogens, based on the IARC decision. Third, the state’s requirement that all Roundup labels must therefore carry prominent warnings that the product “probably” causes cancer.

Monsanto and Bayer insist that their product is safe and non-carcinogenic; Roundup labels thus did not carry warnings. But that gave plaintiff lawyers the opportunity to argue in pleadings, courtroom statements and media ads that the company negligently or deliberately caused serious health risks.

In the minds of presiding judges and jurors, if it was “possible” that even short or occasional exposure to Roundup could have caused cancer – even if it was an extremely remote likelihood – the manufacturer was guilty, and liable. Hence, awards in the tens of millions or even billions of dollars were justified.

There are numerous fundamental, even monumental, problems with this strained reasoning – and they are likely to be exacerbated by the August 7, 2019 EPA decision and strongly worded guidance letter.

IARC is virtually the only organization in the world to conclude that glyphosate is carcinogenic – and it based its conclusions on examining just eight studies. Far worse, subsequent reviews by epidemiologist Dr. Geoffrey Kabat, National Cancer Institute statistician Dr. Robert Tarone, investigative journalist Kate Kelland and “RiskMonger” Dr. David Zaruk demonstrated that the IARC decision resulted from bias, improper revision of study data and/or results, and collusion between glyphosate trial lawyers and the IARC consultant who led the agency’s investigation and was paid handsomely by the trial lawyers.

Equally outrageous and illuminating, IARC classifies red meat, very hot beverages, emissions from frying food, even doing shift work as “probable” human carcinogens – in the same category as glyphosate. It lists pickled vegetables and caffeic acid in coffee, tea and broccoli as “possible” human carcinogens. It even admitted that its glyphosate decision was based on only “limited” evidence of cancer in humans and “sufficient” evidence of cancer in experimental animals. IARC seems to say everything causes cancer.

Perhaps that is because, to reach its conclusions, the agency relies on what toxicity experts call “exposure” or “hazard” tests. That antiquated approach uses lab animals to determine whether a chemical might cause cancer – even if only at ridiculously high levels that no animal or human would ever be exposed to in real life. It refuses to rely on the modern approach of assessing actual risk, by determining the exposure level at which a substance might actually have an adverse effect on animals or humans.

And yet the judges in these cases let the plaintiff lawyers focus on IARC’s claims of carcinogenicity, while they prevented defense attorneys from countering IARC cancer claims or discussing its gross misconduct. They even barred the presentation of extensive evidence that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.

In fact, glyphosate has been used safely since 1974. It is now licensed in 130 countries for more than 100 food crops. Over the past four decades, respected agencies and organizations worldwide have conducted over 3,300 studies, and every one of them concluded that glyphosate is safe and non-carcinogenic.

Reviewers include the European Food Safety Authority, European Chemicals Agency, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Germany’s Institute for Risk Assessment, Australia’s Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, Japanese and New Zealand agencies, and the US Environmental Protection Agency. “No pesticide regulatory authority in the world considers glyphosate to be a cancer risk to humans at the levels at which humans are currently exposed,” Health Canada noted. Meanwhile, the National Cancer Institute’s ongoing Agricultural Health Study has evaluated 54,000 farmers and commercial pesticide applicators for over two decades – and likewise found no glyphosate-cancer link.

Amid all of this, the “cancer victim” patients and their lawyers benefitted immensely from endless print, radio, television, online and social media campaigns that have misinformed, pressured, harassed and intimidated prospective judges and jurors. Many of these campaigns and several “educational think tanks” are funded, directly or indirectly, by the predatory tort lawyers and their anti-chemical activist allies.

To top it off, the judges and tort lawyers have made it difficult or impossible for Bayer-Monsanto attorneys to present other highly relevant evidence: such as plaintiffs’ family cancer history and personal dietary and other lifestyle choices – and their exposure to scores of other definite, probable and possible carcinogens on IARC’s list of hundreds of human cancer risks, including those mentioned above.

The supposed corporate cancer victims were allowed to argue that, despite all these other factors, including multiple other carcinogen exposures, their cancer was due solely to their exposure to glyphosate.

Enter EPA. The agency had already conducted lengthy and extensive reviews of the global compendium of studies and regulatory decisions on glyphosate – and had likewise concluded that “glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic in humans.” But at least one judge blocked the introduction of the EPA analyses, claiming “the primary inquiry is what the scientific studies show, not what the EPA concluded they show.” He didn’t seem to mind that IARC doesn’t do original studies either – and its ruling on glyphosate was based on what IARC concluded eight studies showed, while ignoring 3,300 contradictory studies.

It will henceforth be much harder for tort lawyers and trial judges to pull that cute little tactic off again. As noted above, EPA has issued a guidance letter – based on (a) its careful “independent evaluation” and reexamination of scientific studies and regulatory determinations around the world; and (b) its regulatory and labeling authority under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Not only does EPA “disagree with IARC’s assessment of glyphosate.” It concludes that the chemical “is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” Equally important, based on its findings, EPA now holds that any “Proposition 65 warning language” based on claims that glyphosate is carcinogenic “constitute[s] a false and misleading statement.” Any products bearing Prop 65 warning statements due to the presence of glyphosate in them are thus “misbranded.” EPA will no longer approve such labels, and any such warnings “must be removed from all product labels where the only basis for the warning is glyphosate.

Applying that decision to these lawsuits, because glyphosate is not carcinogenic, Bayer-Monsanto was and is under no obligation to put warning labels on Roundup containers, stating that the chemical causes or “probably” causes cancer in humans. In fact, the company is legally obligated not to issue such warnings, because they would make the label “false and misleading.”

There is therefore no basis for cancer claims based on IARC’s erroneous, sloppy, collusive, even fraudulent “science.” Thus there is no legal or scientific basis for these lawsuits and jury awards.

It’s time for trial and appellate court judges – and state and federal regulatory authorities – to implement these EPA findings in courtrooms, in news and activist website statements, and in the ubiquitous ads that are trolling for still more Roundup-glyphosate “victims” and predatory tort lawyer clients.


Siemens defies Greenies and sticks with coal mine contract in Australia

German industrial giant Siemens says it will continue to work with Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine after the company’s CEO cited arguments from federal resources minister Matt Canavan in an open letter justifying the decision.

Siemens had been awarded a contract by the Adani project to deliver services and equipment to the rail network connecting the coal mine to export terminals on the coast.

Siemens had signed the contract with the Adani project in December but announced that it would review this decision following calls from environmental groups. At the time, the company’s CEO said that he wasn’t aware of the company’s contract with the Adani project.

Siemens had faced growing pressure to walk away from the Adani project, including from environmental campaigners in Australia and in its homeland in Germany. More than 57,000 Germans signed a petition calling on the company to cancel its contract with the Adani mine, with campaigners protesting outside of the company’s headquarters in Munich.

President and CEO of Siemens Joe Kaeser said in an open letter published on Monday that the company considered the Adani contract to be a “very small signaling order for the project”, and confirmed that the company had decided to honour the contract.

Kaeser provided a list of reasons to justify the decision, including that the mine had received approvals from traditional owners, despite ongoing challenges to this claim, and quoted Canavan who wrote in a letter to Siemens that the 2019 federal election had effectively served as a referendum on the Carmichael coal mine.

“The Australian people clearly voted to support Adani at the federal election in May 2019, especially in regional Queensland. It would be an insult to the working people of Australia and the growing needs of India to bow to the pressure of anti-Adani protestors,” Canavan told Siemens in a letter dated 19 December.

Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, which is set to become one of Australia’s largest, has faced several years of strong opposition from environmental groups who have pointed to the impacts the project will have on both local land and wildlife, as well as become a major new source of fossil fuel emissions at a time when stronger action on climate change has been needed.

Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg joined calls for Siemens to refuse to work with the coal mine, tweeting this week that Siemens “have the power to stop, delay or at least interrupt the building of the huge Adani coal mine in Australia.”

The Siemens CEO said that the company remained committed to being part of the transition to a decarbonised economy, including the company’s aim to become carbon neutral by 2030.

“Siemens, as one of the first companies to have pledged carbon neutrality by 2030, fundamentally shares the goal of making fossil fuels redundant to our economies over time,” Kaeser said.

Kaeser argued that a refusal by Siemens to provide services to Adani would not prevent the project from going ahead, suggesting that competitors would simply fill the gap. Siemens also argued that the need for the company to honour its established contractual arrangements outweighed the climate change considerations of the projects it worked with.

“While I do have a lot of empathy for environmental matters, I do need to balance different interests of different stakeholders, as long as they have lawful legitimation for what they do. This is my responsibility as a CEO and that of the management team. Keeping our promises is Siemens’ highest priority.” Kaeser said.

“We should have been wiser about this project beforehand. Now, we need to be a supplier, who sticks to its commitments as long as the customer stays on legal grounds, too. Because being a company, which is not a reliable source for its customers is simply not an option,” Kaeser added.

The decision by Siemens places the company at odds with other businesses that have sought to distance themselves from the controversial coal mine. All of Australia’s ‘big four’ banks, which includes the NAB, Westpac, ANZ and Commonwealth Banks have declined to provide finance to the Carmichael coal mine following targeted campaigns from customers and shareholders.

Shareholder advocacy group Market Forces said that the decision was “appalling”, saying that the decision undermined Siemens’ own environmental credibility.

Global engineering giant GHD has also ceased its engagement with the Adani project, after the company faced internal pressure from staff to do so, and more than a dozen major insurance companies have also declined to provide financial services to the Adani coal mine.

The decision from Siemens to work with the Adani project has been criticised by environmental groups who had hoped Siemens would join other companies in refusing to work with the Adani mine.


'They can't even get the weather right': Conservative politician says the bushfires were not caused by climate change - and urges Australians to 'look at the facts'

Pauline Hanson has rubbished claims that climate change caused  the Australian bushfire crisis, saying it was caused by the build-up of forest-floor fuel and restrictions on land clearance.

The One Nation leader appeared on the Today show on Monday, where she told hosts Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon to 'look purely at the facts'.

'As far as predicting the climate change... they can't even get my weather right and tell me if it's going to rain,' she said.

'They can't get it right over the next seven to 10 days and they're trying to tell me what it is going to be like in the next hundred years.'

Ms Hanson said a lack of hazard reduction burns in fire ravaged communities had contributed to the rapid spread of the blazes.

Authorities in New South Wales and Victoria previously told Daily Mail Australia the majority of recent fires in both states were sparked by lightning strikes in dry, remote areas.

Fires at Gospoers Mountain, as well as in the Snowy Mountains and at Green Wattle Creek, were believed to have been triggered by lightning strikes.

Ms Hanson also criticised Prime Minister Scott Morrison's handling of the crisis.

Throughout the nation, she said voters are becoming increasingly frustrated with Mr Morrison and his lack of leadership.

'People don't feel that he has done enough in dealing with the drought and the dairy farmers,' she said.

'I'm disappointed with him myself. When he was immigration minister I predicted he would be the prime minister but he's not as strong a leader as he was then.'

The PM has considered holding a Royal Commission into the fires, which Ms Hanson supports as long as the investigation studies 'pure facts' on how fires spread and efforts to stop them, and 'throws bloody climate change out of the window.'

Ms Hanson said her major concern is that in an attempt to lower emissions, the government will continue to raise taxes.

'How on earth is that supposed to reduce temperatures?' she asked.

'It is killing the communities. They can't afford the electricity. You have people moving out of the towns, these are going to become ghost towns.'



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