Tag Archives: europe

Europe’s hurricane-fueled wildfires might become a recurring nightmare

This week, a hurricane broadsided Europe — a rare event considering most of the continent is closer to the North Pole than it is to the tropics. That would have been enough to make worldwide news, but the continent was due for much more.

As the storm, named Ophelia, approached, it was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the eastern Atlantic. Although weather watchers were initially focused most closely on Ireland, where the storm made landfall, its deadliest impact occurred hundreds of miles south in Portugal and Spain.

There, strong winds stoked hundreds of wildfires, killing more than 40 people. The ghastly images from southwestern Europe looked less like real life than illustrations from a cautionary fairy tale about the end of the world. Being there, as one person wrote, was like “a nightmare world of smoke and ash.”

These fires would have been the deadliest in Portugal’s history, were it not for massive blazes in June that killed more than 60 people, trapping many in their cars, as flames advanced too quickly for them to escape.

With its vast forests and typically warm and dry summers, Portugal is already Europe’s wildfire capital. And in recent decades, its profound and unique socioeconomic vulnerability to fire has only grown. Last year, half of the fire acreage burned in all of Europe lay in Portugal — a trend attributed both to haphazard forestry practices and climate change bringing hotter and drier weather.

This year, the sheer scale of the fires has been staggering. On Sunday alone, wildfires burned at least 300,000 acres — more than is normally burned in an entire year. Smoke from the fires quickly spread as far away as London.

Portugal’s wildfires this year have brought sharp focus on the escalating risk of these blazes — and what little officials have done to prevent them. Popular backlash prompted the resignation of a senior government minister and a formal request for a vote of no confidence in the ruling party. But they have also brought a lesson for the rest of the world: As climate change escalates, wildfires are a problem without an easy solution. (Just ask California.)

In a struggling post-recession Portugal, suppliers to its huge paper industry have accelerated a switchover from native species to faster-growing eucalyptus. Since trees consumed by fire can now be replaced more quickly, fire prevention — simple actions like trimming branches and clearing underbrush that could greatly reduce the country’s fire risk — has fallen by the wayside due to cost cutting. Add to that, more and more people are fleeing Portugal’s rural areas — leaving an aging population behind — it’s not clear who will be able to do that work even if resources were available to fund it.

“It really is a textbook example of wildfire as a socio-natural hazard,” José Miguel Pereira, a forest ecologist at the University of Lisbon tells Grist via email. Or to put it another way, human activity is making wildfires worse. These infernos are a product of our disregard for the fact that nature is now almost entirely something we’ve created — these disasters aren’t natural.

And as you know, our influence goes beyond simply neglecting tree management. There’s a growing consensus that the most important reason behind the recent surge in megafires is weather. September was the driest month in Portugal for at least 87 years, and this summer was among the hottest ever measured. All that’s led to a wildfire season that’s 525 percent worse than normal.

Climate models show that a warmer world will mean a drier southern Europe, and increasing ocean temperatures will likely bring more hurricanes further northward. That combination will boost the frequency of massive wildfires in Europe, especially in places like Portugal. On our current warming track, recent research shows the Mediterranean will cross a threshold into megadrought in the next few decades. Many of the trees in the region will likely go up in flames before next century.

This week, with the addition of Ophelia’s winds, weather conditions favorable for fire growth were extreme — and they occurred at a time of the year when farmers routinely set the ground ablaze to clear land. The mix resulted in fires so intense they created their own weather, spawning rare pyrocumulus clouds, literally a fire cloud.

“To the best of my knowledge this is new in Europe,” Paulo Fernandes, a forest ecologist at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, wrote to Grist, adding the weather was far outside what would be expected for mid-October. ”Extreme fires cannot be mitigated by a stronger firefighting force.”

What happened this week in Portugal points toward the scariest aspects of the Anthropocene: We are changing the world around us so fast that, in many cases, adaptation will be near impossible. As a hurricane, Ophelia was literally off the charts, and meteorologists have no doubt that the storm made the fires worse, rapidly transforming the smallest flames into towering infernos.

In my discussions with colleagues this week, not one weather or climate expert could think of an example of a tropical cyclone in the last 90-plus years that has sparked such a series of megafires. The closest corollaries were a 1978 storm in western Australia and a 2011 storm in Texas. Each fanned large fires, but the loss of life was relatively low. In 1923, a typhoon worsened the impact of fires sparked by a massive earthquake in Japan – but again, that required an earthquake.

Like Portugal, California has a Mediterranean climate that features a long summer dry season. In the wake of the state’s record-breaking wildfire season, which occurred under similar weather and climate conditions as the Portuguese fires, there’s a lot the West Coast can learn from what’s going wrong in Portugal. The most important lesson: Once huge fires get going, there’s not much that can stop them. The best hope, instead, is reducing risk in advance by preparing forests for the inevitable.

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of Western senators proposed a reform of forestry practices that will do just that. And it’s already getting praise from firefighters, environmentalists, and industry. In 2017, the U.S. spent a record $2 billion on fighting wildfires, and the new bill would support low-cost preparedness efforts — like those shelved in Portugal — to try to prevent future fires.

In a statement accompanying the release of the bill, Washington Sen. Patty Murray, one of its sponsors said the time for action is now: “We can’t sit by and let devastating wildfires become the new normal.”

Read this article:

Europe’s hurricane-fueled wildfires might become a recurring nightmare

Posted in alo, Anchor, FF, GE, ONA, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ophelia is the strongest storm to hit Ireland in at least 50 years.

In parts of the United Kingdom Monday morning, people woke up to a blood-red sun — a phenomenon seen around the globe this year.

The color was caused by smoke that blew in from wildfires across Portugal and Spain. Hurricane Ophelia deepened the reddish hue by dragging up dust from the Sahara.

Red skies have haunted the western U.S. recently as wildfires burned in Montana and ash rained down in Seattle. This month in Northern California, 20,000 people evacuated from massive wildfires under a red-orange sky.

Anadolu Agency / Contributor / Getty Images

On the other side of the world, wildfires burned in Siberia all summer long, covering the sun with enormous clouds of smoke and ash.

REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

To understand why this happens, you need to know a bit of optics. Sun rays contain light from the whole visible spectrum. As the sun’s white light beams into the atmosphere, it collides with molecules that diffuse some of the wavelengths. On a normal day, short wavelength colors, like purple and blue, are filtered out, making the sun look yellow.

But high concentrations of light-scattering molecules in the air (like smoke particles from a wildfire) crowd out more of those short-wavelength colors, leaving behind that hellish red color.

Since climate change makes wildfires worse, we’ll be seeing a lot more of it.

Link:  

Ophelia is the strongest storm to hit Ireland in at least 50 years.

Posted in alo, Anchor, FF, G & F, GE, LAI, Northeastern, ONA, PUR, The Atlantic, Uncategorized, Wiley | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meet July, the hottest month yet

Our planet has never been warmer than it was last month, according to data released by NASA on Tuesday.

Yes, you’ve heard some version of that story before, and you’re sure to hear it again and again in the coming years, but this time, it’s a bit freaky.

The news that July was the hottest month on record comes as a relative surprise, because there hasn’t even been an El Niño this year — the natural climate shift that usually boosts global temperatures. In fact, 2017 started with La Niña conditions, which tend to temporarily cool the planet, yet we still wound up with a record anyway. That’s shocking, as well as compelling evidence that anthropogenic climate change is picking up speed.

Using measurements collected from about 6,300 land- and ocean-based weather stations around the world, NASA scientists calculated that the planet’s average temperature during July was about 2.25 degrees C (4.05 degrees F) warmer than the long-term annual average.

NASA/GISS/GISTEMP

Technically, July 2017 now shares the record in a statistical tie with July 2016 and August 2016 in NASA’s 137-year temperature record — all three are within the margin of error. July and August of 2016 had a bit of extra help from an El Niño, and last month achieved the mark all on its own. According to Gavin Schmidt, the NASA climate scientist who helps oversee the dataset, these three months are now “way ahead of the rest.” In a Twitter post, Schmidt predicted that 2017 will easily rank as one of the three warmest overall years on record, but probably won’t top 2016 as the warmest single year in history.

Such a warm month during the peak of the Northern Hemisphere’s summer created a cascade of extreme weather conditions. In western Canada, the worst forest fires in nearly 60 years have already torched upwards of a million acres, more than four times what normally burns in an entire wildfire season. In California, Death Valley recorded the hottest month ever measured anywhere on Earth, with an average temperature of 107.24 degrees F. Several days topped 120 degrees.

In Alaska, some cities recorded their warmest month in history, in part because of the early retreat of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.

“There’s basically now no sea ice left within 200 miles of Alaska,” the National Weather Service’s Rick Thoman told Climate Central. At the start of the month, the volume of sea ice across the Arctic was the lowest ever measured.

In Europe, a persistent heatwave earned the name “Lucifer.” Spain recorded its hottest July day ever, with temperatures reaching 109 degrees F, and a drought in Italy prompted widespread water rationing. On its hottest day in history, Shanghai, China, saw a spike in fights and traffic accidents that the state-run media blamed on the heat. Temperatures exceeding 120 degrees F in Saudi Arabia prompted one engineer to invent an air-conditioned umbrella.

This is climate change in action. Rising temperatures are the best-predicted consequence of more greenhouse gas emissions. A recent study showed that 82 percent of locally record-hot days worldwide can be linked to climate change, but on the bigger, planetary scale, the evidence is even clearer: The most recent global assessment of climate science said that human-caused warming is now “unequivocal.”

All of this is evidence that our relationship with the planet is entering a new and dangerous phase. The good news is that, because we’re causing the shift, there are still things we can do to turn it around. But on our current pace — the fastest warming in at least 1,000 years — we’re quickly leaving the cozy climate that gave rise to human civilization.

Original source:

Meet July, the hottest month yet

Posted in alo, Anchor, Cascade, FF, G & F, GE, LG, ONA, Paradise, solar, solar panels, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Meet July, the hottest month yet

After a threatening call from Trump admin, Lisa Murkowski’s got backup.

The Eternal City’s water utility, Acea, had proposed cutting off water to 1.5 million residents for eight hours a day starting on Monday. The city avoided that fate on Friday when the central government allowed the city to keep drawing from a drought-ravaged lake.

The summer heat is partly to blame for the water shortage. Much of Western Europe has been sweltering, with heatwaves stoking fires in Portugal and setting record temperatures in France. Italy is suffering through one of its hottest, driest, wildfiriest times in history. Several regions have declared a state of emergency or asked for relief from the climate change–fueled drought, which has already taken a $2.3 billion toll on the country’s farming industry.

Rome’s other problems are making things worse. The city’s aqueducts are chronically leaking. Diminished snowpack on nearby mountains means less meltwater to replenish its aquifers. Rome had planned to stop drawing from one of its big sources of fresh water, Lake Bracciano, which has sunk nearly six feet in the last two years.

City officials have switched off iconic fountains and lowered water pressure, causing residents to lug buckets up the stairs to their apartments. Nearby small towns have already resorted to rationing, the New York Times reports.

Minus a drought in the Dark Ages, clean drinking water has been constantly flowing through Rome for millennia. Now, it looks like things are changing (the climate certainly is).

View article:  

After a threatening call from Trump admin, Lisa Murkowski’s got backup.

Posted in alo, Anchor, FF, G & F, GE, LAI, ONA, Ringer, Uncategorized, wind energy, wind power | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on After a threatening call from Trump admin, Lisa Murkowski’s got backup.

The Biggest Beneficiaries of "America First" Are . . . Russia and China

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

Donald Trump is addicted to dramatic announcements, and he’s had a bunch. He killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership on his first day in office. He’s weakened ties with Europe and trashed NATO. He’s cozied up with autocrats and given short shrift to our usual democratic allies. He’s focused all of his attention in Asia on North Korea. Yesterday he pulled out of the Paris climate accord. Who do these actions benefit?

TPP: Mostly China, which was left out of TPP and now has an open road to create its own trading bloc. The benefit to the US is minuscule at best.

NATO: Russia, of course. I assume this needs no explanation?

Paris: Mostly China, which can now take the high ground and bill itself as the global leader in combating climate change. The benefit to America is probably zero or negative.

North Korea: China. They’re pretty obviously stringing Trump along, doling out tiny claims of progress in return for concessions by Trump. I’m guessing their claims in the South China Sea are very safe as long as they keep up this charade with Trump the global bumpkin.

Autocrats: China and Russia, which very much like the idea of the leader of the free world affirming that human rights are for suckers. America gets nothing from this policy of alienating the allies we have in return for kowtowing to autocrats who share no values with us and have no intention of becoming allies.

I’m not saying this is a deliberate policy from Trump. I doubt he really has one. But it’s pretty remarkable that America gets nothing from “America First,” while China and Russia are big beneficiaries.

For a more coherent take on this, check out Max Boot in the LA Times today. He has a pretty clear-eyed read on what’s going on.

See original – 

The Biggest Beneficiaries of "America First" Are . . . Russia and China

Posted in alo, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Biggest Beneficiaries of "America First" Are . . . Russia and China

Trump Has No Idea What He Just Did or the Backlash That Awaits

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

The negotiations leading up to the Paris climate accord involved years of delicate diplomacy and thousands of voices offering guidance. President Donald Trump’s handling of the decision to leave was the polar opposite.

Despite claiming that he’s been “hearing from a lot of people,” Trump doesn’t appear to have any more detailed knowledge of climate change or the 2015 deal now than when he first pledged to cancel it on the campaign trail. The “lots of people” he’s heard from include a disproportionate number of climate change deniers, even though there are far more leaders in industry and on both sides of the aisle advocating for the US to remain in the agreement. They have argued that the Paris deal is important to the US, not just for its environmental merits, but also so that the country is not excluded from the rest of the world, both economically and politically.

His months of hints and delays on a decision have drawn more than one comparison to The Bachelor reality show, but one with the highest of stakes. He recently went to the strongest US allies at the G-7 without a clear answer, leading the G-6 to isolate the US when it issued its communiqué that reaffirmed the agreement. As Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent noted, Trump’s nationalist case to exit Paris “does not allow space for recognition of what the Paris deal really is, which is constructive global engagement that serves America’s long term interests, as part of a system of mutually advantageous compromises.”

Trump doesn’t have any sense of the backlash that’s coming for him and the US now that he’s kickstarted the process of pulling out, which won’t be official for another three years. Two factors will especially hurt the US: First, the world has been dealing with the US as an unreliable partner on climate change for more than two decades, and leaders still well remember the other times the US reversed course on its promises; second, the world has never been more aligned in favor of action, making climate change a much bigger factor in the US relationship with its allies in non-climate related issues—from trade to defense to immigration—than it once was.

Trump officials might have taken note of the consequences of US inconsistency with the 1997 Kyoto climate treaty. President Bill Clinton signed the treaty, which had binding targets, but never submitted it to the Senate for ratification. In 2001, Bush officials declared Kyoto dead and withdrew the US from the agreement. International backlash ensued. Some in the Bush administration, which like Trump’s was split on how to handle Kyoto, came to regret how it was handled for the damage it did to the standing of the US in the world.

“Kyoto—this is not talking out of school—was not handled as well as it should have been,” Bush’s Secretary of State* Colin Powell said in 2002. “And when the blowback came I think it was a sobering experience that everything the American president does has international repercussions.”

In her 2011 memoir, then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice detailed the reaction Bush faced in meetings with European leaders. Because of the way the administration handled the abrupt withdrawal, “we suffered through this issue over the years: drawing that early line in the sand helped to establish our reputation for ‘unilateralism.’ We handled it badly.” Rice called it a “self-inflicted wound that could have been avoided.”

US withdrawal also shifted the power dynamics across the world and gave Russia, which signed the agreement, greater leverage in international affairs. Russia’s ratification became pivotal to the treaty entering into force, and in turn, it used its ratification to gain Europe’s backing to enter the World Trade Organization, even while the US still had outstanding concerns. President Vladimir Putin noted in 2004 that the “EU has met us halfway in talks over the WTO and that cannot but affect positively our position vis-a-vis the Kyoto Protocol.” Paris has already met the threshold needed to go into effect, but Russia is still pursuing a similar role and reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris accord today, seasoned with some light trolling: “Of course the effectiveness of implementing this convention without the key participants, perhaps, will be hindered,” a Kremlin spokesperson told CNN. “But there is no alternative as of now.”

We’re decades away from the Kyoto treaty now, but many experts expect a US exit from Paris not to weaken the world’s resolve in addressing climate change as much as it will create a power vacuum other countries might be eager to fill. Andrew Light, a senior fellow with the World Resources Institute, says it is “definitely going to hurt the US with respect to other countries sitting down and negotiating on anything the US is interested in.” Light, who was a State Department climate official in the Obama administration, argued, “We’re creating a vacuum in parts of the world where we have very clear security interests, not just climate, but security in North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. It creates an opening that China, the EU, and even India can step in and fill.”

Conservatives have issued similar warnings.

In a New York Times op-ed earlier this month, George Shultz, a former Cabinet member of the Reagan and Nixon administrations, and Climate Leadership Council’s Ted Halstead wrote, “Global statecraft relies on trust, reputation and credibility, which can be all too easily squandered. The United States is far better off maintaining a seat at the head of the table rather than standing outside. If America fails to honor a global agreement that it helped forge, the repercussions will undercut our diplomatic priorities across the globe, not to mention the country’s global standing and the market access of our firms.”

It’s little surprise that Trump’s own secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, agrees, preferring the US to retain a seat at the table.

To find the kind of momentum it eventually gained to enter into force in record time, negotiators in Paris had to bridge differences between developing and industrialized nations. “One of the great achievements of Paris, but sometimes overlooked, is it gave a very strong signal that climate change is no longer an isolated area of diplomacy,” Light says. For example, climate change and renewable energy became building blocks in the US relationship with India, leading eventually to a bilateral commitment on climate change in the run-up to Paris.

While the US retreats, other nations are going to be building bridges with China as it curbs its sizeable greenhouse gas footprint. That’s already happening: This week, the EU and China engaged in a climate summit where they signaled their “highest political commitment” to Paris, just as Trump pulls out. This will also not help the US president in his much-vaunted fight against terrorism. He’s losing goodwill not just with Europe, but with partners in developing nations that stood to benefit from the $3 billion commitment the US had made to climate finance—another commitment that Trump won’t deliver on. That means losing one of the main ways the US has built friendly relationships with countries that can otherwise be fraught with tension. Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy offers China as an example: “The South China Sea. Human rights. Trade. Currency manipulation. When U.S.-China relations are discussed we often ascribe these issues some level of tension. However, our countries’ cooperation has historically been more cordial and productive in one area: environmental protection.”

Union of Concerned Scientists’ Director of Strategy and Policy Alden Meyer, a longtime expert on the UN climate process, compared the US to the cartoon character Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip, always taking away the football from Charlie Brown at the very last moment. The rest of the world is likely to become weary of the US constantly taking away the ball when it comes time to negotiate tough issues like trade and terror, which Trump has sought to champion.

Or as United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres put it this week, countries all over the world have only two options on climate: “Get on board or get left behind.”

* Corrected

See the original article here – 

Trump Has No Idea What He Just Did or the Backlash That Awaits

Posted in FF, G & F, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, PUR, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Trump Has No Idea What He Just Did or the Backlash That Awaits

Nothing Says "Happiness" and "Relief" Like Angela Merkel Seeing Barack Obama Again

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is having quite the day with current and former US presidents.

This morning she met with Barack Obama for breakfast and an event in front of thousands at the Brandenburg Gate, and with the rendezvous came a rhapsody of smiles and mutual affection.

“We can’t hide behind a wall,” Obama told the rapt audience, a none-too-subtle dig at his successor, in his first speaking appearance in Europe since he left office. The crowd lapped it up.

Tonight, Merkel is in Brussels meeting current US president—and handshake-refuser—Donald Trump at a NATO summit.

Two presidents, one day. How is it going? One clue can be read in their faces. Note, if you will, the sheer number and range of smiles shared between Merkel and Obama this morning.

Like this one, the “is-it-really-you, B?” smile:

Or this, the “we-were-so-good-together, remember?” smile:

The “I-know-you’ve-moved-on, but-our-old-jokes-were-better-than-others’-jokes” smile:

And then there was this elegant wave-of-the-hand smile; B.O. pleased as punch:

Nicole Kubelka/face to face via ZUMA Press

Meanwhile, in Brussels, early photos indicate a….very different rapport:

Merkel and Trump pictured during the unveiling ceremony of the new headquarters of NATO in Brussels, Wednesday.Benoit Doppagne/Belga via ZUMA Press

More – 

Nothing Says "Happiness" and "Relief" Like Angela Merkel Seeing Barack Obama Again

Posted in FF, GE, LG, ONA, Pines, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Nothing Says "Happiness" and "Relief" Like Angela Merkel Seeing Barack Obama Again

France Is About to Vote in the Craziest Election the World Has Seen Since, Well, November

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

French voters will go to the polls on Sunday to vote for a new president. The election will have profound reverberations around the world. Will France take a nationalist turn to the right? Will it seek to withdraw from the European Union and restrict immigration? Will a young candidate with a pro-Europe, pro-immigration message convince enough of his voters to actually show up? Will the “French Bernie Sanders” upset the establishment and convince voters that his left-wing populism is the way to go?

Voters will choose between 11 candidates, with four clear front-runners: right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, center-right conservative François Fillon, and left-wing populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Sunday’s election will narrow the field to the top two vote-getters (unless one candidate earns more than 50 percent of the vote), who will then go head to head in a runoff election on May 7.

According to polling from the Financial Times, Macron leads the pack at 24 percent, just 1 point up on Le Pen. But Mélenchon, who had been hovering just above the 10 percent mark for months, has seen a surge in popularity of late, bringing him into a tie for third place with Fillon at 19 percent. The polling backs up the consensus narrative out of France that Le Pen and Macron will face off in the May 7 election, but Mélenchon’s steep rise over the last month could upset that outcome.

When the news starts to come in from Europe this weekend, here are some key points about each of the leading candidates to keep in mind:

Marine Le Pen: The far-right firebrand has been getting a lot of the attention during the race, and polls show she is likely to get through to the second round. The 48-year-old daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the far-right National Front party, Le Pen is riding a wave of anti-immigration and anti-globalization policy that could make her France’s next president. She’s doing well with the youths of France, who face high unemployment and, according to Marion Maréchal-Le Pen—Le Pen’s niece, who is a member of the French Parliament—resent immigrants because of the sense of losing their own, French, identity.

While polls showing Le Pen doing well in Sunday’s free-for-all election, she consistently lags behind both Macron and Fillon in polls of runoff scenarios. While the National Front has historically been associated with anti-immigration zealotry, Le Pen has recently stirred controversy for aligning herself with an outsider: Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under Le Pen’s leadership, National Front took out a $30 million loan from a Russian bank. Le Pen told reporters that she had to do so because French, American, and English banks won’t lend her money. She says her stance toward Russia is more about reducing American and European Union control over the world and elevating other nations to be more on equal footing with the United States. She’s also taken several pro-Russian positions, including supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea, pulling France out of NATO and the European Union, and dropping sanctions against Russian interests.

Emmanuel Macron: A former investment banker, Macron, 39, is the country’s former economy minister. Where Le Pen favors a France-first, populist approach, Macron is pro-European Union and pro-NATO and has supported increasing sanctions against Russia if the country does not follow through on plans to address its actions in the Ukraine. The knock on Macron is that he’s too boring, and his platform is trying to be all things to all people, according to Politico, balancing “the big paradox of French political life. Voters want radical change—but they also want candidates to put forward realistic, bordering on safe, platforms.”

Macron is polling nearly 30 points higher than Le Pen in a two-way race. He’s currently about a point up on Le Pen for Sunday’s race, so it’s likely he’ll make it through to the May 7 final election.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: The “French Bernie Sanders,” as Mélenchon is often called by the US press, is a comparison that isn’t totally accurate, as pointed out by the Intercept. Mélenchon is running from outside the main political parties, whereas Sanders ran for the Democratic Party nomination in 2016. But that hasn’t seemed to hurt Mélenchon’s chances. The 65-year-old supporter of Hugo Chavez and the Castros in Cuba seems to be riding a growing wave of popularity among “disgruntled, blue collar voters” who, despite their troubles with the status quo in France, “do not want to vote for Le Pen,” according to Foreign Policy.

If he were to edge ahead of Macron, French voters would likely be left to choose between a far-right and a far-left candidate, a prospect that the Wall Street Journal called “a nightmare scenario for investors.” The theory underpinning the investor-worry is that both candidates in that scenario would advocate policies that would scare investors from servicing France’s debt, lower the value of its currency, and stunt economic growth. According to the Financial Times polling data, Mélenchon is polling 18 points ahead of Le Pen if the two were to compete in May.

Still, there are many in France who agree with his message—similar to Sanders’ during the 2016 US presidential election—that wealth in France is concentrated in too few hands at the top of the food chain. Mélenchon has proposed a 32-hour work week, cutting the retirement age from 62 to 60, and a 100 billion euro ($107 billion) stimulus plan. But he also proposes pulling France from NATO, a move that would remove one of the alliance’s strongest members. Mélenchon isn’t as anti-European Union as Le Pen, but he says he wants to reform the European Central Bank to respond more to political interests than economic interests.

François Fillon: As a former prime minister, the conservative 63-year-old was an early favorite to win the race. But his support plummeted after it came to light that he’d gotten his wife and two of his adult children more than $1 million in parliamentary payments for jobs they didn’t really do. Fillon insists he did nothing wrong, but some have called on him to bow out of the race. The New York Times reported in early March that “hundreds of Mr. Fillon’s former backers have distanced themselves from him,” and recent polling has put him at either third or fourth place behind Le Pen, Macron, and, at times, Mélenchon.

As far as policy positions, Fillon has strong support from Catholics and other social conservatives for opposing same-sex marriage. He’s proposed increasing the retirement age, slashing public benefits, getting rid of the 35-hour work week, and cutting 600,000 public-sector jobs. He has also said he’s ready to battle the country’s strong unions. He’s pro-European Union but has advocated better relations with Russia in order to defeat ISIS.

Visit site:

France Is About to Vote in the Craziest Election the World Has Seen Since, Well, November

Posted in alo, Anker, FF, GE, Jason, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on France Is About to Vote in the Craziest Election the World Has Seen Since, Well, November

If There’s Going to Be a Wall, Let It Be This Collaboration Between American and Mexican Designers

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

This story was originally published by Fusion and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

When President Trump appealed to the public to submit proposals for his “big, beautiful” border wall, you can be pretty sure that the plan presented by the Mexican American Design and Engineering Collective (MADE) was not what he had in mind.

In response to the president’s mad quest to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, the group of 14 designers, engineers, builders, and architects from the US and Mexico proposed something entirely different—a high-tech “ecotopia” called Otra Nation.

“Otra Nation will be the world’s first shared co-nation open to citizens of both countries and co-maintained by Mexico and the United States of America,” the group says in their proposal. “Besides sharing the same geographical conditions, the continuous exchange of information, knowledge, artistic expression and migration between sides will produce fertile ground to bring forth a hybrid sense of identity.”

Reflecting their ideology, the group is an even mix of US and Mexican professionals, and while they prefer to keep their identities anonymous, MADE spokesman, Memo Cruz, says that members of the group have worked with the last four US presidents and the last two Mexican ones. “We came together as people who wanted to come up with a solution to a broken system,” Memo said. “And sometimes to break a broken system is to make a new one.”

Far from the wall Trump envisions, the MADE collective wants to build a high-speed, electric hyperloop connecting different parts of Otra Nation. According to the group’s proposal, the new co-nation would be six miles wide and span the 1,200 miles from San Diego/Tijuana to the Gulf Coast. The land would be “drill free,” and used for a “regenerative agricultural system that will become a bread basket for the two countries.” To top it off, the whole thing would be powered completely by solar and other renewable energy sources, creating thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in trade.

Courtesy of Otra Nation

Among the 200-plus proposals submitted to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by the April 4th deadline, Otra Nation was definitely one of the more idealistic.

At the other end spectrum were walls made of wire mesh impossible to climb or cut, or constructed with one-way plexiglass panels so that US citizens could look into Mexico, but not the other way around.

Other designs were so whimsical that they could only be interpreted as a mockery of Trump’s ambitions—a wall made of organ pipes or a line of trees with hammocks strung between them.

From comical to xenophobic, the range of ideas submitted to DHS highlighted just how divided the US is when it comes to issues of immigration and border security. But while many of these proposals included green technology like solar panels or windmills, none acknowledged the true environmental consequences of building a wall along the border.

The border wall’s environmental footprint

That may be in part because we don’t really know. The last and only environmental review of US border security policy was conducted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service—the precursor to the DHS—in 2001. Effective for five years, the review has never been updated, and since then the size of the US Border patrol has more than doubled and hundreds of miles of fences and walls have been built.

This is the basis of a legal challenge by Arizona Congressmen Raul M. Grijalva and the Center for Biological Diversity put forth in early April. Citing the the Environmental Policy Act, the lawsuit calls upon federal agencies to conduct an environmental analysis of the proposed wall before any construction takes place.

“American environmental laws are some of the oldest and strongest in the world, and they should apply to the borderlands just as they do everywhere else,” said Rep. Grijalva in a statement. “These laws exist to protect the health and well-being of our people, our wildlife, and the places they live. Trump’s wall—and his fanatical approach to our southern border—will do little more than perpetuate human suffering while irrevocably damaging our public lands and the wildlife that depend on them.”

Even without a review, it’s clear to environmentalists that Trump’s wall would be a disaster. “It would be the end of jaguars and ocelots in North America,” Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate for the Center of Biological Diversity, said, naming only two out of the hundreds of animals whose migratory patterns and natural habitats would be jarringly broken by a 30-foot tall wall.

And, while information on the environmental impact of the US Border wall is scarce, a recent European study on the security fencing dividing countries in Eastern Europe and Asia confirms Serraglio’s fears. The study conducted by Norwegian scientists showed that the 15,000 to 19,000 miles of fence, much of which was erected in response to Europe’s growing refugee crisis, poses a “major threat” to wildlife.

Much more than just a security fence, Trumps wall will cross at least four wildlife refuges, potentially impacting 111 endangered species like jaguars, ocelots, black bears and Mexican grey wolves. Beyond imperiling sensitive animal populations, conservationists also argue that of the wall would cause flooding, erosion, and irreparable damage to countless acres of public lands like Big Bend National Park and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

“We’ve invested millions of dollars in establishing and protecting these areas over the years,” Serraglio said. “It makes absolutely no sense to throw that all away because Donald Trump wants to wall off the border.”

We only need to look at 654 miles of barriers that have already been erected along the border under the Clinton and Bush administrations to see just how bad things can get, said Serraglio. He points to instances like the destruction of the Tijuana Estuary system by erosion, and the 2008 flash flood in Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument that occurred because the border barrier inhibited the natural flow of rain water. The same storm led to two deaths and $8 million dollars of damage on the other side of the barrier in Nogales, Mexico.

There’s got to be a better way

Of all the designs submitted for Trumps wall, Otra Nation may be the only one advocating for a dismantling of the existing fence line. “We actually think that we can remove the physical borders that have already been put up,” said Cruz.

According to the MADE spokesman, Otra Nation would provide better border security than any physical wall could by using a high-tech system of biometric surveillance and universal smart ID cards. “The ID system that we are proposing is the toughest ID system in the world,” Cruz said. “It is far more stringent than anything the US government has right now.”

The idea may have some Orwellian undertones, but for environmentalists Otra Nation’s wall-less border is a welcome alternative to Trump’s vision. Still, many conservationists stress that it’s not just the wall, but the roads, the vehicles, the buildings, the noise, the high-powered lights, and other security installations, all of which will take its toll on the land and its inhabitants.

For now though, Trump’s wall seems about as far from reality as Otra Nation’s vision of a new age “ecotopia.” The administration has yet to figure out who will pay for the project that the DHS now estimates will cost nearly $22 billion dollars, nor has Trump answered how he intends to build the wall when 1,255 miles, or 64% of the border, runs right down the middle of the Rio Grande. Barring the unlikely scenario that Mexico will elect to host the wall on their side of the river, the US will have to effectively cede a large section of the Rio Grande to Mexico, a move which would undoubtedly affect ranchers, landowners, energy companies, and the local communities that rely on the Rio Grande for water.

Despite these inconsistencies, the president seems hellbent on fulfilling his campaign promise to build a “great” wall to keep immigrants out of the United States. His budget already sets aside $1.4 billion for the initial development of the project, and the bid process is moving forward with the DHS expected to announce a shortlist of 20 proposals by the summer. Those chosen will then build 30 ft. prototypes of their design in the Otay Mesa Community outside of San Diego.

“I know we’ve got a million to one chance of getting selected,” said Cruz. Still, he hopes that MADE’s Otra Nation proposal will at least generate conversation between members of the US and Mexican governments about alternative ways of looking at the border that don’t involve a wall. “Even if we’re not selected, to get the two governments to sit down and look at what we’ve done with these solutions, that will be a huge win for us.

View original: 

If There’s Going to Be a Wall, Let It Be This Collaboration Between American and Mexican Designers

Posted in alo, Citizen, FF, GE, Jason, LG, ONA, Radius, solar, solar panels, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on If There’s Going to Be a Wall, Let It Be This Collaboration Between American and Mexican Designers

Trump Floats Nonsense Idea of Privatizing Airports and Dams

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

Philip Howard attended Tuesday’s infrastructure confab with President Trump. The Guardian reports on what he told them:

Donald Trump is considering privatising America’s airports and dams as part of an infrastructure building programme that could exceed past estimates of a trillion dollars….“America can do much more than it has, and can do what other countries in Europe and Australia have done, by harnessing private capital,” Howard said. “So it could privatise a number of assets such as airports and dams, and get a lot of capital from that, as well as increase the tax base.”

Hundreds of airports around the world have been privatised or partly privatised but, Howard noted, virtually none in America….Last year the Cato Institute, a conservative thinktank, published a paper that endorsed privatising the nation’s more than 500 commercial airports, which are currently owned by state and local governments and rely on the federal government for capital improvements.

Is Trump really thinking about this? Who knows. But I’m a little mystified. The federal government can’t privatize airports that are owned by states and cities. And even if it could, states and cities would get the money. So what’s the point?

I’d say Trump had four big domestic priorities when he took office:

Repeal Obamacare.
Cut taxes for the rich.
Spend $1 trillion fixing roads and bridges.
Build a wall.

The Obamacare effort has already crashed and burned. His tax plan apparently won’t work with Obamacare in place, so now he’s delaying that to take another run at health care. He doesn’t have anywhere near enough support for his infrastructure plan, which is why he’s desperately scanning the horizon for weird ideas to fund it. And the wall hasn’t gone anywhere yet. It may yet make progress, but even Trump admits it won’t cover anything close to the whole border.

On foreign policy, he’s crashed and burned on his immigration plan; reversed himself on Russia; launched a strike on Syria with no apparent follow-up plan; still has no proposal for defeating ISIS; caved in to China on Taiwan; and has gone soft on trade.

So what has he done? He’s signed a few bills reversing some Obama executive orders, but that’s about over since the easy stuff has an early May deadline. He produced a kinda-sorta budget, which was even deader on arrival than most presidential budgets. He managed to pick a name off a list and nominate him to the Supreme Court, something he apparently considers a helluva hard day’s work. Beyond that, he’s tweeted, convened some “listening sessions,” held a couple of rallies, watched uncounted hours of TV, played lots of golf, and generally developed a reputation as the laziest president in anyone’s memory. Is there anything important I’m missing here?

Follow this link – 

Trump Floats Nonsense Idea of Privatizing Airports and Dams

Posted in FF, GE, LG, ONA, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Trump Floats Nonsense Idea of Privatizing Airports and Dams