Tag Archives: United Nations

Effects of climate change ‘irreversible,’ U.N. panel warns in report

More bad news on climate change from the United Nations

The Earth is locked on an “irreversible” course of climatic disruption from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the impacts will only worsen unless nations agree to dramatic cuts in pollution, an international panel of climate scientists warned Sunday.

The planet faces a future of extreme weather, rising sea levels and melting polar ice from soaring levels of carbon dioxide and other gases, the U.N. panel said. Only an unprecedented global effort to slash emissions within a relatively short time period will prevent temperatures from crossing a threshold that scientists say could trigger far more dangerous disruptions, the panel warned.

“Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts,” concluded the report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which draws on contributions from thousands of scientists from around the world.

The report said some impacts of climate change will “continue for centuries,” even if all emissions from fossil-fuel burning were to stop. The question facing governments is whether they can act to slow warming to a pace at which humans and natural ecosystems can adapt, or risk “abrupt and irreversible changes” as the atmosphere and oceans absorb ever-greater amounts of thermal energy within a blanket of heat-trapping gases, according to scientists who contributed to the report.

Meanwhile in Canada, we don’t care about climate change, only our own economy.

Canada’s hopes of securing an outlet for its landlocked oil wealth and pulling an end run around the eternally deadlocked Keystone XL project took a big step forward Thursday with the release of formal plans to build a U.S. $11 billion pipeline to the Atlantic.

TransCanada, the biggest Canadian pipeline company, submitted its application to Canadian energy regulators for a nearly 3,000-mile-long, million-barrel-a-day pipe running from oil-rich western Canada to refineries and shipping terminals in the east. The so-called Energy East Pipeline Project, which TransCanada officials hope could be in operation as soon as 2018, would provide an export outlet for huge volumes of current and future oil production that right now has no easy way to get to market.
The project wouldn’t replace the Keystone XL pipeline — Canada’s other high-profile, multibillion-dollar oil-transport project, which has been awaiting U.S. approval for years — but it could give Republican critics of U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration fresh fodder ahead of the midterm elections. Republicans have long argued that the White House’s refusal to sign off on the Keystone project would cost the United States tens of thousands of jobs. The Obama administration has finished reviewing the environmental merits of Keystone, but pushed back any decision until later this year or early 2015.

If the new Canadian route gets approved in 2016 by Canada’s National Energy Board, as TransCanada expects, it would give the eastern provinces a source of domestic oil — removing the need for some 700,000 barrels a day of oil imports — and would give producers in Alberta and Saskatchewan a direct route to big refineries that could turn the sludgy tar sands into valuable products such as diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel.

Over in Germany

On any given day, Johannes van Bergen, director of the municipal utility Stadtwerke Schwäbisch Hall in southwestern Germany, conducts his team’s array of gas, heat, and electricity sources to meet the energy needs of at least several hundred thousand Swabians in the region, as well as about more than 90,000 customers elsewhere in Germany. And every day — in fact, every hour — that energy mix is constantly in flux.

Technicians at the town’s smart-grid center monitor and manage the utility’s roughly 3,000 regional energy suppliers: several thousand solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, two wind parks, one gas-and-steam power station, six small hydro-electric works, three biomass (wood pellet), sixbiogas plants, and 48 combined heat and power plants, as well as other conventional and renewable energy suppliers outside the municipality.

The population that this ballet of coordinated energy sources serves is admittedly modest, but it’s here that the future of Germany’s energy industry is being tested in full — and proven.

Which of course is a model that we could use here but for whatever reason, the province and the country isn’t willing to experiment.

Their output, and increasingly that of the conventional, too, is distributed through a tightly knit, cross-border smart grid. The composition of supply changes from minute to minute depending on weather, demand, and other factors from one corner of the country to the other. Increasingly electricity is generated in and traded from locality to locality, and even across the country (or countries) via intelligent networks much like that in Schwäbisch Hall and other places in Germany.

No one predicted this scale of locally driven, citizen-led energy boom when the Energiewende began. Even just four years ago, just about everybody involved in the Energiewende thought that big-ticket projects like enormous offshore wind farms planned for Germany’s northern seas and Desertec, the mega-project to import solar energy across the Mediterranean from sprawling concentrated solar power arrays in the Middle East and Northern Africa, would be integral to Germany going renewable.

These projects, however, have flopped spectacularly.

Offshore wind has proven extremely pricey and technologically much trickier than originally assumed, which has led to billons in cost overruns and years-long delays. Germany’s seven operational offshore parks constitute a tiny fraction — just 0.6 percent — of the country’s renewably generated electricity, compared to onshore wind’s 34 percent. The offshore industry claims there’s smooth sailing for offshore wind just around the corner, but it’s been saying that for years.

The Inside Story of Russia’s Fight to Keep the U.N. Corrupt

How Russia consistently undermines the U.N. in order to keep a multi-billion dollar monopoly on the sales of helicopters and airplanes.

Russia’s zeal for turning back reform has been felt most powerfully in the U.N.’s leasing of aircraft — a $1 billion a year market — that provide transport for the world’s second-largest expeditionary force. An examination of U.N. procurement practices in the air-transport sector — drawing on dozens of interviews with U.N.-based officials and diplomats, as well as a review of internal U.N. communications and audits — suggests that Russia has enjoyed unfair advantages, including contracts that all but demand that the United Nations lease Russia’s Soviet-era aircraft.

The dispute provides a textbook example of the difficulties of implementing basic financial reforms at the United Nations when major powers have conflicting commercial interests in the outcome. As such, the secretary general and key countries have been unwilling to openly confront Russia because its cooperation is required on a wide range of critical issues at the United Nations.

Throughout history, dire poverty has been a basic condition of the mass of mankind

We can eradicate it by 2030 according to the Economist

IN SEPTEMBER 2000 the heads of 147 governments pledged that they would halve the proportion of people on the Earth living in the direst poverty by 2015, using the poverty rate in 1990 as a baseline. It was the first of a litany of worthy aims enshrined in the United Nations “millennium development goals” (MDGs). Many of these aims—such as cutting maternal mortality by three quarters and child mortality by two thirds—have not been met. But the goal of halving poverty has been. Indeed, it was achieved five years early.

In 1990, 43% of the population of developing countries lived in extreme poverty (then defined as subsisting on $1 a day); the absolute number was 1.9 billion people. By 2000 the proportion was down to a third. By 2010 it was 21% (or 1.2 billion; the poverty line was then $1.25, the average of the 15 poorest countries’ own poverty lines in 2005 prices, adjusted for differences in purchasing power). The global poverty rate had been cut in half in 20 years.

That raised an obvious question. If extreme poverty could be halved in the past two decades, why should the other half not be got rid of in the next two? If 21% was possible in 2010, why not 1% in 2030?

Why not indeed? In April at a press conference during the spring meeting of the international financial institutions in Washington, DC, the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, scrawled the figure “2030” on a sheet of paper, held it up and announced, “This is it. This is the global target to end poverty.” He was echoing Barack Obama who, in February, promised that “the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades.”

This week, that target takes its first step towards formal endorsement as an aim of policy round the world. The leaders of Britain, Indonesia and Liberia are due to recommend to the UN a list of post-2015 MDGs. It will be headed by a promise to end extreme poverty by 2030.

There is a lot of debate about what exactly counts as poverty and how best to measure it. But by any measure, the eradication of $1.25-a-day poverty would be an astonishing achievement. Throughout history, dire poverty has been a basic condition of the mass of mankind. Thomas Malthus, a British clergyman who founded the science of demography, wrote in 1798 that it was impossible for people to “feel no anxiety about providing the means of subsistence for themselves and [their] families” and that “no possible form of society could prevent the almost constant action of misery upon a great part of mankind.” For most countries, poverty was not even a problem; it was a plain, unchangeable fact.

You know what I would like to see?  Stephen Harper and the premiers making the same pledge to radically improve conditions on Canadian reserves.  It’s not any of their faults that it has gotten this bad but it would be interesting to work with First Nations leaders and come up with a baseline that by 2030 (or 2020) that all First Nations would be at.  

I can’t imagine how hard it would be to navigate the different groups but can it be any harder than cutting extreme poverty around the world in half?

A Life on Hold

An intimate portrait of Omar, a 17 year old stranded in a refugee camp since the 2011 war in Libya.  The film offers a unique perspective of one person amongst thousands waiting for a chance to start their life again in a safe country.

When war broke out earlier this year in Libya, thousands of refugees from countries such as Somalia, Sudan, and Eritrea, who were living in or transiting through the country at the time, were forced to flee for their lives yet again. They are now waiting in refugee camps along the Tunisian and Egyptian borders – unable to return home due to war or persecution, unable to return to Libya due to ongoing violence and discrimination, and unable to stay in Tunisia or Egypt, countries both undergoing their own political upheavals.

A fantastic short film.

Stephen Lewis: The PMO Might Not Be The Best People To Run a Security Council Campaign

From CTV News

Lewis, who also served as the UN’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, said the government bungled its campaign.

"I got the impression in this election for the Security Council that the Prime Minister’s Office actually didn’t know what it was doing, that it was too arrogant, it didn’t have a careful plan of what might be done," Lewis told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday morning.

"As a result, our diplomats were largely hung out to dry."

Lewis said when he worked at the UN during Canada’s Security Council campaign in 1989-1990, he worked with seasoned diplomats in the Prime Minister’s Office to address specific issues that were of key concern at the time: apartheid in South Africa, African aid, and the U.S. government’s scheme for nuclear ballistic missile defence, dubbed "Star Wars."

Lewis said this time around, failing to adequately address key issues likely "sealed our fate" at the UN. The Conservative government’s resistance to taking strong action against climate change, cutting back foreign aid and openly lobbying for a seat all likely turned off various nations in the run-up to the vote, he said.

"So what the government failed to understand was that on balance, the policies they had propagated were not well received within the international community," Lewis said.

I was watching CPAC the other night and Andrew Coyne brought up the really good point that while Canada lost, Portugal won.  They ran a long term and effective campaign that courted blocks of votes… basically all of the things that Canada would not do.  While Canada was ineffective, Portugal ran an excellent campaign and did deserve to win.

My own personal theory is that while Canada’s external affairs had something to do with it, the economic meltdown did as well.  Countries are more comfortable with a nation that has been affected like them rather than a country that went through relatively unscathed.

Refresh

I don’t take a lot of vacation days.  Part of it is the nature of work… about the time I want time off, we are often short staffed.  The bigger issue is me.  I don’t enjoy vacations very much and it’s something that I have worked on more as I have gotten older.

This week Mark and I are up at the lake for a couple of days of male bonding before Wendy comes up this weekend with Oliver.  The weather has been hot but I don’t have a huge to do list.  Well I had a big to do list but I was reminded this summer but a friend of ours that he spent so much time finishing their family cabin, he didn’t enjoy it as much has he should have.  So Mark and I have cooked meals over an open fire, taken Maggi swimming a lot, and hung out reading.

Sergio: One Man's Fight to Save the World So far this week I have read Samantha Power’s captivating book, Sergio: One Man’s Fight to Save the World about Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations diplomat who was described as being a cross between James Bond and Bobby Kennedy.  His resume took him from Bangladesh to East Timor to eventually Iraq (where he was killed) in his attempts to bring about peace, alleviate human suffering, and bring hope and security to those that have none. 

What struck me as I read it is he was a flawed man (terrible womanizer), who made big compromises and mistakes (befriending more than one person accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in his attempt to bring about peace), yet consistently learned from them and adapted to new challenges.  I was contrasting him to what I had been taught about leadership which says that it requires perfect character and looks down on compromise and has people scorning or ignoring their enemies.   There is also the aspect of how contextual what we have learned really is.  What works well in one situation won’t work well in another situation.

Finally, this is shown by Sergio Vleira de Mello’s life and Samantha Power’s worldview and writing but the world’s problems require nuance, understanding of complex factors, and a wider view of context than is often given (MacNamara’s description of the misunderstanding of the nature of the Vietnam War comes to mind as an overly narrow understanding of a conflict).

Now back to the vacation.  Mark was engrossed by The Hardy Boys and is looking forward to a late night session of playing his PSP.  We tried to go swimming today but the algae was so gross that Maggi is a bright green shade right now, despite having given her a shower (it was as bad as it sounds).