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KYLA MANDEL OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHot(Photo: EcoWatch)So you thought December was unusually warm? Well, ditch that sweater because 2016 is forecasted to be the hottest year ever recorded.

According to the UK Met Office, the global average temperature for next year is expected to be between 0.72 C and 0.96 C above the long-term (between 1961-1990) average of 14 C.

There is just a 5 percent chance that 2016 will be below the 2015 global average temperature, the Met Office said.

“2015 is on track to be the warmest year on record and this forecast suggests 2016 is likely to be at least as warm, if not warmer,” Professor Chris Folland, Met Office research fellow, said.

As the Met Office explained, human-induced climate change and a “smaller effect” from El Niño caused by unusually warm waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean are the main drivers within its forecast.

“The Met Office’s 2016 forecast is certainly dramatic and, if realized, would be towards the upper end of the range predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their most recent assessment report,” Ed Hawkins, an associate professor at the University of Reading, told Carbon Brief.

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 29 December 2015 00:00

How Dick Cheney Ruined My Christmas

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCheneyMarcus(Photo: Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)My Christmas was ruined.  I accidentally came across a picture of Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. I tried to erase that awful image that lingered like a terrific migraine headache, Cheney’s stern, crooked mouth, the lies and deceptions, but it left an indelible stain on my brain. 

Nightmares of the Bush years crossed the theatre of my mind with the knowledge that it all began with Bush and Cheney, the devastating consequences that led to a world-wide depression from bombs to poverty to turning our soldiers into creatures of their decadent policies of brutality and torture. 

I sat down to write this editorial because I want to remember. 

To remember is to know, contrary to Obama’s speeches, that we can never “move forward” until justice is served, until the war criminals are prosecuted and sentenced to long prison terms for authorizing illegal invasions, torture, mass killings, and for stealing billions of dollars, what could be characterized as the largest burglary of our nation’s treasury in the history of the United States. 

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJesusRedPope(Photo: Andreas Wahra)Aah, 'tis the season for family, friends, eggnog, chipmunks singing Christmas carols — and all-out, no-mercy, blow-'em-all-to-hell war.

Not war like in Afghanistan. No, no — this is the far right's God-awful "War on Christmas." In this season of Peace on Earth, a delusional faction of rightists has cooked up a hokey "cultural crisis" to rally their own followers by fomenting hatred of ... well, of whom? "Blasphemous-liberal-Democrat-atheist-humanists," they shout!

The infidels are not accused of lobbing actual bombs in this "war," but Words of Mass Destruction. Specifically, wail the purists, unholy left-wingers go around saying "happy holidays," rather than "merry Christmas," as Jesus taught us to say. Or was it Constantine the Great in the fourth century who came up with that?

Never mind, the rightists' point is that diabolical lefties (i.e., Marxists) are out to ban Christmas entirely. Heroic defender of the faith Sarah Palin has even written a thin book about this devious plot, revealing that "happy holidays" is merely "the tip of the spear in a larger battle to ... make true religious freedom a thing of America's past."

Luckily, note the Merry Christmas crusaders, there are such bright lights as Indiana State Sen. Jim Smith. Smith hopes to join Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee in the "Merry Christmas Club" — in pushing state laws to allow Christian icons and ceremonies into our schools. Then there's U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn from Colorado. He and 35 of his fellow Republican congress critters have proposed a House resolution to protect Christmas. "A creche in every public space," is their cry, "a cross on every city hall." To hell with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, etc.: This is war!

Actually, no, this is hokum, flimflammery, hoodoo, camel dung. It's also insulting that they would attempt to try to generate a major social conflict over the fiction that the phrase "happy holidays" constitutes religious discrimination, whine that they are a repressed minority and equate it with war. First: Jews, Muslims and others don't get to brand public spaces as their religious property. Second: Nearly three-fourths of Americans are Christian, so drop the put-upon martyr pose. And third: War really is hell, with blood, lifelong trauma and death, so stop pretending you're in one.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBrain(Photo: Gaetan Lee)1. Accept that Poverty Causes Marital Problems, Not the Other Way Around

In his condescending way, libertarian Charles Murray wrote: "There remains a core of civic virtue and involvement in working-class America...Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn't hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms." Senator Marco Rubio agrees, calling marriage the "greatest tool" for lifting families out of poverty.

Marriage, to such people, spreads magic anti-poverty dust over newly-wedded couples.

Here are the facts: Upper-class and lower-class divorce rates rose and fell in similar fashion until the late 1980s, around the time inequality began to rip apart the fabric of American society, and to break down low-income family life. Evidence keeps piling up. Studies show that children whose families receive housing vouchers end up with higher marriage rates. On the other hand, two-thirds of single mothers who heed conservative advice and get married end up divorced. And despite what Murray's followers might think, race isn't a factor. A Pennsylvania study concluded that "over time, it has become evident that poor economic circumstances would produce comparable effects on whites just as they did for blacks." Pew Research Center found little difference between white and black fathers, and the Center for Disease Control found that black fathers are in many ways more involved with their kids than fathers in other racial groups.

2. Learn that Democratic Socialism Does Not Mean Government Control

Social democracy is 100 percent American. Our nation instituted a public education system, a long-successful retirement program, and a national park system. Gar Alperovitz describes the modern form of socialism, which is "about decentralizing power, changing the flow of power to localities rather than to the center." The Evergreen Cooperative in Cleveland, the public Bank of North Dakota, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Chattanooga Internet service are all examples of the distributed popular control of essential services. The approach works.

The most socialist program in the U.S. is probably the Alaska Permanent Fund, which has received bipartisan support for 40 years, even from staunch Republicans such as Sarah Palin.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaweatherchristA record warm Christmas is likely on its way. (Photo: Twitter)

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas in the eastern and central U.S., you can probably keep dreaming. As EcoWatch reported last week, the unseasonably warm weather has set a number of December records.

Many cities in the eastern and central U.S. will see temperatures 10-20 degrees above average this week. If you live in the Eastern or Central U.S., Friday could be “one of the warmest Christmas Days of your lifetime,” The Weather Channel reported Sunday.

“Several cities in the East will likely see their warmest Christmas Eve or Christmas Day on record, adding to the more than 2,600 daily record high temperatures that have been tied or broken across the Lower 48 in the first 19 days of the month. This mild forecast means the prospect for a white Christmas is highly unlikely for many east of the Rockies.”

“Due to the warming effects of the strong El Niño climate pattern, many places that often have a good chance of seeing snow Christmas Day will miss out this year,” explained AccuWeather. “El Niño has helped to strengthen a west-to-east jet stream that delivers mild Pacific air across the U.S.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 22 December 2015 00:00

Mark Ruffalo: The Renewable Energy Race Is On

MARK RUFFALO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaParisCOP21(Photo: "A message of freedom and 100% renewable energy from Paris. Photo credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Spectral Q")The climate agreement reached in Paris is provoking a flurry of caveats, criticisms and cautions. Many of those criticisms are warranted and there’s a lot of work ahead to make sure countries live up to their promises. But we should not miss a chance to celebrate a historic turning point.

World leaders finally made commitments to clean, renewable energy that will help to ensure a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for us all. The agreement signals that the age of fossil fuels is coming to a close and the age of renewable energy is dawning.

In many ways, the Paris deal is the mother of all market signals. To deliver on the promises world leaders made, we will need to leave coal and oil in the ground and move toward a complete reliance on clean energy. Let’s not miss the writing on the wall: fossil fuels are a losing bet, while renewables offer economic opportunity.

This is true for all segments of society—from energy investors to individual households that can save money on their energy bills by switching to rooftop solar power.

The Paris pact ratifies an ongoing renewable energy revolution spreading across the globe. Each year since 2013, the world has added more power-generating capacity fueled by renewable sources than from coal, natural gas and oil combined. Global investment in renewable energy hit $310bn last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And major companies are pledging to go 100 percent renewable, too.

Published in Guest Commentary

ERIN BROCKOVICH OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPorterleak750(Photo: An infrared, time-lapse video of the natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, California. Photo credit: MSNBC / YouTube screenshot)Since October, residents of Porter Ranch, California, have been exposed to dangerous contaminants from a massive natural gas leak that continues to seep into the air, causing a catastrophe the scale of which has not been seen since the 2010 BP oil spill.

After only a week of visiting families in Porter Ranch, I am already experiencing the headaches, nausea and congestion that have plagued this community living at the center of one of the most significant environmental disasters in recent history.

Southern California Gas Co. or SoCalGas, has essentially ignored the impact to victims and its actions have instead added to their suffering. The company has refused to release air quality data that could be used to protect its residents, it has made relocation very difficult and it has forged ahead with plans to expand its facility before the leak has even been contained.

The enormity of the Aliso Canyon gas leak cannot be overstated. Gas is escaping through a ruptured pipe more than 8,000 feet underground and it shows no sign of stopping. As the pressure from weight on top of the pipe causes the gas to diffuse, it only continues to dissipate across a wider and wider area. According to tests conducted in November by the California Air Resources Board, the leak is spewing 50,000 kilograms of gas per hour—the equivalent to the strength of a volcanic eruption.

At this rate, in just one month, the leak will have accounted for one-quarter of the total estimated methane emissions in the state of California.

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPrisoners2(Photo: Bart Everson)“The question now is how to change our institutions so that they promote human values rather than destroy them.”

Philip Zimbardo, who posed this question in the wake of the famous — or infamous — Stanford Prison Experiment 44 years ago, might have added: If we fail to do so, we guarantee our own social collapse.

The collapse is underway, one broken soul at a time:

“But the basic story the men told was the same: (Leonard) Strickland was pushed down a flight of stairs, and then beaten nearly to death by a large group of guards.”

This is from a recent New York Times investigative piece about inmate abuse at Clinton Correctional Facility, in upstate New York — a particularly boiling cauldron of racism in America’s prison-industrial complex. Almost all of the nearly 1,000 guards who work at the rural prison are white; the inmates, mostly from New York City, are black. Not surprisingly, the prisoners say “they face a constant barrage of racial slurs.”

And racial slurs have a way of escalating, especially under conditions in which one group of people has enormous, unchecked power over another group. Zimbardo called it the Lucifer Effect: the transformation of ordinary, decent people into . . . well, monsters. His 1971 study, in which two dozen college-student volunteers were randomly designated either guards or prisoners in a makeshift “penitentiary” in the basement of Stanford’s psych department, was meant to last two weeks but was called off after six days because the situation had gotten out of control.

Zimbardo said that he came to his senses after an outside observer, who was brought in to conduct interviews, reacted with utter shock “when she saw our prisoners being marched on a toilet run, bags over their heads, legs chained together, hands on each other’s shoulders. Filled with outrage, she said, ‘It’s terrible what you are doing to these boys!’”

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaArenewables(Photo: EcoWatch)Nassau, New York, a town of 5,000 people just outside of Albany, New York, plans to disconnect from the electrical grid. Last week, the town board voted to get 100 percent of its power from renewables by 2020. The town is making the move both as a way to “increase its reliance on renewable sources of energy and to gain some energy independence,” Politico New York reported.

“If all goes as planned, within the next four years, all six of the town buildings will be disconnected from the grid,” said Nassau Supervisor Dave Fleming. The rest of the town is developing a plan to get all of its power from renewable sources in the next four years.

“It’s not the be-all to end-all for what we should be doing as a state and a nation, but it’s a good first step,” he said. “From a practical perspective, it’s possible,” he added. “We have a lot of ‘people resources’ in our community.”

The town plans to use a combination of rooftop and ground-mounted solar, wind turbines and methane-capture from the landfill to generate its energy.

Though the tiny town’s transition to renewables may not have the impact of, say, New York City going fossil-fuel-free (Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged for municipal operations to run on 100 percent renewable energy before 2050), it’s just one of many cities and towns around the world making the transition.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaRaindrop(Photo: Acagastya)There is a constant flow of headlines these days confirming the mess we've made: "Looks Like Rain Again. And Again"; "Alaska Will Keep Melting"; "Climate Change a Worry to Central Bankers, Too"; "Warning on Climate Risk: Worst to Come."

This is far from a natural phenomenon. A handful of corporate interests are causing these catastrophes. Oil, coal, auto and a few other industrial powers have profited for decades by spewing fossil fuel contaminants into the world's atmosphere.

Some experts were speaking out about this mess nearly 40 years ago:

"There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels," wrote James Black in 1978.

"Over the past several years, a clear scientific consensus has emerged," said Roger Cohen in September 1982. "There is unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the Earth's climate, including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere."

The significance of these early calls to action is that they came from Exxon!

Inside Climate News revealed in an investigative series released this fall that the oil superpower (now infamous for its relentless campaign of lies to discredit climate science) was briefly a paragon of scientific integrity. From 1978 through the '80s the corporation's research headquarters were a buzzing hive of farsighted inquiry into the "greenhouse effect," as the process of climate change was then called.

But in 1988, the elegant space inhabited by principle was suddenly invaded by the indelicate demands of profit. Dr. James Hansen, NASA's renowned climate expert, testified to Congress that fossil pollution of Earth's atmosphere had already surpassed the crisis point. "Global warming has begun," Hanson concluded.

Published in Guest Commentary
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