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Victory 0603wrp opt(Photo: NRDC)President Obama, along with the U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service, announced regulations Thursday to ban nearly all commercial elephant ivory trade in the country.

This landmark decision, coming from the country with the second-largest market for ivory, should have a significant impact on the trade. The ban helps fulfill President Obama’s 2013 executive order to combat wildlife trafficking.

“We’re excited the Obama administration has taken this important step to reduce the domestic trade in ivory,” Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “The United States has one of the largest markets for ivory in the world and reducing demand here will go a long way toward saving elephants in Africa.”

The ban follows a series of actions Kenya has taken to end the illegal ivory trade, including the burning of huge piles of tusks. Experts say roughly 96 elephants are killed daily—30,000 annually—for their tusks.

Thursday’s “bold action underscores the United States’ leadership and commitment to ending the scourge of elephant poaching and the tragic impact it’s having on wild populations,” Sec. of the Interior Sally Jewell said, who serves as co-chair of the President’s Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking. “We hope other nations will act quickly and decisively to stop the flow of blood ivory by implementing similar regulations, which are crucial to ensuring our grandchildren and their children know these iconic species.”

Published in Guest Commentary


CarOil 0601wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Oil touched $50 last week, close to double its slump price earlier this year, before falling slightly below that benchmark. Short-term impacts—the wildfire in Canada and outages in Nigeria—helped reduce stocks and drive up the price; then Iraq production increases stalled the rally. The market seemed to have averted the risk of an extended period of $20-30 prices, unsustainable for oil dependent nations, even the richest like the Saudis, whose “pump and dump” strategy lies behind the current low-price environment.

At $40-60/barrel, however, the Saudis can stay the course. They can afford that price in terms of their budget deficit, if not easily. Some U.S. shale plays come back into production, but the capital heavy projects in the Arctic, ultra-deep ocean or Canadian tar sands are still off the table as prudent investments. Medium term, as non-OPEC [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries], non-shale production falls, with no new big ticket projects coming on-line to replace depleted wells, reserves fall. Increasing demand will then require increasing dependence on OPEC and soaring prices. Even if U.S. shale roars back in response, it can’t make up for an investment slump everywhere else. The Saudis can then set the price they want.

Western governments know this. They treat the Kingdom with kid gloves. In Kossovo, even while it was effectively an American protectorate, the Saudis were allowed to implant jihadi mullahs to create an ideological base for their Wahhabi Islam. In the process they “transformed this once-tolerant Muslim society at the hem of Europe into a font of Islamic extremists and a pipeline for jihadists.” Kossovo now sends more recruits to ISIS than any nation in Europe: 314 identified to date from a tiny country.


Published in Guest Commentary


Trump 0601wrp(Photo: Gage Skidmore)With demonstrations outside and inside of Donald Trump’s campaign rallies erupting, and sometimes turning violent, Team Trump, ever on the lookout for a game-changing strategy, may see these incidents as an opportunity to brand The Donald the “Law and Order” candidate. Picture Trump kicking off the final months of the campaign with: "We'll give you the greatest amount of law and order that you've ever seen. There will be so much winning law and order that you might get tired of things being so quiet." 

When protesters made some noise at a recent Trump rally inside the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, Trump shouted -- as he has done many times over the past several months -- “Get ‘em out. “Out! Out! Out!” This time Trump added: “Don’t hurt ‘em. See what I say? Don’t hurt ‘em. I say that for the television cameras … Do not hurt him, even though he’s a bad person.”

Over the past several months, Trump himself has spoken about punching protesters in the mouth.

Outside the Convention Center, pro and anti-Trump supporters squared off against each other for most of the day. By nightfall, according to reports, police arrested a handful of mayhem-creating anti-Trump protesters.

As the Washington Examiner recently editorialized, “If Trump wins the general election in November, he should send fruit baskets to the organizers of the latest unrest. They are generating sympathy for him by ensuring that a noisy proportion of his supporters are identified as asses who need to be defeated.”

"The more barbaric the 'protesters' act, the more votes they will drive toward the target of their barbarism," Robin Heid, M.A., a libertarian political scientist who says the anti-Establishment campaigns of Trump and Sanders are exactly what the U.S. political process needs right now, told me in an email. "It is well-documented that the violent disruption of the 1968 Democratic Convention contributed significantly to Hubert Humphrey's defeat by Richard Nixon - even though it was later determined that the Chicago police perpetrated far more of that violence than did the protesters. That is why the leftist media is trying so hard to pin the barbarism at Trump rallies to the candidate and his supporters instead of reporting the well-documented fact that the violence is almost exclusively anti-Trump barbarians."

Published in Guest Commentary


Missile2 0527wrp(Photo: Lockheed Martin)Question: Is China a threat to the world – or – is the US a threat to the world?

Answer: According to recent Win/Gallop international polls, “The US was voted the biggest threat by far, garnering 24 percent of the vote. Pakistan was a very distant second with 8 percent, followed by China (6 percent) and Afghanistan (5 percent).”

Now that the US has decimated the Middle East for the last sixteen years, after an invasion that set off a mass blood bath from Iraq to Syria, President Obama and his military advisors have turned their attention to a new enemy: China.

The long respected agreement to ban the sale of military weapons to Vietnam has been upheld for fifty years. The agreement reduced the possibility of brutally devastating wars would break out again after the US invaded Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 70s. The US believes that its political system of vulture capitalism, which is wrongly equated with social democracy by US leaders, should be accepted by all countries.

As Carl Jung put it, “The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no {political} recipe…that suits all cases.” But that’s not how the US government sees it: one shoe must fit all countries. And that one shoe is US corporatism and control of global resources that benefit the top one percent of billionaires at the expense of the majority of people and at the devastation of the earth’s ecosystems from forests to water.

Like the Middle East invasion, historians have argued that the US government’s invasion of Vietnam was not only unnecessary, it was a colossal mistake.

But as the saying goes, our US government ignores the lessons of historical mistakes and with time merely revises the past to a ‘Might is Right’ moral edict.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 25 May 2016 13:23

How to Feed the World as the Planet Warms


Earth 0525wrp opt(Photo: NASA)Calculating farming’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is difficult, but experts agree that feeding the world’s people has tremendous climate and environmental impacts. Estimates of global emissions from farms range widely. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency puts them at 24 percent, including deforestation, making agriculture the second-largest emitter after heat and electricity.

Agriculture contributes to global warming in a number of ways. Methane and nitrous oxide, which are more potent than CO2 but remain in the atmosphere for shorter times, make up about 65 percent of agricultural emissions. Methane comes mainly from cattle and nitrous oxide from fertilizers and wastes.

According to the World Resources Institute, “Smaller sources include manure management, rice cultivation, field burning of crop residues and fuel use on farms.” Net emissions are also created when forests and wetlands are cleared for farming, as these “carbon sinks” usually absorb and store more carbon than the farms that replace them. Transporting and processing agricultural products also contribute to global warming.

We need to eat. So what’s the answer? That obesity is epidemic in parts of the world while people starve elsewhere and that an estimated one-third of food gets wasted, shows improving distribution and reducing waste are good places to start—but won’t be enough to significantly curtail agriculture’s contribution to climate change.

Reducing meat and animal-product consumption and production—especially beef—would cut emissions, but wouldn’t get us all the way.

Published in Guest Commentary


Uber 0525wrp(Photo: Guilhem Vellut)Pouty, whiney, spoiled-bratism is not nice coming from a four-year-old — but it's grotesque when it comes from billion-dollar corporate elites like Uber and Lyft.

The two internet-based ride-hiring brats call themselves "ridesharing" companies, but that's a deceit, for they don't share anything — their business model relies on folks needing a ride to hire a driver through the corporations' apps. With the bulk of the fare going to out-of-town corporate hedge funders.

The tow outfits have swaggered into cities all across our country, insisting that they're innovative, tech-driven geniuses. As such, they consider themselves above the fusty old laws that other transportation companies, like taxis, follow. So Uber and Lyft have made it a corporate policy to throw hissy fits when cities — from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Houston to Portland — have dared even to propose that they obey rules to protect customers and drivers.

The latest tantrum from the California giants happened in Austin, when the city council there adopted a few modest, perfectly-reasonable rules, despite the screams of PR flacks from both outfits. The petulant duo then used fibs and high-pressure tactics to get enough signatures on petitions to force a special election to overturn the council's action. Naturally, being brats, they gave the city an ultimatum — "Vote our way or we will leave town" — and assumed that Austin's tech-savvy voters would flock to do whatever the popular ride-sharing service wanted.

But they picked the wrong city. First, they ran a campaign of blatant lies, as though Austinites wouldn't question them. Then, they shoved a sickening level of corporate cash into their campaign, apparently thinking that the sheer tonnage of ads would win the day for them. However, the slicks from California turned out to be uber-goobers. Despite spending $9 million (more than the combined spending of all city council candidates in the past decade), they went down, 56-to-44 percent.

Published in Guest Commentary


Reposted with Permission of the Union of Concerned Scientists 

Fraud 0523wrp opt(Photo: Union of Concerned Scientists)On Wednesday, I received a letter signed by thirteen members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. In my thirty years as an attorney, public official, and now UCS President, I have never seen anything quite like it. The letter states that the House Science Committee is “conducting oversight of a coordinated attempt to deprive companies, non-profit organizations and scientists of their First Amendment rights.” This sounds like an oversight effort UCS could support—but for what follows.

The representatives are requesting “all documents and communications” between UCS and state attorneys general and between UCS and other NGOs related to our work to hold oil and gas companies accountable for deception. Apparently, these elected representatives believe that UCS and others have infringed on the free speech rights of fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil.

How? By sharing information with these attorneys general about whether ExxonMobil and others misled the public about the dangers of climate change, and by explaining how climate change caused by burning fossil fuels is harming people and places in their states.

You know what else this tells me? The campaign to hold companies accountable is working.

How absurd is this request?

Let’s start with the premise of the letter—that the free speech rights of companies such as ExxonMobil are violated by an investigation. This is nonsense. No company has a First Amendment right to knowingly provide misinformation about the harm associated with its product (in this case the emissions of heat trapping gases from the combustion of fossil fuels). And attorneys general have every right to investigate whether the companies’ actions amounted to an actionable fraud.

In fact, the letter itself compromises the First Amendment rights of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the other recipients of this letter.

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 20 May 2016 07:31

Will Vegans Save the World?


Vegan 0520wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Will vegans save the world? Reading comments under climate change articles or watching the film Cowspiracy make it seem they’re the only ones who can. Cowspiracy boldly claims veganism is “the only way to sustainably and ethically live on this planet.” But, as with most issues, it’s complicated.

It’s true, though, that the environment and climate would benefit substantially if more people gave up or at least cut down on meat and animal products, especially in over-consuming Western societies. Animal agriculture produces huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, consumes massive volumes of water and causes a lot of pollution.

But getting a handle on the extent of environmental harm, as well as the differences between various agricultural methods and types of livestock and balancing that with possible benefits of animal consumption and agriculture isn’t simple.

Estimates of how much animal agriculture adds to greenhouse gases range widely, from about 14 to more than 50 percent of total global emissions. Agriculture exacerbates climate change in a number of ways. Clearing carbon sinks such as forests to grow or raise food can result in net greenhouse gas increases. Farming, especially on an industrial scale, also requires fossil fuel–burning machinery, as does processing and transporting agricultural products.

Determining the overall contribution is complicated by the fact that livestock agriculture accounts for about 9 percent of human-caused CO2 emissions but far greater amounts of other greenhouse gases, which are worse in many ways but less dangerous in others.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock farming produces 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the global warming potential as CO2. It also contributes “37 percent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants and 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.” But methane stays in the atmosphere for about 12 years and nitrous oxide for about 114, while CO2 remains for thousands of years.

Published in Guest Commentary


Paris 0518wrp(Photo: EcoWatch)Parisians can walk, skate or cycle down the iconic Champs Elysees one day a month without worrying about traffic. The first Sunday of every month is a car-free day, an attempt to reduce pollution in the French city. The initiative began in September 2015 as the brainchild of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

The Paris Breathes campaign, responsible for implementing the program, blocks off 13 sections of the city at various times throughout the day. Sections are closed for various time periods ranging from four to 10 hours, according to the campaign’s website. There are an additional four locations that go car-free for the summer months only. The first car-free day—Sept. 27, 2015—led to a 40 percent drop in nitrogen dioxide in Paris, The Guardian reported.

Paris residents seem to love the car-free days. “I think especially when the weather is like that, beautiful sunshine, we feel like it’s the holidays for us. We can walk easily, no pollution, no noise. We are very happy,” one of the participants said in the below NowThis video.

Paris leads the pack in monthly car-free days, but several large metro cities participate in international car-free day on Sept. 22 every year, including Washington, DC, Seattle and Long Island, New York.

Published in Guest Commentary


DEP 0518wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found in favor of four youth plaintiffs, the Conservation Law Foundation and Mass Energy Consumers Alliance Tuesday in the critical climate change case, Kain et al. v. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The court found that the DEP was not complying with its legal obligation to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and ordered the agency to “promulgate regulations that address multiple sources or categories of sources of greenhouse gas emissions, impose a limit on emissions that may be released … and set limits that decline on an annual basis.”

“This is an historic victory for young generations advocating for changes to be made by government. The global climate change crisis is a threat to the well being of humanity, and to my generation, that has been ignored for too long,” youth plaintiff Shamus Miller, age 17, said.

“Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has recognized the scope and urgency of that threat and acknowledges the need for immediate action to help slow the progression of climate change. There is much more to be done both nationally and internationally but this victory is a step in the right direction and I hope that future efforts have similar success.”

In 2012, hundreds of youth petitioned the DEP asking the agency to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) and adopt rules reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, but that petition was denied. As a result of DEP’s reluctance to comply with the GWSA, youth filed this case arguing that the DEP failed to promulgate the regulations required by Section 3(d) of the GWSA establishing declining annual levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Published in Guest Commentary
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