Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Biden's Broken Climate Pledge

  


Biden’s election triggered a global surge in optimism that the climate crisis would, finally, be decisively confronted. But the US supreme court’s decision to curtail the American president’s ability to reduce emissions places Biden's attempts on climate  in danger of becoming largely moribund. 
The USA still has no national climate or energy policy in place.

The supreme court’s ruling that the US government could not use its existing powers to phase out coal-fired power generation without clear congressional authorization, “flies in the face of established science and will set back the US’s commitment to keep global temperature below 1.5C”, said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, in reference to the internationally agreed goal to limit global heating before it becomes truly catastrophic, manifesting in more severe heatwaves, floods, droughts and societal unrest.  Huq added, “The people who will pay the price for this will be the most vulnerable communities in the most vulnerable developing countries in the world.”

The “incredibly undemocratic SCOTUS ruling” indicates that “backsliding is now the dominant trend in the climate space,” said Yamide Dagnet, director of climate justice at Open Society Foundations and former climate negotiator for the UK and European Union. 

António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations said  that the ruling was a “setback” at a time when countries were badly off track in averting looming climate breakdown.

Al Gore, the former US vice-president said the ruling was the “result of decades of influence and coordination by the fossil fuel lobby and its allies to delay, obstruct, and dismantle progress toward climate solutions”.

Biden’s promise to end oil and gas drilling on public land has been broken.

has vowed that the US will cut its emissions in half by 2030 but this goal, and America’s waning international credibility on climate change, will be lost without both legislation from Congress and strong executive actions. Both of these remain highly unlikely.

Global dismay as supreme court ruling leaves Biden’s climate policy in tatters | Climate crisis | The Guardian

The Profiteers

 


Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has called on the world’s largest independent oil trader to stop shipping Russian oil, accusing it of “brazen profiteering from blood oil”.

Shipping data compiled by Global Witness showed Vitol, which employs the former foreign minister Sir Alan Duncan and has offices in London, chartered shipments of more than 11m barrels of oil through ports in Russia in June.

The data showed the energy trading firm has chartered shipments of more than 38m barrels of oil from Russian ports – worth an estimated $3.21bn and averaging more than 9m barrels a month – since the invasion began on 24 February.

Zelenskiy’s chief economic adviser, Oleg Ustenko, said: “Vitol has been the largest western trader of seaborne Russian oil since the full-scale invasion on 24 February. This is brazen profiteering from blood oil that is funding the murder of Ukrainian civilians.”

The shipments in June were made from ports including Ust-Luga near the Estonian border and St Petersburg on the Baltic Sea, and Novorossiysk on the Black Sea. The shipments reached European hubs including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, from where the oil may have been moved on to other countries.

In early June a shipment of more than 1m barrels of oil from Novorossiysk was chartered to Jamnagar, the Indian oil refinery. India has ramped up imports of Russian oil since the start of the war.

Sam Leon, the head of data investigations at Global Witness, said: “Since the invasion, Vitol has been one of the main western enablers of Putin’s deadly trade in fossil fuels. Nothing but the toughest embargo on Russian oil will stop them from profiting at the Ukrainian people’s expense.’’

Zelenskiy calls on trader Vitol to stop shipping Russian ‘blood oil’ | Oil | The Guardian

Hunger to worsen

 The world is in the grip of an unprecedented hunger crisis. A toxic combination of climate crisis, conflict and Covid had already placed some of the poorest countries under enormous strain, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent grain and fuel prices soaring.

The number of people going hungry in the world has risen by 150 million since the start of the Covid pandemic, the UN has said.

It warned that the food crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine risks pushing the worst-hit countries into famine.

Globally, the number suffering from chronic undernourishment rose to 828 million last year, a rise of about 46 million on the previous year, and three times that increase if measured since the world shut down due to Covid. 

With the price of fuel, food staples and fertiliser soaring since the invasion of Ukraine, however, that total is expected to rise even further in the next year – a scenario that could see some of the world’s poorest fall into famine, the most extreme form of food deprivation.

 45 million children under five were suffering from wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition, which increases children’s risk of death by up to 12 times. 

 149 million children under five had stunted growth and development due to a chronic lack of essential nutrients

Gilbert Houngbo, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said that, according to projections, chronic undernourishment would affect nearly 670 million people in 2030 – a similar figure to that of 2015, when the UN vowed to eradicate hunger by 2030 as part of the sustainable development goals.

“It means all the effort in those 15 years will have been wiped out by the different crises that the world is going through,” he explained.

“We thought it couldn’t get any worse,” said David Beasley, director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), in June. “But this war has been devastating.” The ripple effect of Ukraine will cause it to rise even further in the months ahead – and that some countries will be pushed into famine as a result. “The result will be global destabilisation, starvation, and mass migration on an unprecedented scale,” he warned. “We have to act today to avert this looming catastrophe.”

Global hunger toll soars by 150 million as Covid and Ukraine war make their mark | Hunger | The Guardian

Socialist Sonnet No. 73

Against the Grain

 

Ships with empty holds, silos stuffed with grain,

Millions of famished bellies needing bread,

Loaves can divide the living from the dead;

Simple equation, no need to explain.

Only, no ship may approach the Ukraine

While Russia continues to be misled,

Reason's become a refugee that’s fled

And war kills more than soldiers once again.

Canting leaders of the Atlantic pact,

Striking moral postures without a blush,

Condemn Moscow for acting as they act

Whenever they decide it’s time to crush

Some vassal state deserving to be sacked.

Sovereignty’s then silenced by deathly hush!

 

D. A.

Another Ozone Hole Found

 A “huge” ozone hole that was not expected to exist has been identified in the Earth’s atmosphere over almost the entire tropical region.

The hole is a year-round gap in the planet’s ozone layer, and is seven times larger than the better-known Antarctic ozone hole that opens up each year in spring.

Professor Qing-Bin Lu, a scientist from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, said that according to his research, the hole has already been present for more than 30 years and covers such a massive area that half of the world’s population could be affected.

He told The Independent: “Unlike the Antarctic ozone hole that only appears in the spring season, the tropical ozone hole appears in all seasons since the 1980s, and its area is roughly seven times greater. It could cause global concern as it can cause increases in ground-level UV radiation and associated risks of skin cancer and cataracts, and other negative effects on health and ecosystems in tropical regions.” He added there are “preliminary reports showing that ozone depletion levels over equatorial regions are already endangering large populations therein, and the associated UV radiation reaching the regions was far greater than expected”.

 Professor Lu explainedd: “It sounds unbelievable that the large tropical ozone hole was not discovered previously. But there exist some intrinsic challenges in making this discovery. First, no tropical ozone hole was expected to exist from the mainstream photochemical theory. Second, unlike the Antarctic/Arctic ozone holes that are seasonal and mainly appear in spring, the tropical ozone hole is essentially unchanged across the seasons and is therefore invisible in original observed data.”

‘Huge’ unexpected ozone hole discovered over tropics | The Independent


In arrears

In June an estimated 2.1m households missed or defaulted on at least one mortgage, rent, loan, credit card or bill, according to the consumer group Which?.

This figure has been above 2 million every month so far this year, it said.

Rocio Concha, Which?’s director of policy and advocacy, said it showed that a “relentless cost of living crisis is continuing to put huge pressure on household finances. These pressures are especially apparent among the most financially vulnerable..."

Cost of living: 2m households missed bill every month this year | UK cost of living crisis | The Guardian

Syria, a now forgotten crisis

 Much of the media's attention remains fixed on the misery being endured by Ukrainians and the plight of its refugees. But what about the continued and prolonged suffering of the victims of the other war in Syria. 

Amnesty International said in a new report, "'Unbearable living conditions’: Inadequate access to economic and social rights in displacement camps in north-west Syria" as a consequence of the Syrian government’s denial or obstruction of people’s access to economic and social rights, internally displaced people (IDPs) are living in dire conditions in camps are extremely vulnerable and entirely dependent on international aid for survival. Since the start of the armed conflict, the Syrian government has relentlessly attacked the healthcare system in north-west Syria and obstructed the delivery of medical aid, impacting the right to health for millions of people. Reductions in international aid over the past year have seriously undermined living conditions for north-west Syria’s residents and IDPs, leading to shortages of staff, medicine, equipment, and reduced operational capacities, prompting health facilities to scale down or halt their operations and vital services.

About 1.7 million people are currently living in camps in north-west Syria, 58% of which are children, with no solution in sight. The vast majority of people have for years lived in tents with little or no access to water and sanitation, which increases the risk of waterborne diseases. These women, men and children have been living in absolute destitution, and are entirely dependent on humanitarian organizations for survival. More than half of the internally displaced population in north-west Syria lives in 1,414 camps, usually in one-room tents that do not offer insulation from the extreme cold or heat common to the region.  IDPs receive water mostly through communal tanks, but the amount they receive is less than half their need. Just 40% of IDPs have access to functioning latrines.

“Many of these displaced women, men and children have spent over six years living in conditions of absolute destitution in north-west Syria. They have little prospect of returning to their homes due to ongoing violations by the Syrian authorities at their place of origin, but staying put means living in unbearably harsh living conditions, and risking disease and gender-based violence,” said Diana Semaan, Amnesty International’s Acting Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Since losing control of the north-west part of the country, the Syrian government has cut off electricity and water supplies, obstructed aid, and attacked camps, medical facilities, and schools, putting the onus on humanitarian organizations to provide services..." 

Health workers  told Amnesty International that the camps represent a risk to health as they have contributed to the transmission of contagious diseases. They added that the poor quality of water and sewage treatment has led to the spread of waterborne diseases.

Humanitarian workers told Amnesty International that overcrowding, a lack of privacy, unfenced camps, the inability to lock tents and their exclusion from decision-making processes have exposed women and girls to a range of gender-based violence, including violence by family members, camp management and residents, strangers and humanitarian workers.

Donors and humanitarian organizations have not been able to provide people living in camps with adequate access to essential services due to insufficient funding. 

A humanitarian worker said: “The problem is that we never attempt to solve the underlying causes of several issues in camps like health, protection, etc. For example, we know very well what causes Leishmaniasis [a waterborne disease]. We allocated funding for medication every year for it, instead of working towards connecting camps to water sources, stop the water trucking, and building a sewage system. The same old approach of an emergency response is no longer enough. We need to integrate it with other approaches that would provide durable solutions.”

‘Unbearable living conditions’: Inadequate access to economic and social rights in displacement camps in north-west Syria [EN/AR] - Syrian Arab Republic | ReliefWeb

The Global Hunger Crises


 Families facing the worst global hunger crisis in decades are resorting to desperate means to survive, drinking from cattle troughs, eating putrid meat, and fighting off wild animals for food, according to Save the Children, which has announced an urgent injection of funding to a rapidly escalating disaster. Extreme hunger threatens to claim thousands of children’s lives and futures in 19 countries over the next few months. These countries are Afghanistan, Myanmar, DRC, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, Haiti, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon.

Figures show that the number of people going hungry daily has doubled to 276 million from 135 million in the past two years and now up to 750,000 people are facing famine conditions in five countries as drought collides with conflict and COVID-19.

The Horn of Africa has been crippled by drought after four consecutive failed rainy seasons with 18.4 million people facing acute food insecurity.

In parts of northern Kenya, the only water available to some families is from animal troughs which is spreading debilitating illnesses like diarrhoea through communities, severely impacting children.

Mthulisi Dube, a nutritionist currently working with Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit in Turkana in Northern Kenya, said at least 229,000 children across northern Kenya are severely acutely malnourished with their lives at risk.

“There is illness everywhere, linked to hunger and thirst. I’ve heard that in some communities, the situation is so bad that after their animals starve to death, people have had to eat the putrid meat, because they have no other option for food. Children are drinking from drying riverbeds and wells normally reserved for livestock. They are coming down with diarrhoea, which is worsening their dehydration. It’s a vicious cycle."

In eastern Ethiopia reports of increased encroachments into communities by starving wild animals, with monkeys attacking women and children they think may be carrying food or water and warthogs coming into homes.

In South Sudan, the food crisis has been further compounded by the third consecutive year of severe flooding leaving an estimated 63% of the population – of 7.7 million people – facing high levels of acute food insecurity.

In Somalia 1.5 million children are expected to be facing acute malnutrition by the end of the year, including 386,400 who are likely to be severely malnourished.

In Afghanistan, 9.6 million children are going hungry every day due to a dire combination of economic collapse, the impacts of the war in Ukraine and an ongoing drought, 

Gabriella Waaijman, Save the Children’s Humanitarian Director, said:

“The worst global food crisis in decades is putting millions of children’s lives on the line. The combined impact of conflicts, climate change, COVID, and the cost of inflating food prices due to the conflict in Ukraine crisis has left up to 750,000 people facing famine conditions. A further 49 million people could soon follow unless they receive immediate support. Failure to act now will prove catastrophic and could cost thousands of lives..." Gabriella Waaijman said malnutrition caused by extreme hunger remains one of the biggest killers of young children globally yet it is entirely preventable. "We know how to treat malnutrition and we know how to prevent it. All we need now is a unified global response to stop this hunger crisis in its tracks...we must change the course of this global crisis to create a safe, happy and healthy world for our children, free from harm and hunger.”

Families resorting to extreme measures to survive hunger crisis prompts more funding from Save the Children - World | ReliefWeb

Hungry in Brazil

 Hunger is a problem that affects 15.5 percent of the Brazilian population, 33.1 million people.  Between November 2021 and April 2022 there has been a 73 percent increase over the 19.1 million hungry people reported in the first edition, published in late 2020. In other words, in just over a year of pandemic, the number of people suffering from severe food insecurity or frequent food deprivation increased by 14 million.

“Now it’s more difficult, hunger has spread throughout the country, in cities where there was none, it has expanded,” said Rodrigo Afonso, executive director of Citizen Action, one of the social organizations spearheading the campaign  in search of urgent solutions. “Besides, society is anesthetized with so many tragedies, exhausted after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, so many losses.” 

Bolsonaro and his far-right government, closely allied with export agriculture, seek to defend a food sector that faces international criticism, due to its association with deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, harassment and mistreatment of indigenous peoples and the overuse of agrochemicals.

“Brazil feeds one billion people in the world, we provide food security for one-sixth of the world’s population,” President Jair Bolsonaro exaggerated in his speech at the Summit of the Americas on Jun. 10 in Los Angeles, California.

But according to Brazilian agricultural researchers, who made a simple calculation based on the country’s growing grain production, Brazil’s food exports feed 800 million people.

If Brazil accounts for 10 percent of the world’s grain production, about 270 million tons this year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, then it feeds 10 percent of humanity.

The country is the world’s largest producer of soybeans, coffee and sugar, as well as the largest exporter of meat.

But the production boasted of by political leaders and large agricultural producers is basically destined for export and livestock feed. Brazilians consume only a small portion of the corn and an even smaller portion of the soybeans the country produces – most of it is exported or used for animal feed.

At the same time, Brazil is a net importer of wheat and beans, key products in the diet of the country’s inhabitants. And the production of rice, another staple, just barely meets domestic demand.

The food crisis especially affects people in the North and Northeast (the poorest regions), blacks, families headed by women and with children under 10 years of age, and rural and local populations that also suffer from water insecurity. Inequalities have intensified.

Bolsonaro has not raised the minimum wage, for example, merely adjusting it each year to keep up with the official inflation rate. The current inflation rate of 11.73 percent accumulated in the 12 months up to May reduces the purchasing power of the minimum wage month by month.

The minimum wage, set at 1,212 reais (233 dollars) a month for this year, is no longer enough to cover the cost of the basic basket of food and hygiene products for a family of four in the southern city of São Paulo, which currently costs 1,226 reais, according to the Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies.

Bolsonaro replaced the Bolsa Familia program with Auxilio Brasil, a stipend of 400 reais (77 dollars) – double the previous amount – to 18 million families, in an attempt to win votes among the poor, a sector in which he is highly unpopular according to polls for the October presidential elections.

But there are “almost three million very poor families” still excluded from the program, who are going hungry.

Mobilizing Against Hunger in Brazil, Where It Affects 33.1 Million People | Inter Press Service (ipsnews.net)

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Europe's Glacier Melting

 A glacier collapsed on the highest peak in the range, Marmolada, the highest mountain in the Italian Dolomites, at 300 kilometres an hourkilling at least seven people. Another 14 people remain missing.

 Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Monday linked the collapse to climate change.

The collapse of the glacier was “without doubt linked to the deterioration of the environment and the climate situation.”

Massimo Frezzotti, a science professor at Roma Tre University, told AFP the collapse was caused by unusually warm weather linked to global warming. Last winter was very dry, with precipitation down 40 to 50 per cent.

Glacier specialist Renato Colucci said the phenomenon was“bound to repeat itself” because“for weeks the temperatures at altitude in the Alps have been well above normal values”. The recent warm temperatures had generated a large quantity of water from the melting glacier. It had accumulated at the bottom of the block of ice and caused it to collapse, he explained.

Italy Blames Climate Change For Glacier Collapse, 7 Dead | MENAFN.COM

The Consequences of Greenwashing

 The chair of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd, addressing the UK Centre for Greening Finance and Investment Annual Forum, warns businesses are embedding liability and storing up risk for their investors by giving the false impression they are addressing the climate crisis. The danger is, she says, that people “won’t realise this deception until it is too late”.

Emma Howard Boyd, explains, “If we fail to identify and address greenwashing, we allow ourselves false confidence that we are already addressing the causes and treating the symptoms of the climate crisis.” Howard Boyd says there is underinvestment in climate adaptation. Action was needed. “Around the world, just 5% of climate finance goes towards resilience and virtually none of that comes from the private sector.” 

Lord Deben, chair of the the climate change committee and a former Conservative environment secretary, said the government had set strong targets on cutting emissions but policy to achieve them was lacking. “The government has willed the ends, but not the means,” he said.

Environment Agency chief hits out at greenwashing by businesses | Climate crisis | The Guardian

More Droughts for Spain and Portugal

 Spain and Portugal are suffering their driest climate for at least 1,200 years. The Iberian peninsula has been hit by increasing heatwaves and droughts in recent years and this year May was the hottest on record in Spain. Forest fires that killed dozens of people in the region in 2017 followed a heatwave made 10 times more likely by the climate crisis, while the Tagus River, the longest in the region, is at risk of drying up completely.

Most rain on the Iberian peninsula falls in winter as wet, low-pressure systems blow in from the Atlantic. But a high-pressure system off the coast, called the Azores high, can block the wet weather fronts.  The new research, published in the journal Nature Geosciencefound that winters featuring “extremely large” Azores highs have increased dramatically from one winter in 10 before 1850 to one in four since 1980. These extremes also push the wet weather northwards, making downpours in the northern UK and Scandinavia more likely. The scientists said the more frequent large Azores highs could only have been caused by the climate crisis, caused by carbon emissions.

“The number of extremely large Azores highs in the last 100 years is really unprecedented when you look at the previous 1,000 years,” said Dr Caroline Ummenhofer, at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the US, and part of the research team. “That has big implications because an extremely large Azores high means relatively dry conditions for the Iberian peninsula and the Mediterranean,” she said. “We could also conclusively link this increase to anthropogenic emissions.”

“Our findings have big implications for the water resources that are available for agriculture and other water intensive industries or for tourism,” said Ummenhofer. “It doesn’t bode well.” Spain was the second most popular country for overseas tourists in 2019, hosting 84 million visitors.

Spain also is the world’s biggest producer of olives and a major source of grapes, oranges, tomatoes and other produce. But rainfall has been declining by 5-10mm a year since 1950, with a further 10-20% drop in winter rains anticipated by the end of the century. Other research has projected a 30% decline in olive production in southern Spain production by 2100 and a fall in grape-growing regions across the Iberian peninsula of 25% to 99% by 2050 due to severe water shortages.

Spain and Portugal suffering driest climate for 1,200 years, research shows | Climate crisis | The Guardian

Monday, July 04, 2022

Lone Parent Child Poverty

 With households across the country facing the worst inflationary shock since the 1980s, charities warned that single mothers were suffering a heavier toll from soaring energy prices and the rising cost of a weekly shop. Experts said the benefits cap, first imposed in 2013, and the four-year freeze on benefits, were among the biggest drivers of financial damage for single mothers.

Half of all children in lone-parent families are now living in relative poverty, according to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that shows how a decade of austerity-driven cuts to benefits has left single parents among the most exposed to soaring inflation.  The impact of cuts to state support by successive Conservative governments has left women raising their children alone in a much weaker position to cope with the shocks of the pandemic and rising prices of basics such as food and heating.  It shows relative poverty for children in lone-parent families has risen at a significantly faster rate compared with other households. 

“Lone parents on low incomes are particularly reliant on income from benefits. These cuts to benefits have offset rising employment incomes in recent years, which have been large for lone parents,” the IFS said.

The vast majority of the 1.8 million lone-parent families in Britain – almost nine out of 10 – are headed by women. Together, they are raising 3.1 million children – more than a fifth of all children.

Relative poverty is defined as having an income of less than 60% of the national median, adjusted for household size. 

For single parents, this measure of poverty rose by nine percentage points between 2013-14 and 2019-20 to reach 49% at the onset of the global health emergency. In sharp contrast, the rate for children in two-parent families rose by only two percentage points to reach 25%.

Linking the growing divisions in society with the decade of austerity imposed by Conservative-led governments, the IFS said the rise in poverty for children living in lone-parent households “reflects reductions in the real value of state benefits in the years from 2011 to 2019”. Among the cuts in support that have most affected single mothers are the benefit cap, the four-year freeze in benefits between 2016 and 2020, the two-child limit and a lowering of the age of the youngest child when single parents must start looking for work. Before 2008, lone parents were able to claim income support until their youngest child reached 16, or 19 in full-time education. After changes first introduced by the last Labour government, and made substantially tougher by the Conservative-led coalition, this age limit was repeatedly cut. Now single parents are expected to prepare for work when their youngest reaches one, and then be in a job from the age of three.

“Absolutely it increases child poverty,” said Morag Treanor, the professor of child and family inequalities at Heriot-Watt University. “Single parents don’t have the security to build what is required to search for work until they get their children into school or proper childcare. It’s very detrimental, it’s distressing and it has an impact on the mothers and the children.”

Victoria Benson, the chief executive of Gingerbread, the charity for single-parent families, said: “The pandemic and the cost of living crisis have made their lives much worse, and the welfare system just doesn’t provide the necessary level of support.”

Separate research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed that lone parents were more likely to be food insecure amid the cost of living crisis – with as many as 70% going hungry and skipping meals compared with 55% for non-lone parents. The poverty charity said as many as 40% were unable to keep their home warm compared with 31% for two-parent families. Single parents were more likely to have taken on new debts, visited a food bank, and have gone without a bath, shower or basic toiletries.

Alison Garnham, the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “This alarming research is a wake-up call showing the need for additional support for families with children in response to the cost of living crisis. It is no surprise to see child poverty rates rising fast for lone-parent families after the harsh effects of years of benefit cuts and freezes, and with no shock absorbers left to deal with inescapable soaring living costs.”

Figures from Child Poverty Action Group show there were 3.9 million children living in poverty in the UK last year, more than a quarter of all children, or eight in a classroom of 30.

Half of all children in lone-parent families are in relative poverty | UK cost of living crisis | The Guardian

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Excess Profits for Exxon


 
ExxonMobil indicated that its profits doubled in the second quarter of 2022 compared to the first three months of the year, potentially reaching as high as $18 billion.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the corporation's second-quarter "could be its most lucrative in at least 25 years...Exxon said it expects refining margins to increase by as much as $4.6 billion in the second quarter, and rising prices for crude oil, gas, and other liquids contributing another increase of as much as $3.3 billion," the Journal noted.

Oil companies have directed large chunks of their windfall to share buybacks, further enriching executives and investors. At the end of the first quarter, Exxon tripled its buyback program to $30 billion.

Biden Urged to Embrace Windfall Tax as Exxon Says Profits Doubled in Second Quarter (commondreams.org)


Climate Change in Chile

 The Penuelas reservoir in central Chile was until 20 years ago the main source of water for the city of Valparaiso, holding enough water for 38,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. Water for only two pools now remains. In a historic 13-year drought, rainfall levels have slumped. It is totally unrivalled for duration or intensity.

The drought has hit mine output in the world’s largest copper producer, stoked tensions over water use for lithium extraction and farming, and led the capital, Santiago, to make unprecedented plans for potential water rationing.

Behind the issue is a global shift in climate patterns sharpening natural weather cycles. Normally, low-pressure storms from the Pacific unload precipitation over Chile in winter, recharging aquifers and packing the Andes mountains with snow.

But naturally occurring warming of the sea off Chile’s coast, which blocks storms from arriving, has been intensified by rising global sea temperature, according to a global study on sea temperature and rainfall deficits. Ozone depletion and greenhouse gases in the Antarctic, meanwhile, exacerbate weather patterns that draw storms away from Chile, according to a study on variables affecting Antarctic weather.

It meant the Andes were not getting a chance to replenish, which in turn meant that as snow melted in spring there was far less water to fill rivers, reservoirs and aquifers.

As snow compacts, it creates new layers, which help keep it colder for longer. But with warmer weather and less snowfall,  Miguel Lagos, a civil engineer and water specialist, said, top layers of snow were melting faster or turning straight to vapour, a process called sublimation.

researchers at the University of Chile predict the country will have 30% less water over the next 30 years, based on mathematical models and historic data.

“What we call a drought today will become normal,” Lagos said.

‘We beg God for water’: the Chilean lake that vanished | The Independent

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Quote of the Day

 "They're trying to blind us with the nice words and promises, and prevent us from looking into the details and calling them out." - German environment activist, Luisa Neubauer

If there are hungry people, give them food to eat

 The political commentator Vijay Prashad has written an article on the current food crisis, pointing out that the problem predated the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The world food market was already stressed before the conflict in Ukraine, with prices going up during the pandemic to levels that many countries had not seen before. 

UNICEF, reports that every minute a child is pushed into hunger in 15 countries most ravaged by the global food crisis.

Twelve of these countries are in Africa (from Burkina Faso to Sudan), one is in the Caribbean (Haiti) and two are in Asia (Afghanistan and Yemen). Wars have degraded the ability of the state institutions in these countries to manage cascading crises of debt and unemployment, inflation and poverty. The levels of hunger are now almost out of control. Millions of refugees in these countries are almost entirely reliant upon U.N. agencies. 

Prashad writes, "While the war has been catastrophic for world food prices, it is an error to see the war as the cause of the spike. World food prices began to rise about 20 years ago, and then went out of control in 2021 for a range of reasons..," 

  1. During the pandemic, the severe lockdowns inside countries and at their borders led to major disruptions in the movement of migrant labor... 
  2. A consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic was the breakdown of the supply chain...
  3. Extreme weather events have played a major role in the chaos of the food system...
  4. Over the past 40 years, global meat consumption (mostly poultry) increased dramatically...
However, the war has almost broken this weakened food system. The most significant problem is in the world fertilizer market, which is now in a crisis. Cuts in fertilizer use by agriculturalists will lead to lower crop yields in the future unless farmers and farm companies are willing to switch to biofertilizers.

Due to the uncertainty of the food market, many countries have established export restrictions, which further exacerbates the hunger crisis in countries that are not self-sufficient in food production.

By the end of the 21st century, 141 countries in the world will not be self-sufficient and food production will not meet the nutritional demands of 9.8 out of the 15.6 billion people projected to be on the planet. Only 14 percent of the world’s states will be self-sufficient, with Russia, Thailand and Eastern Europe as the leading producers of grain for the world. 60 percent of Brazilian families do not have access to adequate food. Of the country’s 212 million people, the number of those who have nothing to eat has leapt from 19 million to 33.1 million since 2020.

Such a bleak forecast demands that we radically transform the world food system.


No Protection for the Oceans

 


Environmental protection groups called the UN ocean conference a missed opportunity to promise real action in an ecosystem struggling with overfishing, warming temperatures, pollution and acidification.

Numerous NGOs criticized the conference's closing declaration as non-committal and therefore meaningless. The five-day conference did not even present a report on the progress of the goals set out at the last UN oceans summit, which took place in 2017.

"We have seen many declarations before, we have heard many promises, pledges and voluntary commitments," said Laura Meller of Greenpeace. "But if declarations could save the oceans they wouldn't be on the brink of collapse."

Marco Lambertini, director-general of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said, "The ocean, climate and coastal communities worldwide need real progress, not promises."

Environmentalists slam UN inaction at ocean conference | News | DW | 01.07.2022

Manchester Branch Resolution


The Tories are planning to make it possible to use agency workers as strike-breakers. This will restrict trade union activity further, thus affecting the entire working class in this country. 

Manchester branch calls on the EC to publish a statement on the party’s position, which should include support for democratic union action to resist this plan, along with our argument that such action will only ever be defensive.

Supporting statement

The branch realises that the support we can offer will be minor. However, without any statement from the EC, we shall be absent from an important moment in the class struggle. Any statement should of course be distributed via all of our social media outlets

Manchester branch suggests the following wording:

We are approaching a new phase in a long history of anti-union legislation, from both Tory and Labour governments.

The SPGB opposes any attempt to restrict workers’ ability to take collective action to protect or improve conditions  of employment.

We will therefore support union efforts to resist the current government’s declared aim of allowing agency workers to be used as scab labour.

We urge all of our fellow-workers to join an appropriate union, but remind them that this can only ever be a defensive response, that equity is not possible for wage slaves and that the only way to ensure sustained well-being for us all is by replacing the crazed pursuit of profit for the few with a classless society of cooperation, where everything is produced solely to meet human needs.

Friday, July 01, 2022

Our answer to IndyRef2

 


The SNP preach a divisive message among people who the Socialist Party say should unite to establish a frontier-free world community, based on the planet’s resources becoming the common heritage of all humanity, as the only framework within which the social problems which workers wherever they live face today. This is why Socialist Party is implacably opposed to the Scottish nationalists. We are working in opposite directions. Us to unite working people. Them to divide them.

Spare us the pretence that it’s some great extension of democracy. Constitutional reform is of no benefit to us. It leaves our lives and the problems the profit system causes completely unchanged. As far as solving the catalogue of social problems is concerned, constitutional change is just a useless irrelevancy.

The nationalist argument, as propounded by the SNP is quite simple ― and wrong. The people of Scotland, we are told, suffer because they are misgoverned by England; what they need is an independent State of their own so that they could begin to solve their problems. In fact, the problems faced by workers in Scotland are basically the same as those in Britain or Ireland or any other country; they are caused by international capitalism and can only be cured by world Socialism. The setting up of more borders in the world would be a waste of time.

It is tempting to simply vote “no” to the independence question. After all, the Socialist Party doesn’t want constitutional reform (we want socialism) and a “no” vote would be a repudiation of the divisive doctrines of the narrow-minded Scots Nats. But in the end, the point at issue–a mere constitutional reform which will leave profit-making, exploitation, unemployment and all the other social problems quite untouched–is so immaterial that it is not worth choosing sides. We don’t see any point in diverting our energies to changing the constitution but we certainly want things to change. We want people to change the economic and social basis of society and establish socialism in place of capitalism. So we’ve nothing in common with the unionists. They are, of course, not  Scottish nationalists but British nationalists. 

So we won’t be voting “yes” or “no”. We shall, however, be voting. We’ll be going to the polling station and, since they are not giving us this option on the voting paper, we’ll be writing the word “WORLD SOCIALISM”  across it as we did in 2014.

The Socialist Party rejects allegiance to any State and its members regard themselves as citizens of the world. We accept the boundaries between nations as they are (and as they may change) and work within them to win control of each nation-state with a view to abolishing them all. a democratic world community without frontiers based on the common ownership of the world’s resources.

If you want socialism, we urge you to register your support for a world socialist cooperative commonwealth, a democratic global community based on the common ownership of the world’s resources. We advocate the rejection both of separatist Scottish nationalism and of unionist British nationalism.