Innovators Under 35: Leslie Dewan, Chief Science Officer, Transatomic Power
Published on Nov 7, 201 3 • What if we could build a nuclear reactor that costs half as much, consumes nuclear waste, and will never melt down? Trans Atomic Power
Innovators Under 35: Leslie Dewan, Chief Science Officer, Transatomic Power
Published on Nov 7, 201 3 • What if we could build a nuclear reactor that costs half as much, consumes nuclear waste, and will never melt down? Trans Atomic Power
The Caribbean’s response to Climate Change is grounded in a firm regional commitment, policy and strategy. Our three foundation documents – The Liliendaal Declaration (July 2009), The Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change (July 2009) and its Implementation Plan (March 2012) – are the basis for climate action in the region.
The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underscores the importance, scientific rigour and utility of these landmark documents. The IPCC’s latest assessment confirms the Caribbean Community’s longstanding call to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees celsius as outlined in the Liliendaal Declaration. At the Nations Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) Meeting in 2009, which took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Caribbean Community indicated to the world community that a global temperature rise above 1.50C would seriously affect the survival of the community.
In 2010 at the UNFCCC COP Meeting in Cancun, governments agreed that emissions ought to be kept at a level that would ensure global temperature increases would be limited to below 20C. At that time, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which includes the Caribbean, re-iterated that any rise in temperature above 1.50C would seriously affect their survival and compromise their development agenda. The United Nations Human Development Report (2008) and the State of the World Report (2009) of The Worldwatch Institute supports this position and have identified 20C as the threshold above which irreversible and dangerous Climate Change will become unavoidable.
Accordingly, the Caribbean welcomes the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report prepared by over 2000 eminent scientists. It verifies observations in the Caribbean that temperatures are rising, extreme weather events are occurring more frequently, sea levels are rising, and there are more incidences of coral bleaching. These climatic changes will further exacerbate the limited availability of fresh water, agricultural productivity, result in more erosion and inundation, and increase the migration of fish from the Caribbean to cooler waters and more hospitable habitats. The cumulative effect is reduced food security, malnutrition, and productivity, thus increasing the challenges to achieving poverty reduction and socio-economic development.
The report notes that greenhouse gases emissions, the cause of Climate Change, continues to rise at an ever increasing rate. Unless this trend is arrested and rectified by 2050, global temperatures could rise by at least 4°C by 2100. This would be catastrophic for the Caribbean. However, the report is not all gloom and doom. More than half of the new energy plants for electricity are from renewable resources, a trend that must accelerate substantially if the goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C by 2100 is to remain feasible.
The IPCC AR5 Report should therefore serve as a further wake up call to our region that we cannot continue on a business as usual trajectory. It is an imperative that Climate Change be integrated in every aspect of the region’s development agenda, as well as its short, medium and long-term planning. The region must also continue to aggressively engage its partners at the bilateral and multilateral levels to reduce their emissions. The best form of adaptation is reduction in emissions level.
The IPCC will adopt the Synthesis Report of the AR5 in Copenhagen, Denmark in late October 2014. Caribbean negotiators are already preparing to ensure that the most important information from the report are captured in the Synthesis Report.
See the highlights of the Caribbean Launch of the UN IPCC AR5 Report in this video:
* Dr Kenrick Leslie is the Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, the regional focal point for Climate Change.
Why we should give everyone a basic income | Rutger Bregman | TEDxMaastricht
Published on Oct 21, 2014 • This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences.
Rutger Bregman (1988} studied at Utrecht University and the University of California in Los Angeles, majoring in History. In September 2013 Bregman joined the online journalism platform De Correspondent. His article on basic income was nominated for the European Press Prize and was published by The Washington Post.
In September 2013 Bregman joined the online journalism platform ‘De Correspondent’. His article on basic income was nominated for the European Press Prize and was subsequently also published by the American newspaper The Washington Post. In September 2014 his newest book ‘Gratis geld voor iedereen En nog vijf grote ideeen die de wereld kunnen veranderen’ came out.
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About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.
A new report has found the war on drugs in Afghanistan remains colossally expensive, largely ineffective and likely to get worse. This is particularly true in the case of opium production, says the U.S. Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
In a damning report released Tuesday, the special inspector general, Justin F. Sopko, writes that “despite spending over $7 billion to combat opium poppy cultivation and to develop the Afghan government’s counternarcotics capacity, opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013,” hitting 209,000 hectares, surpassing the prior, 2007 peak of 193,000 hectares. Sopko adds that the number should continue to rise thanks to deteriorating security in rural Afghanistan and weak eradication efforts.
Though the figures it reports are jarring, the inspector general’s investigation highlights drug policy failures in Afghanistan that have been consistently documented for years. Indeed, Sopko himself has been raising concerns over the failing drug war in Afghanistan for some time. In January, he testified before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control and described a series of discouraging conversations with counternarcotics officials from Afghanistan, the U.S., and elsewhere.
“In the opinion of almost everyone I spoke with, the situation in Afghanistan is dire with little prospect for improvement in 2014 or beyond,” Sopko told the lawmakers. “All of the fragile gains we have made over the last 12 years on women’s issues, health, education, rule of law, and governance are now, more than ever, in jeopardy of being wiped out by the narcotics trade which not only supports the insurgency, but also feeds organized crime and corruption.”
While many of the numbers included in the inspector general’s investigation have been made public before, the report serves as a reminder that, in addition to contributing to more than 70,000 deaths in Mexico over eight years, the bloody destabilization of Central America, and the expansion of the largest prison population in history in the United States, the ongoing U.S. effort to eliminate the market for illicit drugs at home and abroad is failing. Afghanistan is still considered the number one producer of opium in the world, responsible for as much as 90 percent of the market, which in turn supports the global heroin trade, even if only a small percentage of heroin from Afghanistan is believed to reach the U.S.
By June of 2014, U.S. departments and agencies — including the Pentagon, the State Department, USAID, the Drug Enforcement Administration and others — had spent a total of $7.6 billion to fight drugs in Afghanistan. Specifically, Sopko notes, the U.S. tax dollars poured into Afghanistan have been intended to support “the development of Afghan government counternarcotics capacity, operational support to Afghan counternarcotics forces; encouragement of alternative livelihoods for Afghan farmers; financial incentives to Afghan authorities to enforce counternarcotics laws; and, in limited instances, counternarcotics operations conducted by U.S. authorities in coordination with their Afghan counterparts.” The results, the inspector general points out, have left something to be desired.
Sopko reports that the resurgence in Afghan poppy cultivation has been driven by the high price of the crop, cheap and mobile labor, and “[a]ffordable deep-well technology,” which “has turned 200,000 hectares of desert in southwestern Afghanistan into arable land over the past decade.” According to figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, from 2012 to 2013 the value of opium and the products derived from it increased by 50 percent, from $2 billion to $3 billion.
While U.S. efforts have failed to effectively diminish drug trafficking in Afghanistan, they have succeeded in making a handful of private security companies increasingly rich, a point that is not addressed in the inspector general’s report. In 2009, official responsibility for training Afghan police forces was shifted from the State Department to an obscure branch of the Pentagon known as Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office (CNTPO), which took over the roughly $1 billion contract. In waging the privatized war on drugs, CNTPO has partnered with such corporate security giants as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, ARINC, DynCorp and U.S. Training Center, a subsidiary of the firm formerly known as Blackwater.
With the pullout of U.S. forces looming — special operations units notwithstanding — the future of Afghanistan looks grim. Experts at the Afghanistan Analysts Network have noted the expanding power of warlords in Afghanistan’s rural regions. Meanwhile, security agreements between the Afghan government and the U.S. and NATO forces have avoided reining in CIA-backed paramilitaries that have shouldered much of the United States’ dirty work in the last 13 years of war. The rising viability of the opium trade, and the corruption it so often invites, adds yet another layer of complexity to an already fragile situation.
In his report, Sopko encourages the U.S. government and its coalition partners to look back on the years of counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan and consider what today’s record high levels of poppy cultivation might suggest.
“In past years, surges in opium poppy cultivation have been met by a coordinated response from the U.S. government and coalition partners, which has led to a temporary decline in levels of opium production,” he writes. “However, the recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long- term effectiveness and sustainability of those prior efforts.” More
In the halls of U.S. government, “policy in the national security realm is made by the concealed institutions,” political scientist argues in new book
“I think the American people are deluded.”
So says Tufts University political scientist Michael J. Glennon, whose new book, National Security and Double Government (Oxford University Press), describes a powerful bureaucratic network that's really pulling the strings on key aspects of U.S. foreign policy.
The 'double government' explains why the Obama version of national security is virtually indistinguishable from the one he inherited from President George W. Bush.
The American public believes “that when they vote for a president or member of Congress or succeed in bringing a case before the courts, that policy is going to change,” Glennon told the Boston Globe in an interview published Sunday. “Now, there are many counter-examples in which these branches do affect policy… But the larger picture is still true—policy by and large in the national security realm is made by the concealed institutions.”
Glennon argues that because managers of the military, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement agencies operate largely outside the institutions meant to check or constrain them—the executive branch, the courts, Congress—national security policy changes very little from one administration to the next.
This explains, he says, why the Obama version of national security is virtually indistinguishable from the one he inherited from President George W. Bush. It's also why Guantanamo is still open; why whistleblowers are being prosecuted more; why NSA surveillance has expanded; why drone strikes have increased.
“I was curious why a president such as Barack Obama would embrace the very same national security and counterterrorism policies that he campaigned eloquently against,” Glennon said. Drawing on his own personal experiences as former legal counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as conversations with dozens of individuals in U.S. military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies and elected officials, Glennon drew the following conclusion: “National security policy actually bubbles up from within the bureaucracy. Many of the more controversial policies, from the mining of Nicaragua’s harbors to the NSA surveillance program, originated within the bureaucracy.”
To dismantle this so-called “double government”—a phrase coined by British journalist and businessman Walter Bagehot to describe the British government in the 1860s—will be a challenge, Glennon admits. After all, “There is very little profit to be had in learning about, and being active about, problems that you can’t affect, policies that you can’t change.”
But he is not hopeless. “The ultimate problem is the pervasive political ignorance on the part of the American people. And indifference to the threat that is emerging from these concealed institutions. That is where the energy for reform has to come from: the American people,” he said. “The people have to take the bull by the horns.” More
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Thursday 23 October… Another milestone reached. This morning, more than 45 metres below ground, we hit Water…
So, The drilling now comes to an end, No more pictures of men below ground throwing out buckets of sand, no spitting and puffing from an old generator and no more listening to the repetitive thud of an old drill forcing open the ground… It really is the most primitive of equipment, it keeps breaking down, it has been mended more times but it’s all there is, and they manage to use it successfully… obviously. So now, we have water…
Tomorrow, Friday, is a day of rest… Back at it again on Saturday. Next in line is the submersion of the pump which will then feed the water up to a de-salination /filtration system…
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In a report released on Friday, Amnesty International roundly condemns the excessive force used by local law enforcement agencies in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this year and called for ‘accountability and systemic change’ in order to curb the kinds of human rights abuses increasingly seen in U.S. communities when it comes to regulating street protests and use of force by police.
The report—entitled On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson (pdf)—documents the human rights concerns witnessed first-hand by Amnesty investigators dispatched to Ferguson following initial protests in the city spurred by the shooting death of an unarmed African American teenager, Michael Brown, by a police officer Darren Wilson on August 9. The Amnesty team arrived and documented public protest and the behavior of local law enforcement from August 14 to August 22.
Amnesty’s report makes takes no position or determination on the killing of Brown, but says the shooting and his death “highlighted on a national level the persistent and widespread pattern of racially discriminatory treatment by law enforcement officers across the United States, including unjustified stops and searches, ill treatment and excessive, and sometimes lethal, use of force.”
Focused on both the community response to Brown’s death and the subsequent police reaction to protests, the report’s authors present what they witnessed first-hand in Ferguson in order to highlight some of the national trends of human rights abuses that often, though with less attention, take place in U.S. communities.
“What Amnesty International witnessed in Missouri on the ground this summer underscored that human rights abuses do not just happen across borders and oceans,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “No matter where you live in the world, everyone is entitled to the same basic rights as a human being – and one of those rights is the freedom to peacefully protest. Standing on W. Florissant Avenue with my colleagues, I saw a police force, armed to the teeth, with military-grade weapons. I saw a crowd that included the elderly and young children fighting the effects of tear gas. There must be accountability and systemic change that follows this excessive force.”
According to the report:
The rights of peaceful assembly, freedom of association and freedom of expression are basic human rights. These rights are also guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States and the laws of the state of Missouri. The vast majority of those participating in the demonstrations in Ferguson that spontaneously grew in the days and weeks following the shooting Michael Brown have been peaceful – as noted by government officials such as the President of the United States, the Governor of Missouri and Attorney General along with the Missouri Highway Patrol. However, the responses by state officials and law enforcement to the violent actions of a limited number of protestors have impacted the rights of all participating in peaceful protests.
Overall, said Hawkins, “This is about accountability.”
“The events in Ferguson sparked a much-needed and long-overdue conversation on race and policing in America,” he said. “That conversation cannot stop. In order to restore justice to Ferguson, and every community afflicted by police brutality, we must both document the injustices committed and fight to prevent them from happening again. There is a path forward, but it requires substantive actions on the local, state and federal levels.”
In addition to documenting the abuses witnessed in Ferguson, the Amnesty report also puts forth a series of recommendations for local, state, and national agencies that include: better policies on use of force: calling for a thorough and transparent investigation into Brown’s death; improved policing standards of public protests; and a plea to end the unnecessay militarization of local police departments. More
In a cover story and article 14 years ago about the emergent disruption of utilities, The Economist’s Vijay Vaitheeswaran coined the umbrella term “micropower” to mean sources of electricity that are relatively small, modular, mass-producible, quick-to-deploy, and hence rapidly scalable—the opposite of cathedral-like power plants that cost billions of dollars and take about a decade to license and build.
His term combined two kinds of micropower: renewables other than big hydroelectric dams, and cogeneration of electricity together with useful heat in factories or buildings (also known as combined-heat-and-power, or CHP).
Besides being cost-competitive and rapidly scalable, why does micropower matter? First, as explained below, its operation releases little or no carbon. Second, micropower enables individuals, communities, building owners, and factory operators to generate electricity, displacing dependence on centralized, inefficient, dirty generators. This democratizes energy choices, promotes competition, speeds learning and innovation, and can further accelerate deployment—because “vernacular” technologies accessible to many diverse market actors, even if individually small, tend to deploy faster in sum than a few big units requiring specialized institutions, complex approvals, intricate logistics, and hence long lead times.
Thanks to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which tracks investments and generating capacity, and the global expert network REN21.net, which tracks capacity and (where known) electrical output, global progress in renewables has become rather transparent. Starting in 2005 and updated with a fifth edition in July 2014, RMI’s Micropower Database added a third source: industry sales data for cogeneration equipment. Tracking renewables, minus big hydro, plus cogeneration, this database documents the global progress of distributed, rapidly scalable, and (as we’ll see) no- or low-carbon generators.
The update’s most astonishing finding: micropower now produces about one-fourth of the world’s total electricity (Fig. 1).
Operating modern renewables is essentially carbon-free, except for minor subsets fueled by biomass grown using unsustainable practices that gradually deplete soil carbon. Of the estimated 3–5 percent of cogeneration fueled by biomass, most is in the forest products industry, whose biomass wastes produce most of its electricity and process heat.
Cogeneration in refineries often burns waste fuels that would otherwise be uselessly flared. Similarly, much industrial cogeneration harnesses waste heat previously thrown away. Where extra fuel is burned to make electricity as well as heat, typically far less is burned than when making them separately. If cogeneration also produces cooling and other services, it can convert as much as 93 percent of fuel energy into useful work, both in industry and in buildings. Moreover, the natural gas that fuels most cogeneration is only about half as carbon-intensive as the coal-fired power-only generation it often displaces.
Big hydroelectric dams and nuclear power are also carbon-free in operation. Thus in 2013, nearly half of the world’s electricity was produced with little or no carbon release: 8.4 percent by modern renewables , 10.2 percent by nuclear power (set to be overtaken by modern renewables in 2015), 15.5 percent by cogeneration , and 13.5 percent by big hydroelectric dams (excluding the 2.8 percent small hydro classified under modern renewables).
The other half came from power-only plants, burning mainly coal. Those plants cost more to build, and often more just to run, than their competitors, so their orders are fading, their operations are dwindling, and over decades, they’ll retire in favor of cleaner, cheaper substitutes—both micropower and efficient use.
Far from recognizing that they’re being rapidly overtaken, many advocates of coal or nuclear power stations don’t even acknowledge micropower as an important competitor—even as it grabs their markets and destroys their sales. In 2009, a senior strategic planner for a major nuclear vendor told me micropower was trivial—having failed to find it in official databases of utility-owned central power stations, without understanding the difference. And even at minor market share, micropower can have major effects. The solar 4.7 percent of Germany’s 2013 generation destroyed the incumbent utilities’ business model and wiped a half-trillion Euros off their market cap. More
The humble CREWS buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. Credit: Aaron Humes/IPS
However, there has been a recent decline in the production and export of marine products including conch, lobster, and fish, even as tourism figures continue to increase.
“What happens on the land will eventually reach the sea, via our rivers.” — Dr. Kenrick Leslie
The decline is not helped by overfishing and the harvest of immature conch and lobster outside of the standard fishing season. But the primary reason for less…
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