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El Salvador’s New Savior - Upside Down World

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With elections looming and a conservative backlash sweeping the hemisphere, El Salvador’s governing left-wing party just ousted its most popular politician.

On Oct. 10, the former leftist insurgency-turned-political party, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), celebrated the 37th anniversary of its founding as a guerilla army that launched a 12-year civil war against a U.S.-backed military dictatorship.

That day, Nayib Bukele, the ambitious young millionaire mayor of the capital city San Salvador, was ousted by the party’s Ethics Tribunal for making sexist remarks against an FMLN city councilwoman and engaging in divisive, “individualistic” behavior. Many Salvadorans, including in the diaspora, have decried the expulsion and rallied around the now-independent Bukele.

In electoral terms, the FMLN’s decision was potentially catastrophic: Bukele was positioned to easily win a second term in the 2018 midterms and favored for the 2019 presidential elections; the FMLN must now face off with an emboldened right-wing opposition while its base is divided. The ouster also reveals serious internal challenges for the FMLN, including a lack of younger cadres positioned to replace the party’s aging leadership and help foster a new generation of revolutionaries who did not experience first-hand the ravages of the armed conflict.

In ideological terms, however, the decision diverted the party from the path of individualized neoliberal politics that Bukele embodies — a path that can only lead to the right.  

From the boardroom to City Hall

Nayib Bukele is heir to a wealthy Salvadoran family of Palestinian descent. His father was an unusually progressive business leader and intellectual who published several scientific works, as well as political commentaries on Salvadoran public affairs. Before entering politics, Bukele ran the family’s advertising agency. He also owns the national Yamaha motorcycle distributor, among other family companies. Rich as they are, the Bukeles are by no means members of El Salvador’s notorious oligarchy, which disdains the mayor as something of a new-money upstart.

Unlike most FMLN candidates, Bukele did not rise through the ranks of local party structures. But in 2012, at the age of 31, he joined the party to run for mayor of the small San Salvador suburb of Nuevo Cuscatlán. Bukele secured the candidacy, and subsequently the mayorship, serving a three-year term. There, he built up his brand, painting municipal works his signature light blue — a stark distinction from the FMLN’s historic red — and astutely positioning himself in social media as the millennials’ mayor. In Nuevo Cuscatlán, the young millionaire grandly renounced his salary, donating it to finance local scholarships.

In 2015, hoping to retake the capital city from the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party, the FMLN chose Bukele as its mayoral candidate. He ran a sleek, well-financed campaign, saturating San Salvador with light blue and uniting his followers under the hashtag #TeamNayib.

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It was an unusually personalized race for the FMLN, which usually rallies its base around a collective party platform and a legacy of revolutionary struggle, rather than charismatic individuals. But the party wanted to oust the Right from city hall, and Bukele was particularly popular among an urban middle class increasingly skeptical of the FMLN — and indeed any political party — thanks in part to the success of an ongoing right-wing effort to promote a demobilizing, post-ideological discourse of disillusionment in the face of two consecutive FMLN presidential victories. Bukele’s anti-establishment tone dovetailed nicely with the brazenly corrupt opposition’s cynical anti-corruption rhetoric, allowing him to appear an outsider to the disaffected while still charming the FMLN’s base by attacking the Right.

The calculous paid off, at least in the short term: Bukele won decisively, and his presence brought much-needed youthful energy to the party.

A short romance

As mayor, Bukele quickly made his mark on the city. His administration installed street lights across the entire municipal territory, an important public security initiative in a metropolitan area plagued by gang violence. He built a major new downtown market, replete with a public library and rooftop bars (not to mention a Burger King), and he withdrew restrictions around San Salvador’s iconic Salvador del Mundo monument, essentially turning the plaza into a skate and bike park for young capitalinos. Bukele is also renovating several major plazas in the city’s historic central district.

In many ways, however, his administration maintained continuity with that of his right-wing predecessor. Always cozy with the private sector, Bukele embraced corporate sponsorship for municipal works. Where the previous ARENA mayor festooned the capital with Coca Cola Christmas decorations, Bukele’s holiday adornments are sponsored by the Guatemalan San Martin restaurant chain.

Bukele’s ideological differences with the FMLN are significant. In one interview, he quoted a refrain of the ultra-conservative think tank FUSADES, founded by USAID to promote free-market fundamentalism in El Salvador: “More taxes, fewer opportunities.” Indeed, Bukele appears to eschew the basic leftist tenet of pursuing wealth redistribution; instead, he claims that, “El dinero alcanza cuando nadie roba,” or, roughly, “there’s enough money when nobody steals.” When asked outright if he was a leftist, Bukele replied, “Yes and no,” adding, “I’m not in favor of curtailing economic freedoms.”

Bukele is, in many ways, a monster of the FMLN’s own creation. To defeat him, and to ensure the continuity of its own revolutionary project, the party will have to cultivate radical new voices from within.

Unsurprisingly, his relationship with the party soon soured. Bukele’s messianic personal style provoked tensions within an organization that prides itself on unity and discipline. As it became clear that he would not be the FMLN’s 2019 presidential candidate, Bukele increasingly distanced himself from the party, frequently lashing out at the leadership and executive government on social media. The episode that finally provoked his expulsion, in which he called an FMLN city councilwoman a “witch,” was fuel on a well-kindled fire.

Towards 2019

With the roster already closed for the March midterms, Bukele’s expulsion from the FMLN leaves him unable to run for a second term as mayor. But the ouster has freed him to pursue his higher aspirations full-time.

As all forces prepare for the 2019 presidential election, the FMLN seeks to defend its control of the executive branch and with it, hard-fought gains in social investment, infrastructure, and democratic reforms. Meanwhile, right-wing elites are hoping to regain control of the presidency to resume ransacking public resources for personal gain and further entrench the neoliberal model that they had previously imposed over the course of decades of U.S.-backed rule.

Bukele has now thrown his hat in the ring as an independent. But while Bukele claims to reject the political system, his politics are hardly innovative. He proposes no formal changes to El Salvador’s vastly unequal economy, ravaged by decades of free trade, privatization, and deregulation. He favors online campaigning over grassroots organizing, but he declines to use his formidable virtual platform — or army of internet trolls — to take a stand on a host of critical material issues facing poor and working class Salvadorans. In lieu of a platform, he rallies his base of “Nayilibers” (a play on the term for Justin Bieber fans) around his self-proclaimed ingenuity and integrity. While the FMLN can claim to stand for protecting water from privatization or partially decriminalizing abortion, Bukele’s project is, essentially, himself.

Behind the anti-establishment rhetoric and trademark backwards baseball cap, Bukele’s centrism and disdain for organizing places him squarely in the camp of the failing technocratic (neo)liberalism advanced by the U.S. Democratic Party, in which politics is not a struggle over resources and power between adversarial interests, but rather the domain of expert managers who, with the right tools, can resolve any crisis. In a country with a long tradition of organized political struggle, this tepid, individualized discourse is particularly toxic.

On the electoral field, Bukele now joins fellow Salvadoran capitalists who, no longer content behind the scenes, are elbowing out the middlemen and jockeying to take the reins themselves. Both of ARENA’s top presidential contenders ranked in a recent report on El Salvador’s six richest men, as did Bukele himself. So far, neither ARENA’s oligarchs nor the black sheep Bukele have offered anything like a political platform, leaving voters to stake their preferences on photogenics.

The FMLN’s likely presidential pick is Gerson Martínez, a former guerrilla commander who turned one of El Salvador’s most corrupt ministries under ARENA, the Ministry of Public Works, into a flagship of FMLN governance. Martínez is an honest public servant, but he belongs to the orthodox old guard of revolutionaries that Bukele hopes to leave in the dust.

The upcoming votes will test the FMLN’s ability to counter the opposition’s reactionary onslaught with a progressive political proposal that appeals to those who might otherwise be seduced by Bukele’s media savvy. To do so, the party will have to find new strategies to engage the post-war generation.

The current comandancia carefully stewarded the FMLN from combat into civilian life and through successive electoral victories under extraordinarily adverse conditions. But 25 years after the signing of the Peace Accords, these stalwarts have been reticent to cede the reins to younger militants. Bukele is, in many ways, a monster of the FMLN’s own creation. To defeat him, and to ensure the continuity of its own revolutionary project, the party will have to cultivate radical new voices from within.

The 2019 elections in El Salvador are already proving a critical battleground, both for the region’s resurgent Right, and the embattled Left. Bukele’s presence in the elections only further shifts Salvadoran politics toward vacuous, personality-centered discourse and away from that of a collective, emancipatory project. Certainly, the serious problems of violence and inequity facing El Salvador demand dramatic, structural changes. But in a struggling country already named for one savior, Bukele’s one-man approach is unlikely save the day.

Hilary Goodfriend is a writer and researcher based in San Salvador, El Salvador. She writes about empire, neoliberalism, and resistance.

Copyright, Upside Down World. May not be reprinted without permission.

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Fast and Getting Faster: The Verdict on Sea Level Rise from the Latest National Climate Assessment


Sea level rose more rapidly during the 20th century than during any of the previous 27 centuries, and humans bear the lion’s share of the responsibility for that rise. That’s just one of the sobering takeaways from the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), released today, but leaked to the New York Times in August. Billed as Volume 1 of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA), the CSSR captures the state of sea level rise science and its implications for the coasts of our country.

Here are six noteworthy findings from the sea level rise section of the CSSR:

1. People are responsible for 80% of the sea level rise since 1970

The first key finding in the CSSR’s sea level rise chapter contains a bold statement that is backed up in the chapter’s main text: “Human-caused climate change has made a substantial contribution to [global mean sea level rise] since 1900…contributing to a rate of rise that is greater than during any preceding century in at least 2,800 years…”

This finding is based on eight independent studies published in the last three years that aim to quantify the human contribution to sea level rise since 1900. All of them conclude that the human contribution is “substantial,” and at least two find that, in the absence of human activity, sea level rise over the course of the 20th century would have been about 50 to 60% of what has actually been observed.

The human contribution to sea level rise is even more striking if we look at just the last 50 years: People are responsible for about 80% of the global mean sea level rise since 1970.

These findings broadly reflect the rapid evolution of attribution science–or assessing whether–or what proportion of–observed climate and weather events can be attributed to human activity. A recent study published by Brenda Ekwurzel and others takes this sea level rise attribution one step further by showing that about 30% of global sea level rise since the Industrial Revolution was caused by the burning of products from 90 major fossil fuel companies.

Given the tendency of climate-confused politicians such as Scott Pruitt to say things like “Science tells us that the climate is changing and human activity in some manner impacts that change…the human ability to measure with precision the extent of that impact is subject to continuing debate and dialogue, as well they should be,” this high-confidence finding would ideally help to lift some of their “confusion.”

2. Sea level rise is accelerating, and a growing proportion of that rise is due to loss of ice on land

Estimates of how much sea level rose over the course of the 20th century have been changing, which has implications for our understanding of how the pace of sea level rise has been changing. The average rate that has long been quoted for the 20th century, from a 2011 study by Church and White, is 0.06 inches/year. But a few more recent studies, including one by Hay et al. cited in the CSSR, have found that rate to be slightly lower–0.05 inches per year. That amounts to 4-5 inches of sea level rise in the 89 years between 1901 and 1990.

Since 1990, less than 30 years ago, global sea level has risen by about 3 inches. The rate of sea level rise is now 0.13 inches per year–more than double the 20th century average–with both tide gauges and satellite data confirming the changing pace.Over the course of the 20th century, the pace of sea level rise varied. This recent acceleration is different for at least a few reasons. First, it’s coming on the heels of a century of already above-average sea level rise that we know is attributable to human activity. Second, projections show that this acceleration has only just begun. And third, loss of land-based ice is contributing more to sea level rise than it did during the 20th century.

The six scenarios used by the CSSR to project future sea level rise show that the rapid pace of sea level rise we are experiencing today could pale in comparison to what lies ahead. With an intermediate scenario, the pace of sea level rise would increase to 0.2 inches per year in 2020 and to 0.6 inches per year in 2090. With a high sea level rise scenario, those rates increase to 0.4 inches per year in 2020 and 1.7 inches per year in 2090.

The six sea level rise scenarios developed by NOAA as input to the Climate Science Special Report for the National Climate Assessment.

Changes in sea level arise largely from two sources: loss of land-based ice and warming of the ocean, which causes seawater to expand and take up more space. Over the course of the 20th century, warming oceans contributed the bulk of the sea level rise signal. But since 2005, about two-thirds of observed sea level rise has come from loss of ice. When we look into the future, there is still a considerable degree of uncertainty about how much ice loss will contribute to sea level rise.

3. Antarctic ice loss is still a wildcard, but its game-changing potential contribution is becoming clearer

Quantifying the response of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to future warming has been a consistently large source of uncertainty in global sea level rise projections for over 15 years (here’s the third IPCC report from 2001, for example). In the past couple of years, however, major developments in the ability to model the response of the Antarctic ice sheets to warming have begun to hone our understanding of Antarctica’s potential contribution to sea level rise this century.

And it’s scary.

The CSSR is unequivocal that Antarctica (and Greenland) are losing ice, and there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the pace of that loss is accelerating. The rate of ice loss is about 100 gigatons per year–an amount that this Washington Post article can help us to wrap our heads around.

The Thwaites Glacier, part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, appears to be in “an irreversible state of decline,” according to a 2014 study by Eric Rignot and others.

Models suggest that ice loss from Antarctica could contribute more than three feet to global sea level rise this century on top of rise from other sources. This growing body of knowledge is reflected in what the CSSR calls an “extreme” scenario in which sea level rises by an average of 8.5 feet by 2100. The previous NCA report’s highest sea level rise scenario projected about 6.6 ft by 2100.

There’s a concerted effort in the CSSR to incorporate the latest science about Antarctic ice loss into sea level rise projections. But there’s still enough uncertainty that Antarctica’s potential contribution couldn’t be fully accounted for when assigning probabilities to potential sea level rise futures.

4. Sea level rise scenarios tied to emissions scenarios and assigned likelihoods

NOAA has developed a new set of sea level rise projections that are designed for this round of the National Climate Assessment. New SLR scenarios designed for understanding risk given a range of different carbon emissions scenarios. Each sea level rise projection is assigned a probability based on emissions pathways, as in “with a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5), the ‘very likely range’ of SLR is about 1.7-4.3 ft by 2100”.

Here’s where the big Antarctic wildcard plays in, though: The probabilities do not factor in the possibility of major ice loss from Antarctica.

5. Communities will be affected by more frequent, more severe flooding before they are permanently underwater

Since 2014, there’s been an increased focus on what happens between now and the point at which coastal regions are permanently underwater due to sea level rise. This in-between time will be characterized by an increase in the number and extent of high tide flooding events, and a number of studies in the past three years have painted a picture of what that looks like quantitatively and qualitatively.

Simran Paintlia for <a href="http://mycoast.org" rel="nofollow">mycoast.org</a>

King tide flooding in Charleston, SC, on October 7, 2017. The local National Weather Service office has issued 38 Coastal Flood Advisories for the region already this year.

The CSSR puts this issue of tidal flooding up front in key message #4: “As sea levels have risen, the number of tidal floods each year that cause minor impacts…have increased 5- to 10-fold since the 1960s…Tidal flooding will continue increasing in depth, frequency, and extent this century.”

While the tidal flooding findings described here won’t be news to regular readers of this blog or to residents of flood-prone places like Charleston and Annapolis, their elevation to key finding status will hopefully highlight the insidious threat of frequent flooding that hundreds of communities in the U.S. could face in the coming decades.

6. Buckle up for centuries of sea level rise

When we look at projections for how much sea level will rise through the end of this century, it’s tempting to assume that 2100 is so far off that of course we will have cracked the climate change nut by then and be back to a climate that feels right. A climate in which people will know what a month of below average temperatures feels like. A climate in which coastal towns see a couple of high tide floods per year instead of dozens.

But sea level takes time to respond to the emissions we are pumping into the atmosphere, and even if temperatures stabilize, sea level is projected to continue rising for centuries if not millennia. Emissions through 2100 could lock us into a sea level rise of 12 feet by 2200 and up to 33 ft in the next 2,000 years.

Again, major ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet is the big wildcard because once that ice is lost, it cannot easily be regained. The CSSR states: “Once changes are realized, they will be effectively irreversible for many millennia, even if humans artificially accelerate the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere (DeConto and Pollard 2016).”

This new report shows us that we are on the comfortable end of the steep sea level rise curve. As this report gains attention in the coming days there will be those who will wave their hands and insist “nothing to see here.” Clearly, there is far more to see here than we want. Thank you to the dozens of authors and researchers who are enabling us to see it coming.

Posted in: Global Warming Tags: Climate Science, climate science special report, National Climate Assessment, sea level rise

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Trump-released gov't report: Climate change mostly human-caused

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water next to the ocean: Iceberg detached from Jakobshavn (Sermeq Kujalleq) glacier, Ilulissat village, Qaasuitsup, west Greenland, Denmark. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images) © Provided by WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post Iceberg detached from Jakobshavn (Sermeq Kujalleq) glacier, Ilulissat village, Qaasuitsup, west Greenland, Denmark. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

The Trump administration released a dire scientific report Friday calling human activity the dominant driver of global warming, a conclusion at odds with White House decisions to withdraw from a key international climate accord, champion fossil fuels and reverse Obama-era climate policies.

To the surprise of some scientists, the White House did not seek to prevent the release of the government’s National Climate Assessment, which is mandated by law. The report affirms that climate change is driven almost entirely by human action, warns of potential sea-level rise as high as eight feet by the year 2100, and details climate-related damage across the United States that is already unfolding as a result of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit of global warming since 1900.

“It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the document reports. “For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”

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The report’s release underscores the extent to which the machinery of the federal scientific establishment, operating in multiple agencies across the government, continues to grind on even as top administration officials have minimized or disparaged its findings. Federal scientists have continued to author papers and issue reports on climate change, for example, even as political appointees have altered the wording of news releases or blocked civil servants from speaking about their conclusions in public forums. The climate assessment process is dictated by a 1990 law that Democratic and Republican administrations have followed.

The White House on Friday sought to downplay the significance of the study and its findings.

“The climate has changed and is always changing. As the Climate Science Special Report states, the magnitude of future climate change depends significantly on ‘remaining uncertainty in the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to [greenhouse gas] emissions,'” White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement. “In the United States, energy related carbon dioxide emissions have been declining, are expected to remain flat through 2040, and will also continue to decline as a share of world emissions.”

Shah added that the Trump administration “supports rigorous scientific analysis and debate.” He said it will continue to “promote access to the affordable and reliable energy needed to grow economically” and to back advancements that improve infrastructure and ultimately reduce emissions.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and President Trump have all questioned the extent of humans’ contribution to climate change. One of the EPA’s Web pages posted scientific conclusions similar to those in the new report until earlier this year, when Pruitt’s deputies ordered it removed.

The report comes as Trump and members of his Cabinet are working to promote U.S. fossil-fuel production and repeal several federal rules aimed at curbing the nation’s carbon output, including ones limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, oil and gas operations on federal land and carbon emissions from cars and trucks. Trump has also announced he will exit the Paris climate agreement, under which the United States has pledged to cut its overall greenhouse-gas emissions between 26 percent and 28 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2025.

The report could have considerable legal and policy significance, providing new and stronger support for the EPA’s greenhouse-gas “endangerment finding” under the Clean Air Act, which lays the foundation for regulations on emissions.

“This is a federal government report whose contents completely undercut their policies, completely undercut the statements made by senior members of the administration,” said Phil Duffy, director of the Woods Hole Research Center.

The government is required to produce the national assessment every four years. This time, the report is split into two documents, one that lays out the fundamental science of climate change and the other that shows how the United States is being affected on a regional basis. Combined, the two documents total over 2,000 pages.

The first document, called the Climate Science Special Report, is now a finalized report, having been peer-reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences and vetted by experts across government agencies. It was formally unveiled Friday.

“I think this report is basically the most comprehensive climate science report in the world right now,” said Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers who is an expert on sea-level rise and served as one of the report’s lead authors.

It affirms that the United States is already experiencing more extreme heat and rainfall events and more large wildfires in the West, that more than 25 coastal U.S. cities are already experiencing more flooding, and that seas could rise by between 1 and 4 feet by the year 2100, and perhaps even more than that if Antarctica proves to be unstable, as is feared. The report says that a rise of over eight feet is “physically possible” with high levels of greenhouse-gas emissions but that there’s no way right now to predict how likely it is to happen.

When it comes to rapidly escalating levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the report states, “there is no climate analog for this century at any time in at least the last 50 million years.”

Most striking, perhaps, the report warns of the unpredictable — changes that scientists cannot foresee that could involve tipping points or fast changes in the climate system. These could switch the climate into “new states that are very different from those experienced in the recent past.”

Some members of the scientific community had speculated that the administration might refuse to publish the report or might alter its conclusions. During the George W. Bush administration, a senior official at the White House Council on Environmental Quality edited aspects of some government science reports.

Yet multiple experts, as well as some administration officials and federal scientists, said that Trump political appointees did not change the special report’s scientific conclusions. While some edits have been made to its final version — for instance, omitting or softening some references to the Paris climate agreement — those were focused on policy.

“I’m quite confident to say there has been no political interference in the scientific messages from this report,” David Fahey, an atmospheric scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a lead author of the study, told reporters on Friday. “Whatever fears we had weren’t realized. … This report says what the scientists want it to say.”

A senior administration official, who asked for anonymity because the process is still underway, said in an interview that top Trump officials decided to put out the assessment without changing the findings of its contributors even if some appointees may have different views.

Glynis Lough, who is deputy director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists and had served as chief of staff for the National Climate Assessment at the U.S. Global Change Research Program until mid-2016, said in an interview that the changes made by government officials to the latest report “are consistent with the types of changes that were made in the previous administration for the 2014 National Climate Assessment, to avoid policy prescriptiveness.”

Perhaps no agency under Trump has tried to downplay and undermine climate science more than the EPA. Most recently, political appointees at the EPA instructed two agency scientists and one contractor not to speak as planned at a scientific conference in Rhode Island. The conference marked the culmination of a three-year report on the status of Narragansett Bay, New England’s largest estuary, in which climate change featured prominently.

The EPA also has altered parts of its website containing detailed climate data and scientific information. As part of that overhaul, in April the agency took down pages that had existed for years and contained a wealth of information on the scientific causes of global warming, its consequences and ways for communities to mitigate or adapt. The agency said that it was simply making changes to better reflect the new administration’s priorities and that any pages taken down would be archived.

Pruitt has repeatedly advocated for the creation of a government-wide “red team/blue team” exercise, in which a group of outside critics would challenge the validity of mainstream scientific conclusions around climate change.

Other departments have also removed climate-change documents online: The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, for example, no longer provides access to documents assessing the danger that future warming poses to deserts in the Southwest.

And when U.S. Geological Survey scientists working with international researchers published an article in the journal Nature evaluating how climate change and human population growth would affect where rain-fed agriculture could thrive, the USGS published a news release that omitted the words “climate change” altogether.

The Agriculture Department’s climate hubs, however, remain freely available online. And researchers at the U.S. Forest Service have continued to publish papers this year on how climate change is affecting wildfires, wetlands and aquatic habitat across the country.

The new climate science report is already coming under fire from some of the administration’s allies.

The day before it was published, Steven Koonin, a New York University physicist who has met with Pruitt and advocated for the “red team/blue team” exercise, preemptively criticized the document in the Wall Street Journal, calling it “deceptive.”

Koonin argued that the report “ominously notes that while global sea level rose an average 0.05 inch a year during most of the 20th century, it has risen at about twice that rate since 1993. But it fails to mention that the rate fluctuated by comparable amounts several times during the 20th century.”

But one of the report’s authors suggested Koonin is creating a straw man. “The report does not state that the rate since 1993 is the fastest than during any comparable period since 1900 (though in my informal assessment it likely is), which is the non-statement Steve seems to be objecting to,” Kopp countered by email.

Still, the line of criticism could be amplified by conservatives in the coming days.

The administration also released, in draft form, Volume 2 of the National Climate Assessment, which looks at regional impacts across the United States. This document is now available for public comment and will begin a peer review process, with final publication expected in late 2018.

Already, however, it is possible to discern some of what it will conclude. For instance, a peer-reviewed EPA technical document released to inform the assessment finds that the monetary costs of climate change in the United States could be dramatic.

That document, dubbed the Climate Change Impacts and Risk Analysis, finds that high temperatures could lead to the loss per year of “almost 1.9 billion labor hours across the national workforce” by 2090. That would mean $160 billion annually in lost income to workers.

With high levels of warming, coastal property damage in 2090 could total $120 billion annually, and deaths from temperature extremes could reach 9,300 per year, or in monetized terms, $140 billion annually in damage. Additional tens of billions annually could occur in the form of damage to roads, rail lines and electrical infrastructure, the report finds.

This could all be lessened considerably, the report notes, if warming is held to lower levels.

Jason Samenow contributed to this report.

Read more at Energy & Environment:

White House reviewing new report that finds strong link between climate change, human activity

Obama left Trump a major climate-change report — and independent scientists just said it’s accurate

EPA website removes climate science site from public view after two decades

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Israel sold advanced weapons to Myanmar during its anti-Rohingya ethnic cleansing campaign - Israel News

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“Welcome to the Myanmar Navy,” said the caption on the Myanmar Navy’s Facebook page, in honor of the arrival of an Israeli patrol boat to Myanmar’s shore. “The Super-Dvora MK III is moving forward at 45 knots on Myanmar waters,” the post continued. The post is from April, only half a year ago, when the Myanmar (Burmese) army was already being accused of war crimes.

Although the persecution of the Muslim minority in Myanmar, the Rohingya people, has become more intense in recent months, back in November 2016 the army was already being accused of brutality against them and of torching their villages. During that period tens of thousands of Rohingyans were expelled from their homes.

>> Israel is sending weapons to a country that’s carrying out ethnic cleansing and is a partner in a genocide | Opinion <<

The representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees in the region said then that the ultimate purpose of Myanmar’s government is “ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority.” Since last August more than half a million Rohingyan refugees have fled to Bangladesh, and some of them have testified to methodical rape and murder by the Myanmar military.

The pictures of the two boats on the Facebook page also reveal the weapons that have been installed on them, all blue-and-white products. There’s a remote weapon station, made by Elbit Systems, which allows the firing of a heavy machine gun or cannon of up to 30 millimeters. The new patrol boats are only part of a larger transaction signed between Israel and Myanmar. The Ramta division of Israel Aerospace Industries, which manufactures the Super Dvora, is meant to transfer at least two more boats to the local military. According to some reports on the deal, these boats will be built in Myanmar with the help of Israeli technology. IAI refused to comment.

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The total value of the arms deal, according to sources in the Israeli weapons industry, is estimated at tens of millions of dollars. An officer involved in the matter told Haaretz that the Myanmar naval commander visited Israel in the past year, “was impressed and wanted to learn.” It was the second visit to Israel by the naval commander in the past five years.

Israeli weapons are being sold to Myanmar despite the restrictions on weapons sales to that country. Only last month Israel refused to announce that it would stop selling weapons to Myanmar despite the UN declaration about ethnic cleansing. The Rohingya minority is now considered the most persecuted people in the world.

Israel is careful not to officially confirm that it is granting permits to Israeli weapons firms to sell weapons to Myanmar. But the visit two years ago by Myanmar’s chief of the armed forces, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who met with Israel’s entire top military brass, was an indication of the cooperation between the two armies. During his visit, Hlaing announced that he had purchased the Super Dvora patrol boat, and he visited the Palmahim Air Force Base and the Gaza Division. A year-and-a-half ago, a reciprocal visit to Myanmar was made by Brig. Gen. Michel Ben-Baruch, head of the Defense Ministries International Defense Cooperation Directorate. In the past, Myanmar purchased Israeli air-to-air missiles and cannons, while an Israeli company, TAR Ideal Concepts, has noted on its website that it has trained Myanmar military forces. Now the site makes no specific reference to Myanmar, referring only to Asia.

The two countries in recent years have signed a memorandum of understanding clarifying the bilateral cooperation and transfer of relevant information and intelligence. According to official reports in Myanmar, the agreement includes military training and improving security cooperation between the two countries. There is, however, no known instance of Myanmar military personnel being trained in Israel, or of Israeli officers who were involved in training Myanmar military forces.

The efforts to fully expose the Israel-Myanmar connection by attorney Eitay Mack, who is active in increasing transparency of Israeli arms exports to countries that violate human rights, have so far been unsuccessful. Last month the High Court of Justice issued a ruling in response to a petition he filed with other human rights activists against the sales, but the ruling was kept classified at the state’s request.

The Defense Ministry said in response, “In general, the Defense Ministry doesn’t typically address security export issues.”

According to a source familiar with the issue, there is currently no relationship between the Israel Defense Forces and the Myanmar army, and no uniformed personnel are involved in any cooperative venture with the Myanmar security establishment.

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50 days ago
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66 days ago
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Sixties Scoop compensation excludes Métis, non-status Indigenous Peoples - CBC News

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An agreement in principle to directly compensate Sixties Scoop survivors has been reached between the federal government and the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett announced Friday.

However, the claim will leave out groups like Métis and non-status Indigenous Peoples, said Jeffery Wilson, the lawyer who represented the Ontario survivors in the class action suit.

For those wondering if they will qualify for the settlement, lawyer Jeffery Wilson broke down some key points:

  • The agreement applies to those adopted or fostered between 1951 and 1991.
  • The agreement will apply to anyone in Canada.
  • It will apply to anyone adopted to another country.
  • Indigenous people who were wards of the Crown during the period covered by the settlement will qualify.
  • Those who were adopted or were in temporary care for a long period of time during the period covered by the settlement will qualify.
  • Claimants will not have to pay legal fees.

"[The claim] does not include Métis. It includes non-status [First Nations] … so long as they are eligible to be status," said Wilson. "But if they're non-status they are not, by that fact in and of itself, disqualified.

"The reason Métis are not included is because there is no records to identify Métis during the relevant period of time," he said.

Wilson has been working on the Ontario case for 13 years.

The agreement in principle will see $750 million go directly to people who were taken from their families during what is known as the Sixties Scoop, during which thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their homes and placed in non-Indigenous care over a period of decades.

Another $50 million has been earmarked for a foundation dedicated to reconciliation initiatives.

Depending on how many make a claim, survivors could each see between $25,000 to $50,000.

Exact details are still in the works for applying for compensation, but Wilson said the process will be simple.

"A person will file an application saying, 'I believe that I was removed, I didn't live with my parents or my nation,'" said Wilson.

Those eligible for compensation will have to get documents to prove they were Crown or permanent wards and were adopted out.

"If the provincial authorities don't have the records — which is very possible — then the process will enable them to declare for a statutory declaration," said Wilson.

Many Sixties Scoop adoptees were sent to different provinces, while others were shipped across North America and further abroad. Adoptees sent to other countries will be eligible to receive compensation as well, said Wilson.

"It doesn't matter where you were sent to as long as you were [adopted] between 1951 to 1991. That's a 40-year period that covers eligibility," said Wilson.

'The process is going to be kept very simple. Lawyers cannot charge for any work that is done.' - Jeffery Wilson

"The process is going to be kept very simple. Lawyers cannot charge for any work that is done."

The government is putting aside an additional $75 million to cover claimants' legal fees.

Friday's announcement was an agreement in principle, which means the finer details of the settlement still need to be arranged.

There will, however, be a fund dedicated to reconciliation initiatives that will be open to anyone — including non-status First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people — who were adopted out during the Sixties Scoop.

Wilson said there is a debate about how compensation will work for adoptees who have since died.

"The question that has to be considered is — let's assume there was an adopted child who was a Sixties Scoop survivor [who] dies. You're not telling me that their adopted parents could come forward and claim?" said Wilson.

Non-First Nations adoptee parents are unlikely to be compensated for children they adopted who have since died, he added.

"There's an alternative argument that maybe this money should go to the foundation and this should be for the living people," said Wilson.

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66 days ago
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