No one is paying attention to the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II

Jackson Diehl writes: The never-ending circus that is Donald Trump’s presidency has sucked attention from all kinds of issues that desperately need it, from health-care reform to the creeping expansion of U.S. engagement in Syria. Still, it’s shocking that so little heed is being paid to what the United Nations says is the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945: the danger that about 20 million people in four countries will suffer famine in the coming months, and that hundreds of thousands of children will starve to death.

Not heard of this? That’s the problem. According to U.N. and private relief officials, efforts to supply enough food to stem the simultaneous crises in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria are falling tragically short so far, in part because of inadequate funding from governments and private donors. Of the $4.9 billion sought in February by the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for immediate needs in those countries, just 39 percent had been donated as of last week.

That resource gap could be attributed to donor fatigue, or to the sheer size of the need. But, in part, it’s a simple lack of awareness. “We can’t seem to get anyone’s attention to what’s going on,” says Carolyn Miles, the president and chief executive of Save the Children. [Continue reading…]

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Forced displacement worldwide at its highest in decades

UNHCR reports: War, violence and persecution have uprooted more men, women and children around the world than at any time in the seven-decade history of UNHCR according to a report published today.

The UN Refugee Agency’s annual Global Trends study found that 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2016 – a total bigger than the population of the United Kingdom and about 300,000 more than last year.

It noted that the pace at which people are becoming displaced remains very high. On average, 20 people were driven from their homes every minute last year, or one every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence. [Continue reading…]

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The return of famine as a weapon of war

Alex de Waal writes: In its primary use, the verb ‘to starve’ is transitive: it’s something people do to one another, like torture or murder. Mass starvation as a consequence of the weather has very nearly disappeared: today’s famines are all caused by political decisions, yet journalists still use the phrase ‘man-made famine’ as if such events were unusual.

Over the last half-century, famines have become rarer and less lethal. Last year I came close to thinking that they might have come to an end. But this year, it’s possible that four or five famines will occur simultaneously. ‘We stand at a critical point in history,’ the head of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the former Tory MP Stephen O’Brien, told the Security Council in March, in one of his last statements before stepping down: ‘Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations.’ It’s a ‘critical’ point, I’d argue, not because it is the worst crisis in our lifetime, but because a long decline – lasting seven decades – in mass death from starvation has come to an end; in fact it has been reversed.

O’Brien had no illusions about the causes of the four famines, actual or imminent, that he singled out in north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. In each case, the main culprits are wars that result in the destruction of farms, livestock herds and markets, and ‘explicit’ decisions by the military to block humanitarian aid. In Nigeria, villages in the path of the war between Boko Haram and the army have been stripped of assets, income and food. As the army slowly reduces the areas under Boko Haram control, they are finding small towns where thousands starved to death last year. The counter-insurgency grinds on, and the specialists who compile the data fed into the blandly named ‘integrated food security phase classification’ (IPC) system, worry that in this year’s ‘hungry season’, approximately June to October, communities in the war zones will again move up the IPC scale: from level four (‘humanitarian emergency’) to five (‘famine’). Last year in Nigeria, the UN and relief agencies could say that they didn’t appreciate the full extent of the crisis. This year we have been given due warning.

In South Sudan, the government and the rebel armies have fought much less against each other than against the civilian population. In the summer of 2016, evidence from aid agencies showed nutrition and death rates in the region that met the UN criteria for determining that a food crisis has reached famine levels. Fearing that declaring famine would antagonise the South Sudanese government, already paranoid and cracking down on international aid agencies (aid workers were being robbed, raped and murdered), the UN prevaricated. By February, even veterans of South Sudan’s horrendous famines of the 1980s were saying that this was as bad as anything in their experience, perhaps worse. The UN duly declared a famine.

Yemen, however, is the biggest impending disaster. Don’t be fooled by pictures showing hungry people in arid landscapes: the weather had nothing to do with the famine. More than seven million people in Yemen are hungry; far more are likely to die of starvation and disease than in battles and air raids. The military intervention led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has strangled the country’s economy. [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump’s triumph of stupidity

Der Spiegel reports: Until the very end, they tried behind closed doors to get him to change his mind. For the umpteenth time, they presented all the arguments — the humanitarian ones, the geopolitical ones and, of course, the economic ones. They listed the advantages for the economy and for American companies. They explained how limited the hardships would be.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the last one to speak, according to the secret minutes taken last Friday afternoon in the luxurious conference hotel in the Sicilian town of Taormina — meeting notes that DER SPIEGEL has been given access to. Leaders of the world’s seven most powerful economies were gathered around the table and the issues under discussion were the global economy and sustainable development.

The newly elected French president, Emmanuel Macron, went first. It makes sense that the Frenchman would defend the international treaty that bears the name of France’s capital: The Paris Agreement. “Climate change is real and it affects the poorest countries,” Macron said.

Then, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reminded the U.S. president how successful the fight against the ozone hole had been and how it had been possible to convince industry leaders to reduce emissions of the harmful gas.

Finally, it was Merkel’s turn. Renewable energies, said the chancellor, present significant economic opportunities. “If the world’s largest economic power were to pull out, the field would be left to the Chinese,” she warned. Xi Jinping is clever, she added, and would take advantage of the vacuum it created. Even the Saudis were preparing for the post-oil era, she continued, and saving energy is also a worthwhile goal for the economy for many other reasons, not just because of climate change.

But Donald Trump remained unconvinced. No matter how trenchant the argument presented by the increasingly frustrated group of world leaders, none of them had an effect. “For me,” the U.S. president said, “it’s easier to stay in than step out.” But environmental constraints were costing the American economy jobs, he said. And that was the only thing that mattered. Jobs, jobs, jobs.

At that point, it was clear to the rest of those seated around the table that they had lost him. Resigned, Macron admitted defeat. “Now China leads,” he said.

Still, it is likely that none of the G-7 heads of state and government expected the primitive brutality Trump would stoop to when announcing his withdrawal from the international community. Surrounded by sycophants in the Rose Garden at the White House, he didn’t just proclaim his withdrawal from the climate agreement, he sowed the seeds of international conflict. His speech was a break from centuries of Enlightenment and rationality. The president presented his political statement as a nationalist manifesto of the most imbecilic variety. It couldn’t have been any worse. [Continue reading…]

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Americans don’t need Washington to meet our Paris commitment

The New York Times reports: Representatives of American cities, states and companies are preparing to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement.

The unnamed group — which, so far, includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses — is negotiating with the United Nations to have its submission accepted alongside contributions to the Paris climate deal by other nations.

“We’re going to do everything America would have done if it had stayed committed,” Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who is coordinating the effort, said in an interview.

It was unclear how, exactly, that submission to the United Nations would take place. Christiana Figueres, a former top United Nations climate official, said there was currently no formal mechanism for entities that were not countries to be full parties to the Paris accord.

Ms. Figueres, who described the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw as a “vacuous political melodrama,” said the American government was required to continue reporting its emissions to the United Nations because a formal withdrawal would not take place for several years.

But Ms. Figueres, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change until last year, said the Bloomberg group’s submission could be included in future reports the United Nations compiled on the progress made by the signatories of the Paris deal.

Still, producing what Mr. Bloomberg described as a “parallel” pledge would indicate that leadership in the fight against climate change in the United States had shifted from the federal government to lower levels of government, academia and industry. [Continue reading…]

Michael Bloomberg writes: In the U.S., emission levels are determined far more by cities, states, and businesses than they are by our federal government.

Over the past decade, the U.S. has led the world in emission reductions – and our federal government had very little to do with it. It happened because of leadership from cities, public opposition to coal plants, and market forces that have made cleaner sources of energy – including solar and wind – cheaper than coal. It makes no sense to pay extra to poison our environment – or to kill jobs. And the clean energy industry is now creating far more jobs than we are losing in the fossil fuel industry.

The fact of the matter is: Americans don’t need Washington to meet our Paris commitment, and Americans are not going to let Washington stand in the way of fulfilling it. That’s the message mayors, governors, and business leaders all across the U.S. have been sending.

So today, we want the world to know: The U.S. will meet our Paris commitment, and, through a partnership among American cities, states, and businesses, we will seek to remain part of the Paris Agreement process. The American government may have pulled out of the Agreement, but the American people remain committed to it – and we will meet our targets. [Continue reading…]

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France’s President Macron appeals to Americans to ‘make our planet great again’

 

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As Trump shirks responsibility for tackling climate change, Germany and China step up as global leaders

Reuters reports: Germany and China vowed on Thursday to expand their partnership, pledging to continue to fight climate change hours before U.S. President Donald Trump announces whether Washington will quit a global climate deal.

Germany is the first stop for Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on a European tour that comes amid growing concern in Germany over some of Trump’s policies, especially on climate change and protectionism.

“China has become a more important and strategic partner,” Merkel said at a joint news conference with Li, pointing to political, economic, social and cultural ties.

“We are living in times of global uncertainty and see that we have a responsibility to expand our partnership in all the different areas and to push for a world order based on law,” she said.

The two leaders held wide-ranging talks that covered issues including trade, a European Union-China investment deal, civil rights, the North Korea crisis and climate change. They also signed a multitude of business deals.

“We are both ready to contribute to stability in the world,” the Chinese premier said. [Continue reading…]

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else, as Churchill might have said.

But the twisted line now coming from team Trump is that terrorism poses a greater global threat than climate change — “a beheading is worse than a sunburn,” as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee put it on Sunday.

That’s an argument that might sound persuasive to the scientifically illiterate audience that watches Fox News and yet however ignorant Trump, Huckerbee and their cohort indeed are, I doubt that their powers of reasoning are actually this impaired.

This isn’t a case of arriving at differing conclusions after sober risk assessment. It’s simply a case of outright denial.

The climate skeptics are not actually skeptical; they refuse to face evidence that points towards implications that they find unacceptable.

Their investment in the past is so deep that they refuse to look at the future.

If the reporting has been accurate, Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris accord comes in spite of appeals not to do so from his own daughter.

As loyal as she might feel towards her father, she should now understand that he has no loyalty to her.

To Ivanka and the rest of the world, Donald Trump’s message is ultimately this: I don’t give a damn about what happens to you or anyone else after I die.

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U.S. coal companies opposed withdrawal from Paris accord

Reuters reports: U.S. coal company shares dipped alongside renewable energy stocks on Wednesday after reports that President Donald Trump plans to pull the United States from a global accord on fighting climate change.

The market reaction reflects concerns, raised by some coal companies in recent months, that a U.S. exit from the Paris Climate Agreement could unleash a global backlash against coal interests outside the United States.

Peabody Energy, the largest publicly traded U.S. coal company dropped 2.2 percent to $24.29 a share, while Arch Coal fell 0.4 percent to $70.77.

A spokesman for Peabody said the company would support a decision by Trump to withdraw from the Paris deal because the “accord is flawed on a number of levels.”

Peabody, however, was among a handful of big coal companies that had argued that Trump should stay in the deal to help protect coal industry interests overseas, including by ensuring funding for coal-fired power plants and so-called “clean coal” technology.

Cloud Peak Energy Inc had also urged the Trump administration to stay in the Paris deal to prevent other nations from an aggressive turn against the global coal industry. Its shares were down 0.6 percent to $3.39. [Continue reading…]

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Trump expected to pull U.S. from Paris climate accord

The New York Times reports: The exit of the United States, the world’s largest economy and second-largest greenhouse gas polluter would not dissolve the 195-nation pact, which was legally ratified last year, but it could set off a cascade of events that would have profound effects on the planet. Other countries that reluctantly joined the agreement could now withdraw or soften their commitments to cutting planet-warming pollution.

“The actions of the United States are bound to have a ripple effect in other emerging economies that are just getting serious about climate change, such as India, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton, and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that produces scientific reports designed to inform global policy makers.

Once the fallout settles, he added, “it is now far more likely that we will breach the danger limit of 3.6 degrees.” That is the average atmospheric temperature increase above which a future of extreme conditions is considered irrevocable.

The aim of the Paris agreement was to lower planet-warming emissions enough to avoid that threshold.

“We will see more extreme heat, damaging storms, coastal flooding and risks to food security,” Professor Oppenheimer said. “And that’s not the kind of world we want to live in.”

Foreign policy experts said the move could damage the United States’ credibility and weaken Mr. Trump’s efforts to negotiate issues far beyond climate change, like negotiating trade deals and combating terrorism.

“From a foreign policy perspective, it’s a colossal mistake — an abdication of American leadership ” said R. Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat and the under secretary of state during the presidency of George W. Bush.

“The success of our foreign policy — in trade, military, any other kind of negotiation — depends on our credibility. I can’t think of anything more destructive to our credibility than this,” he added. [Continue reading…]

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Trump to withdraw from Paris climate deal

Politico reports: President Donald Trump is planning to pull the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement, according to a White House official, in a move that is certain to infuriate America’s allies across the globe and could destabilize the 2015 accord.

The upcoming decision is a victory for hardliners such as senior White House adviser Stephen Bannon, who argued that the deal would hobble the U.S. economy and Trump’s energy agenda, and a defeat for moderates like Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who feared that withdrawing would damage U.S. relations abroad. Trump had promised during the campaign to “cancel” the nearly 200-nation agreement, the most comprehensive climate pact ever negotiated.

Administration officials cautioned that they are still sorting out the details of how exactly Trump will withdraw, and one noted that nothing is final until an announcement is made.

But reaction from the international community was swift, without mentioning Trump by name. “Climate change is undeniable,” the United Nations tweeted from its official account Wednesday morning, quoting from a speech by Secretary General António Guterres. “Climate action is unstoppable. Climate solutions provide opportunities that are unmatchable.” [Continue reading…]

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Theresa May accused of being ‘Trump’s mole’ in Europe after UK tries to water down EU climate change policy

The Independent reports: Theresa May has been accused of being Donald Trump’s “mole” in Europe after leaked documents showed the UK attempted to water down EU policies designed to tackle climate change.

While other European politicians have made clear to the Republican billionaire that his denial of climate science is a problem, the Prime Minister has remained resolutely silent on the issue.

Her visit to Washington – when the two leaders were pictured holding hands – was widely regarded as an attempt to build a strong relationship with Mr Trump, despite concerns about his attitudes towards women, migrants, Islam, Vladimir Putin’s Russia and other issues.

The leaked documents, obtained by Greenpeace’s Energydesk, show the UK tried to make a policy designed to improve energy efficiency – reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making goods cheaper to run for consumers – voluntary rather than mandatory.

It also essentially argued EU member states should be allowed to make no progress at all towards a 2030 target on renewable energy until the last moment.

Barry Gardiner, the shadow International Trade Secretary, who speaks on climate change issues as a result of Ms May’s decision to scrap the dedicated climate change Cabinet post, told The Independent: “After the G7 [meeting], the word was put out that six countries were on track, pursuing the objective of the Paris Agreement. Only one country, America, was out of step.

“That simply has been proven not to be the case by this leak, which shows Donald Trump actually has a mole within the EU and that mole is the UK.

“The UK is, behind the scenes, trying to water down the commitments and make them voluntary instead of mandatory.”

He said the changes proposed by the UK were not “cosmetic” – to make targets “aspirational”, rather than legally enforceable, was “ridiculous”. [Continue reading…]

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If Trump pulls out of the Paris accord he will be serving Putin and turning the U.S. into a rogue nation

Joe Romm writes: President Donald Trump has privately told “confidants” he intends to leave the Paris accord on climate change, “according to three sources with direct knowledge,” Axios reported Saturday.

After persuading voters that America isn’t great anymore, Trump apparently intends to make sure of it — by having this country lead the effort to kill humanity’s last, best hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Quitting a unanimous agreement by 190+ nations after a two-decade negotiating process would make us a rogue nation, a global pariah, like Vladimir Putin’s Russia. And, it could make Putin happy, as we’ll see.

While Trump tweeted out Saturday from Italy that “I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after the G7 meeting, “The whole discussion about climate has been difficult, or rather very unsatisfactory.” She added, “Here we have the situation that six members, or even seven if you want to add the EU, stand against one.”

Axios notes that “Although Trump made it clear during the campaign and in multiple conversations before his overseas trip that he favored withdrawal, he has been known to abruptly change his mind.” They add, however, top political appointees at EPA “were relieved” when Trump refused to join a consensus G7 statement reaffirming “their strong commitment” to the Paris accord.

While the White House’s attack on domestic climate action already undermines the global effort to avert climate catastrophe, we shouldn’t discount the importance of a U.S. withdrawal from Paris — especially if Trump teams with Russian President Vladimir Putin to undermine the whole global negotiating process.

“Will Trump repay Putin by ending Russian sanctions and killing the Paris climate deal?” was a question I posed back in January, examining the growing evidence Russia helped elect Trump and questioning what kind of quid pro quo there could be. Politically, Trump can’t end the sanctions now given the explosive news of recent weeks on the FBI investigation into collusion between his campaign in Russia.

But Trump can pull out of Paris, an agreement Putin has never liked, because it means a large fraction of Russia’s fossil fuel reserves would remain in the ground, unable to provide vast revenue for him and the Kremlin. [Continue reading…]

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To hell with the world: Trump reported to have decided to withdraw from Paris climate accord

Axios reports: President Trump has privately told multiple people, including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, that he plans to leave the Paris agreement on climate change, according to three sources with direct knowledge. [Continue reading…]


Trump’s tweet implies he hasn’t already made this decision and yet the idea that he might be both undecided and also set an arbitrary deadline for making his mind up, would be to trivialize the issue — not withstanding his incapacity to think deeply about anything.

There seems little reason to doubt that what Trump’s tweet actually means even if this is not literally what he says, is that he will announce his decision next week — that decision most likely became even more firm while he was in Europe where he was received with thinly veiled contempt and derision.

The logic (for Trump) in his delayed announcement is probably that this is how he delivers his counterpunch — as though by tearing up the accord, he gets the last laugh.

That’ll show them, the self-preening orange man thinks, as he engineers another assault on humanity and the planet.

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Trump delays decision on Paris climate accords

The New York Times reports: President Trump declined to endorse the Paris climate accords on Saturday, saying he would decide in the coming days whether the United States would pull out of the 195-nation agreement.

Mr. Trump’s lack of a decision after three days of contentious private debate and intense lobbying by other leaders came even as the six other Group of 7 nations reaffirmed their commitment to cutting planet-warming emissions in a joint statement issued on Saturday afternoon.

The lobbying essentially ended in a stalemate, with Mr. Trump remaining opaque about his intentions regarding the 2015 pact as he prepared to return home after a nine-day overseas trip. The impasse underscored the continuing division between the United States and its allies about the global environmental pact.

The joint communiqué made clear that all the G-7 nations except the United States remained determined to carry out the Paris agreement. It said: “Expressing understanding for this process, the heads of state and of government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom, and the presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission reaffirm their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement.”

In a message on Twitter posted before the joint statement was officially released, Mr. Trump said: “I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!”

The reaction was swift and critical. Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said: “President Trump’s continued waffling on whether to stay in or withdraw from the Paris Agreement made it impossible to reach consensus at the Taormina summit on the need for ambitious climate action. But he stands in stark isolation.” [Continue reading…]

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Pope lends weight to G-7 push to bind Trump to climate deal

Bloomberg reports: Pope Francis joined an international chorus urging Donald Trump to meet U.S. commitments on climate change in talks at the Vatican Wednesday.

Francis gave the U.S. president a copy of his 2015 encyclical calling for urgent, drastic cuts in fossil-fuel emissions after a half-hour meeting in his private study.

Francis’s choice of gift suggests he is adding his voice to those pressing Trump not to renege on the Paris accord, which is the cornerstone of global efforts to limit climate change. The Vatican said in a statement that the talks focused on international affairs and the promotion of peace, with particular emphasis on health care, education and immigration.

“Thank you, thank you,” Trump told Francis as they shook hands after the meeting. “I won’t forget what you said.” Trump has said climate change might be a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

For his part, Trump gave Francis a special edition of the works of U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King. [Continue reading…]

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Will Trump’s spiraling constitutional crisis end up saving the Paris climate deal?

Joe Romm writes: Will President Donald Trump’s surprise move to fire FBI director James Comey this week change the dynamics that had appeared to be leading toward a decision by the Trump administration to exit the landmark Paris climate accord?

Some say yes. “Every president in the modern era who gets into trouble at home, looks to opportunities to engage other leaders on the world stage publicly and cooperatively to demonstrate their legitimacy,” Andrew Light, senior fellow at World Resources Institute and former U.S. State Department climate official, told me.

Exiting the Paris agreement would make it all but impossible for Trump to work with other world leaders on a global stage.

Backing up a couple of weeks, before the stunning Comey decision and constantly-shifting rationale behind it, things were looking very bad for global climate action. [Continue reading…]

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