Australia ignores climate risks

FSUBHEAD: The country's government  has shirked responsibility to its people's health and future.

By Ian Dunlopon 26 June 2107 for Resilience -

Image above: Uncontrolled bushfire in 2015 burns among the hills of Adalaide, Australia. From original article.

The first responsibility of a government is to safeguard the people and their future wellbeing.

The ability to do so is increasingly threatened by human-induced climate change, the accelerating impacts of which are driving political instability and conflict globally. 

 Climate change poses an existential risk to humanity which, unless addressed as an emergency, will have catastrophic consequences.

An existential risk is an adverse outcome that would either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.

In military terms, Australia and the adjacent Asia-Pacific region is considered to be “Disaster Alley”, where the most extreme impacts are already being experienced.

These risks are either not understood or willfully ignored at the leadership level in Australia, which is a profound failure of imagination, far worse than that which triggered the Global Financial Crisis in 2008.

The management of existential risk cannot be handled with conventional, reactive, learn-from-failure techniques. We only play this game once, so we must get it right first time.

This should mean an honest, objective look at the real risks to which we are exposed, guarding especially against the more extreme possibilities which would have consequences damaging beyond quantification, and which human civilization as we know it would be lucky to survive.

Instead, the climate and energy policies adopted by successive Australian governments over the last twenty years, largely driven by ideology and corporate fossil fuel interests, have deliberately refused to acknowledge this existential threat to our future well-being, as the shouting match over the wholly inadequate reforms proposed by the Finkel Review demonstrates only too well.

Our leaders have access to the best possible scientific advice and to the overwhelming evidence that we have badly underestimated both the speed and extent of climate change impact.

 In such circumstances, to ignore this threat is a fundamental breach of the fiduciary responsibility with which political, bureaucratic and corporate leaders are entrusted by the community they are supposed to serve.

A hotter planet has already taken us perilously close to, and in some cases over, tipping points which will cause profound changes in major climate systems: at the polar ice-caps, in the oceans, and the large permafrost carbon stores.

Physical impacts of global warming include a hotter and more extreme climate, more frequent and severe droughts, desertification, increasing insecurity of food and water supplies, stronger storms and cyclones, and coastal inundation.

Climate change was a significant factor in triggering the war in Syria, the Mediterranean migrant crisis and the “Arab Spring”, albeit this aspect is rarely discussed.

Our current global carbon emission trajectory, if left unchecked, will drive increasingly severe humanitarian crises, forced migrations, political instability and conflicts.

Australia is not immune, domestically or regionally.

We already have extended heat waves above 40oC, catastrophic bushfires, intense storms and flooding. The regional impacts do not receive much attention but they are striking hard at vulnerable communities in Asia and the Pacific, forcing them into a spiral of dislocation and migration. 

Impacts on China and South Asia will have profound consequences for employment and financial stability in Australia.

In the absence of emergency action to reduce Australian and global emissions far faster than currently proposed, the level of disruption and conflict will escalate to the point that outright regional chaos is likely.

Militarized solutions will not be effective. Australia is failing in its duty to its own people, and as a world citizen, by downplaying these implications and in shirking its responsibility to act.

Yet people understand climate risks, even as political leaders wilfully underplay or ignore them. 84% of 8000 people in eight countries recently surveyed for the Global Challenges Foundation consider climate change a “global catastrophic risk”.

The figure for Australia was 75%. Many people now see climate change as a bigger threat than other concerns such as epidemics, weapons of mass destruction and the rise of artificial intelligence threats.

So what is to be done if our leaders are incapable of rising to the task?

First, establish a high-level climate and conflict task-force in Australia to urgently assess the existential risks of climate change, and develop risk-management techniques and policy appropriate to that challenge.

Second, recognise that climate change is now a global emergency which threatens human civilization, and contribute to building practical steps internationally for a coordinated global emergency response.

Third, launch a domestic emergency initiative to decarbonise the economy no later than 2030 and build the capacity to drawdown carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Fourth, build more resilient communities domestically, and also in the most vulnerable nations regionally by high-level commitments and development assistance; build a flexible capacity to support communities in likely hotspots of instability and conflict; and rethink refugee governance accordingly.

Fifth, ensure that Australia’s defence forces and government agencies are fully aware of and prepared for this changed environment; and ensure their abilities to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

Sixth, establish a national leadership group, outside conventional politics, drawn from across society, charged with implementing the national climate emergency program.

A pious hope in current circumstances? Our leaders clearly do not want the responsibility to secure our future.

So “Everything becomes possible, particularly when it is unavoidable”.


Heatwave melts Arizona

SUBHEAD: Much of the man-made landscape there is petroleum based plastic and now Climate Change is melting it.

By Tyler Durden on 26 June 2017 for Zero Hedge -

Image above: Extreme Heat on 21 June 12017 means the temperature map of Arizona almost runs out of colors on it legend past 120º Fahrenheit. Looks a bit like the surface of Mars. From original article.

Ask any Arizonan whether their summers are more tolerable because "it's a dry heat" and you're likely to be asked to turn your oven to 150 degrees, stick your head inside for 20 minutes and report back as to whether or not the humidity within the oven ever crossed you mind. Probably not.

Image above: Yes, it is so hot that you may need oven mittens to drive around in the sun in Arizona. From original article.

Arizonans have learned to cope with the "dry heat," this summer has been particularly brutal for people living in the Southwest as temperatures have already soared to over 120 degrees in certain areas. What's worse, it's only June.

Image above: A petroleum based mailbox fails in the sun from the weight of mail made up of bills and credit card offers. Note condition of "grass" lawn about to become blowing sand. From original article.

Image above: In Tempe, Arizona a trash bin becomes trash itself due to high temperatures. Ironically, most of the trash appears to be packaging for refrigerated food that exacerbates the heat. From original article.

And while the heatwave may not be that fun for the people living through it, it does making for some amazing pictures of stuff melting.

Image above: Towards sunset the heat damage to the plastic yard fence can be surveyed in this suburban neighborhood. Looks like something out of a horror movie. From original article.


US in Afghanistan blocking peace

SUBHEAD: Comments from Taliban chief come as Pentagon weighs sending an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan.

By Andrea Germano on 23 June 2017 for Common Dreams -

Image above: US Army Hummer stuck in the sand in southern Afghanistan. From (

The U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is "the main obstacle" to peace, the Taliban's leader said Friday.

In his comments to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada also denounced the plan to increase number of U.S. troops in the country, and accused the U.S. and its allies of "destabilizing the whole region."

The Pentagon is reportedly weighing sending an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan. Akhundzada appeared to reference that development, saying, "The more they insist on maintaining the presence of their forces here or want a surge of their forces, the more regional sensitivity against them will intensify."

"Americans should understand that continuation of war in Afghanistan, upsurge of bombardment ... will never usher in success for them. The Afghans are not a people to kowtow to someone," he said.

Echoing previous comments made by the Taliban, he said, "The occupation is the main obstacle in the way of peace." He added that "constructive and good relations with you and the world" would follow a withdrawal of forces.

U.S. based activists have also criticized the proposal to send more troops as "escalating this endless war."

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: US anti-terrorism strategy backfires 6/22/17
Ea O Ka Aina: United States of Permanent War 2/26/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Stop War for Christmas 12/24/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Real Soldiers Just Say No 9/3/09.

The End Begins

SUBHEAD: New York's "Billionaires Row" suffers biggest foreclosure in its history.

By Tyler Durden on 23 June 2017 for Zero Hedge  -

Image above: And perhaps most impressive is the view of Central Park — waking up to this everyday is worth $100 million.From (

In the latest sign that NYC’s ultra-high end property market is on the verge of imploding after a wave of overly aggressive development, another luxury condo at Manhattan’s One57 tower, a member of “Billionaire’s Row,” a group of high-end towers clustered along the southern edge of Central Park, has gone into foreclosure - the second in the span of a month.

The 6,240-square-foot (580-square-meter) full-floor penthouse in question, One57’s Apartment 79, sold for $50.9 million in December 2014, making it the eighth-priciest in the building.
“It’s probably the most-expensive foreclosure we’ve ever seen in luxury development,” said Donna Olshan, president of high-end Manhattan brokerage Olshan Realty Inc. “I don’t know of a foreclosure that’s larger than that.”
According to Bloomberg, the shell company that purchased the property took out an unusually large mortgage and promised to repay in full a year later.
In September 2015, the company took out a $35.3 million mortgage from lender Banque Havilland SA, based in Luxembourg. The full payment of the loan was due one year later, according to court documents filed in connection with the foreclosure.

The borrower failed to repay, and now Banque Havilland is forcing a sale to recoup the funds, plus interest.
And, in what’s become a strong contender for the “no sh*t” quote of the day, a spokeswoman for Extell Developments, the developer that built One57, said there' s a lesson to be learned from this unfortunate situation.
“This shows that too much leverage is probably not wise,” Anna LaPorte, an Extell spokeswoman, said of the most recent default.

Image above: Ninety stories of multimillion dollar apartments is a new record in NYC real estate. Evan Joseph/Extell Development. From (

A June 14th auction was scheduled for a 56th-floor apartment at the same tower. That condo was purchased in July 2015 for $21.4 million. Public records have yet to reveal any transfer of ownership for that property.

Investors across the NYC property spectrum should take note; prices in Manhattan and Brooklyn have risen so quickly they’ve effectively pushed marginal buyers out of the market and forced renters to devote a greater share of their income to housing.

Today, more than 30% of Americans pay half their income in rent - the highest percentage in decades.

And with more investors in the city concentrating on luxury properties, some ultra-luxury buildings like One57 are struggling with unsustainable vacancy rates of nearly 40%.

Until last month, no apartments on Billionaires’ Row, which also includes 432 Park Ave., had been subject to a foreclosure auction, according to PropertyShark. The loss of a Manhattan residential property to creditors is a rare event, regardless of the unit's price-tag: Only 27 new residential foreclosures in the borough in the first quarter.

Could this be the start of a trend? We think so. Which leads us to our next question: How, exactly, does one short the luxury real-estate market?

We also look forward to The Left deciding that a probe into this transaction is warranted, just in case it was some complex way to transfer Russian funds to Trump... (only half-kidding).

Effort to de-occupy Hawaii

SUBHEAD: "E Ho'Olokahi Ka Lahui" "A Call to Make the Nation as One"

By Walter Ritte on 25 June 2017 in Island Breath -
Image above: Poster/Schedule for E Hoʻolokahi Ka Lahui events featuring royals who lead Hawaii during its independence. Click to enlarge.

I’d like to invite you to a series of free La Ho'i Ho'i Ea (Sovereignty Restoration Day) events in July! Celebrate with the community and learn about the legal steps being taken to de-occupy Hawaii.

The E Hoʻolokahi Ka Lahui events are being held on each of the Islands in conjunction with the sovereignty month of La Hoʻi Hoʻi Ea and will feature speakers, films, music and local food.

Our goal is to bring attention to the fight for an independent and sustainable Hawaii. We want to lokahi around the effort to de-occupy Hawaii at the Peace Palace at the Hague in the Netherlands and educate the international community of the truth of who we are.

Food independence remains a crucial problem for Hawaii – the event series is our opportunity to discuss this and other issues with our community while celebrating the beauty and perseverance of our islands and people.

July 1 – Molokai, Kaunakakai library, 5-9 PM
July 8 – Kauai, Kauai Community College, 11 AM-4 PM
July 15 – Big Island, Kona location TBA
July 22 – Big Island, Uncle Roberts Aha Bar in Kaimu 4-9 PM
July 23 – Maui, location TBA
July 29 – Oahu, location TBA

Check back often for updates on the HCFS Facebook page >>

We hope to see you there.


US anti-terrorism strategy backfires

SUBHEAD: UN report reveals nations with the most refugees were targets of American anti-terrorist interventions.

By Whitney Webb on 22 June 2017 for Mint Press News -

Image above: Afghan refugee Rasoul Nazari, 15, holds his 10-month-old nephew Imran after crossing the border between Hungary and Austria in Nickelsdorf, Austria. Photo by Muhammed Muheisen. From original article.

A United Nations report has shed light on the world’s burgeoning crisis of displaced peoples, finding that a record 65.6 million were forced to vacate their homes in 2016 alone. More than half of them were minors.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which drafted the report, put the figure into perspective, stating that increasing conflict and persecution worldwide have led to “one person being displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence.”

UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi called the figure “unacceptable” and called for “solidarity and a common purpose in preventing and resolving the crisis.”

However, what the UN report failed to mention was the role of U.S. foreign intervention, indirect or direct, in fomenting the conflicts responsible for producing most of the world’s refugees.

According to the report, three of the nations producing the highest number of refugees are Syria (12 million refugees created in 2016), Afghanistan (4.7 million) and Iraq (4.2 million).

Video above: The UNHCR’s New Global Trends Report on Refugees. From original article and (

The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are known to be the direct result of U.S. military invasions in the early 2000s, as well as the U.S.’ ongoing occupation of those nations.

Decades after invading both countries, the U.S.’ destabilizing military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has continued to increase in recent years, with the Trump administration most recently announcing plans to send thousands of soldiers to Afghanistan in the coming months. It is worth noting that each U.S. soldier in Afghanistan costs U.S. taxpayers $2.1 million.

While the U.S. has yet to directly invade Syria, the U.S. role in the conflict is clear and Syria’s destabilization and the overthrow of its current regime have long been planned by the U.S. government.

The U.S. and its allies, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia, have consistently funded “rebel” groups that have not only perpetuated the Syrian conflict for six long years, but have also committed atrocity after atrocity targeting civilians in Syrian cities, towns, and communities – a major factor in convincing Syrians to leave their homes.

The report ranks Colombia as the world’s second-largest producer of refugees, with 7.7 million Colombians displaced in 2016. Like Syria, the U.S. has not directly invaded Colombia, but is known to have extensively funded paramilitary groups, also known as “death squads,” in the country since the 1980s, when then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan declared a “war on drugs” in Colombia. 

U.S. efforts have long helped fuel the civil war between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and pro-government, U.S.-funded paramilitary groups. This conflict has lasted for more than half a century.

In 2000, then-President Bill Clinton’s administration funded the disastrous “Plan Colombia” with $4 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds, ostensibly to fight drug trafficking and insurgents. Almost all of this money was used to fund the Colombian military and its weapon purchases. 

“Plan Colombia” ultimately intensified armed violence, military deployments, human rights abuses by the Colombian military, and – of course – the internal displacement of Colombians. 

The legacy of U.S. policy in Colombia and its continuing support of the nation’s right-wing, neo-liberal regime have ensured that the chaos continues into the present.

In addition to the above, U.S foreign policy is also to blame for the conflict in South Sudan, where the UN report found was home to the fastest-growing displacement of people in the world. 

In 2011, the U.S. pushed South Sudan to secede from Sudan, as South Sudan holds the vast majority of Sudan’s oil reserves — the largest oil reserves in all of Africa. 

The U.S.’ push for the creation of an independent South Sudan dislodged Chinese claims to Sudanese oil, as the Chinese had previously signed oil contracts with the (now Northern) Sudanese government.

But when nation-building efforts went awry and civil war broke out just two years later, some analysts suggested that the conflict only started when South Sudan’s president began to cozy up to China. According to the UN report, approximately 3.3 million people in South Sudan have fled their homes since the war began.

Grandi has called on the world’s nations to help prevent and resolve the global refugee crisis. But he would also do well to point out the common cause uniting many of the world’s worst conflicts – the U.S. military-industrial complex’s insatiable lust for conquest, power and profit.


Syngenta loses $218million lawsuit

SOURCE: Jeri DiPietro (
SUBHEAD: Corn producers claimed contaminated crops hurt sales to China in lawsuit over GMO seeds.

By Margaret Cronin Fisk on 23 June 2017 for Bloomberg -

Image above: The logo of Swiss agrochemicals maker Syngenta is seen in front of a cornfield near the company's plant in Stein near Basel Switzerland illustrating another lawsuit in 2014. Photo byArnd Wiegmann. From (

[IB Publisher's note: This is likely a good thing for Kauai if it hurts Syngenta and ultimately reduces their impact of experimental pesticides on the environment and people here. This however, is in no way a rejection of GMO technology. It is merely punishment of Syngenta for letting  factory farms lose money they might have made in China selling them GMO corn grown in America and developed in Hawaii.]

Syngenta AG was ordered to pay $217.7 million to a group of Kansas farmers who claimed the company carelessly marketed its genetically modified corn seed, causing contamination of U.S. crops and a rejection of export sales to China by officials there.

A Kansas jury issued the verdict Friday in the first trial brought by U.S. farmers alleging Syngenta caused five years of depressed corn prices. Several other trials are pending as lawyers pursue suits on behalf of some 350,000 corn growers claiming as much as $13 billion in losses.

The win gives momentum to claims by farmers from more than 20 states who are suing the Swiss agrochemical giant. Syngenta faces its next class action in a Minnesota court in August, where farmers are seeking more than $600 million.

“This drastically changes the complexion of the upcoming litigation,” said Anthony Sabino, law professor at St. John’s University in New York. “A jury found the plaintiffs’ claims of depressed prices so convincing that, not only did the jury give them a win on the liability, they awarded the entire amount of damages asked for. That is not an everyday occurrence.”

A dozen Kansas farmers attended the 13-day trial. The only farmer in the courtroom Friday, when the jury returned its verdict after four hours of deliberation during two days, was Bret Kendrick, 52.

“I’m relieved that things turned out the way they did," Kendrick said. "I’m very happy, especially for Kansas farmers." Kendrick farms 6,000 acres in southwestern Kansas.

Jury Verdict

The Kansas City, Kansas, jury awarded only compensatory damages and no punitive damages. The farmers’ lawyers had asked for $217.7 million for lost sales plus punitive damages.

Syngenta said it would appeal the verdict. “We are disappointed with today’s verdict because it will only serve to deny American farmers access to future technologies even when they are fully approved in the U.S.,’’ the company said in an e-mail. “The case is without merit.’’

More than 7,000 Kansas farmers claimed Syngenta rushed its GMO seed to market before getting approval from China to export grain there. In 2013, China stopped shipments after calling the corn contaminated by the GMO seed. The farmers also claimed Syngenta misled them on when the Chinese would approve the seed.

In all, China barred an estimated 1.4 million metric tons of U.S. corn from entering the country, effectively cutting the U.S. out of the world’s fastest-growing market, the farmers contend. Corn futures tumbled as demand for American corn weakened, they claim.

And while Syngenta’s GMO seeds were approved by the Chinese a year later, corn from Ukraine and other countries continues to supplant U.S. crops, the farmers said.

The average U.S. cash corn price has fallen 20 percent since the 2013 Chinese ban on U.S. shipments, while futures on the Chicago Board of Trade fell 15 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Price Trends

During the worst drought since the 1930s, cash prices peaked in August 2012 at $8.26 a bushel. On June 22, the price of a bushel of corn was $3.30, up from a seven-year low of $2.73 a bushel in September. The farmers blame the lower prices on the Chinese rejection. Syngenta said this wasn’t a factor.

The Swiss company was under pressure because Monsanto Co. had a seed that was equal to Syngenta’s that already had Chinese approval, Scott Powell, the farmers’ lawyer, told jurors Thursday.

“Syngenta rushed this product to market to serve its own commercial interests,’’ he said. “No consideration was given to the farmers.’’

Powell, citing a company document, said Syngenta’s then-CEO, Mike Mack, knew that China would object to his company’s seed, but that Mack wanted to “pressurize’’ China into accepting it.
“For Syngenta, there was no risk,’’ he said. “It was all on the backs of farmers.’’

Loss Analysis

Syngenta did nothing wrong and the farmers suffered no losses, Mike Brock, the company’s attorney, told jurors in closing arguments Thursday.

“Important approvals were in place before the seed went into the ground,’’ he said. Syngenta began marketing the seed in 2011 following U.S. approval the prior year.

The Chinese rejection didn’t cause corn prices to crater, he said. A 2010 corn drought in China forced it to buy foreign corn, and a 2012 drought in the U.S. led to a spike here, he said. A 2013 corn glut sent prices plummeting. Rain, particularly in the corn belt, shapes the corn market, he said.

China’s decision to block Syngenta’s seed wasn’t for safety reasons, but done as a “pretext’’ to lessen its dependence on U.S. corn, Brock said. “They wanted to slow down the export of corn to China.’’

China Watch

Syngenta wasn’t required to wait for Chinese approval and that country was using its biotech regulations to control trade, Brock said. The rejection of U.S. corn was part of that strategy, he said.

The trial in Kansas City, Kansas, comes as state-owned China National Chemical Corp. is completing its $43 billion acquisition of Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta.

U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum, who is overseeing the Kansas City trial and most of the litigation, has certified eight statewide classes and had said Friday he’d schedule another trial for January or February. Farmers in 14 additional states are awaiting class certification by the Kansas judge.

Grain exporters Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. and Cargill Inc. have accused Syngenta in separate suits of carelessly allowing its seed to taint U.S. corn, causing the Chinese rejection. Those suits are pending in state court in Louisiana, with Cargill’s headed for trial next year.

The case is In Re: Syngenta AG MIR 162 Corn Litigation, 14-md-02591, U.S. District Court, District of Kansas (Kansas City).


Renewable Revolution

SUBHEAD: Renewables to capture 3/4 of the $10 trillion world spends on new generation through 2040.

By Joe Romm on 15 June 2017 for Think Progress -

Image above: Last year, solar in Chile saw lowest global price for unsubsidized electricity by any technology. Source Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Credit BNEF New Energy Outlook 2017. From original article.

The staggering drop in the cost of clean energy has already upended the global power market over the past two decades — and that trend will only continue for the next two decades, according to new analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

As a result, renewables will capture the lion’s share of the $10.2 trillion the world will invest in new power generation by 2040, BNEF projects in its annual New Energy Outlook 2017 report.
Image above: Charts of Investment by Technology 2017-2040. Source: Bllomberg New energy Finance. Credit: BNEF New Energy Outlook 2017 From original article. Click to enlarge.

Despite years of plummeting prices for renewables, BNEF projects that over the next two decades, the cost of solar power will still drop another two-thirds, onshore wind costs will be cut nearly in half, and offshore wind costs will drop a stunning 71 percent.

Here’s how this will profoundly transform power markets in the years ahead:
  • By 2023, solar and onshore wind will be competitive with new U.S. gas plants.
  • By 2028, solar will beat existing gas generation.
  • Solar and wind will make up nearly a half of installed capacity and over a third of global power generation by 2040. That’s a four-fold jump in wind capacity and a 14-fold jump in solar from today.
Image above: Charts of global cumulative installed capacity 2016 and 2040. Source: Bloomberg New energy Finance. Credit: BNEF New Energy Outlook 2017 From original article.

Deep penetration of renewables will be assisted by continued price drops in lithium-ion batteries and explosive growth in electric cars: “This will help renewable energy reach 74 percent penetration in Germany, 38 percent in the U.S., 55 percent in China, and 49 percent in India by 2040.”

BNEF concludes that despite President Donald Trump’s vocal support for the coal industry, “economic realities over the next two decades” work against it, and U.S. coal power generation is “forecast to see a 51 percent reduction in generation by 2040.”

Here’s another key conclusion: “Gas is a transition fuel, but not in the way most people think.” Other than in the Americas, where cheap gas is plentiful, gas plants won’t act as a replacement for “baseload coal,” but will “increasingly act as one of the flexible technologies needed to help meet peaks and provide system stability in an age of rising renewable generation,” BNEF predicts.

With total renewable investment over the next two decades projected to be $7.2 trillion versus $1.5 trillion for fossil fuel power, it’s clear where the biggest high wage job growth will come from.


We Are Still In!

SUBHEAD: Two reasons why this American climate alliance "We Are Still In" could save the world.

By Tegan Tallulah on 19 June 2017 for The Climate Lemon  -

Image above: Supporters of Paris Climate Accord gather to demonstrate on the Andy Warhol Bridge over the Allegheny River in down town Pittsburgh after Trump rejected world climate agreement. Pittsburgh continues its plan to power itself with 100% renewable energy by 2035. From original article.

There are many reasons why Donald Trump is dangerous. His egotism, his authoritarianism, his disregard for facts, his bigotry towards women, Muslims, Mexicans, disabled people… There’s quite a few contenders.

But arguably his most dangerous quality is his views on climate change. Because this is an area where he can damage the whole world, and that damage can reverberate for centuries.

Scary, huh? All through Trump’s campaign he promised to pull the USA out of the Paris Climate Deal, and sure enough, after a period of intense um-ing and ah-ing, he confirmed he would do so. Queue an impressive display of horror and condemnation from leaders around the world.

I was all prepared to be severely depressed about this, but then something amazing happened.
American business leaders, city mayors, state governors and university principals, stood up and said ‘no, we’re not going to put up with this shit’. (I’m not sure that’s a direct quote, I’m paraphrasing).

This unprecedented alliance – known as the ‘We Are Still In coalition’ has formed around support for the Paris Agreement and recognition that climate action is their obligation to the world, and is good for America anyway.

This is incredibly powerful, for two main reasons: the science and the symbolism. By that I mean the physical direct impact on the carbon emissions of America and the world, and the psychological, cultural and political impact that such a move has on the rest of the world, and the indirect climate effect of that.

But before we dive into these two main points, let’s just recap on why the USA’s response to climate change is so crucial for the world, and what this new American climate alliance actually is.

Quick note on why USA is so crucial to climate action

The USA has by far the biggest historical carbon emissions and one of the highest emissions per person in the world. This means they are one of the countries most responsible for causing this climate crisis. Quite frankly, it’s amoral to walk away from your responsibilities. If you make a mess, you should at least help clean it up.

Even if the USA wasn’t a heavy polluter, there would be a strong argument that they should be a key player in sorting out the mess anyway, just because they have the power to do so.

They are the richest country in the world and are routinely regarded as the most powerful, due to immense wealth and military might and ‘cultural power’ – a more fuzzy concept that includes everything from having the most UN diplomats to Hollywood movies dominating the global media market.
Image above: Pie chart of percentage of cumulative CO2 emissions between 1850 and 2011 by country. From World Resource Institute ( Click to enlarge.
Image above: Bar chart of per person carbons emissions in metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2014 per person by country. From original article. This chart was adjusted from the 2011 data from the World Resource Institute ( It separates countries in the European Union. Note, the United States past Canada in CO2 emissions per person. The world average is about what Britain's emissions are (less than a third of USA's. Click to enlarge

So what is the "We Are Still In" coalition?

The We Are Still In coalition is a loose voluntary group of city mayors, state governors, CEOs, investors and university principals who have signed a pledge, on behalf of their communities and organisations, and an open letter to the UN, stating that they are still committed to the Paris Agreement.

They have promised to use their respective powers to lead climate action in their communities and businesses, aiming to meet or exceed the USA’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. (Which by the way is a 26-28% cut in emissions compared to the 2005 level by 2025, and even under Obama they were likely to miss that target).

So who’s actually signed up? The pledge has 1219 signatories so far, and growing. This includes:
  • 9 states: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington
  • 125 cities. Including Washington DC, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Pittsburgh…
  • 902 businesses and investors. Including Amazon, Apple, Google, Gap, Mars, Nike…
  • 183 universities and colleges.
You can check out the full list of signatories and their open letter here.

The cities and states represent 120 million Americans and a GDP of $6.2 trillion. The businesses together have combined revenue of $1.4 trillion.

This means 38% of the American population and at least 35% of their GDP is covered by this new alliance. If just the 9 states were a country, that country would be the fifth richest and sixth highest polluter in the world. So it’s a pretty big deal.

The philanthropist, business investor and former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg has been instrumental in coordinating this alliance, and he has even pledged to donate $15million from Bloomberg Philanthropies to the UN, to replace funding from Washington they’ll now miss out on thanks to Trump.

Although he’s certainly been a leader, it has also been a collaborative effort between 21 nonprofit groups, including C40 Cities, CDP (who I am starting a new job with next month!), WWF and others, who really pushed this forward.

The coalition wants to participate in the Paris Agreement, but there is currently no formal way for them to do so on America’s behalf, as it is an agreement between sovereign nations. However the Accord does call for ‘non-state actors’ to be involved. How this would work in practice is still being worked out.

The two big reasons why this is so incredible

Okay. Now into the real tofu and potatoes of this post. "Science" and "Symbolism"

The science

As this Alliance covers 38% of the American people and at least 35% of their GDP, they have significant power to influence the carbon emissions of the country. Due to the USA’s federal structure, states and cities have fairly extensive powers. The large companies have huge power through their supply chains.

However, even under Obama, the USA was not on track to meet its climate targets. With Trump’s hostile regressive stance and deregulation of pollution, it’s going to be even tougher to meet them.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t.

I’m fairly optimistic about their chances, as it looks like the hostility of the federal government is actually acting as an effective motivator to people who would have just sat back and done little otherwise. There really is a huge groundswell of support for the Paris Agreement emerging from the bottom up, and it’s not clear how far that momentum will go.

It’s difficult to estimate what percentage of the USA’s carbon emissions are represented in this coalition, because many of the members are overlapping – so you can’t just add up all their emissions. But the nine states alone represent 17% of USA emissions – and that’s without all the major cities and businesses outside of those states.

The symbolism

Direct cuts in carbon emissions are not even necessarily the most influential thing about the We Are Still In coalition. The symbolism is incredibly powerful. Here are cities, states and businesses directly defying Trump by saying: ‘You made the wrong decision. You do not speak for us. We are still in the Paris Agreement’.

The fact that Washington and New York were two key signatories will be a particular slap in the face for Trump. The small city of Pittsburgh is also notable because in his speech he declared ‘I was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris’.

The mayor of Pittsburgh resented his city being used as an excuse like this, especially considering they already had a climate action plan to go 100% renewable powered. He publicly disagreed with the decision to leave the Paris Agreement, and joined the We Are Still In coalition instead.

The President also argued that climate action is bad for business and he would prioritise business. And what response did he get?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger promptly quit his presidential advice council in protest. The ‘climate vs business’ position has become more discredited than ever, as over 900 businesses have joined the coalition.

Many of the most outspoken members are American-based tech giants, like Google, Apple and Amazon. They argue that in the short term, there are great business opportunities to be had from clean energy and greener products – and in the long term all business depends on a stable climate.

When Trump said he was going to exit the Paris Agreement, a real worry was that other countries would lose motivation and think ‘if the richest most powerful country, that has some of the highest emissions, is going to walk away, then there’s no point me doing anything.

Screw it, I’m out’. For some, that was an even bigger problem than the USA’s actual emissions. Because it posed the threat of unravelling the delicate international consensus that had been pieced together –finally, painfully- on this global issue.

Luckily, other national leaders were keen to reconfirm their support and to condemn Trump’s decision. (Even Kim Jong-un, who called the move “the height of egosim”, with zero self-awareness).
What this coalition does, is it assures the international community that America is still at the table. Even if the central government pulls out, America will still be informally committed to the Paris Agreement, through this broad and growing coalition.

Conclusion – Thank you America!

It’s imperative for the whole world’s future that America does not walk away from tackling climate change. Despite Trump’s damaging and regressive decision, it now looks like this will not be the case. Where the government steps down, leaders from local government, business and civil society will step up.

This has given me hope for the future. Thank you to everyone involved – thank you to the signatories, the organisers, and to all the everyday Americans who support it.