Opinion | Will We Protect Antarctica or Exploit It? – By José María Figueres – NYT

By José María Figueres

Mr. Figueres is a former president of Costa Rica and served as chief executive of the World Economic Forum.


This week, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, comprising 24 nations and the European Union, is meeting in Hobart, Australia, to consider proposals to protect three areas off Antarctica’s coast totaling 1.2 million square miles. Plans for marine reserves off East Antarctica, which offer critical habitat to emperor and Adélie penguins, and in the Weddell Sea, which would shelter whales and penguins, have been on the table for several years, blocked so far by Russia and China. Both of those areas also harbor cold-water corals, glass sponges and other creatures found nowhere else on earth.

Now, a new proposal is up for consideration to establish a marine sanctuary surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula. Antarctica is one of the fastest-warming places on the planet and the Peninsula region is facing multiple pressures, including climate change variability, an increase in tourism as well as intense fishing for krill, which has led to starvation among some populations of penguins.

. . . .

Antarctica’s land mass has proved forbidding since humans first set foot on the continent, but the sea is swarming with life critical to the planet. Indeed, blooms of algae, which supply oxygen to the atmosphere, can be seen from space. And krill, another fundamental cog in the ecosystem that feeds whales, seals, penguin and many fish, have recently been found to behave in a way that accelerates the removal of carbon from the atmosphere. The ecologist Geraint Tarling of the British Antarctic Survey, who documented this phenomenon, said the finding “could equate to krill sequestering 23 million tonnes of carbon to the deep sea each year, equivalent to annual” residential emissions of greenhouse gases from Britain.

Yet these links are fragile. Sylvia Earle, the marine biologist and explorer and member of the conservation group Antarctica 2020, said: “Where we’re headed right now is not very encouraging for mankind. We continue to chew away and carve away at the systems that generate oxygen and capture carbon and maintain the chemistry of the planet that works in our favor.”

via Opinion | Will We Protect Antarctica or Exploit It? – The New York Times

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Opinion | The Bearded Seal My Son May Never Hunt – by Laureli Ivanoff – NYT

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducted a bottom-trawl survey in the summer and found that a large cold pool of water that has historically formed southwest of the fishing community I call home was gone. Sandwiched between Russia and Alaska, the cold-water pool, or curtain, is created when the sea ice melts during the summer, making a natural barrier in the Bering Sea.

The creatures in the part of the sea north of the barrier are usually cold-water fish like small cod and the mammals that eat them. Larger Pacific cod and pollock and creatures like sea lions typically remain in the south. Without the cold-water barrier, these southern fish appear to be moving farther and farther north.

When a scientist told me this news, my stomach got heavy. We need the northeastern Bering Sea to stay cold so the creatures the Inupiat traditionally rely on can thrive. We couldn’t go hunting last spring because there wasn’t enough ice cover in the Norton Sound, an inlet of the Bering Sea.

Every May, when the ocean ice begins to melt and break up, my husband, my daughter and I look forward to a call from my dad or my brother: “Can you be ready in an hour?” We excitedly make snacks and fill a thermos, grab guns and knives, put on our snow pants, parkas and boots, and meet at the boat.

We head out to the Norton Sound in search of solid ice pans where the large bearded seals we call ugruk rest, molt, give birth and nurse pups. According to archaeologists, Inupiat have hunted marine mammals here for more than 2,500 years.

via Opinion | The Bearded Seal My Son May Never Hunt – The New York Times

Most unusual and moving reading of Sunday’s NYT.

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Opinion | Step Away From the Orb – by Maureen Dowd – NYT

WASHINGTON — I was having dinner here once with a Saudi muck-a-muck. Midway through the interview, he passed an oblong velvet box across the table. Inside I found an expensive piece of jewelry.

I began laughing and explained that I was a reporter and could not take such baubles. The Saudi said he understood.

About 10 minutes later, I felt a knocking against my knee under the table. It was the oblong box, offered more covertly.

The Saudis are experts on emoluments. If you don’t take their favors one way, they find another way to try to co-opt you.

via Opinion | Step Away From the Orb – The New York Times

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Birders Don’t Need to Be Told That Catastrophic Climate Change Approaches | by Hannah Waters – Audubon

Birders Don’t Need to Be Told That Catastrophic Climate Change Approaches
A new report warns that we’re approaching the point of no return—a fact that close observers of nature have known for years.

By Hannah Waters
October 10, 2018

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a new report that reminded readers the world over of the hot, dire straits we’re now swimming in. Like most reports from the international organization, founded in 1988 by the World Meterological Organization and United Nations Environment Programme, it’s a massive summary of scientific research hitting on all the impacts of global warming that affect people and wildlife alike

David Lindsay:  This is the best article to date that I have read, summarizing and digesting the devastating news in last Monday’s report by the IPCC on the latest forecast for destruction from just a 1.5 degree Celsius increase in world temperature. Well done Hannah Waters for the Audubon Society.

via Birders Don’t Need to Be Told That Catastrophic Climate Change Approaches | Audubon

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Jamal Khashoggi: What the Arab world needs most is free expression – The Washington Post

By Jamal Khashoggi
October 17 at 7:52 PM
A note from Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor

I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul. The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for. I will be forever grateful he chose The Post as his final journalistic home one year ago and gave us the chance to work together.

I was recently online looking at the 2018 “Freedom in the World” report published by Freedom House and came to a grave realization. There is only one country in the Arab world that has been classified as “free.” That nation is Tunisia. Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait come second, with a classification of “partly free.” The rest of the countries in the Arab world are classified as “not free.”

As a result, Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed. They are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives. A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative. Sadly, this situation is unlikely to change.

via Jamal Khashoggi: What the Arab world needs most is free expression – The Washington Post

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Opinion | Will Deep-Fake Technology Destroy Democracy? – By Jennifer Finney Boylan –

“But deep-fake technology takes deception a step further, exploiting our natural inclination to engage with things that make us angriest. As Jonathan Swift said: “The greatest liar hath his believers: and it often happens, that if a lie be believed only for an hour, it hath done its work, and there is no further occasion for it.”

Consider the image of Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the Parkland High School shooting in February who has become a vocal activist. A manipulated photo of her tearing up the Constitution went viral on Twitter among gun-rights supporters and members of the alt-right. The image had been digitally altered from another photo appearing in Teen Vogue. That publication’s editor lamented: “The fact that we even have to clarify this is proof of how democracy continues to be fractured by people who manipulate and fabricate the truth.”

That fake was exposed — but did it really make a difference to the people who wanted to inhabit their own paranoid universe? How many people still believe, all evidence to the contrary, that Barack Obama is a Muslim, or that he was born in Kenya?

(The answer to that last question, by the way: two-thirds of Trump supporters believe Mr. Obama is a Muslim; 59 percent believe he was not born in America and — oh, yes — a quarter of them believe that Antonin Scalia was murdered.)

Now imagine the effect of deep fakes on a close election. Let’s say video is posted of Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat running for Senate in Texas, swearing that he wants to take away every last gun in Texas, or of Senator Susan Collins of Maine saying she’s changed her mind on Brett Kavanaugh. Before the fraud can be properly refuted, the polls open. The chaos that might ensue — well, let’s just say it’s everything Vladimir Putin ever dreamed of.”

via Opinion | Will Deep-Fake Technology Destroy Democracy? – The New York Times

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Opinion | America’s Dilemma: Censuring M.B.S. and Not Halting Saudi Reforms – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

“I have three thoughts on the Jamal Khashoggi saga.

First, I can’t shake the image of this big teddy bear of a man, who only wanted to see his government reform in a more inclusive, transparent way, being killed in some dark corner of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by a 15-man Saudi hit team reportedly armed with a bone saw. The depravity and cowardice of that is just disgusting.

Second, I do not believe for a second that it was a rogue operation and that Saudi Arabia’s effective ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is very hands-on, had no prior knowledge, if not more. And therefore, not as a journalist but as an American citizen, I am sickened to watch my own president and his secretary of state partnering with Saudi officials to concoct a cover story. The long-term ramifications of that for every journalist — or political critic in exile anywhere — are chilling. By the way, I don’t think they will get away with it.

This leads to my third point: How should America think about balancing our values and our interests going forward? The best way to answer that, for me, is to go back to the basics. I always knew that M.B.S.’s reform agenda was a long shot to succeed, but I was rooting for its success — while urging the Trump administration to draw redlines around his dark side — for a very specific reason. It had nothing to do with M.B.S. personally. Personally, I don’t care if Saudi Arabia is ruled by M.B.S., S.O.S. or K.F.C.

It had to do with how I defined our most important national interest in Saudi Arabia since 9/11. And it is not oil, it’s not arms sales, it’s not standing up to Iran. It’s Islamic religious reform, which can come only from Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.”

David Lindsay:  Thomas Friedman, thank you for this excellent sorting of the conflicts. The most popular comments tear you apart for apparently being too pro Mohammed bin Salman in years past, and I have no idea if they are right. I do note that they are attacking what you have not written about here, instead of addressing what you have written about.  I  try to read all your columns, and I do not remember thinking you were a Pollyanna about Mohammed Bin Salman, but a cheerleader for reform. Of that sin, I stand as guilty as you. Should we have invaded Saudi Arabia instead of Iraq? That should be an intesting topic, should you choose to analyze it for us. Or, are we competent to invade anywhere intelligently, after WW II? Sun Tsu wrote thousand of years ago, that invasion should be the absolute, last resort, after trying everything else, and is proof of failure of military intelligence and  espionage.


via Opinion | America’s Dilemma: Censuring M.B.S. and Not Halting Saudi Reforms – The New York Times


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Opinion | Donald and the Deadly Deniers – By Paul Krugman – NYT

“Climate change is a hoax.

Climate change is happening, but it’s not man-made.

Climate change is man-made, but doing anything about it would destroy jobs and kill economic growth.

These are the stages of climate denial. Or maybe it’s wrong to call them stages, since the deniers never really give up an argument, no matter how thoroughly it has been refuted by evidence. They’re better described as cockroach ideas — false claims you may think you’ve gotten rid of, but keep coming back.

Anyway, the Trump administration and its allies — put on the defensive by yet another deadly climate change-enhanced hurricane and an ominous United Nations report — have been making all of these bad arguments over the past few days. I’d say it was a shocking spectacle, except that it’s hard to get shocked these days. But it was a reminder that we’re now ruled by people who are willing to endanger civilization for the sake of political expediency, not to mention increased profits for their fossil-fuel friends.”

via Opinion | Donald and the Deadly Deniers – The New York Times

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Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040 – by Coral Davenport – NYT

David Lindsay:   The climate scientists were right, only the really bad stuff will happen sooner than previosly thought.

NYT, By Co ral Davenport, Oct. 7, 2018 1468 comments

“INCHEON, South Korea — A landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”

The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.

The report “is quite a shock, and quite concerning,” said Bill Hare, an author of previous I.P.C.C. reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, a nonprofit organization. “We were not aware of this just a few years ago.” The report was the first to be commissioned by world leaders under the Paris agreement, the 2015 pact by nations to fight global warming.

The authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty. Previous work had focused on estimating the damage if average temperatures were to rise by a larger number, 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), because that was the threshold scientists previously considered for the most severe effects of climate change.”

via Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040 – The New York Times

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Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017- Irena.org – International Renewable Energy Agency

“Renewable energy has emerged as an increasingly competitive way to meet new power generation needs. This comprehensive cost report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) highlights the latest trends for each of the main renewable power technologies, based on the latest cost and auction price data from projects around the world.

The Executive Summary is available in English and Japanese (日本語).

Download the chart data

Broadly, the study finds:

Renewable power generation costs continue to fall and are already very competitive to meet needs for new capacity.
Competitive procurement – including auctions – accounts for a small fraction of global renewable energy deployment. Yet these mechanisms are very rapidly driving down costs in new markets.
Global competition is helping to spread the best project development practices, reducing technology and project risk and making renewables more cost-competitive than ever before.
In developed countries, solar power has become cheaper than new nuclear power.
The levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) from solar photovoltaics (PV) decreased by 69% between 2010 and 2016 – coming well into the cost range of fossil fuels.
Onshore wind, whose costs fell 18% in the same period, provides very competitive electricity, with projects routinely commissioned nowadays at USD 0.04/kWh.
As installation accelerates, the cost equation for renewables just gets better and better. With every doubling of cumulative installed capacity for onshore wind, investment costs drop by 9% while the resulting electricity becomes 15% cheaper.
Solar PV module costs have fallen by about four-fifths, making residential solar PV systems as much as two-thirds cheaper than in 2010.
The IRENA Renewable Cost Database includes 15000 data points for LCOE from projects around the globe, representing over 1000 gigawats (GW) of power generation capacity. An additional auctions database encompasses over 7,000 projects with nearly 300 GW of capacity.”

via Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017

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