Monday, June 30, 2014

All but four nations are subject to NSA surveillance – new Snowden leak

Previously undisclosed files leaked to the media by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden now show that the United States National Security Agency has been authorized to spy on persons in all but four countries.

NSA Operations Center

The Washington Post published on Monday official documents provided by Mr. Snowden that shows new proof concerning the extent of the NSA’s vast surveillance apparatus.

One of the documents—a file marked “top secret” from 2010 and approved by the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court—shows that the NSA has been authorized to conduct surveillance on 193 foreign government, as well as various factions and organizations around the world, including the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“Virtually no foreign government is off-limits for the National Security Agency, which has been authorized to intercept information from individuals ‘concerning’ all but four countries on Earth, according to top-secret documents,” journalists Ellen Nakashima and Barton Gellman wrote for the Post.

The reporters write that the NSA’s ability to target the communications of foreign persons and parties is “far more elastic” than previously known, and that documents suggest the agency can acquire conversations that may not involve an intelligence target directly, but concern that individual or entity to a certain degree by relying on provisions contained within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Unless, of course, that person of interest is a citizen of one of the ‘Five Eyes’ nations that, together with the US, are involved in a global surveillance partnership of sorts.

According to the Post, the NSA’s computers automatically filter out phone calls from Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand that would otherwise be collected using FISA. Even those nations, however, aren’t entirely sparred.

Nakashima and Gellman go on to acknowledge that the list contains 28 sovereign territories, including the British Virgin Islands, where the NSA reportedly still does permit intelligence gathering [as] filtering out those country codes would otherwise slow the system down.

One former senior defense official who spoke to the journalists on condition of anonymity said that the broad authority is allowed so that the US government is able to assess any developing situations around the world at the drop of a hat.

“It’s not impossible to imagine a humanitarian crisis in a country that’s friendly to the United States, where the military might be expected on a moment’s notice to go in and evacuate all Americans,” the official said. “If that certification did not list the country,” the source suggested, then the NSA could not gather intelligence under the FISA Amendments Act, which allows for the interception of such communications.

“These documents show both the potential scope of the government’s surveillance activities and the exceedingly modest role the court plays in overseeing them,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Post. More

The 28 sovereign territories undoubtly includes the Cayman Islands and all the other British Overseas Territories (OT's). I am sure that arrangement was made with the understanding that London would get the entire feed from the OT's. The NSA has vastly superior equipment to GCHQ. Editor

 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sir Richard Branson supports Many Strong Voices

Sir Richard Branson supports Many Strong Voices

The work of MSV to help raise the profile of people in the Arctic and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and their struggle against climate change has gained the support of one of the world’s most influential business leaders.

Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines and a champion of green energy, has offered his support to MSV, which brings together the peoples of the Arctic and SIDS to meet the challenges of climate change.

"When it comes to climate change, arctic communities and small island states share similar struggles,” Branson said. “As they feel the impacts of rising sea levels and deteriorating coastal environments, organizations like Many Strong Voices collaborate, act and innovate to achieve lasting change.

“Their critical work fills the gap between those affected by adverse climate impacts and the political and business leaders focused on creating big picture solutions."

Branson has invested considerable time and money in supporting global initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the use of renewable resources and new technologies. Recently, he called on business leaders to take a stand against climate deniers.

MSV is coordinated by GRID-Arendal and the University College London. More

The Cayman Institute is a partner organization of Many Strong Voices

 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer is Coming

"Studies such as these help us gaze into the uncertain future and ask if that is what we want for our children. Most of us don’t. A few of us actually try to do something to change it. For the rest, the lag time is comforting. The complexity of non-linear feedback systems gives us an excuse to procrastinate."

Why are zombies so ubiquitous in contemporary popular culture? The HBO mini-series, Game of Thrones, supplies one theory. Unlike in the AMC series, Walking Dead, or in the film, World War Z, the undead are not coming on like a Blitzkrieg hoard. Rather, the White Walkers are building slowly, as a rumor, sometimes killing the messenger and leaving the message undelivered. “Winter is coming” is an expression that hangs in the air, deepening the sense of foreboding.

One reviewer (for The New York Times) observed that “bringing in the White Walkers might be a way to ultimately point up the pettiness of politics — which is to say, no one cares who sits on what throne once zombies start eating people.”Thrones’ first four seasons of “people slicing, stabbing, axing, poisoning, eating, crushing and moon-dooring one another in every possible context,” underscore the point — that the pettiness of politics still rules the day.

Game of Thrones resonates because outside the window is the drama of NATO expansion bumping up against retired Red Army vets in the Ukraine, the unmasking of shadow banks in the U.K. by the Financial Times and shadowing governments by Edward Snowden, or the sniper battle on the U.S. Republican right that is so entertaining to MSNBC and CNN. It is all much ado about nothing. Just North of our popular culture Wall is a climate juggernaut, building momentum.

Both scenarios — business as usual and drastic curtailment — produce a temperature and climate regime that would likely be lethal for modern civilization, if not the human race. In the Cancun round of the Committee of Parties in 2010, United Nations high level negotiators produced a general agreement — over the opposition of the USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Israel and other obstructionists — that "recognizing that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet,” 2°C was the “line in the sand” beyond which global temperatures should not be allowed to climb. In the latest three rounds— Durban, Doha and Warsaw — there has been a strong push from the science and civil sectors to reduce the target to 1.5°C to avert potentially unmanageable risks of tipping points from which no recovery would be possible. Since Warsaw last December some of these points — the inexorable slippage of ice in Antarctica and the release of methane from permafrost to name two — have tipped.

The NCA3 study is saying, essentially, we are in dangerous territory whether we stop emissions tomorrow or not. Summer temperatures in the U.S. have been rising on average 0.4 degrees F per decade since 1970, or about 0.2 C. Average summertime temperature increase has been 1°C overall, but the Southwest and West regions have borne the brunt of those increases, and temperatures have risen an average of 0.4°C, with a few localized areas warming as much as 0.6°C per decade. This is 5 times faster than the Earth as a whole warmed in the 20thcentury. North America, which lags other parts of the planet, is now in an exponential curve of accelerating change

“There are a number of findings in this report that sound an alarm bell signaling the need for action to combat the threats from climate change. For instance, the amount of rain coming down in heavy downpours and deluges across the U.S. is increasing; there’s an increase that’s already occurring in heat waves across the middle of the U.S.; and there are serious observed impacts of sea-level rise occurring in low-lying cities such as Miami, where, during high tides, certain parts of the city flood and seawater seeps up through storm drains. These are phenomena that are already having direct adverse impacts on human well-being in different parts of this country.”

Studies such as these help us gaze into the uncertain future and ask if it is really what we want for our children. Most of us don’t. A few of us actually try to do something to change it. For the rest, the lag time is comforting. The complexity of non-linear feedback systems gives us an excuse to procrastinate. More

Lebanon, Hezbollah Cut off from Iran

Juan Cole writes 'With the alleged fall to the Islamic State of Iraq, and [in] Syria of Qa’im on Saturday, and of Talafar a few days ago, the border between Iraq and Syria has now been effectively erased.

A new country exists, stretching from the outskirts of Baghdad all the way to Aleppo.

The first thing that occurred to me on the fall of Qa’im is that Iran no longer has its land bridge to Lebanon. I suppose it could get much of the way there through Kurdish territory, but ISIS could ambush the convoys when they came into Arab Syria. Since Iran has expended a good deal of treasure and blood to keep Bashar al-Assad in power so as to maintain that land bridge, it surely will not easily accept being blocked by ISIS. Without Iranian shipments of rockets and other munitions, Lebanon’s Hizbullah would rapidly decline in importance, and south Lebanon would be open again to potential Israeli occupation. I’d say, we can expect a Shiite counter-strike to maintain the truck routes to Damascus.

He goes on to say 'Syrian jets bombed eastern positions of ISIS near the Iraqi border, perhaps signalling a likely alliance of Damascus and Baghdad to put the Sunni radical genie back in the bottle'.

From a petro-political perspective I find myself asking the following questions;

  • What will be the reaction of Saudi Arabia with the Sunni forces in Iraq having both Damascus and Baghdad allied against them?
  • What will Iran now do to support Bashar al-Assad?
  • What will Iran do to keep their supply route to Hezbollah open?
The answer to these three questions will inform the price of oil going forward. According to Reuters Libya's oil output has sunk back to a current 1.16 million barrels per day of oil due to disruption at fields and terminals, a senior industry source told stated on Tuesday. Iran put OPEC on notice of its plans to raise output swiftly with the help of foreign investors immediately after any lifting of sanctions imposed over its nuclear programme. Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Iran could increase oil exports by 500,000 barrels per day immediately after any lifting of sanctions. "Very quickly we can increase by half a million and after a couple of months we can increase it to 700,000 barrels per day," he told reporters ahead of OPEC's Wednesday meeting. He said Iran could pump 4 million bpd in less than three months after any lifting of restrictions. When sanctions may be lifted is the unknown factor.

For those of us living on Small Island Dveloping States (SIDS) and other states dependant on fossil fuel, the path towards alternative energy, i.e. solar, wind, OTEC and ocean current technologies looks more attractive with every passing day. Editor

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Climate Change: Implications for Tourism

IPCC AR5: Climate Change: Implications for Tourism

June 2014

The Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the most up-to-date, comprehensive and relevant analysis of our changing climate.

The tourism industry faces profound impacts from climate change – impacts that are already being felt. It represents one of the world’s largest industries, accounting for some 9% of global GDP and generates 27 more than $6 trillion in revenues each year. This briefing reviews how climate change is already impacting the tourism industry and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. More

Download PDF

 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Small island developing states summit aims for alliances

The UN’s Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), in Apia, Samoa, on 1-4 September, will aim to identify the unique needs andvulnerabilities of island nations and opportunities for international support.

“The challenges facing SIDS are interlinked and cannot be tackled in silo or by one country alone,” says conference secretary-general Wu Hongbo. “This calls for collaboration and partnerships, with active engagement by all stakeholders, governmental and non-governmental.”

The conference will focus on critical areas where new global partnerships are needed, including climate change, oceans, waste, sustainable tourism and disaster risk reduction. Various voluntary commitments have already been announced. These include the creation of a Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, which is intended to tackle the challenges of access to affordable energy, energy security and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Once fully operational, which is due to happen by 2018, the centre will fall under the remit of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). “The centre will assist energy industries in developing countries in taking advantage of growing sustainable energy market opportunities and provide a platform to promote South-South and North-South knowledge and technology transfer,” says UNIDO renewable energy expert, Martin Lugmayr.

Other new collaborative projects include the University Consortium of Small Island States, which, with the Spanish government and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, announced plans to develop a degree in sustainable development delivered internationally through an online portal. In addition, six countries and various organisations have announced support for the Coral Triangle Initiative that will protect the region, which is home to the highest coral diversity in the world.Maintaining ocean health will be a centrepiece of the conference, according to Milan Meetarbhan, Mauritius’ ambassador to the UN, who says this should lead to the development of a global strategy for a healthy ocean economy. “Given [the ocean’s] crucial importance to the international community and to SIDS in particular, the Samoa summit should consider making a clear recommendation in favour of a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal on the oceans,” Meetarbhan says. The conference will echo and reinforce targets likely to be outlined in the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals (a draft of which was released this week), as many of the topics addressed have global significance, says Wu. It will also contribute to an elaboration of the post-2015 UN development agenda, he adds. “In particular, [this will be] through discussions on climate change, where SIDS’ experiences are providing both an example of the devastating impacts and the outcomes of efforts to fight the phenomenon,” he says.

This will be the first SIDS conference in the Pacific. The inaugural conference was held in Barbados in 1994 and resulted in the Declaration of Barbados. This officially recognised the sustainable development needs of SIDS and called for regional and international support to deliver these. The second conference, held in Mauritius in 2005, concluded with the Mauritius Strategy, a further implementation of the Barbados plan with emphasis on the vulnerability of island nations. Wu said the outcome document for this year’s conference will outline priorities for all SIDS and provide a road map for future action to address sustainability priorities. > Link to the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States More

DESA News: Renewing Focus on Sustainable Islands


Published on Apr 30, 201 4 • "Many of the challenges facing Small Island Developing States are shared by the international community, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, oceans and seas, disasters [...]," said UN DESA's Under-Secretary-General and Conference Secretary-General Wu Hongbo, as preparations accelerate ahead of the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa on 1 -4 September. DESA News also spoke with some of the conference bureau members who shared their hopes for this major event.

In the video [in order of appearance]: - Ali'ioaiga Feturi Alisaia, Permanent Representative of Samoa to the United Nations - Milan J N Meetarghan, Permanent Representative of Mauritius - Ronald Jumeau, the Roving Ambassador of Seychelles for Climate Change and Small Island Developing States - Karen Tan, Permanent Representative of Singapore - Phillip Taula, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand

Read the DESA News feature article: http://bit.ly/1 hTrCki

For information on the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States: http://www.sids2014.org/

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Renewable Islands: Settings For Success

Islands around the world are heavily reliant on costly oil imports from distant locations which can burden government budgets and inhibit investment in social and economic development.

Indigenous renewable energy resources such as hydropower, wind power, solar power, geothermal power, bioenergy and wave power can reduce these expensive imports and create important business and employment opportunities.

But how should islands go about attracting the investment to put these resources to use? The case studies in this short report are meant to show that a wide variety of islands in different locations and at different levels of development can all attract investment in cost-effective renewable energy resources through a mix of four key ingredients: » Political priority to attract investment

» Market framework for investment

» Technical planning for investment

» Capacity to implement investment

Political priority to attract investment in renewable energy on an island results from a realisation by its people, its utilities and its leaders that it is paying too much money for electricity and renewable power offers a way out. To be credible and have an impact, the political priority must be clearly articulated by ministers and embodied in legislation.

An effective market framework for investment must ensure that the electricity market is open to participation by all types and sizes of players who could profit by installing renewable power facilities. These include incumbent utilities, independent power producers, and building owners. Regulations should make it profitable for utilities to invest in cost-effective renewable power options. They should also make it possible for independent power producers to invest in such options – directly or through power purchase agreements with the utilities. And they should make it profitable for building owners to install photovoltaic power systems through net metering arrangements whereby the value of electricity they provide to the grid is credited to their electric bill.

Technical planning is needed to ensure that investment in renewable power options is consistent with the economic interests of the island and does not impair the reliability of service. Some sort of integrated resource planning should be done to ensure that an optimal mix of energy options is chosen for the island, to minimise costs within the constraints of preserving the environment, promoting public health, and serving other social objectives. And grid stability analysis is needed to ensure that the grid remains stable and service remains reliable as the share of variable renewable generation grows.

Finally, human capacity building is needed for successful incorporation of renewable power options on island power grids. A variety of skills are needed to plan, finance, manage, operate and maintain the power grid effectively, safely, reliably and economically.

Looking at islands in oceans around the world, this report shows how these four factors have combined to create successful settings for renewable power investment. Download PDF

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, June 13, 2014

How will geo-political unrest in the Middle East affect Cayman's Energy Security?

Will the battle for Iraq become Saudi war on Iran?


Be careful what you wish for could have been, and perhaps should have been, Washington’s advice to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states which have been supporting Sunni jihadists against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus.

The warning is even more appropriate today as the bloodthirsty fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) sweep through northwest Iraq, prompting hundreds of thousands of their Sunni coreligionists to flee and creating panic in Iraq’s Shiite heartland around Baghdad, whose population senses, correctly, that it will be shown no mercy if the ISIS motorcades are not stopped.

The outbreak of civil war in Iraq has oil traders nervous. Crude oil trading on the NYMEX Thursday gained more than $2 per barrel and has so far continued its climb Friday morning, going as high as $107.68 for WTI and Brent Crude to $113.02.

Such a setback for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been the dream of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah for years. He has regarded Maliki as little more than an Iranian stooge, refusing to send an ambassador to Baghdad and instead encouraging his fellow rulers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman — to take a similar standoff-ish approach. Although vulnerable to al Qaeda-types at home, these countries (particularly Kuwait and Qatar) have often turned a blind eye to their citizens funding radical groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the most active Islamist groups opposed to Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani commented on June 12 on the latest crisis in Iraq, making it clear that Iran will intervene at the appropriate time to combat terror. According to a transcript of the speech released by the Islamic Republic News Agency, he said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran will not tolerate this violence and we will not tolerate this terror and as we stated at the UN, we will fight and combat violence, extremism and terrorism in the region and the world."

Currently on vacation in Morocco, King Abdullah has so far been silent on these developments. At 90-plus years old, he has shown no wish to join the Twitter generation, but the developments on the ground could well prompt him to cut short his stay and return home. He has no doubt realized that — with his policy of delivering a strategic setback to Iran by orchestrating the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus showing little sign of any imminent success — events in Iraq offer a new opportunity.

This perspective may well confuse many observers. In recent weeks, there has been a flurry of reports of an emerging — albeit reluctant – diplomatic rapprochement between the Saudi-led GCC and Iran, bolstered by the apparently drunken visit to Tehran by the emir of Kuwait, and visits by trade delegations and commerce ministers in one direction or the other. This is despite evidence supporting the contrary view, including Saudi Arabia’s first public display of Chinese missiles capable of hitting Tehran and the UAE’s announcement of the introduction of military conscription for the country’s youth.

The merit, if such a word can be used, of the carnage in Iraq is that at least it offers clarity. There are tribal overlays and rival national identities at play, but the dominant tension is the religious difference between majority Sunni and minority Shiite Islam. This region-wide phenomenon is taken to extremes by the likes of ISIS, which also likely sees its action in Iraq as countering Maliki’s support for Assad.

ISIS is a ruthless killing machine, taking Sunni contempt for Shiites to its logical, and bloody, extreme. The Saudi monarch may be more careful to avoid direct religious insults than many other of his brethren, but contempt for Shiites no doubt underpinned his Wikileaked comment about "cutting off the head of the snake," meaning the clerical regime in Tehran. (Prejudice is an equal opportunity avocation in the Middle East: Iraqi government officials have been known to ask Iraqis whether they are Sunni or Shiite before deciding how to treat them.)

Despite the attempts of many, especially in Washington, to write him off, King Abdullah remains feisty, though helped occasionally by gasps of oxygen — as when President Barack Obama met him in March and photos emerged of breathing tubes inserted in his nostrils. When Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi — and, after his elder brother’s recent stroke, the effective ruler of the UAE — visited King Abdullah on June 4, the Saudi monarch was shown gesticulating with both hands. The subject under discussion was not revealed, but since Zayed was on his way to Cairo it was probably the election success of Egypt’s new president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, considered a stabilizing force by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Of course, Sisi gets extra points for being anti-Muslim Brotherhood, a group whose Islamist credentials are at odds with the inherited privileges of Arab monarchies. For the moment, Abdullah, Zayed, and Sisi are the three main leaders of the Arab world. Indeed, the future path of the Arab countries could well depend on these men (and whomever succeeds King Abdullah).

For those confused by the divisions in the Arab world and who find the metric of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" to be of limited utility, it is important to note that the Sunni/Shiite divide coincides, at least approximately, with the division between the Arab and Persian worlds. In geopolitical terms, Iraq is at the nexus of these worlds — majority Shiite but ethnically Arab. There is an additional and often confusing dimension, although one that’s historically central to Saudi policy: A willingness to support radical Sunnis abroad while containing their activities at home. Hence Riyadh’s arms-length support for Osama bin Laden when he was leading jihadists in Soviet-controlled Afghanistan, and tolerance for jihadists in Chechnya, Bosnia, and Syria. More

One of the reasons that I have been lobbying and submitting reports on the need for an energy policy and the need for alternative energy to the Cayman Islands Government for the last seven years is because of the possibility of geo-political instability triggering conflict in the Middle East.

This may have come to pass. As you will have read above the insurgency has moved out of Syria and into Iraq. Civil war appears to have broken out, with Iraq's most senior Shia cleric has issued a call to arms after Sunni-led insurgents seized more towns. The call by a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani came as the militants widened their grip in the north and east, having seized Mosul and Tikrit and threatened to march south, towards Baghdad.

The question is whether Saudi Arabia will offer help to the ISIS insurgents. Currently on vacation in Morocco, King Abdullah has so far been silent on these developments, but the developments on the ground could well prompt him to cut short his stay and return home. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy asserted that the Saudi military parade on April 29 marked a message to both Iran and the United States. Institute fellow Simon Henderson said this marked the first time Riyad displayed its Chinese-origin CSS-2 ballistic missile, designed to contain a nuclear warhead. King Abdullah has no doubt realized that — with his policy of delivering a strategic setback to Iran by orchestrating the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus showing little sign of any imminent success — events in Iraq offer a new opportunity. Saudi Arabia's defense budget according to Deloitt, stands at $16 billion dollars.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani commented on June 12 on the latest crisis in Iraq, making it clear that Iran will intervene at the appropriate time to combat terror. According to a transcript of the speech released by the Islamic Republic News Agency, he said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran will not tolerate this violence and we will not tolerate this terror and as we stated at the UN, we will fight and combat violence, extremism and terrorism in the region and the world."

Given that Iraq is OPEC's second largest producer and that Brent Crude is already at a nine month high, the possibility is that oil prices could rapidly escalate to $150 per barrel is high.

What effect would this have on the Cayman Islands you may ask. If we have civil war in Iraq, which already appears to be the case, and if the ISIS takes Baghdad and continues south to the oil rich areas we could see $150 per barrel oil. However, if conflict spreads further afield in the region, which conceivably could see the Straights of Hormus closed, we could see oil at $300 per barrel. Editor.

 

 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Iraq oil shock would kill world economic recovery, experts warn

As I have been warning people about for a number of years: Potential oil price spike in Middle East; What could this do to the Cayman Islands?

Open warfare between the government and rebels in Iraq would pose a threat to the global economic recovery should oil production from the war-torn Middle East state suffer a serious disruption, analysts have warned.

As violence threatens Iraq's oil industry, experts fear crude at $130 per barrel would damage the global economy

Open warfare between the government and rebels in Iraq would pose a threat to the global economic recovery should oil production from the war-torn Middle East state suffer a serious disruption, analysts have warned.

Brent oil prices climbed as high as $110.25 (£65.59) on Wednesday amid concerns that 3.5m barrels per day of Iraqi exports could be knocked out of the market by the violence that has seen al-Qaeda forces seize control of Mosul, Tikrit and Samarra.

"The worst case scenario is that we see production from Iraq slip down to levels in the last Gulf war, then oil could spike $20 a barrel very quickly," Ole Hansen, vice-president and head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank told The Telegraph. "In that scenario, the entire economic recovery, which is still fragile, could stall and we could even slip back into recession in some regions."

Iraq's oil minister, Abdul Kareem Luaibi, who was attending a gathering of the 12-member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) in Vienna on Wednesday, tried to ease concerns by stressing that most of the country's crude was pumped from fields in the Shia-Muslim dominated South, where export facilities are "very, very safe".

Despite the deteriorating political situation in Iraq, where government forces have been seen fleeing from the Sunni-Muslim al-Qaeda insurgents, Opec decided to leave its production quotas unchanged. The cartel limits the output of its members to 30m barrels per day (bpd) of crude, roughly a third of the world's supply.

However, the group's ability to react to shocks to the oil market is limited, with Saudi Arabia the only producer with enough spare production capacity to cover any shortfalls. Riyadh maintains about 12.5m barrles per day (bpd) of production capacity, with 2.5m bpd - three-times Britain's output from the North Sea - lying idle at any one time.

Although Saudi's oil officials told reporters in Vienna on Wednesday that the kingdom and Opec could compensate for any Iraqi shortfalls, oil traders remain concerned.

In a note to Bloomberg, Helima Croft, Barclays' head of North American commodities research, said: "The shocking escalation in violence in Iraq raises the prospect of potential output losses. It comes as other key producers, like Libya, have also seen exports 'evaporate' amid rising unrest."

Helped by investment from international oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Lukoil, Iraq has increased its importance in the world oil market since recovering from the 2003 war.

The opening of the giant West Qurna-2 oilfield near Basra in March would allow Iraq to pump 4m bpd by the end of the year. Already the second-largest producer in Opec after Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters, Iraq has pumped an average of 3.5m bpd since the beginning of the year.

UK oil companies working in Iraq are understood to be closely monitoring the situation but at this point have no plans to withdraw workers from their fields.

Brent oil prices climbed as high as $110.25 (£65.59) on Wednesday amid concerns that 3.5m barrels per day of Iraqi exports could be knocked out of the market by the violence that has seen al-Qaeda forces seize control of Mosul, Tikrit and Samarra.

"The worst case scenario is that we see production from Iraq slip down to levels in the last Gulf war, then oil could spike $20 a barrel very quickly," Ole Hansen, vice-president and head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank told The Telegraph. "In that scenario, the entire economic recovery, which is still fragile, could stall and we could even slip back into recession in some regions."

Iraq's oil minister, Abdul Kareem Luaibi, who was attending a gathering of the 12-member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) in Vienna on Wednesday, tried to ease concerns by stressing that most of the country's crude was pumped from fields in the Shia-Muslim dominated South, where export facilities are "very, very safe".

Despite the deteriorating political situation in Iraq, where government forces have been seen fleeing from the Sunni-Muslim al-Qaeda insurgents, Opec decided to leave its production quotas unchanged. The cartel limits the output of its members to 30m barrels per day (bpd) of crude, roughly a third of the world's supply.

However, the group's ability to react to shocks to the oil market is limited, with Saudi Arabia the only producer with enough spare production capacity to cover any shortfalls. Riyadh maintains about 12.5m barrles per day (bpd) of production capacity, with 2.5m bpd - three-times Britain's output from the North Sea - lying idle at any one time.

Although Saudi's oil officials told reporters in Vienna on Wednesday that the kingdom and Opec could compensate for any Iraqi shortfalls, oil traders remain concerned.

In a note to Bloomberg, Helima Croft, Barclays' head of North American commodities research, said: "The shocking escalation in violence in Iraq raises the prospect of potential output losses. It comes as other key producers, like Libya, have also seen exports 'evaporate' amid rising unrest."

Helped by investment from international oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Lukoil, Iraq has increased its importance in the world oil market since recovering from the 2003 war.

The opening of the giant West Qurna-2 oilfield near Basra in March would allow Iraq to pump 4m bpd by the end of the year. Already the second-largest producer in Opec after Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters, Iraq has pumped an average of 3.5m bpd since the beginning of the year.

UK oil companies working in Iraq are understood to be closely monitoring the situation but at this point have no plans to withdraw workers from their fields. More

Furthermore, if the insurgencies drag Iran into the fray will Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) be tempted to respond on the side of the Wahabi / Salafi axis? Remember that KSA recently spent 60 Billion or armaments. Where may any of this leave the Cayman Islands? Editor

 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Many Strong Voices Programme: Building Communities Capacities for Relocation

In May 2014, the New Zealand Court of Appeal dismissed a claim by Kiribati national Ioane Teitiota that he and his family are “climate refugees” and therefore should be allowed to stay in New Zealand.

Teitiota argued that sea level rise due to climate change was making his country uninhabitable and in effect forced his family to seek refuge. The court dismissed Teitiota’s request on the grounds that environmental migrants are not covered under the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Meanwhile, as Teitiota’s claim was winding its way through the New Zealand legal system, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Fifth Assessment Report. The report provides stark details on the implications of sea level rise over the coming decades and what it means for countries like Kiribati and other islands or low-lying coastal regions. It further states that, even with lower emission scenarios, 1.3 metres of sea level rise is “locked in” over the next century, potentially making 15% of the world’s islands uninhabitable. Higher emissions will lead to more melting and will threaten more island habitats.

The IPCC report and other evidence clearly show that the effects of climate change are happening more quickly and are often more severe and unpredictable than anticipated. Among other devastating climate impacts, such as the melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, numerous studies now recognize the potential for mass displacement and relocation of peoples and communities around the world and the associated threats to the social, cultural and economic fabric of their communities. Regardless of the causes, forced displacement and relocation have predictable consequences for marginalized communities.

The 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in Canada found that:

The results of more than 25 studies around the world indicate without exception that the relocation, without informed consent, of low-income rural populations with strong ties to their land and homes is a traumatic experience. For the majority of those who have been moved, the profound shock of compulsory relocation is much like the bereavement caused by the death of a parent, spouse or child.

The New Zealand court decision illustrates the gap between the moral challenge we face and the legal frameworks that are inadequate to address climate-induced displacement and migration, both within and across borders. In response to this challenge, people in affected regions are combining forces and working together to achieve climate justice. One such example is the Many Strong Voices (MSV) programme, which brings together people and organizations in the Arctic and SIDS to take action on climate change and links people and regions that might not otherwise realize their common interests.

In the Arctic and SIDS, discussions are already underway. The complex interplay of extreme weather events coupled with slow onset processes, such as erosion and sea level rise, are endangering the lives, livelihoods and cultures of the inhabitants of these coastal and island communities. Accelerated rates of erosion or flooding are threatening dozens of these communities. Traditional methods of reducing vulnerability and building resilience are unable to protect communities, and therefore community-based relocation is the only feasible solution.

In September 2012, MSV launched an initiative to connect and build the capacity of communities that are facing relocation. In partnership with the Center for International Environmental Law and the Alaska Immigration Justice Project, MSV held a dialogue between community leaders from Newtok, Alaska, and the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea to learn how informed and participatory decision-making can guide these relocations, minimize adverse effects, and foster community resilience. The people in the Carterets, like those in other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), understand there is a direct connection between sea ice decline and other changes in the Arctic and the adverse impacts they are experiencing. This relationship between regions that might otherwise be seen as remote and unconnected is the foundation of Many Strong Voices.

Building on this initial dialogue, MSV held a global consultation, the Warsaw Dialogue, with affected peoples and communities – as well as civil society representatives, researchers and policymakers – to identify their needs as a means to develop appropriate tools and resources to assist such communities in their relocation efforts. Held on 18 November 2013 during the UNFCCC negotiations (COP19), the Warsaw Dialogue provided an opportunity to learn from those who are engaged in community relocation processes or relocation policies. The aim was to discuss the challenges communities face (as well as the opportunities) to gain a better understanding of the tools and resources needed to ensure that affected peoples and communities can meaningfully participate in relevant decision-making processes.

As one participant from the Pacific said, “We must be pragmatic in our approach, given how quickly some small islands are going under water. We need to educate people about the impacts of climate change on their lives and livelihoods.” All in all, this is the primary objective of MSV’s dialogues and consultations, for those affected to share their experiences and what they’ve learned along the way with a diverse network of people facing similar situations.

One thing we’ve learned is that, despite the devastating effects climate change is already having on coastal and island communities around the world, the stories of Newtok and the Carteret Islands and other communities are not about climate “victims” or “refugees”, but rather about problem solvers. They are about leadership in the face of extreme challenges and threats to one’s cultural heritage and survival. They are about overcoming those challenges using local and traditional knowledge and decision-making processes – and a whole lot of creativity. And they are about the strength and resilience of two communities that are taking the necessary actions to relocate to ensure the cultural resilience and long-term sustainability of their respective communities. The law will follow. More

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John Crump is Senior Advisor/Climate Change, GRID-Arendal, Ottawa, Canada

Alyssa Johl is Senior Attorney, Climate& Energy Program, Center for International Environmental Law, Washington DC.

 

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Pale Blue Dot

THE SAGAN SERIES - The Pale Blue Dot

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Playing in the Major Leagues.


George Town, Cayman Islands - 19 October 2009


Climate change is the most serious peril that has faced humanity in its long history. However, we are faced with more than climate change, there is peak oil and an out of control population, as well as concerns for water and food security in the years to come.


As I said to a colleague earlier today “failing to plan is planning to fail”.


Humanity is today playing in the major leagues. We are in a sink or swim situation. If we can keep the planet habitable by mitigating and adapting to the changing climate, switching to alternative sources of energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, wave, ocean thermal and nuclear, sequester CO2 and provide the population with adequate supplies of water and food and bring the population under control, humanity may survive .


Warfare and conflict will also need to become a thing of the past as climate change and energy may well exacerbate conflict situations. With a 9.5 billion global population by 2050 ensuring that everyone has adequate food and water could be problematic.


There is however, no ‘Plan B’ if we fail to resolve all the problems facing us.


When playing in the major leagues there is no time out, there is no one that is going to offer help, let alone rescue us. Look around, the neighbourhood is somewhat sparsely populated and there are no other worlds on which humanity can survive. Even if there were other habitable worlds nearby they would in all probability belong to someone else.


There are, in all likelihood, other intelligent races out there somewhere, however in the major leagues one survives on ones own. As a young civilisation it is up to us to solve all our problems, to make peace among ourselves, to bring the population under control, to implement the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). We must solve our own problems. As a young race we are as children, and as such we may not be able to solve our own problems. But solve them we must.


If we are able to solve the situation facing us and make it to adulthood, in the galactic meaning of the world, we may then be introduced to the neighbours.


One of the most hopeful initiatives that has been started is the Eradicating Ecocide Initiative. Ecocide is the extensive damage to , destruction of or loss of ecosystems. It is happening on a mass scale, every day and it is getting worse. We can change this. Our aim is to stop the destruction of the Earth by making ecocide the 5th Crime Against Peace. Ecocide is a crime against nature, humanity and future generations. See http://www.thisisecocide.com/


An international law of Ecocide would make CEOs and our Heads of State legally responsible for protecting the Earth. People and planet will become the number one priority.


If we do not make it to adulthood we will be just another minor statistic, a failure, a insignificant footnote in the universal history book.


For all these reasons we have to come together and produce a new global climate change deal to replace the ageing Kyoto treaty. Unless we can do so, we are ‘planning to fail‘.


Posted by Nick Robson at 3:36 PM

Labels: catastrophe, climate

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

UNFCCC Fellowship Programme for Small Island Developing States 2014

To celebrate the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) 2014, the UNFCCC secretariat is offering 2 five-months fellowships to young professionals from the region who are interested in contributing to the work on climate change adaptation or on gender and youth related dimensions of climate action. These fellowship awards are made available thanks to the generous financial contribution of the Government of Norway.

Eligibility

Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Be a SIDS national;
  • Be employed by a SIDS government or governmental institution/organization;
  • Be between 24 and 35 years of age;
  • Have experience or knowledge in the areas of either climate change adaptation, or gender and/or youth and climate change;
  • Have preferably completed a Master degree, or equivalent;
  • Have good communication skills in English.
  • While fellowships are awarded to individuals, the need for training must occur within their respective government.

The fellowship programme is not intended for students and does not provide financial support for obtaining an advanced university degree or PhD studies. More