Saturday, December 22, 2012
A successful candidate will work under the supervision of Prof. Aleh Cherp to pursue the Doctor of Philosophy degree at the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy.
The research agenda will be developed to match the candidate’s interests and capacities and to advance policy-relevant knowledge on present and future national and global energy security challenges including under sustainable energy transitions. It will built on the recently completed Global Energy Assessment, where Professor Cherp led the analysis of energy security. Of particular interests might be such topics as energy security assessments and policies, and the relationship between global energy scenarios and national energy realities. These issues may be studied with respect to entire energy systems or particular energy sectors.
CEU provides a full tuition waiver as well as a living stipend for all PhD students. Research and travel grants as well as support for a “study abroad” year are also provided to good doctoral students. In addition, many PhD students participate in international research projects with CEU faculty.
A candidate for this position must hold a Masters degree relevant to Energy or Environmental studies from a good university of international standing. He or she should have demonstrated academic excellence as well as passion for research and commitment to academic success. Good writing abilities as well as advanced computer and quantitative analytical skills are an advantage.
Central European University is an English-language graduate institution founded by George Soros in 1991. It is accredited in both the United States and Hungary, and offers English-language Master's and doctoral programs. Located in the heart of Central Europe -- Budapest, Hungary -- CEU has developed a distinct academic and intellectual focus, combining the comparative study of the region's historical, cultural, and social contexts with a global perspective on good governance, sustainable development and social transformation. As part of its educational, research, and civic engagement activities, CEU attaches particular importance to scholarship relevant to public policy.
Inquiries about the position can be made to Prof Cherp while applications can be submitted online (http://www.ceu.hu/admissions/apply) by January 24th, 2013.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
The School has been specifically designed to give second year PhD students an opportunity to look beyond their own research and develop an understanding of energy systems as a whole and pathways to low-carbon and resilient energy systems. We welcome applications from those engaged in energy-related research including technical, physical, social, economic, environmental and business aspects of energy and energy systems.
We would like to invite you to nominate students to attend. There is no charge for registered research students to attend the School; UKERC will provide accommodation and all meals and materials for activities. The School is conducted in English, and as it is highly interactive a good standard of comprehension and spoken English is essential.
During the week-long School, which runs in parallel to UKERC’s Annual Assembly, students will:
Understand the global commercial, political, innovation and technological challenges in the transition to a low-carbon system;
Be involved in high level debate on energy technologies and research priorities in a number of key research areas, from demand reduction to future sources of energy;
Be presented with a number of contrasting international perspectives on energy;
Have the opportunity to network with key academic, and energy research contacts;
Research, develop, negotiate and agree a collective vision for a low-carbon energy system with the opportunity to apply your current research and present the work to the UK Energy Research Centre
Develop and practice professional skills in communication and engagement.
The School is professionally facilitated to provide continual support for participants, and includes a number of networking opportunities as well as social events.
Successful applicants will be notified by e-mail from 25th March 2013 and both nominator and nominee will at that time be asked to formally accept the place. Should the delegate subsequently withdraw and a suitable replacement not be found, the nominator will be required to pay for the cost of the unused place. The School is normally heavily over-subscribed, and UKERC will select delegates by giving preference to those in the second year of a PhD, to provide an appropriate mix of specialist disciplines, and a balance of UK and non-UK based students.
Nominations are now open until midnight GMT on the 17th March 2013. For convenience we ask that the student completes the nomination form, but they will need to include your details as confirmation of supervisor endorsement.
The nomination form can be accessed from our website or by clicking on the link below.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Since 2011, Professor Trevor Munroe, one of the Caribbean’s leading public scholars, has been Executive Director of Jamaica’s National Integrity Action Limited, a not for profit NGO dedicated to the building of integrity and the combat of corruption in Jamaica on a non-partisan basis. Prior to this he directed the National Integrity Action Forum a coalition of leaders of public sector anti-corruption agencies, a 2-year project launched in 2009 and supported by USAID. In 2012, Professor Munroe was appointed an individual member of Transparency International, the only such person from the Caribbean, one among 27 in the world.
As a scholar, he was promoted to Professor of Government and Politics at the UWI in 1998 and appointed founding Director of the Centre for Leadership and Governance in 2006. He had previously served as Head of the Mona Campus’ Department of Government.
Professor Munroe is the author or co-author of eight (8) books primarily on issues of Caribbean democratic governance. His 1972 book on Jamaican politics remains the authoritative work on Jamaica’s transition to Independence. He has written extensively on issues of corruption and governance, including authoring Transparency International’s National Integrity System country studies of Jamaica, the Caribbean and, most recently, the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Professor Munroe, a Jamaican Rhodes Scholar, who attained his doctorate at Oxford University, after 1st class honours degree at UWI, has received many academic awards, including the UWI Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence, The Mona Campus Principal’s Award for Research, the Honorary Doctorate in Social Sciences from Florida International University THE FIRST FROM THE English-speaking Caribbean and taken up Fulbright Fellowships at Harvard University in the United States. At the secondary level, he was educated at St George’s College where he excelled in academics, debating and track athletics.
Professor Munroe served as a Senator in the Jamaican Parliament between 1998 and 2007, championing integrity building measures and playing an active role on Parliamentary Committees dealing with corruption prevention. For many years, he served on the Executive ofJamaica’s private sector-led Think Tank and as a Director of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, having himself co-founded the UAWU, one of Jamaica’s major trade unions. Dr Munroe has special expertise in building labour-management partnerships, having played a lead role in forging the accord between the trade unions and the trans-national corporations in the Bauxite Alumina sector in the late 1990s and led the team responsible for building trust amongst sector participants in the Partnership for Transformation chaired in 2011 by Jamaica’s Prime Minister.
Professor Munroe is currently an Honorary Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, UWI, and has served as Consultant to the World Bank, the Organization of American States, the Carter Centre, the United Nations DevelopmentProgramme, Transparency International, the USAID, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) amongst other international, regional and national organizations. He is currently a member of the Advisory Group on Global Political Finance established by the International Foundation of Electoral Systems. He was a founding director of Citizens Action for Fair and Free Elections and currently co-host of the morning programme, JAMAICA SPEAKS, on Newstalk 93fm.
He is married to Ingrid, President and CEO of Excel Insurance Brokers, of which he is Chairman. His two children, Tarik and Kinshasa, have Masters Degrees in human resource development. Professor Munroe is also the son of the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Dr. Huntley Munroe, Q.C and his late wife Muriel.
|Professor Trevor Munroe|
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Wars are fought over energy. So vital is it to the economy that the few custodians of the world's oil and gas wealth have the power to determine global booms and recessions.
At last, it seems, a new source of energy might liberate us from this conflict – fossil fuels trapped within dense rock for millennia that we are now able to free, thanks to advances in engineering unthinkable a decade ago, and that are available in countries from Britain to Australia. But those same fossil fuels, much higher in carbon than their conventional counterparts, are likely to unleash runaway climate change that could put paid to any hopes of a low-cost – and low-risk – energy future.
Exploiting these new forms of energy – shale gas and oil entails greenhouse gas emissions that will far outstrip our ability to adapt to the climate change they will cause. But history shows we are unlikely to be able to leave any of these chaos-causing fuels unexploited. For most of the past 30 years, the main question for the US has been how to ensure enough energy to meet the economy's needs. The oil shocks of the 1970s showed the economy's vulnerability to foreign imports. Since then, the goal of "energy security" has been crucial.
One route has been to exploit biofuels, made from maize, a policy introduced by George W Bush. But these are expensive as they divert food sources into use as fuel. A far better bet for the US, barely thinkable during Bush's presidency, is shale gas, which is transforming the US economy.
The first companies into shale were independents, leaving the more staid multinationals in their wake. Mitchell Energy and Development, subsequently bought by Devon Energy, was credited with being the first major exploiter. Pioneer Natural Resources was another. But the multinationals, led by ExxonMobil, soon caught up.
In less than 10 years, the US has become one of the prime producers of gas. The price of gas plummeted to only $2 a unit this year. That compares with about $9-12 in Europe, and about $15 in Asia. The International Energy Agency in 2011 heralded "a global golden age of gas" and new estimates show that, by 2017, the US could be the world's biggest producer of oil and gas.
But the plunging price of gas in the US has caused its own problems. At such low output prices, developing shale gas reserves becomes much less economically attractive. "Some companies have had financial difficulties," says Steven Estes, partner at KPMG in Dallas. He points to Chesapeake Energy, one of the pioneers: "Companies that were heavily involved in shale gas exclusively have really taken a hit."
The solution has been to explore the same gas fields to look for another prize – shale oil. While the price of natural gas has plunged, oil has kept its value. Liquids too can be trapped in dense shale rocks. But some shale gas fields will easily yield oil, while others will not. The difference between the two is heralding a huge difference between gas and oil producers in the US. Estes says: "Companies that have oil to exploit as well as gas – including Exxon and Shell, which have made acquisitions – are in the best position." More
Sunday, November 11, 2012
The first horseman was named al-Qaeda in Manhattan, and it came as a message on September 11, 2001: that our meddling in the Middle East had sown rage and funded madness. We had meddled because of imperial ambition and because of oil, the black gold that fueled most of our machines and our largest corporations and too many of our politicians. The second horseman came not quite four years later. It was named Katrina, and this one too delivered a warning.
Katrina’s message was that we needed to face the dangers we had turned our back on when the country became obsessed with terrorism: failing infrastructure, institutional rot, racial divides, and poverty. And larger than any of these was the climate -- the heating oceans breeding stronger storms, melting the ice and raising the sea level, breaking the patterns of the weather we had always had into sharp shards: burning and dying forests, floods, droughts, heat waves in January, freak blizzards, sudden oscillations, acidifying oceans.
The third horseman came in October of 2008: it was named Wall Street, and when that horseman stumbled and collapsed, we were reminded that it had always been a predator, and all that had changed was the scale -- of deregulation, of greed, of recklessness, of amorality about homes and lives being casually trashed to profit the already wealthy. And the fourth horseman has arrived on schedule.
We called it Sandy, and it came to tell us we should have listened harder when the first, second, and third disasters showed up. This storm’s name shouldn’t be Sandy -- though that means we’ve run through the alphabet all the way up to S this hurricane season, way past brutal Isaac in August -- it should be Climate Change. If each catastrophe came with a message, then this one’s was that global warming’s here, that the old rules don’t apply, and that not doing anything about it for the past 30 years is going to prove far, far more expensive than doing something would have been.
Bloomberg Businessweek just had the blunt cover headline, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”
That is, expensive for us, for human beings, for life on Earth, if not for the carbon profiteers, the ones who are, in a way, tied to all four of these apocalyptic visitors. A reasonable estimate I heard of the cost of this disaster was $30 billion, just a tiny bit more than Chevron’s profits last year (though it might go as high as $50 billion). Except that it’s coming out of the empty wallets of single mothers in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the pensions of the elderly, and the taxes of the rest of us. Disasters cost most of us terribly, in our hearts, in our hopes for the future, and in our ability to lead a decent life. They cost some corporations as well, while leading to ever-greater profits for others. It was in no small part for the benefit of the weapons-makers and oil producers that we propped up dictators and built military bases and earned the resentment of the Muslim world. It was for the benefit of oil and other carbon producers that we did nothing about climate change, and they actively toiled to prevent any such action.
If you wanted, you could even add a fifth horseman, a fifth disaster to our list, the blowout of the BP well in the Gulf of Mexico in the spring of 2010; cost-cutting on equipment ended 11 lives and contaminated a region dense with wildlife and fishing families and hundreds of thousands of others. It was as horrendous as the other four, but it took fewer lives directly and it should have but didn't produce political change. More
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Tuesday is the official commencement of the Bill of Rights, which among many other things protects people’s right to movement, thought, expression, assembly and equality before the law, as well as protections for the environment, one of many areas that could act as a barrier to government complying with the Bill. From today onwards, any Caymanian, and in some cases ex-pat, who believes their rights are being trampled upon can seek redress through the local courts.
Government will be officially commemorating the day at the National Gallery this evening, and Richard Coles, the chair of the Human Rights Commission, which so far has remained rather low key, said there were challenges ahead but the commission would continue to “promote, protect, and preserve human rights for the people of the Cayman Islands.”
Meanwhile, Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor said that ensuring that people’s rights are upheld would be a job for public officials who have a duty under the Constitution to ensure that all acts they carry out and decisions they make are “lawful, rational, proportionate and procedurally fair manner“, as set out in the Bill, which is the first schedule of the constitution.
“The 2009 Constitution gives you yet greater protection for your rights and freedoms and greater authority to defend them,” Taylor told the people of Cayman Tuesday. “Adherence to the Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities will help us to become a stronger society where all being are equally valued, can participate fully and are treated with fairness, dignity and respect.”
Although a step forward and an improvement on the previous circumstances where Caymanians had to seek redress in the European Court of Human Rights, the enshrinement of a local Bill of Rights has still proved to be a controversial. For some, the bill has gone too far, whereas others believe it has not gone anywhere near far enough as a result of pressures from the church.
During the negotiations over the 2009 Constitution the Bill of Rights became bogged down in irrational arguments about gay marriage and devil worshippers, as well as more complicated and difficult arguments in relation to the rights of foreign nationals versus Caymanians. As an appeasement to religious fundamentalism and because of the significant number of non-Caymanian residents, Cayman’s Bill of Rights has ended up allowing discrimination in a number of areas and it separates locals from foreigners in various issues, such as taxation and education.
Nevertheless, there are for the first time certain rights enshrined in local law, and despite having three years to prepare, government may not be ready yet to fulfil the obligations it now has to its people. In a number of areas government may find itself falling foul very quickly of the new laws, not least because of a lack of funding in many areas of public life. More
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Five of New York’s 14 wastewater treatment plants are in the lowest-lying areas of the city, within the mandatory evacuation zone. When the plants get filled to capacity or flooded, sewage and stormwater mix and bypass the plant, flowing directly into New York’s waterways — and now, into flooded streets and buildings.
Subways and Railroads
By Tuesday evening, subway and commuter rail service remained suspended, and limited bus service was set to resume at 5 p.m. Joseph J. Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said that damage to the subway system was being assessed, and that service would be restored in pieces. Tunnels under the East River were all flooded and pumping had begun at some of them. Mr. Lhota said that flooding was “literally up to the ceiling” at the South Street subway station in Lower Manhattan. Long Island Railroad remained closed due to flooding on the tracks. Two Metro-North lines north of 59th Street continued to be without power, and Mr. Lhota estimated that there were at least 100 trees downed on the tracks. Staten Island ferry and railway service were also still suspended. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie said there was “major damage on each and every one of New Jersey’s rail lines.” New Jersey Transit and PATH service remained suspended.
Systemic causation is familiar. Smoking is a systemic cause of lung cancer. HIV is a systemic cause of AIDS. Working in coal mines is a systemic cause of black lung disease. Driving while drunk is a systemic cause of auto accidents. Sex without contraception is a systemic cause of unwanted pregnancies.
There is a difference between systemic and direct causation. Punching someone in the nose is direct causation. Throwing a rock through a window is direct causation. Picking up a glass of water and taking a drink is direct causation. Slicing bread is direct causation. Stealing your wallet is direct causation. Any application of force to something or someone that always produces an immediate change to that thing or person is direct causation. When causation is direct, the word cause is unproblematic.
Systemic causation, because it is less obvious, is more important to understand. A systemic cause may be one of a number of multiple causes. It may require some special conditions. It may be indirect, working through a network of more direct causes. It may be probabilistic, occurring with a significantly high probability. It may require a feedback mechanism. In general, causation in ecosystems, biological systems, economic systems, and social systems tends not to be direct, but is no less causal. And because it is not direct causation, it requires all the greater attention if it is to be understood and its negative effects controlled.
Above all, it requires a name: systemic causation.
Global warming systemically caused the huge and ferocious Hurricane Sandy. And consequently, it systemically caused all the loss of life, material damage, and economic loss of Hurricane Sandy. Global warming heated the water of the Gulf and Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in greatly increased energy and water vapor in the air above the water. When that happens, extremely energetic and wet storms occur more frequently and ferociously. These systemic effects of global warming came together to produce the ferocity and magnitude of Hurricane Sandy.
The precise details of Hurricane Sandy cannot be predicted in advance, any more than when, or whether, a smoker develops lung cancer, or sex without contraception yields an unwanted pregnancy, or a drunk driver has an accident. But systemic causation is nonetheless causal.
Semantics matters. Because the word cause is commonly taken to mean direct cause, climate scientists, trying to be precise, have too often shied away from attributing causation of a particular hurricane, drought, or fire to global warming. Lacking a concept and language for systemic causation, climate scientists have made the dreadful communicative mistake of retreating to weasel words. Consider this quote from "Perception of climate change," by James Hansen, Makiko Sato, and Reto Ruedy, Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
...we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small.
The crucial words here are high degree of confidence, anomalies, consequence, likelihood, absence, and exceedingly small. Scientific weasel words! The power of the bald truth, namely causation, is lost.This no small matter because the fate of the earth is at stake. The science is excellent. The scientists' ability to communicate is lacking. Without the words, the idea cannot even be expressed. And without an understanding of systemic causation, we cannot understand what is hitting us. More
As Hurricane Sandy continued to churn inland as a downgraded storm on Tuesday, residents and officials began to survey the devastating trail of power outages, flooding and rubble that it left behind in New York City.
Less than 24 hours after it made landfall along the Northeast coast on Monday night, the storm started to weaken. But the force of the violent winds and lashing rains that transformed the landscapes of New York City and the region into tableaus of destruction was stark and unprecedented.
Roughly six million people, including many in a large swath of Manhattan, were without electricity. Streets were littered with debris and buildings were damaged. Seven subway tunnels under the East River were flooded. While several bridges over the East River were set to reopen, other mass transit service, including commuter rails, was still suspended.
In New York State, the deaths of at least 15 people were linked to the storm, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said, with about 10 victims reported in New York City alone. Although some deaths were still being investigated, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Tuesday said that at least one death occurred when people stepped in a puddle where a power line had fallen; another occurred when a tree fell onto a house.
“We had a storm of unprecedented proportions,” he said at a news conference.
There were at least 26 deaths in seven states in the past 48 hours, when the storm toppled trees, whipped up destructive winds and sparked fires in several areas, government officials and emergency authorities said.
Falling limbs became deadly bludgeons in three of the New York deaths and two in Morris County, N.J., where The Associated Press reported a man and a woman were killed when a tree fell on their car Monday evening.
With most businesses and schools closed, life ground to a halt as residents hunkered down with stocks of food and water, and there was no clear timetable for a resumption of services, like transportation. Mr. Bloomberg said that schools would remain closed for a third day on Wednesday and that the authorities would try to restore subway service in about four days, but he did not provide an exact date.
By sending brackish water into so many subway tunnels, the storm became the most destructive in the 108-year history of New York’s subway system, said Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in an early morning statement. “We are assessing the extent of the damage and beginning the process of recovery,” he said.
One of the most dramatic symbols of the scope of the challenge in New York City was visible 80 stories high, where a wind-tossed construction crane atop one of Manhattan’s tallest buildings still dangled over West 57th Street, after coming loose during the storm.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey called the damage to his state “incalculable” and said the Jersey Shore had been “devastated.” As he spoke on a series of morning talk shows on Tuesday, rescue teams were rushing to the aid of those stranded in Atlantic City and in areas of Bergen County where, he said, tidal waters had overwhelmed a protective natural berm. More
Hopefully the United States will, after the destruction in New York and the North East be more cognizant of the dangers of climate change, and more willing to work with the international community to adapt and mitigate the most immediate danger the the world and especially Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Arctic Communities. Editor
Sunday, October 28, 2012
They had been granted the right to sue the British government over the horrific ordeals they suffered during the Mau Mau insurgency, although the abuses had been inflicted on them more than half a century earlier.
Even before the judgment had been formally handed down at the royal courts of justice, however, and the claimants and their families informed of their achievement, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had decided on its response: it was going to appeal the decision, one more set-back for those old people who had already been battling through the courts for more than three years.
There was widespread dismay among many who had been observing the case. The FCO's lawyers had already conceded in court that the accounts given by the three Mau Mau veterans – of castration, rape and savage beatings – had been honest accounts, and that senior British and colonial officials had been aware of the ugly truth about daily life in the prison camps of 1950s Kenya. So why was the government continuing to resist their claim for compensation, and an apology?
Some wondered whether the FCO was, with supreme cynicism, simply dragging out the process, waiting for these troublesome litigants, Paulo Muoka Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara, to die. Already a fourth claimant, Susan Ciong'ombe Ngondi, had passed away, aged 71.
A explanation is to be found in the FCO's own statements after its decision was announced.
While stressing that they "understand the pain and grievance" felt not only by detainees but also those who suffered the terrible violence that the Mau Mau inflicted upon others, the FCO described the ruling as disappointing. "The judgment has potentially significant and far-reaching legal implications. The normal time limit for bringing a civil action is three to six years. In this case, that period has been extended to over 50 years despite the fact that the key decision-makers are dead and unable to give their account of what happened. Since this is an important legal issue, we have taken the decision to appeal."
But having already conceded the use of torture during the seven-year counter-insurgency operation in Kenya, what would the FCO have to fear from the legal implications of a ruling that has allowed a claim for compensation from Britain's recent colonial past?
The three Mau Mau veterans won their case, in part, because last year their claim exposed the existence of the Foreign Office's secret annals of the end of empire, an archive stuffed with many of the documents that recorded how confused and bloody the withdrawal had been (but not all, as some of the most damning colonial-era papers were destroyed).
The foreign secretary, himself a historian, has to his great credit pledged that every surviving document will be transferred to the National Archives at Kew. But could it be that FCO officials have reason to believe that this archive, hidden from view for decades, may contain more documentary evidence of abuses that could result in claims through the high court?
Is there a realisation at the FCO that the tortures inflicted on the Mau Mau – largely concealed at the time through official secrecy and ministerial lies – then migrated to Cyprus during the Eoka insurgency, where they were brutally applied and always similarly denied? Or that they then travelled to Aden, where they were during the four years of conflict that preceded British withdrawal in 1967? More
One could slash private debt by 100pc of GDP, boost growth, stabilize prices, and dethrone bankers all at the same time. It could be done cleanly and painlessly, by legislative command, far more quickly than anybody imagined.
The conjuring trick is to replace our system of private bank-created money -- roughly 97pc of the money supply -- with state-created money. We return to the historical norm, before Charles II placed control of the money supply in private hands with the English Free Coinage Act of 1666.
Specifically, it means an assault on "fractional reserve banking". If lenders are forced to put up 100pc reserve backing for deposits, they lose the exorbitant privilege of creating money out of thin air.
The nation regains sovereign control over the money supply. There are no more banks runs, and fewer boom-bust credit cycles. Accounting legerdemain will do the rest. That at least is the argument.
Some readers may already have seen the IMF study, by Jaromir Benes and Michael Kumhof, which came out in August and has begun to acquire a cult following around the world.
Entitled "The Chicago Plan Revisited", it revives the scheme first put forward by professors Henry Simons and Irving Fisher in 1936 during the ferment of creative thinking in the late Depression.
Irving Fisher thought credit cycles led to an unhealthy concentration of wealth. He saw it with his own eyes in the early 1930s as creditors foreclosed on destitute farmers, seizing their land or buying it for a pittance at the bottom of the cycle.
The farmers found a way of defending themselves in the end. They muscled together at "one dollar auctions", buying each other's property back for almost nothing. Any carpet-bagger who tried to bid higher was beaten to a pulp.
Benes and Kumhof argue that credit-cycle trauma - caused by private money creation - dates deep into history and lies at the root of debt jubilees in the ancient religions of Mesopotian and the Middle East.
Harvest cycles led to systemic defaults thousands of years ago, with forfeiture of collateral, and concentration of wealth in the hands of lenders. These episodes were not just caused by weather, as long thought. They were amplified by the effects of credit.
The Athenian leader Solon implemented the first known Chicago Plan/New Deal in 599 BC to relieve farmers in hock to oligarchs enjoying private coinage. He cancelled debts, restituted lands seized by creditors, set floor-prices for commodities (much like Franklin Roosevelt), and consciously flooded the money supply with state-issued "debt-free" coinage.
The Romans sent a delegation to study Solon's reforms 150 years later and copied the ideas, setting up their own fiat money system under Lex Aternia in 454 BC.
It is a myth - innocently propagated by the great Adam Smith - that money developed as a commodity-based or gold-linked means of exchange. Gold was always highly valued, but that is another story. Metal-lovers often conflate the two issues.
Anthropological studies show that social fiat currencies began with the dawn of time. The Spartans banned gold coins, replacing them with iron disks of little intrinsic value. The early Romans used bronze tablets. Their worth was entirely determined by law - a doctrine made explicit by Aristotle in his Ethics - like the dollar, the euro, or sterling today.
Some argue that Rome began to lose its solidarity spirit when it allowed an oligarchy to develop a private silver-based coinage during the Punic Wars. Money slipped control of the Senate. You could call it Rome's shadow banking system. Evidence suggests that it became a machine for elite wealth accumulation.
Unchallenged sovereign or Papal control over currencies persisted through the Middle Ages until England broke the mould in 1666. Benes and Kumhof say this was the start of the boom-bust era.
One might equally say that this opened the way to England's agricultural revolution in the early 18th Century, the industrial revolution soon after, and the greatest economic and technological leap ever seen. But let us not quibble.
The original authors of the Chicago Plan were responding to the Great Depression. They believed it was possible to prevent the social havoc caused by wild swings from boom to bust, and to do so without crimping economic dynamism. More
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
|Larry Schweiger, president of the Virginia-based National Wildlife Federation.|
Here is a shortened version of Mr Schweiger’s speech:
We need to look north to see our future.
The Arctic is warming faster than any other place on earth. It has warmed more than twice as fast as the global average in the past fifty years. The Arctic has lost 20 percent more summer ice in 2012 than it did in the record-setting year 2007. We could see the complete loss of summer ice by the end of this decade. Dark open water or barren ice-free Arctic lands increase the amount of solar radiation absorbed and further speed the melting process.
Nearly the size of continental United States, Arctic ice is vital for temperature regulation in the Arctic region as it bounces about 90 percent of the sun’s energy as albedo. Open water absorbs 80 percent of the energy thus changing a giant reflector into a massive energy absorbing system. As the Arctic region warms, it thaws the nearby tundra and releases carbon dioxide and methane.
Open water is an important threat because it will heat deep Arctic waters that release methane and spawn the decay of nearby Arctic tundra that has the potential to triple the carbon in the sky through rapid decomposition of the organic matter. As permafrost soils decompose they release massive amounts CO2. Warm Arctic waters and warming thermokarst lakes and ponds also releases large quantities of extremely potent greenhouse-gas methane that further accelerate climate change, as methane is a potent greenhouse gas.
As the Arctic warms, Greenland warms and becomes the source of enormous amounts of runoff. It is an island covered by two-mile thick ice that is being impacted by Arctic warming. During 2011, Greenland dumped 100 billion tons of ice and water into the ocean. In 2007 the worst year on record, about 40 percent of the Greenland surface was experiencing melt. This past summer about 97 percent of the island was experiencing melt. The total volume of water released in 2012 is not yet available but it’s increasingly clear that the Greenland ice sheet may soon pass a point of no return as the Arctic ice disappears.
What happens in Greenland will not stay in Greenland. Added to the expansion-driven sea-level rise caused by warming waters, sea level rise from melting glaciers and Greenland is a rapidly approaching reality for islands, coastal communities and mega-delta regions of the world. Worldwide, a one-metre rise in sea level will displace 100 million people.
Warming ocean waters also produce more atmospheric moisture and breed fewer but bigger hurricanes. Powerful climatological shifts caused by an overheated Arctic will have unpredictable but certainly far-reaching consequences to Bermuda and other low-lying regions of the world.
We are already experiencing strong signals that climate change is happening now. Forest fires happen four times as often in the US and burn six times more acres. Massive droughts have been affecting critically important agricultural lands. Mega storms worldwide are increasing damages by about one percent per year. All these climate-driven trends added together signal a challenging future for us all.
Since the island of Bermuda is experiencing sea-level rise three times the world average rates and since it is in the path of hurricanes that are expected to become stronger and stronger, Bermuda should be the model for clean energy for the world. Working together we can decarbonise our energy supplies and avoid the worst.
This is doable. Since electric energy production in Bermuda is primarily produced by expensive imported oil, I believe Bermuda can create an efficient, clean energy path at equal or less cost than consumers are currently paying for electricity. Solar panel prices for example, have declined by 50 percent last year and LED lights and other efficiency measures can dramatically cut energy demand and save money.
We need to have unprecedented international cooperation to move away from carbon emitting fossil fuels to advanced efficiency measures and spawn serious investments in clean energy sources such as solar, wind, wave and current energy. More
Sunday, October 21, 2012
The Energy Authority of Maldives has announced the inception of $138 million renewable energy project which would generate 26 MW of electricity in Maldives.
Abdul Matheen, State Minister for Energy revealed that the project is expected to be completed within five years. Out of a total 26 MW of generated electricity, 16 MW will be supplied to the Male region, which constitutes 30% of the total population of the country.
This project is a part of a renewable energy investment plan of the government which has been developed under the Sustainable Renewable Energy Project (SREP) of the Climate Investment Fund. The project would be funded by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and German and Japanese Banks.
According to the Energy Authority of the Maldives, the project will be extended to 50 islands to promote the use of renewable energy.
“We are making preparations to commence the project during next month. Under the project, ten islands would run solely on renewable energy. In addition, 30 percent of electricity in 30 islands will be converted to renewable energy,” Matheen detailed. More
Friday, October 5, 2012
Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University , said the latest evidence shows that models have underestimated the speed at which the Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets will start to shrink.
Mann says the Pacific islands, which are only 4.6 meters above sea level at their highest point, are facing the imminent prospect of flooding, with salt water intrusion destroying fresh water supplies and increased erosion.
Mann, who was part of the IPCC team awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2007, said it had been expected that island nations would have several decades to adapt to rising sea levels, but that evacuation may now be their only option.
His warning comes just weeks after the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado disclosed that sea ice in the Arctic shrank a dramatic 18% this year on the previous record set in 2007 to a record low of 3.41m sq km.
"We know Arctic sea ice is declining faster than the models predict," Mann told the Guardian at the SXSW Eco conference in Austin , Texas . "When you look at the major Greenland and the west Antarctic ice sheets, which are critical from the standpoint of sea level rise, once they begin to melt we really start to see sea level rises accelerate.
"The models have typically predicted that will not happen for decades but the measurements that are coming in tell us it is already happening so once again we are decades ahead of schedule.
" Island nations that have considered the possibility of evacuation at some point, like Tuvalu , may have to be contending those sorts of decisions within the matter of a decade or so."
Suggesting evacuations would accelerate a change in public consciousness around the issue of climate change, he said: "Thousands of years of culture is at risk of disappearing as the populations of vulnerable island states have no place to go.
"For these people, current sea levels are already representative of dangerous anthropogenic interference because they will lose their world far before the rest of us suffer.
"I think it is an example, one of a number, where the impacts are playing out in real time. It is not an abstract prediction about the future or about far off exotic creatures like polar bears. We are talking about people potentially having to evacuate from places like Tuvalu or the Arctic 's Kivalina, another low lying island which is already feeling the detrimental impacts of sea level rise."
Mann, who is one of the primary targets for attacks by "climate deniers," said that there is still uncertainty about the speed of global warming as it is not clear what the impact of feedback mechanisms could be. In particular, he pointed to the release of methane that will come as the permafrost in the arctic melts.
"We know there is methane trapped and as it escapes into the atmosphere it accelerates the warming even further," he said. "But we don't know quite how much of it there is, but there is definitely the potential to lead to even greater warming than the models predict."
Mann said it was not only island states that were feeling the impacts of climate change and warned that the terrible drought and wildfires suffered by the US this year were just the precursor of far worse to come.
"If you look at the US , some of these things are unfolding ahead of schedule and we are already contending with climate change impacts that were once theoretical," he said.
"We predicted decades ago that this might eventually happen. We are watching them unfold and there are very real consequences to our economy and to our environment.
"The climate models tell us that what today are record breaking levels of heat will become a typical summer in a matter of 20-30 years if we carry on with business as usual. Not only will this become the new normal but we will have to change the scale because we will see heat and drought far worse than anything we have seen before."
The silver lining in all the bad news is that while the political system is gridlocked when it comes to confronting climate change, public attitudes are starting to change.
"It is going to take a little while to sink in," says Mann "but there is evidence of a dramatic shift in awareness and the public increasingly recognises climate change is real and if the public becomes convinced of this, they will demand action and they are connecting the dots because we are seeing climate change playing out in a very visible way. More
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Better protection for persons displaced by natural disasters
Bern, 02.10.2012 - Norway and Switzerland intend to set up an international agenda for the protection of persons forced to leave their country as a consequence of natural disasters. The Nansen Initiative was launched in Geneva on 2 October 2012 in the presence of Steffen Kongstad, Norway's Ambassador to the UN, and Manuel Bessler, the Federal Council delegate for humanitarian aid. The initiative aims to address the need for normative and institutional measures to protect those affected.
The ceremony in the Palais des Nations to launch the Nansen Initiative, which is named after the polar explorer and first High Commissioner for Refugees Fridtjof Nansen, was attended by numerous representatives of states, NGOs and the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Manuel Bessler, the Federal Council delegate for humanitarian aid, representing Switzerland, said in his address: "During my deployments in affected regions such as the Horn of Africa I found that cross-border movements caused by natural disasters are a real problem that has increased in importance in recent years.
It has been proven that there is a need for measures to protect persons displaced by natural disasters. Every year millions of people have to leave their homes and seek shelter elsewhere because of floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts and other natural disasters. Many of these find shelter in their own country but others have to cross national borders. Movements such as these are likely to increase as a result of global warming. National and international measures to protect the persons affected are either non-existent or inadequate.
While displaced persons are protected in their own country by the UN guidelines on internal displacement and by regional instruments, there is a gap in legislation governing cross-border movements caused by natural disasters. Usually such persons are not victims of persecution and are therefore not protected under the UN Convention on Refugees. Moreover, the Human Rights Conventions do not govern key aspects such as the right to enter a country, settlement and the basic rights of those affected. There is also a lack of criteria to distinguish between cross-border movements caused by natural disasters and voluntary migration.
An inter-state process is required in order to close these gaps. At the UNHCR Ministerial Meeting held in Geneva in December 2011, Norway and Switzerland pledged to cooperate with interested countries to formulate solutions to protect persons displaced externally due to natural disasters. This pledge was welcomed by various other States and provides the basis for the Nansen Initiative. The initiative of Norway and Switzerland aims to formulate a protection agenda to serve as the basis for concrete activities in the fields of prevention, protection and assistance during cross-border displacement, return and other permanent solutions for the period following a natural disaster.
Over the next three years the initiative will carry out a series of consultations with governments and representatives of civil society in regions which are particularly affected, on the basis of which a global dialogue will then be organised with a view to formulating a protection agenda. The Nansen Initiative will be headed by a steering group consisting of between six and eight States of the South and North under the chairmanship of Norway and Switzerland. Professor Walter Kälin, a well-known Swiss expert in human rights, has been proposed as envoy of the chairmanship. A consultative committee consisting of representatives of civil society and international organisations will assist the process. The Nansen Initiative is supported by a small secretariat based in Geneva. More
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