Latest IPCC Climate Change Report Warns of Disparate Impacts on Economically Vulnerable Populations
Posted April 16, 2014
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has just released the third part of its every-seven-years report on global warming. In their most recent climate research report, scientists predict that unless the world acts immediately to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy, the atmosphere will heat up by more than 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit or 2 degrees Celsius – a level at which catastrophic changes will be inevitable and irreversible for centuries, if ever.
Consequences of global warming include the complete melting of the polar ice caps, massive flooding of coastal cities, as well as droughts and desertification. The scientific panel also warned that demand for food and drinkable water could outpace supply, and that those who contributed the least to the problem – poor people living in wealthy nations, and impoverished countries overall – will suffer first and most.
Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Dr. Michael Dorsey, interim director of The Energy and Environment Program at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C. Originally founded to study the impact of economic and environmental policies on African Americans, the program has since broadened its research to include all marginalized people in America. Here, Dorsey explains the disparate impacts of climate change on different groups of people and points to what action should be undertaken to address and alleviate the crisis.
DR. MICHAEL DORSEY: The first thing to understand is that those that contribute the least amount of carbon pollution to the atmosphere are regrettably those that are harmed the most from the contributions of that very same carbon pollution to the atmosphere, as well as a host of concomitant co-pollutants. So, African Americans in the U.S., their emissions are about a fifth of those of wealthy, white Americans in the country. Yet when we look at the effects of asthma-associated mortality, we find that African Americans are about a third more likely to die of asthma, particularly asthma that is exacerbated by polluted air that can be exacerbated also as the average mean temperature rises. And this particular problem of the disproportionate impact of carbon pollution and its effects on particular marginalized communities in the U.S. is a problem that faces the world. So, indigenous communities in the Arctic; communities in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly poor communities in sub-Saharan Africa; in South Asia; in the high Andes. Those poor, marginalized communities, they are right now living out and experiencing the deleterious effects of the unfolding climate catastrophe that’s gripping the planet.
BETWEEN THE LINES: What do you think should happen now?
DR. MICHAEL DORSEY: Within the climate change negotiations taking place under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, there is an ongoing and active discussion on what diplomats refer to as a loss damage waiver. And this is essentially diplomatic speak for coming up with a framework to compensate communities and countries that are the hardest hit by unfolding climate change and more specifically by catastrophic weather events that we can likely say are made worse as catastrophic climate change plays out around the world. Right now there’s a desire – and it’s a longstanding desire – that countries in the global North – in the U.S., Europe, Canada, Australia, etc. – the wealthy countries that contribute much, much more carbon pollution to the atmosphere, that they need to contribute resources in proportion to the pollution they put into the atmosphere. That’s a basic principle in U.S. environmental law, and it’s called the principle of making the polluter pay, right? If you pollute excessively, you need to be fined and penalized excessively. This is something that’s fundamental to U.S. environmental law. What’s happening, however, is that U.S. negotiators, led by our president, President Obama, have essentially tried to water down any sizeable monetary commitments the U.S. will make to other countries, or other developed, rich, high-polluting countries will make to move resources quickly and in robust proportions to countries that need those resources the most. This kind of positioning is fundamentally un-American, it’s fundamentally unjust.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Not to mention the Republicans, many of whom deny the existence of human-caused climate change.
DR. MICHAEL DORSEY: You could have no more the kind of sideways and backwards views of science and of reality than those expressed by many members on the Republican side of the aisle. There are those Republicans, however, who are rooted in reality and not in cartoonish hucksterism and charlatanism, who would love to see serious steps made on environmental issues, and some of those folks are having conversations with those on the other side of the aisle. There is a dialogue among both right and left political positions in Washington and elsewhere about what more can be done to get out ahead of the unfolding climate crisis. And in fairness, that level of charlatanism from the Republican Party is something that the White House has to contend with.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Michael Dorsey, it seems like the world has already passed several dates which were presented by scientists as the absolute latest by which we’d need to make serious efforts to rein in greenhouse gases. I kind of think it’s too late. What do you think?
DR. MICHAEL DORSEY: Well, the question of whether or not we are beyond certain tipping points is indeed a debate that many scientists are actually having. The real scientific debate has nothing to do with the actual existence of climate change or an unfolding climate catastrophe. The real scientific debate is how bad will unfolding climate change and climate catastrophe be for ecosystems as well as societies and communities. That’s the real debate that’s in the science. And there’s a lot of evidence that indicates that we are indeed beyond certain tipping points.
Find more information The Energy and Environment Program at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies by visiting jointcenter.org.
- “IPCC Report: A changing climate creates pervasive risks but opportunities exist for effective responses,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, March 31, 2014
- “Climate change a threat to security, food and humankind – IPCC report,” The Guardian, March 31, 2014
- “U.N. climate report: We must focus on “decarbonization,” and it won’t wreck the economy,” Grist, April 15, 2014
- “U.N. climate report was censored,” Grist, April 15, 2014
- “Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come,” New York Times, March 31, 2014
- “This Sham Report is What the Climate Movement Is Up Against?” The Nation,
As Peace Activist Medea Benjamin was Brutalized by Egyptian Police, Her Call for Help Ignored by U.S. Embassy
Posted April 16, 2014
On March 3, Medea Benjamin, a U.S. peace activist and co-founder of the group, Code Pink Women for Peace, flew to Egypt where she was to join a delegation of women traveling to Gaza for International Women’s Day. However, when she arrived at Cairo airport, she was detained without explanation. After seven hours of isolation, she was placed in a jail cell and held overnight. Although Medea, through her friends had contacted the U.S. embassy in Cairo for assistance, no one from the embassy ever arrived. In the morning, five men dragged Medea out of her cell, tackling and handcuffing her, which resulted in a dislocated shoulder, a torn ligament and fractured arm. Soon after Benjamin was placed on a plane for deportation to Turkey where she later received medical treatment for her injuries.
The original purpose of Medea’s trip to Egypt was to cross the border into Gaza with 100 other women solidarity activists to witness the hardships facing the 1.7 million residents there, deliver humanitarian aid, and call for peace and justice for Palestinians. But her treatment at the hands of Egyptian police has focused new attention on the repressive actions of Egypt’s military government. Since overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood government led by Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, the military has killed over 1,000 people and jailed over 16,000, and is clearly targeting anyone they view as opponents of the regime. On March 24, an Egyptian court sentenced 529 supporters of former President Morsi to death for the killing of a single police officer, a verdict which provoked condemnation from human rights groups.
Despite the ongoing repression, on Jan. 15, the U.S. Congress restored more than $1.5 billion in military and economic aid to Egypt, aid which had largely been frozen after the military overthrew the Morsi government. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Medea Benjamin, who talks about her detention and brutalization in Egypt and the current status of U.S. relations with Egypt’s military government.
Benjamin is the recent recipient of the Gandhi Peace Award from the group Promoting Enduring Peace. For more information on the human rights situation in Egypt and Code Pink actions, visit codepink.org.
- Interview with Medea Benjamin, conducted by Scott Harris, Counterpoint, April 14, 2014 (19:52)
- “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control,” published by OR Books
- “U.S. spending bill restores aid to Egypt, includes $1.5 billion,” Reuters, Jan. 15, 2014
- Egypt: More than 500 sentenced to death in ‘grotesque’ ruling,” Amnesty International, March 24, 2014
- “Sentenced to Die,” Code Pink, March 24, 2014
Consumers Will Be Big Losers If FCC Approves Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger
Posted April 16, 2014
In the debate over the proposed $45.2 billion Comcast takeover of Time-Warner Cable, there is much at stake both for consumers and media diversity. Opponents of the deal point out that a future marriage between Comcast, the nation’s No. 1 cable and Internet company and No. 2 Time Warner, would create a giant communications corporation that would dominate two-thirds of the country.
A coalition of consumer and public interest groups, including Free Press, Common Cause, Consumers Union and the Working Families Party assert that approval of the Comcast-Time Warner merger would be anti-competitive, anti-consumer and result in higher prices for cable and Internet service. Together the groups collected 400,000 petition signatures opposed to the deal, and turned them into the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice, the two government agencies responsible for approving or rejecting the proposed merger.
While more than 100 lobbyists hired by Comcast are roving the halls of Congress advocating for approval of the merger, there are more than a few skeptics. During a recent Senate Judiciary hearing on the proposal, Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota expressed his strong opposition saying the megadeal threatens competition and could spike consumers’ cable rates. Between the Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Timothy Karr, senior director of strategy with the media democracy group Free Press. Here, he talks about the coalition of groups challenging the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger, and the consequences for consumers should the deal be approved.
Find more news and analysis on the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger by visiting Free Press’ website at freepress.net.
- Interview with Timothy Karr, conducted by Scott Harris, Counterpoint, April 14, 2014 (25:56)
- Stop the Merger at Free Press
- “Four Infographics Reveal Why the Comcast Merger Is Bad for You,” Free Press, March 26, 2014
- “Six Myths About the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger,” Free Press, Feb. 25, 2014
- “Franken calls merger between Comcast-Time Warner a ‘disaster’,” The Hill, April 13, 2014
- “Comcast PAC gave money to every senator examining Time Warner Cable merger,” Ars Technica, April 10, 2014
- “Sen. Franken: ‘I don’t like this revolving door between regulators and Comcast,’” CNN’s Reliable Sources, April 13, 2014
This week’s summary of under-reported news
Compiled by Bob Nixon
- The medical charity Doctors Without Borders has blasted the United Nations for appalling conditions in a camp for displaced persons in conflict-ridden South Sudan, where nearly one million people have fled their homes in recent months and over 3.7 million people are at risk of hunger.
- Over the last 20 years, China’s consumption of pork has doubled, and the U.S. has now become one of China’s largest pork suppliers. Last fall, the Chinese company Shuanghui International bought U.S.-based Smithfield Foods for $7.1 billion, establishing one of the world’s largest pork producers.
- Across the United States, teen access to powerful prescription opioid painkillers has led to a new heroin epidemic in mostly white and suburban communities.
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April 10, 2014