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Archive for April, 2013

Poll: Americans fear government more than terrorists

Poll: Americans fear government more than terrorists

By on April 29, 2013
 

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According to a pair of recent polls, for the first time since the 9/11 terrorist hijackings, Americans are more fearful their government will abuse constitutional liberties than fail to keep its citizens safe.

Even in the wake of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing – in which a pair of Islamic radicals are accused of planting explosives that took the lives of 3 and wounded over 280 – the polls suggest Americans are hesitant to give up any further freedoms in exchange for increased “security.”

A Fox News survey polling a random national sample of 619 registered voters the day after the bombing found despite the tragic event, those interviewed responded very differently than following 9/11.

For the first time since a similar question was asked in May 2001, more Americans answered “no” to the question, “Would you be willing to give up some of your personal freedom in order to reduce the threat of terrorism?”

Of those surveyed on April 16, 2013, 45 percent answered no to the question, compared to 43 percent answering yes.

In May 2001, before 9/11, the balance was similar, with 40 percent answering no to 33 percent answering yes.

Climate Collision Course: CO2 Levels About to Hit 400 PPM

 

Published on Monday, April 29, 2013 by Common Dreams

Climate Collision Course: CO2 Levels About to Hit 400 PPM

In a first in human history, “it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400-ppm level without losing a beat.”

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Concentrations of CO2 are nearing 400 ppm for the first time in human history. (Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography) The world is likely days away from a “sobering milestone” in our planetary history.

Concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide will likely reach 400 parts per million (ppm) for first time in human history, say scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and unless drastic action is taken, we’re on track to hit 450 ppm in the near future.

“I wish it weren’t true, but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400-ppm level without losing a beat,” said Scripps geochemist Ralph Keeling, whose father Charles David (Dave) Keeling began the “Keeling Curve” to track daily CO2 levels recorded at Mauna Loa Observatory.

The last time the greenhouse gases were at 400 ppm was likely the Pliocene epoch, between 3.2 million and 5 million years ago.

The current reading is at 399.72 ppm — far past the 350 ppm level many, including noted climate scientist James Hansen, have warned is the upper safe limit before the planet hits a tipping point. 

“At this pace we’ll hit 450 ppm within a few decades,” warned Keeling. Indeed, the rate of rise of CO2 over the past century is “unprecedented.”

The figure should serve as a call to act on the deadly emissions caused by our fossil fuel addiction, the scientists say.

“The 400-ppm threshold is a sobering milestone, and should serve as a wake up call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it’s too late for our children and grandchildren,” said Tim Lueker, an oceanographer and carbon cycle researcher and part of the Scripps CO2 Group.

To keep a watch on the daily levels, you can visit The Keeling Curve website or follow the daily updates via Twitter.

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Carbon bubble will plunge the world into another financial crisis – report

Carbon bubble will plunge the world into another financial crisis – report

Trillions of dollars at risk as stock markets inflate value of fossil fuels that may have to remain buried forever, experts warn

Carbon bubble : carbon dioxide polluting power plant : coal-fired Bruce Mansfield Power Plant

Global stock markets are betting on countries failing to adhere to legally binding carbon emission targets. Photograph: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The world could be heading for a major economic crisis as stock markets inflate an investment bubble in fossil fuels to the tune of trillions of dollars, according to leading economists.

“The financial crisis has shown what happens when risks accumulate unnoticed,” said Lord (Nicholas) Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics. He said the risk was “very big indeed” and that almost all investors and regulators were failing to address it.

The so-called “carbon bubble” is the result of an over-valuation of oil, coal and gas reserves held by fossil fuel companies. According to a report published on Friday, at least two-thirds of these reserves will have to remain underground if the world is to meet existing internationally agreed targets to avoid the threshold for “dangerous” climate change. If the agreements hold, these reserves will be in effect unburnable and so worthless – leading to massive market losses. But the stock markets are betting on countries’ inaction on climate change.

The stark report is by Stern and the thinktank Carbon Tracker. Their warning is supported by organisations including HSBC, Citi, Standard and Poor’s and the International Energy Agency. The Bank of England has also recognised that a collapse in the value of oil, gas and coal assets as nations tackle global warming is a potential systemic risk to the economy, with London being particularly at risk owing to its huge listings of coal.

Stern said that far from reducing efforts to develop fossil fuels, the top 200 companies spent $674bn (£441bn) in 2012 to find and exploit even more new resources, a sum equivalent to 1% of global GDP, which could end up as “stranded” or valueless assets. Stern’s landmark 2006 report on the economic impact of climate change – commissioned by the then chancellor, Gordon Brown – concluded that spending 1% of GDP would pay for a transition to a clean and sustainable economy.

The world’s governments have agreed to restrict the global temperature rise to 2C, beyond which the impacts become severe and unpredictable. But Stern said the investors clearly did not believe action to curb climate change was going to be taken. “They can’t believe that and also believe that the markets are sensibly valued now.”

“They only believe environmental regulation when they see it,” said James Leaton, from Carbon Tracker and a former PwC consultant. He said short-termism in financial markets was the other major reason for the carbon bubble. “Analysts say you should ride the train until just before it goes off the cliff. Each thinks they are smart enough to get off in time, but not everyone can get out of the door at the same time. That is why you get bubbles and crashes.”

Paul Spedding, an oil and gas analyst at HSBC, said: “The scale of ‘listed’ unburnable carbon revealed in this report is astonishing. This report makes it clear that ‘business as usual’ is not a viable option for the fossil fuel industry in the long term. [The market] is assuming it will get early warning, but my worry is that things often happen suddenly in the oil and gas sector.”

HSBC warned that 40-60% of the market capitalisation of oil and gas companies was at risk from the carbon bubble, with the top 200 fossil fuel companies alone having a current value of $4tn, along with $1.5tn debt.

Lord McFall, who chaired the Commons Treasury select committee for a decade, said: “Despite its devastating scale, the banking crisis was at its heart an avoidable crisis: the threat of significant carbon writedown has the unmistakable characteristics of the same endemic problems.”

The report calculates that the world’s currently indicated fossil fuel reserves equate to 2,860bn tonnes of carbon dioxide, but that just 31% could be burned for an 80% chance of keeping below a 2C temperature rise. For a 50% chance of 2C or less, just 38% could be burned.

Carbon capture and storage technology, which buries emissions underground, can play a role in the future, but even an optimistic scenario which sees 3,800 commercial projects worldwide would allow only an extra 4% of fossil fuel reserves to be burned. There are currently no commercial projects up and running. The normally conservative International Energy Agency has also concluded that a major part of fossil fuel reserves is unburnable.

Citi bank warned investors in Australia’s vast coal industry that little could be done to avoid the future loss of value in the face of action on climate change. “If the unburnable carbon scenario does occur, it is difficult to see how the value of fossil fuel reserves can be maintained, so we see few options for risk mitigation.”

Ratings agencies have expressed concerns, with Standard and Poor’s concluding that the risk could lead to the downgrading of the credit ratings of oil companies within a few years.

Steven Oman, senior vice-president at Moody’s, said: “It behoves us as investors and as a society to know the true cost of something so that intelligent and constructive policy and investment decisions can be made. Too often the true costs are treated as unquantifiable or even ignored.”

Jens Peers, who manages €4bn (£3bn) for Mirova, part of €300bn asset managers Natixis, said: “It is shocking to see the report’s numbers, as they are worse than people realise. The risk is massive, but a lot of asset managers think they have a lot of time. I think they are wrong.” He said a key moment will come in 2015, the date when the world’s governments have pledged to strike a global deal to limit carbon emissions. But he said that fund managers need to move now. If they wait till 2015, “it will be too late for them to take action.”

Pension funds are also concerned. “Every pension fund manager needs to ask themselves have we incorporated climate change and carbon risk into our investment strategy? If the answer is no, they need to start to now,” said Howard Pearce, head of pension fund management at the Environment Agency, which holds £2bn in assets.

Stern and Leaton both point to China as evidence that carbon cuts are likely to be delivered. China’s leaders have said its coal use will peak in the next five years, said Leaton, but this has not been priced in. “I don’t know why the market does not believe China,” he said. “When it says it is going to do something, it usually does.” He said the US and Australia were banking on selling coal to China but that this “doesn’t add up”.

Jeremy Grantham, a billionaire fund manager who oversees $106bn of assets, said his company was on the verge of pulling out of all coal and unconventional fossil fuels, such as oil from tar sands. “The probability of them running into trouble is too high for me to take that risk as an investor.” He said: “If we mean to burn all the coal and any appreciable percentage of the tar sands, or other unconventional oil and gas then we’re cooked. [There are] terrible consequences that we will lay at the door of our grandchildren.”

Creating a New World of Shared Values, Compassion and Cooperation

Creating a New World of Shared Values, Compassion and Cooperation

From Tragedy May Spring Compassion “We are not worth more. They are not worth less.”

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This has been another eventful week of resistance in the United States. We have much to share about what happened this week and what is coming up in the near future. But first, we want to remember the bombing in Boston on Monday and show appreciation for those who gave public support.

Margaret says, “I ran the Boston Marathon in 2003. I finished around three hours and forty five minutes, around the same time that the bombs went off last Monday. My three children, ages 6, 8 and 10 at the time, greeted me at the finish line. I can’t imagine arriving at the finish line and finding that my family had been injured or killed. My heart goes out to the Boston community.”

The Boston Bombing also reminds us of the violence that the US inflicts every day in other parts of the world. We can’t imagine what it is like to hear drones overhead twenty four hours a day and know that they could strike at any moment just because you behave in a certain way. As S. Brian Willson who is a Viet Nam veteran and peace activist writes, ”We are not worth more. They are not worth less.” We hope that rather than turning to nationalism as we did in 2001, we will have a deeper understanding of what others experience at the hands of the United States. Let us take some of this sadness and use it to spur us to stop the killing at home and abroad.

On Clearing the FOG this Monday, we spoke with Noor Mir and Judy Bello about US drone attacks. April is a month of actions against drones, including this recent rally organized by the ANSWER Coalition in Washington, DC. It culminates with a weekend conference and rally in Syracuse, NY on April 26 to 28. We will be there to discuss next steps for the peace movement.

April 15 was Tax Day. In the week leading up to it, Light Brigades across the country used their many talents to expose the large corporations that evade taxes. They even created a tax evaders video game. April 15 was also a Global Day Against Military Spending to protest the use of our tax dollars to fund US Empire instead of domestic needs for housing, jobs, education and health care.

Strike Debt in San Francisco is organizing for mass debt resistance. They kicked this effort off with a large protest at the Federal Reserve. We wrote a series of articles that discusses how to remake the financial system for the people and the planet, and we will continue this conversation at the Public Banking Conference in June.

Strike Debt has been buying medical debt to create greater awareness that people should not have to go into debt to meet their basic needs. In Virginia, Sean Jarvis started a public thirty day fast to protest the local for-profit hospital and to save enough money to pay his medical bills which are unaffordable even though he has health insurance. Another thirty day fast is going on in DC right now. Please support Brian Eisler who is fasting in front of the American Petroleum Institute to protest their obstruction of efforts to address the climate crisis.

On a positive note, climate activist Tim DeChristopher is being released from confinement this Sunday, in time to celebrate Earth Day. Watch for an exciting announcement that day by Dr. Jill Stein.

Resistance to Tar Sands continued this week in Seattle and in Oklahoma with a brave action by two residents. In Colorado, the Balloon Bloq released black helium balloons with noisemakers attached into a Platts Oil and Gas Conference to protest fracking.  In Utah, protesters seized a tar sands field wearing HazMat suits. And last week, a single protester interrupted the Valero Golf Tournament.

The hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay Prison continues and is starting to have an effect. Solidarity protests are continuing to be held. See Witness Against Torture for updates. The New York Times printed this powerful and moving OpEd from prisoner Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel who is one of many being force fed. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pilla, is calling the prison a “clear breach of international law” and asking for its immediate closure.  Keep the pressure on!

People are rising up everywhere to oppose the rule of money and austerity. In Washington, DC, they held a “K Street 5K.” Runners wore hundred dollar bills to protest lobbyists. In Portland, OR, hundreds of community groups and members attended a public budget conference to protest cuts and offer constructive solutions to meet their needs. They have a model for organizing against austerity that others can replicate as austerity is hitting across the country.

Students in particular are rising up. College students at the University of Indiana went on strike over rising tuition and corporatization of their education. Thousands of high school students walked out in Newark, NJ to protest budget cuts despite being threatened by security guards wielding bats. And students in Detroit are taking to the streets to protest the school to prison pipeline.

Wells Fargo, one of the biggest investors in private prisons and a target of many actions, moved its annual meeting from San Francisco to Salt Lake City, Utah. No problem. A coalition of organizations in Utah is planning a day of actions to protest many of Wells Fargo’s abuses.

Here are a few more upcoming actions that you can join. May 8th will be a national day of actions against Bank of America. And May 25th is a day to March Against Monsanto everywhere. This Saturday, in New York, there will be a day of training on Workplace Organizing.

We posted a number of articles that may help you in planning your next action. Here is an Organizer’s Guide to General Assemblies and Consensus. And here are some Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky and interviews with David Graeber on The Democracy Project and with Noam Chomsky on Direct Action and Social Movements.

Despite the suffering and sadness, these are times of opportunity to create the new world we want to see based on our shared values of compassion and cooperation. We can choose to be angry and close our hearts or we can choose to recognize that we are all connected and open our hearts. We hope that you will join the many wonderful efforts going on right now to create a peaceful, just and sustainable world.

This article is based on the weekly update from October2011.org/OccupyWashingtonDC.org. To subscribe to this free weekly email, click here.

 Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD co-host ClearingtheFOGRadio.org on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media, co-direct It’s Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC. Their twitters are @KBZeese and @MFlowers8.

Global Governance and the “New World Order Religion”

Global Governance and the “New World Order Religion”

The Role of the Baha’i. In the Wake of the Newtown School Massacre

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The Sandy Hook School massacre of December 14 has no doubt been seized upon by the present police state as a raison d’être for heightened gun control measures. Yet a more subtle element of the event is the promotion of a political worldview under the cloak of psychiatry and an increasingly prominent notion of “community building.”[1]

Stepping into the emotional fallout of December’s mass shooting is Dr. John Woodall. The former Harvard psychiatrist was almost immediately making the rounds in Newtown, consoling the grief stricken and advocating a seemingly unique communitarian creed. Woodall’s presence was unsurprising for locals since he resides in Sandy Hook, where his “Unity Project” non-profit is also based. What is more, the event was eerily appropriate for the “teaching children resilience” mission Woodall’s organization was already undertaking in Newtown area schools. Unity Project had already contributed to such exercises following major crises including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

At first glance the Unity Project appears to be yet another new agey, “let go of the hate” platform for Woodall’s pop-humanist psychology. We must learn to overcome our ordeals and look beyond our differences on the way to one big group hug. The organization has created such a program for the youth of Newtown’s high school where students have been encouraged to fill out a psychological survey and  negotiate with administrators and teachers to lessen the homework load.[2]

On its face the prospect of developing well-rounded and engaged citizens sounds desirable. Who wants to be considered a holdout against local cooperation, peaceful coexistence, even global trade harmonization? The consequence these days includes running the risk of being deemed a grouchy extremist. Perhaps this is why groups are actively espousing and disseminating Unity Project precepts in schools and communities throughout the world.

“As we move more deeply into a national and global climate fraught with complex and nuanced problems,” Woodall explains,

young people need to become masters of working with this complexity and diversity in cooperative and constructive ways. Our democracy and the happiness of our lives depend upon it. Young people need to know how to recognize bias, see the big picture and resist and problem solve cooperatively and to resist the human tendency to allow fear and anger to pull us to simplistic and extremist solutions that only create division and conflict and end up worsening the problems we face.[3]

This exact doctrine was articulated in Woodall’s December 14 remarks to the Associated Press.

I do this for a living—I do trauma work for a living. I ran programs overseas for the State Department. I’ve worked in school shootings before. But all that—none of that counts. All that counts at that moment is that another human being is there for you … It’s a strong community. It’s a resilient community. The task now is for the community to give this a meaning. It’s like in New York City after 9/11. The lesson of 9/11 wasn’t that we should be afraid or angry, or bitter or blame or point fingers. The lesson of 9/11 is that we’re all in this together and we need to show compassion for each other to give meaning to the loss.

In Woodall’s evaluation the death and horror from such events constitute a sort of nightmarish martyrdom from which a greater good will arise. Indeed, many of the Sandy Hook victims’ families publicly exhibit this very ability to unemotionally cope with profound loss, an ostensible response and mindset that does not go unnoticed by the broader public.[4] The wide exposure of this apparent struggle suggests a mass conditioning toward the community resilience that is a foremost element of what contemporary social engineers have termed the “Newtown transition.”

Along these lines and throughout the bulk of Woodall’s writings and pronouncements there is a clear resemblance to the precepts of the Bahá’í faith, to which Woodall is a devotee. Even though his professional training and pedigree suggest a “scientific” (qua psychiatry) approach to personal and community problems, Woodall’s writings are essentially those espoused by the Bahá’ís. He just seldom declares such affiliations or beliefs publicly.[5] An exception was when Woodall and his spouse Margo Woodall recited Bahá’í passages at the December 16, 2012 interfaith gathering for Sandy Hook victims attended by President Obama.

From its headquarters in Haifa Israel and under the authority of the Universal House of Justice, Bahá’í is overseen country-to-country by National and Local Spiritual Assemblies. The religion is an international phenomenon, with its spiritual founder prophesying a global socio-political transformation under the Bahá’í order’s aegis. “The Bahá’í Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent religions,” the International Bahá’í Community website notes.

Its founder, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), is regarded by Bahá’ís as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad. The central theme of Bahá’u’lláh’s message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society. God, Bahá’u’lláh said, has set in motion historical forces that are breaking down traditional barriers of race, class, creed, and nation and that will, in time, give birth to a universal civilization.[6]

In 1982 the Bahá’í faith unambiguously professed before the United Nations “the goal of a new World Order, Divine in origin, all-embracing in scope, equitable in principle, challenging in its features — that a harassed humanity must strive.”[7]

Toward this end Bahá’ís’ guiding philosophy and goals include:

All humanity is one family.
Women and men are equal.
All prejudice—racial, religious, national, or economic—is destructive and must be overcome.
We must investigate truth for ourselves, without preconceptions.
Science and religion are in harmony.
Our economic problems are linked to spiritual problems.
All major religions come from God.
World peace is the crying need of our time.

If this is indeed the basis of a global religion, before which all other beliefs and denominations must yield, there are a number of obvious concerns. For example, how does one define national or economic “prejudice”? Will one’s economic wherewithal be contingent upon converting to a new, state-mandated religion/spirituality? And along these lines, if science and religion are conflated, what entities will help determine the moral parameters of the many scientific pursuits that run counter to and endanger life on earth? Under such a scheme will psychiatrists and bioethicists make up a new clergy? Many of the Bahá’í tenets would fit well in a technocratic order where the state is the foremost authority.

According to the Center for Media and Democracy’s Sourcewatch database [8] the Bahá’í faith’s ambitious vision is a forthrightly political project calling for the creation of

A World Super State
A World Legislator
Unification of all the world’s religions under the umbrella of the Bahá’í faith
A World Parliament
A World Police Force
A Supreme Tribunal
A Single World Currency
A World Taxation System
A Single Universal Auxiliary Language
Implementation of Agenda 21 and the Earth Charter
Establishment of a World Free Trade Area

Along with the institutionalized secular faith of carbon-centric environmentalism that figures centrally in the Bahá’ís’ undertakings, the Unity Project’s understated transnationalism is likewise making inroads at public schools and in communities throughout the world. As in his previous endeavors, the Sandy Hook tragedy has provided the backdrop for Woodall’s evangelizing that seeks to realign the traumatized individual and group toward certain ideals and norms. What is arguably of concern is that Woodall proceeds under the cover of mental health professional while espousing an ardent globalist ideology that runs counter to the traditional political beliefs and religious faiths that, for better or worse, are espoused by a majority of the world’s population.

In the broader scheme of things the impulses and goals of the anti-individualistic Bahá’í faith’s and Dr. Woodall’s Unity Project provide clear glimpses of what may soon become a prevalent if not compulsory worldview–the elements of which are already being employed to ease the world’s population into a heightened tempo of violent and traumatic mediated events en route to the digitally-enforced feudalism of the twenty-first century.

Notes

[1] See “Baha’i Presence in Sandy Hook and How It May Influence Our Future,” Sandy Hook Truth, February 13, 2013.
[2] “[S]ample student strengths that might be helpful in completing the Unity Project Survey” include “Considerate,” “Doesn’t hold a grudge,” “Good at heart,” “Peaceful,” “Spiritual,” “Thinks before acting,” “Reverent.” Davis Dunavin, “Meet the Student Who Helped Give Newtown High School a True Vacation,” Newtown Patch, April 5, 2013.
[3] John Woodall, “A Summary of the Unity Project,” JohnWoodall.net, February 19, 2010.
[4] Jon Rappoport, “How the Newtown Massacre Became a Mind Control Television Event,” jonrappoport.wordpress.com, December 18, 2012.
[5] A search of Woodall’s blog http://www.johnwoodall.net on March 31, 2013 for “Baha’i” or “Haifa” yields no results.
[6] “The Bahá’í Faith,” Bahá’í Topics, n.d., bahai.org
[7] “The Promise of Disarmament and Peace,” Baha’I International Community Statement Library, June 1982.
[8] “The Bahá’í Faith,” Sourcewatch, Center for Media and Democracy, August 5, 2012.

$6 Trillion “Carbon Bubble” Will Burn Investors and Planet Earth

Study: $6 Trillion “Carbon Bubble” Will Burn Investors and Planet Earth

World’s estimated fossil fuel reserves must remain underground if the global community hopes to avoid ‘climate catastrophe’

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

(Image: Carbon Tracker and Grantham Research Institute)We are facing a $6 trillion carbon “bubble” over the next decade unless regulators, governments and investors re-evaluate our carbon-dependent energy business model and, finally, take seriously the great climate threat, says a new report published Friday.

According to the report—”Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted Capital and Stranded Assets (pdf)— researched and presented by the nonprofit Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics, at least two-thirds of the world’s estimated coal, oil and gas reserves have to remain underground if the international community hopes to keep global warming beneath the 2C degree goal and avoid the threshold for “dangerous” climate change.

“If we mean to burn all the coal and any appreciable percentage of the tar sands, or other unconventional oil and gas then we’re cooked,” says billionaire fund manager Jeremy Grantham. “[There are] terrible consequences that we will lay at the door of our grandchildren.”

The report warns, however, that the governing financial system—in its gross over-valuation of fossil fuel reserves—continues to turn its back on both the enormous risk to the planet and the financial markets that count these underground reserves as “assets.”

In an op-ed published alongside the new research on Friday, 350.org’s Bill McKibben and Carbon Tracker chairman Jeremy Leggett explain:

Six trillion dollars is what oil, gas, and coal companies will invest over the next ten years on turning fossil fuel deposits into reserves, assuming last year’s level of investment stays the same. Reserves are by definition bodies of oil, gas or coal that can be drilled or mined economically. Regulators allow companies, currently, to book them as assets, and on the assumption that they are at zero risk of being stranded – left below ground, “value” unrealized – over the full life of their exploitation.

The six trillion dollar bet is that […] fossil-fuel companies will be allowed to keep pumping up the carbon bubble by investing more cash to turn resources into reserves, and continue booking them at full value, assuming zero risk of devaluation. It’s a bet that effectively says to government: “nah, we don’t believe a word you say. We think you’ll do nothing about climate change for decades.”

“They only believe environmental regulation when they see it,” said Carbon Tracker’s James Leaton. “Analysts say you should ride the train until just before it goes off the cliff. Each thinks they are smart enough to get off in time, but not everyone can get out of the door at the same time. That is why you get bubbles and crashes.”

“The financial crisis has shown what happens when risks accumulate unnoticed,” adds report co-author Lord Nicholas Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics.

According to the report, the world’s estimated fossil fuel reserves equate to 2,860bn tonnes of carbon dioxide, although just 31% could be burned for an 80% chance of keeping below the 2C degree target.

Despite these findings, energy companies continue to spend billions searching out new sources of energy. Stern notes that the top 200 companies spent $674bn in 2012—equivalent to 1% of global GDP—to “find and exploit” new resources, which we predict will end up as “stranded” or valueless assets posing great risk to financial markets.

“The probability of them running into trouble is too high for me to take that risk as an investor,” billionaire fund manager Jeremy Grantham told the Guardian, adding that his company is on the verge of pulling out of all coal and unconventional fossil fuels, including tar sand oil.

“If we mean to burn all the coal and any appreciable percentage of the tar sands, or other unconventional oil and gas then we’re cooked,” he adds. “[There are] terrible consequences that we will lay at the door of our grandchildren.” 

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Astronomers anticipate 100 billion Earth-like planets

Astronomers anticipate 100 billion Earth-like planets

April 4, 2013

University of Auckland researchers have proposed a new method for finding Earth-like planets in our galaxy and they anticipate that the number will be on the order of 100 billion.

The research supports an earlier estimate based on extrapolations of Kepler data.

The new research uses a technique called gravitational microlensing, currently used by a Japan-New Zealand collaboration called MOA (Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics) at New Zealand’s Mt. John Observatory.

“Kepler finds Earth-sized planets that are quite close to parent stars, and it estimates that there are 17 billion such planets in the Milky Way,” says Dr. Phil Yock from the University of Auckland’s Department of Physics. These planets are generally hotter than Earth, although some could be of a similar temperature (and therefore habitable) if they’re orbiting a cool star called a red dwarf.”

Kepler measures the loss of light from a star when a planet orbits between us and the star; microlensing measures the deflection of light from a distant star that passes through a planetary system en route to Earth — an effect predicted by Einstein in 1936.

“Our proposal is to measure the number of Earth-mass planets orbiting stars at distances typically twice the Sun-Earth distance. Our planets will therefore be cooler than the Earth. By interpolating between the Kepler and MOA results, we should get a good estimate of the number of Earth-like, habitable planets in the Galaxy. We anticipate a number in the order of 100 billion.”

In recent years, microlensing has been used to detect several planets as large as Neptune and Jupiter. Dr Yock and colleagues have proposed a new microlensing strategy for detecting the tiny deflection caused by an Earth-sized planet. Simulations carried out by Yock and his colleagues showed that Earth-sized planets could be detected more easily if a worldwide network of moderate-sized, robotic telescopes was available to monitor them.

Coincidentally, just such a network of 1m and 2m telescopes is now being deployed by Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) in collaboration with SUPA/St Andrews (Scottish Universities Physics Alliance), with three telescopes in Chile, three in South Africa, three in Australia, and one each in Hawaii and Texas.  This network is used to study microlensing events in conjunction with the Liverpool Telescope in the Canary Islands which is owned and operated by Liverpool John Moores University.

It is expected that the data from this suite of telescopes will be supplemented by measurements using the existing 1.8m MOA telescope at Mt John, the 1.3m Polish telescope in Chile known as OGLE, and the recently opened 1.3m Harlingten telescope in Tasmania.

The new work will appear in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (Oxford University Press):http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stt318

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