On Climate, Joe Biden Gets The Whole GLOBAL Thing
Yeah, yeah, he's a globalist. We kind of live on a globe, and it's warming.
During a climate meeting with world leaders Thursday, President Joe Biden announced he plans to increase US funding to help Brazil fight deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, and to help developing countries transition away from fossil fuels and survive the challenges of a warming planet. In a virtual meeting of the "Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate," Biden pledged $500 million over five years to the Amazon Fund, an international fund to help cut deforestation in Brazil, and another $1 billion to the UN's Green Climate Fund, which would be double the current US commitment.
The Catch-'23 is that Congress would have to approve any such funding, and Republicans in the House are dead set against spending money on foreign aid, especially not on climate aid, because the GOP refuses to accept that climate change or other countries are even real.
The amounts Biden pledged are simultaneously 1) not in any sense a budget buster, 2) more than the US has ever pledged for international climate aid, 3) only a drop in the bucket of what's needed to do the job, and 4) far too much for Republicans, who doubtless think developing countries should pay us for helping entire coastal cities become beachfront property.
Biden urged the world leaders in the meeting, whose nations are responsible for about 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, to step up aid to developing countries, which will be hardest hit by climate change:
All of you know as well as I do: The impacts of climate change will be felt the most by those who have contributed the least to the problem, including developing nations.
As large economies and large emitters, we must step up and support these economies. [...]
Together, we need to strengthen the role of multilateral development banks in fighting climate crisis as well, starting with the World Bank. Because climate security, energy security, food security, they’re all related. They’re all related.
Biden touted the progress his administration has made toward addressing the climate crisis, primarily through the climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act, which are projected to reduce US greenhouse emissions by 40 percent of 2005 levels by 2030 — possibly more, even, since some of the investments can't be modeled. (When the people in your life ask you what Joe Biden has ever done, that'd be a good one to keep in your back pocket!) He asked the other leaders to also do more to decarbonize by transitioning to clean energy, to preserve and restore forests, to reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gases like methane, and to work on developing carbon capture technologies to scrub carbon from the atmosphere.
The New York Times notes that Biden's call for greater support for the Amazon Fund comes as Brazil's new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has been working closely with Biden on climate issues. The fund was founded in 2008, with the largest chunks of money coming from Norway and Germany, but was suspended under former President Jair Bolsonaro, who actively rolled back protections for the Amazon rainforest and indigenous tribes living there. Deforestation in the Amazon basin has reached levels that threaten to change the region's weather systems, and which could in turn convert much of the rainforest to savanna. Already, the Times points out, "as trees are cut down, parts of the forest now emit more carbon dioxide than they absorb."
Thank goodness Republicans are here to be assholes about all this; Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) dismissed Biden's call for increased international climate commitments, pointing out that in recent congressional testimony, the head of the US Forest Service said the agency didn't have enough money to adequately manage US forests. (Why does the Forest Service not have sufficient funding? Probably not because Democrats hate trees, buddy!)
“Why are they now sending half a billion U.S. taxpayer dollars to Brazil for theirs?” Mr. Barrasso asked. “The higher priority would be to take care of our own resources first, or better yet, save taxpayers the pain of ever watching President Biden splash American treasure around the globe to chase his environmental agenda.”
Barrasso then presumably lit a cigar with a burning capybara.
Still as the Times explains, Republican intransigence may not entirely doom Biden's pledge of climate help to other countries:
Last year, Republicans cut funds that the administration had pledged to the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations-led program to help poor countries transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and increase resilience to climate disasters. On Thursday the administration said it would deliver $1 billion to the fund, tapping discretionary funds within the State Department, according to an administration official.
Seems a hell of a lot better use of already appropriated funds than stealing funds from Defense Department schools for children of military families to build WALL, that's for damn sure.
[CNBC / NYT / White House]
Programming Note: Yes, I am still planning a Wonkette Book Club read of Kim Stanley Robinson's 2020 climate novel The Ministry for the Future, and I will do a post next week with the details. If you wanna get a head start on reading, the link there gives Yr Wonkette a cut of any sales, but you can also feel free to get the book used or from your local library, assuming Republicans haven't defunded it yet.
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Climate Crisis Well Into 'Just Like Science Fiction' Territory
Extreme heat kills at least 11 in India.
On Sunday, Reuters reports, hundreds of thousands of people sat in the hot sun for hours during an award presentation in an empty field near Mumbai. As the event went on, the high temperature reached 38 degrees Celsius (100.4°F), with high humidity, which Reuters says is normal for this time of year, although sitting out in the midday sun for hours isn't. At least 11 people died of heatstroke, and about 50 were taken to hospitals; the Times of India reports that another unconfirmed tally set the death toll at 13, and adds that
Eight of the dead are women, mostly elderly. The casualties may rise as some of those hospitalised are believed to be critical with cardiac problems and fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
The disaster has led to accusations of careless planning for the annual awards ceremony, which this year honored a prominent social worker and health activist. India's Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah joined many officials from Maharashtra state at the dais — which was among the few parts of the grounds that was covered with shade. He tweeted this photo of the crowd as seen from the stage:
The New York Times reports that the deaths
immediately led to political finger-pointing. The Maharashtra chief minister, Eknath Shinde, called them “unfortunate” and promised compensation of 500,000 rupees, or around $6,100, to the families of the dead. Opposition politicians called for an inquiry.
What's more, the Times points out, there hadn't been an official heat warning issued prior to the event, because "there wasn’t, strictly speaking, a heat wave," because the Indian Meteorological Department's criterion is that the temperature be 4.5 degrees Celsius above normal. it was merely hot enough to be deadly to people who'd been in the sun for hours, particularly since the humidity was around 60 to 70 percent during the event.
The Times also points out that many local and state-level governments in India aren't very well prepared for extreme heat:
A report from an independent Indian think tank called the Centre for Policy Research telegraphed those risks just a few weeks ago. It credited government agencies for creating a heat wave early warning system and for working in creative ways to get messages out, including radio jingles, billboards, WhatsApp messages and YouTube shorts.
But the report found that only a handful of Indian cities and states have heat action plans in place, designed to protect lives and livelihoods. Many of them had ambitious targets, like setting up cooling centers and improving access to water. But most lacked funding. Nor did many have ways to identify the most vulnerable citizens. Most “have an oversimplified view of the hazard,” it went on.
But if that information doesn't get to people, it can't do much good. Maharashtra state, where the awards event took place, only adopted its heat wave plan in late March, and it's not even clear whether it would have been triggered by weather conditions Sunday, the Times explains.
The terrifying thing is that climate change is only going to make extreme heat events worse. Last year saw some of India's hottest temperatures on record.
This week, many parts of India were under heat wave alerts. Schools and colleges were closed in most parts of West Bengal state. Delhi sweltered above 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit, for the second day in a row.
India isn’t alone in facing heat hazards. Thailand set an ominous national record when temperatures peaked past 45 degrees Celsius, or 114 degrees Fahrenheit, this week. Several weather stations in China broke temperature records this month.
Now, the reason this news landed with a nauseating thud in my heart is that I recently finished reading Kim Stanley Robinson's 2020 novel The Ministry for the Future, which is set in the very near future, and imagines a UN agency tasked with somehow solving the climate crisis. It's a hell of a compelling read, with some very definite ideas about how humans might find a way to address the planetary catastrophe we've been building for two centuries.
Ministry for the Future's first chapter is a devastating read, in which Robinson imagines a very plausible scenario: in the later years of this decade, a perfect storm of atmospheric conditions leads to a long heatwave in Uttar Pradesh, with heat and humidity at levels that human beings simply can't survive. The overstressed electrical grid goes down, all over the area. In a fictional city, an American NGO worker, Frank May, does what little he can for several local families, inviting them into the clinic where he works, where there's a single window air conditioner connected by extension cords to a portable generator on the roof.
Then young men with guns show up and demand both the generator and the air conditioner. Nobody is coming to help, because everyone is in the same terrible straits, including Frank's colleagues at the regional headquarters of the NGO in Delhi. People in the clinic start dying, the weak and old first, then the children, and the people stuck inside take the bodies to the roof. By late afternoon they all decide to try going to the local lake, but there's no shade or relief, and the water is hotter than body temperature. Everyone gets in the water anyway, because it's at least wet, but they die there too.
People were dying faster than ever. There was no coolness to be had. All the children were dead, all the old people were dead. People murmured what should have been screams of grief; those who could still move shoved bodies out of the lake, or out toward the middle where they floated like logs, or sank.
Frank shut his eyes and tried not to listen to the voices around him. He was fully immersed in the shallows, and could rest his head back against the concrete edge of the walkway and the mud just under it. Sink himself until he was stuck in mud and only half his head exposed to the burning air.
When I read the first chapter of The Ministry for the Future, I wanted to send a copy to every Republican in Congress, and in my state legislature. I wanted to make it required reading in high schools, even if it got banned in Florida.
It sticks with you, and the news of the deadly heat in India this weekend feels like the orchestra tuning up for a far worse calamity. It's a hell of a book, although I also have to agree with climate and energy journalist Dave Roberts that at times it does read more like a collection of white papers with characters added in than a novel. But hell, the white papers are good reading too, and the book is full of Big Ideas about how we might just survive this.
Should we do a book club on this thing?
[New York Times / Reuters / Times of India / The Ministry for the Future (a small portion of sales goes to Yr. Wonkette)]
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Manly, War-Winning Non-Loser Vladimir Putin Kidnapping American Journalists Now
Definitely not a weakness move.
We guess Russia was feeling weak and puny with its back stuck up against a wall, because it's taken a journalist from a real country hostage.
Russia's FSB has detainedWall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, from the paper's Moscow bureau, on what we assume are entirely fictional imaginary espionage charges. The world might be more inclined to take Russia's statements seriously if it were a real country that didn't stifle all dissent, murder (often literally) the free press, and wasn't currently engaged in a genocidal war it started for no other reason but to make the masturbatory fever dreams of its increasingly frail leader come true. Hell, it banned telling the truth about how poorly that war is going. Also, just in general, Russia is a huge fucking liar trusted by no one who isn't an easily flattered idiot and/or traitor.
This is reportedly the first time they've kidnapped an American reporter as a spy since the fall of the Soviet Union, and the first time they've kidnapped a foreign journalist since they barged into Ukraine and started killing children. Obviously they've kidnapped American lesbian basketball stars and ex-US Marines and others. It's a pretty big deal that they've kidnapped an American journalist.
According to the Journal, Gershkovich had the proper accreditation from the Russian foreign ministry, as all foreign journalists working there must. Since he started with the Journal in January of 2022, he's been covering a "variety of Russia-related topics, including the recent visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to Moscow, close associates of Mr. Putin and tensions between Kremlin officials and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Russian paramilitary group Wagner." He's also worked for Agence France-Presse, the New York Times and the Moscow Times.
Gershkovich was particularly known for reporting like this: "Putin, Isolated and Distrustful, Leans on Handful of Hard-Line Advisers." It was full of the kinds of quotes we've come to expect about a weakened president, disconnected from reality, who blunderfucked himself into the greatest geopolitical miscalculation of the 21st century when he figured he'd have an easy time invading the country next door and that nobody in the world would really do anything about it.
Fellow journalist Max Seddon, Moscow bureau chief for the Financial Times, says on Twitter that this is "yet another troubling sign of the off-the-charts repression, paranoia, and hostility to the US in Russia right now. A moment of which Evan was one of our finest chroniclers." He links to the article excerpted above.
Gershkovich was kidnapped in Yekaterinberg, in the east of Russia. The FSB says he, "acting on the instructions of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.” They are particularly claiming his trip to Yekaterinberg was not journalism-related, but rather espionage-related. Sure you betcha.
His friends say he was doing reporting on the Wagner group there. Apparently it's a big place for Wagner's recruitment of fighters. Are these some of the same ones Russia is sending to get slaughtered on the frontlines and then reportedly hiding that information from their families? Don't know, but Gershkovich reported A LOT on the Russian military.
Putin mouthpiece Dmitry Peskov says:
“We’re not talking about suspicions,” Dmitri S. Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, said in a daily conference call with journalists, adding, “He was caught red-handed.” Mr. Peskov said he could not provide further details.
Eat a bag of dicks. The Wall Street Journal, of course, says this is all obvious bullshit.
As of now he's supposed to be held until May 29. Based on Russia's past behavior, we are sure that day will come and go and they'll still be illegally holding Gershkovich hostage and Russia will tell us as little about it as possible. As the Journal writes, "His case, according to TASS, is considered top secret." He could go to prison for 20 years, according to the New York Times.
\u201cJudging by the way Russian officials are talking about Evan, it looks like the FSB is going to hold on to him until a post-conviction prisoner exchange. In the case of Paul Whelan, who's still in prison on espionage charges, that could take years.\n\nhttps://t.co/aYwrsljnZT\u201d— max seddon (@max seddon) 1680169189
Does Vladimir Putin think he's in a good position to be doing this right now? We know Putin's sidepiece Donald Trump is making sunny predictions on "Hannity" this week that Russia is about to take over all of Ukraine, but back here on Earth #1, Russia is a laughingstock and a pariah. But yeah, sure, take a hostage. Big strong man!
Many are noting that ever since Russia invaded Ukraine and banned all journalism that hurt Putiun's feelings, American and other foreign press outfits have cut back on their presence in Russia. And quite frankly, all Americans should leave that ugly, falling apart shithole of a country and never return. It's not like it has anything to offer to the world, culturally or otherwise. That said, what Gershkovich was doing was by definition what journalists do, and the risks are part of what make the job so vital to the world.
Therefore any commenters who say things like "DURRR DURRRR WHY WAS HE EVEN IN RUSSIA IF HE DIDN'T WANT TO GET KIDNAPPED" will be immediately thrown out of a window. Ha ha just kidding, that's just a little Russia joke for you!
But people who say that should fuck off anyway.
[Wall Street Journal / FT / New York Times]
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New York Times, Fresh Out Of Mirrors, Tries To Solve Why US Invaded Iraq Whodunnit!
They're all trying to find the guy who did this.
Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Among the many retrospectives, the New York Times, which did so much to boost the war with its reporting straight from inside Dick Cheney's butt, asked the important question, "20 Years On, a Question Lingers About Iraq: Why Did the US Invade?"
That's some lingering question, all right! The piece, by foreign correspondent Max Fisher, wonders not about the long-term effects of the war, or why the US occupation went so badly (it's a column, after all, not a shelf of books), but gets right down to the question of what motivated George W. Bush and his merry band of neocons to go to war in Iraq in the first place. Was it really about the 9/11 attacks? Certainly Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy Defense secretary, wanted Saddam Hussein to have been involved, as did others in the administration, including Dubya himself. But there wasn't any evidence, because Saddam wasn't involved and al Qaeda actually kind of hated him because he was a secularist anyway.
But hey, how about oil? Gulf War 1 was all about keeping Kuwait's oil safe for democracy, but nah, to the eternal frustration of Donald Trump, we didn't take the oil that clearly belonged to us.
Fisher also examines the idea that neoconservatives, wanting to reestablish US dominance after the Cold War, thought Iraq would make a dandy proving ground for the neoconservatives who filled nearly all the administration's foreign policy jobs. It's not so much that they came into 2001 hankering for regime change in Iraq, but after 9/11, Iraq looked like a terrific chance for the US to remake the Middle East through American force and the brilliance of the free market. (For some really depressing reading on how bizarrely committed US occupation leaders were to that fairy tale, see also Rajiv Chandrasekaran's excellent book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone.)
And then of course there's the Weapons of Mass Destruction fiction. Fischer suggests, far too generously, that Team Bush didn't deliberately lie its way into a war, because while they "often misrepresented" the evidence they had,
meeting notes and other accounts do not show them as plotting to sell a weapons threat that they knew was fictitious, nor as having been misled by faulty intelligence.
Rather, the record suggests something more banal: A critical mass of senior officials all came to the table wanting to topple Mr. Hussein for their own reasons, and then talked one another into believing the most readily available justification.
“The truth,” Mr. Wolfowitz told Vanity Fair in 2003, “is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction, as the core reason.”
While we're willing to believe that groupthink, wishful thinking, and self-deception played a role in some of the Bush warheads' thinking, Team Bush also did too much outright lying and spinning to sell the war to dismiss the notion they knew what they were up to. Just see Michael Isikoff and David Corn's 2006 book Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, which we read for a Wonkette Book Club back when I still worked weekends.
And here's where Fisher skims entirely too quickly past his own paper's involvement. Look at this artfully broad summary:
Officials claimed that Mr. Hussein possessed, or would soon possess, nuclear, chemical and biological weapons that he might intend to use against the United States. Those claims were carried, and amplified, by America’s major media outlets.
No mention here of the Times's role in building up the WMD fiction, like the notorious incident where the administration leaked the claim that Iraq had bought aluminum tubes that could be used in centrifuges to enrich uranium. That was duly reported by the Times's Judith Miller on September 8, 2002. The very same day, Dick Cheney, who'd arranged the leak, went on "Meet the Press" and said the tubes amounted to "very clear evidence" Saddam was restarting his nuclear weapons program, saying, "There's a story in The New York Times this morning" about those darn aluminum tubes. Well there's your confirmation!
Again and again, the Times uncritically passed on administration claims, and helped build the impression that there was far more evidence of Iraqi WMDs than there was.
For a super fun time activity, try searching this weekend's story about why the US went to war for the terms "Judith Miller," "Ahmed Chalabi," "yellowcake uranium," or "aluminum tubes."
Look, I never said it would be a long activity.
We suppose the Times might argue that there was no need to say anything more than that vague line about how the press "carried, and amplified" the Bush team's deadly fibs, because that had less to do with why the administration went to war than with how it sold the lie to the American people. Besides, the Times already acknowledged in 2004 that some of its coverage "was not as rigorous as it should have been." They said they're sorry already, jeez. How many times will you meanies keep pointing out that such "problematic" coverage had disastrous consequences, with real people dying?
We're guessing probably in another five years, for the silver anniversary of the Iraq bunglefuck. Unless the Times manages to remember the role it played.
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