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The green energy market

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Reviewing the book “The Politics of Climate Change and the Global Crisis: Mortgaging Our Future” by Praful Bidwai in the Deccan Chronicle, Vandana Shiva writes about what makes it unique:

Firstly, it combines rigorous details of the climate crisis and international negotiations with robust arguments for climate justice and ecological democracy (which I call Earth Democracy). Secondly, it is the only book about India’s climate policy from a people’s perspective. As he writes “The climate crisis confronts India with many questions and some tough choices. India is emerging as a major power despite the persistence of mass deprivation and poverty at home. Yet, there is no genuine domestic debate on law and to what ends India should deploy its growing power. How can it be used to make the world better — less unequal and unjust from being conflict prone and violent? How can India combine the long overdue domestic task of fighting poverty with promoting global justice? In what ways can India contribute to the climate stabilisation and developmental equity agendas?”

India can have a carbon-free, nuclear-free future based on renewables. Renewable energy can provide more than 3,000 times the world’s current energy needs. As Bidwai concludes in the chapter titled, “The renewable revolutions is here”, “Policymakers everywhere need to develop moral and political clarity about the world’s renewable energy-based future and its inseparable links both with equity and combating climate change”.

Are these the pipe dreams of idealists? Apparently not, if you go by this hard-nosed report from the Guardian:

India’s transformation into a cleantech powerhouse moved up a gear in 2011 when it racked up investments of $10.3bn in the sector, a growth rate of 52 per cent year on year that dwarfed the rest of the world’s significant economies.

Solar investments led the growth with a seven-fold increase in funding, from $0.6bn in 2010 to $4.2bn in 2011, just below the $4.6bn invested in wind during the year, according to figures released yesterday by analysts Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

A record 2,827MW of wind energy capacity was added in 2011, which kept India third behind China and the US in terms of new installations. BNEF said a further 2,500MW to 3,200MW could be added in 2012.

Grid-connected solar also saw a substantial increase, up from 18MW in 2010 to an estimated 277MW by the end of 2011, while another 500MW to 750MW of solar projects could be added in the coming year.

But India still has significant scope for growth as it only accounts for four per cent of global investment in clean energy.

Nevertheless, this huge growth in a year of a slowdown may indicate that green energy is beginning to become cost-competitive.

Germany, over the years has discovered a way to make green energy economically acceptable. The UK climate change minister, Greg Barker, writes in the Guardian:

There’s no denying that Germany has been a real pioneer in building a competitive low-carbon economy. Its renewables industry supports 340,000 jobs and replaces €5bn (£4.3bn) worth of energy imports per annum.

[T]his renewables powerhouse .. has learnt [lessons] from its well-established feed-in tariffs (Fit) scheme. … The Fit scheme rewards people financially to generate and export electricity they produce from renewable sources like solar panels and wind turbines. … [T]he solar industry has seen a massive boom from Fits here.

We need a mix of low-carbon energy to protect ourselves from volatile fossil fuel markets and disruption to supplies from unrest abroad. There is no choice but to have a sustainable energy source that we can guarantee will be there for us when we switch on the lights.

One of the most overlooked and underrated weapons in our energy security armour is energy efficiency. Reducing energy demand will be crucial to cutting bills and managing supplies. In short, it’s the energy we don’t use which will be the most reliable. This is why the coalition is introducing the green deal.

British, and German, policy is rooted in profitability. So it is worth understanding why and how these governments are moving towards sustainable energy.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

February 5, 2012 at 4:41 am

The end of the age of antibiotics

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Recent newspaper reports about the emergence of highly drug-resistant varieties of tuberclosis in India have sensitised us to the fact that we may be nearing the age of antibiotics. An article in the Spiegel examines the reasons:

The evolution of antibiotic resistance

Community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or ca-MRSA, … has become a serious health threat in the United States. Doctors have already discovered it in Germany, although no deaths have been attributed to it yet in the country.

The two bacteria, [hospital acquired] ha-MRSA and ca-MRSA, are only two strains from an entire arsenal of pathogens that are now resistant to almost all available antibiotics. Less than a century after the discovery of penicillin, one of the most powerful miracle weapons ever produced by modern medicine threatens to become ineffective.

About two weeks ago, consumers were alarmed by the results of an analysis of chicken meat by the environmentalist group Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), which found multidrug-resistant bacteria on more than half of the chicken parts purchased in supermarkets.

The dangerous bacteria have even been detected on one of Germany’s high-speed ICE trains. Likewise, more than 10 percent of the residents of German retirement homes have been colonized by MRSA bacteria. In their case, every open wound is potentially deadly. The pathogens have also been found on beef, pork and vegetables.

In fact, the carelessness with which doctors and farmers are jeopardizing the effectiveness of one of the most important groups of drugs borders on lunacy. Some 900 metric tons of antibiotics are administered to livestock each year in Germany alone. Instead of treating only those animals that are truly sick, farmers routinely feed the medications to all of their animals. Likewise, some 300 metric tons of antibiotics are used to treat humans each year, far too often for those merely suffering from a common cold.

The exhaust gases emitted by giant feedlots for pigs and chickens could also pose a danger greater than previously thought. These meat factories blow bacteria, viruses and fungi into the air. The government of the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has commissioned a study to determine whether feedlots are discharging multidrug-resistant bacteria, thereby endangering people in the surrounding areas.

Last year, North Rhine-Westphalia was also the first German state to systematically investigate the use of antibiotics in chicken farms. The horrifying conclusion was that more than 96 percent of all animals had received these drugs — sometimes up to eight different agents — in their short lives of only a few weeks. “That was the proof that the exception — namely, treating disease — had become the rule,” says Johannes Remmel, a Green Party member and the state’s consumer protection minister.

The director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at Tufts University School of Medicine writes in the NYT that this is a problem also in the USA:

Factory farms are major contributors to the selection and transfer of drug resistance genes, which threaten human health. Animals far outnumber humans in the United States and consume a higher volume of antibiotics, particularly at subtherapeutic doses for growth promotion. Sludge and downstream waterways from farms create an environment where drug resistance can transfer to human pathogens, leading to treatment failure.

So the next time someone says that over-the-counter sales of drugs in India is the reason behind the rise of antibiotic tolerant bacteria, remind them that the total amount of antibiotics used in farms in Germany alone exceeds that sold over the counter in India.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

January 28, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Calling the bluff in Durban

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China called the US bluff on climate negotiation, according to WSJ reports:

Speaking to reporters Monday, the country’s chief negotiator in Durban, Xie Zhenhua, said major economies including China should be legally obligated to curb greenhouse gas emissions after 2020.

“We accept a legally binding arrangement,” he said.

Mr. Xie, however, said China would agree to binding cuts only if the U.S. and other powerful nations take aggressive steps in the next decade to address climate change and some key negotiators wondered whether China was throwing down the gauntlet to shift pressure on to Western countries to address climate change.

Rogue nations who are planning to walk out of the Kyoto accord will have to rethink their strategies now. Back-room negotiations with the EU seems to have opened one possible road ahead, reports the Guardian:

EU plans for a global treaty to legally bind all countries to slash greenhouse emissions by 2020 appear to be – just – on track after China and Brazil, two of the biggest developing countries, indicated they were prepared to consider the proposed accord, with conditions.

As senior ministers from more than 190 countries flew in to the UN meeting in South Africa, to take over the negotiations from officials, the energy secretary, Chris Huhne, arrived on Monday saying there was a “real chance” that the stuttering climate talks could be revived.

With talks entering their seventh day, the EU now leads nearly 100 mostly small developing countries in calls for a treaty to replace the existing Kyoto protocol and to sign up all states to emission cuts.

Dec 7, 2011

ET adds:

The leader of the China delegation and the vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) Xie Zhenhua said, “together with other countries the BASIC will make due contribution to deal with climate change. While China reiterated the five pre-conditions, including a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, to consider participation in a legally binding regime, India offered another reiteration of that position.

“Some countries have projected the question of a legally-binding agreement in future as a panacea for climate change. This is completely off the mark. This question confuses implementation with ambition. There is an ambition gap because the Kyoto Protocol parties have not fulfilled their political obligations. There are more in the wings that are preparing to announce their intention to forsake their international obligation. We need to ensure that the parties meet their commitments whether under the Convention or the Kyoto Protocol,” India’s environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan said.

India has questioned the timing of the demand for a new global treaty. It has argued that developing countries should not be asked to “make a payment” everytime “an existing obligation becomes due on the part of the developed countries.” Natarajan has made it clear that India has an open mind on the issue, but perhaps it is not the right time to consider a new agreement.

Xie endorsed the position articulated by Natarajan and reiterated that the Chinese position was not a new one. “On legally binding, I fully endorse the position articulated by the minister from India. The five pre-conditions that China has set out are not new points. These are there in the Bali Action Plan, Copenhagen Accord and the Cancun Agreements. It is time to honour these commitments.”

Brazil, which was represented by Ambassador Louis Alfredo Figuereido, said that his country was “willing to walk the extra mile to ensure a second commitment period.”

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

December 6, 2011 at 4:34 am

You are being spied on

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Tell everyone you know. This is serious, as Business Week informs us:

European privacy regulators are asking mobile-phone carriers and makers including Apple Inc. to answer questions about privacy issues regarding Carrier IQ Inc.’s mobile phone usage-tracking software.

Carrier IQ faces allegations that the software logs sensitive phone-user information. U.S. Senator Al Franken yesterday urged the Mountain View, California-based developer to share more information about what the product does and whether it transmits data to other parties.

Privacy watchdogs were alerted to the issue after Trevor Eckhart, a Connecticut-based programmer, posted a 17-minute video three days ago on his YouTube.com channel, showing how the data-collecting software logs what people are doing on their phones without their knowledge.

Germany’s Bavarian State Authority for Data Protection contacted Apple today as regulators in the U.K., France, Ireland and Italy review whether Carrier IQ is in use in their jurisdictions. Apple said yesterday it will stop supporting the software.

The U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office “will be contacting mobile phone operators to establish if the Carrier IQ or similar software is on U.K. customers’ handsets and, if so, what steps are being taken to ensure there are no privacy implications,” the data protection watchdog said in an e-mailed statement.

Italy’s Protection of Personal Data Guarantor opened an investigation into how Carrier IQ works and is checking Italian mobile phones to verify where the software is in use, according to a statement by Francesco Pizzetti, president of the Italian watchdog.

French privacy regulator CNIL has also begun reviewing Carrier IQ, Elsa Trochet-Mace, a spokeswoman for the regulator, said in an e-mail. Initial finding show the software is not in use in France, she said. Ireland’s data-protection agency will contact mobile phone operators as well to see if and how Carrier IQ is used there.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

December 2, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Anger

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The last forty years saw the cryptic growth of crony capitalism. The current global economic crisis has torn the curtains down, and caused a host of protests across the world: from the Anna campaign in India to the repeated street riots in Greece to the Occupy Wall Street protests in the US. Here is a philosopher’s take on it, as reported by the Spiegel:

Jürgen Habermas is angry. He’s really angry. He is nothing short of furious — because he takes it all personally. .. “I condemn the political parties. Our politicians have long been incapable of aspiring to anything whatsoever other than being re-elected. They have no political substance whatsoever, no convictions.”

Habermas wants to get his message out. That’s why he’s sitting here. That’s why he recently wrote an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, in which he accused EU politicians of cynicism and “turning their backs on the European ideals.” That’s why he has just written a book — a “booklet,” as he calls it — which the respected German weekly Die Zeit promptly compared with Immanuel Kant’s 1795 essay “Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch.”

“Zur Verfassung Europas” (“On Europe’s Constitution”) is the name of his new book, which is basically a long essay in which he describes how the essence of our democracy has changed under the pressure of the crisis and the frenzy of the markets. Habermas says that power has slipped from the hands of the people and shifted to bodies of questionable democratic legitimacy, such as the European Council. Basically, he suggests, the technocrats have long since staged a quiet coup d’état.

“On July 22, 2011, (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel and (French President) Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to a vague compromise — which is certainly open to interpretation — between German economic liberalism and French etatism,” he writes. “All signs indicate that they would both like to transform the executive federalism enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty into an intergovernmental supremacy of the European Council that runs contrary to the spirit of the agreement.”

Habermas refers to the system that Merkel and Sarkozy have established during the crisis as a “post-democracy.” The European Parliament barely has any influence. The European Commission has “an odd, suspended position,” without really being responsible for what it does. Most importantly, however, he points to the European Council, which was given a central role in the Lisbon Treaty — one that Habermas views as an “anomaly.” He sees the Council as a “governmental body that engages in politics without being authorized to do so.”

He sees a Europe in which states are driven by the markets, in which the EU exerts massive influence on the formation of new governments in Italy and Greece, and in which what he so passionately defends and loves about Europe has been simply turned on its head.

There are political resonances across the world.

Occupation or liberation?

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The Spiegel reported yesterday:

In Germany, the revolution against the financial system is already raging — at least on the Internet. A cyber class war with photos, videos, texts and plenty of symbolism is in full swing. In the video messages calling for a nationwide protest in Germany this Saturday, images of the Frankfurt bank skyline are juxtaposed against paintings of the German Revolutions of 1848. Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” is mixed with the orchestral pomp of the “Requiem for a Dream” movie soundtrack.

“Something is going to happen on Oct. 15,” the cyber revolutionaries pledge. Thousands will supposedly rise up in Germany alone so the “people can take back control from the dictatorship of money.” “It began in New York,” the call to action states, “but it will end in Hesse,” a reference to the western German state where Frankfurt is located.

Thousands of outraged Americans have occupied Zuccotti Park near Wall Street in New York for weeks now, and protesters in a growing number of cities in the United States are joining the revolt, starting their own protest camps. What began on Sept. 17 in Zuccotti Park now appears to be spreading to Europe. German activists are seeking to bring the phenomenon to Germany, where protest events are being planned in dozens of cities across the country, starting on Saturday. In the German financial center Frankfurt, protesters are expected to march to the European Central Bank on Saturday. Elsewhere in Europe, events are planned in Paris at the Place de la Bourse, in London outside St. Paul’s Cathedral and in many other European cities.

The statements in the protest announcements are in no way modest. “In this room all of my dreams become realities,” one protest video states. “And some of my realities become dreams.” The quote comes from the Roald Dahl children’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” In the context of the desired revolution, it can be interpreted in a number of ways.

It is reality today. BBC reports:

Protests at financial mismanagement and government cutbacks have been held in cities around the world.

At least 20 people were injured in clashes at the biggest rally, in Rome, as riot police fought masked militants who had attacked property.

Police used tear gas, water cannon and baton-charges, making several arrests.

Inspired by the Occupy Wall St movement and Spain’s “Indignants”, demonstrators turned out from Asia to Europe, but numbers were generally small.

Organisers expect rallies in 82 countries, with the protests due to come full circle when they reach New York.

Tens of thousands of people had turned out to demonstrate peacefully in Rome.

Television pictures from the city showed streets packed with protesters waving banners, close to the Colosseum.

However militants dressed in black infiltrated the crowd and began attacking property. Offices belonging to the Italian defence ministry were set on fire, three cars were burnt and there were attacks on cash dispensers and bank and shop windows.

Police moved in after bottles were reportedly thrown at them, and at least one police vehicle is said to have been set alight.

The militants were also challenged by other protesters, the BBC’s David Willey reports from Rome. “No to violence!” they shouted and tried to restrain them. The injured included police officers.

There was a message of support for the global day of protest from the chief of the Bank of Italy, Mario Draghi, who is set to take over as head of the European Central Bank (ECB) next month.

“Young people are right to be indignant,” he was quoted by Italian media as saying.

At least 1,000 people demonstrated in London’s financial district but were prevented by police from reaching the Stock Exchange.

In Dublin, about 400 people marched to a hotel where an EU/IMF/ECB delegation involved in the country’s ongoing financial bailout is staying, the Irish Times reports.

Hundreds of people marched in New Zealand cities while in Sydney, Australia, some 2,000 people – including representatives of Aboriginal groups, communists and trade unionists – rallied outside the central Reserve Bank of Australia.

“Occupy” protests were also been held in South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

October 15, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Norway’s day of terror

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A wounded woman is brought ashore opposite Utoeya island, Norway

A wounded woman is brought ashore opposite Utoeya island, Norway

BBC reports:

The man arrested following the attacks in Norway describes himself as a “nationalist”, according to the police.

In the purest sense of the word, he is not alone. On this day of grief, Norwegian people have united under their flag, vowing to stand firm against terror.

But the suspect, it seems, is no pure nationalist. Instead, he is said to be a right-wing extremist of the kind that police authorities in the West have feared for some time.

Their fear has been heightened by the potentially explosive mix of economic recession and unemployment, increasing racism and an ever stronger anti-Muslim sentiment, according to the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

Norway’s security police reported a mild increase in right-wing extremist activity last year and predicted that such activity would continue to increase throughout this year.

But it also suggested that the movement was weak, lacked a central leader and offered relatively modest growth potential.

The late Stieg Larsson, the Swedish crime writer famous for his Millennium trilogy, was one such expert.

In the mid-1990s, he founded the anti-racist, anti-extremist publication Expo following a sharp rise in violence carried out by neo-Nazis.

In an interview in connection with a documentary I was making at the time, he told me that Sweden was the world’s largest producer of so-called White Power Music and other racist propaganda, with an active, fast-growing and violent neo-Nazi movement.

Since then, it seems Norwegian far-right extremists have created stronger links with criminal communities, as well as with similar groups abroad, in Europe, Russia and the US.

Sweden, by contrast, has seen a sharp drop in far-right extremist activity since its peak in the mid-1990s, when every national newspaper in the country published identical editions with photos of every known neo-Nazi in the land.

But at the same time, aspects of the far-right agenda have risen to greater prominence on the mainstream political arena, with Expo reporting how the revulsion displayed by the Swedish people during the 1990s is increasingly turning towards a curiosity about toned-down far-right rhetoric.

Al Jazeera reports:

Suspected Norway attacker Anders Behring Breivik

Suspected Norway attacker Anders Behring Breivik

The man suspected of a bombing and shooting spree in Norway has called his deeds “atrocious but … necessary,” his lawyer has said.

In an interview with TV2 news on Saturday, Geir Lippestad, who is representing 32-year-old Anders Breivik, said his client was willing to explain himself in a court hearing on Monday.

Lippestad said: “He has said that he believed the actions were atrocious, but that in his head they were necessary.”

A judge will decide at the hearing whether to keep the suspect in detention pending trial.

Telegraph (UK) added:

Norwegian police say a man in custody has confessed to a bombing and shooting spree that killed 92 people.

But Police Chief Sveinung Sponheim told reporters Sunday that the man, Anders Behring Breivik, does not accept criminal responsibility.

“He has admitted to the facts of both the bombing and the shooting, although he’s not admitting criminal guilt,” Mr Sponheim said.

“He says that he was alone but the police must verify everything that he said. Some of the witness statements from the island (shootings) have made us unsure of whether there was one or more shooters.”

Sponheim said police had no other suspects for the worst massacre committed in Norway since World War Two, in which 97 people were also wounded. Several people also remain missing, which could raise the death toll.

NYT carried this oped:

Breivik is no loner. His violence was brewed in a specific European environment that shares characteristics with the specific American environment of Loughner: relative economic decline, a jobless recovery, middle-class anxiety and high levels of immigration serving as the backdrop for racist Islamophobia and use of the spurious specter of a “Muslim takeover” as a wedge political issue to channel frustrations rightward.

In a June 11 entry from his 1,500-page online manifesto, Breivik wrote: “I prayed for the first time in a very long time today. I explained to God that unless he wanted the Marxist-Islamic alliance and the certain Islamic takeover of Europe to completely annihilate European Christendom within the next hundred years he must ensure that the warriors fighting for the preservation of European Christendom prevail.”

Two days later, he tests his homemade bomb: “BOOM! The detonation was successful.”

European Christendom in this context is a mirror image of the idealized caliphate of Osama bin Laden. It is a dream-world cause through which to enlist the masses in apocalyptical warfare against an “infidel” enemy supposedly threatening the territory, morals and culture of an imagined community of devout believers.

This particular Christian Europe — the Continent is overwhelmingly secular for reasons that have nothing to do with a growing Muslim presence — is just as fantastical as a restored 7th-century dominion of the caliph. Bin Laden inveighed against “crusaders.” Breivik attended a 2002 meeting to reconstitute the Knights Templar, a Crusader military order. This is the stuff of video games — except that it kills real teenagers of all faiths.

What has become clear in Oslo and on Utoya Island is that delusional anti-Muslim rightist hatred aimed at “multiculturalist” liberals can be just as dangerous as Al Qaeda’s anti-infidel poison: Breivik alone killed many more people than the four Islamist suicide bombers in the 7/7 London attack of 2005.

Breivik has many ideological fellow travelers on both sides of the Atlantic. Theirs is the poison in which he refined his murderous resentment. The enablers include Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, who compared the Koran to “Mein Kampf” on his way to 15.5 percent of the vote in the 2010 election; the surging Marine Le Pen in France, who uses Nazi analogies as she pours scorn on devout Muslims; far-rightist parties in Sweden and Denmark and Britain equating every problem with Muslim immigration; Republicans like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Representative Peter King, who have found it politically opportune to target “creeping Shariah in the United States” at a time when the middle name of the president is Hussein; U.S. church pastors using their bully pulpits week after week to say America is a Christian nation under imminent threat from Islam.

Muslims over the past decade have not done enough to denounce those who deformed their religion in the name of jihadist murder. Will the European and U.S. anti-immigrant Islamophobic crowd now denounce what Breivik has done under their ideological banner? I doubt it. We’ll be hearing a lot about what a loner he was.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

July 23, 2011 at 9:22 am

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