Tag Archives: Nations

Youth travel from Standing Rock to NYC to urge Clinton to take a stand

Young people from Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires and the Standing Rock Sioux Nation traveled this week to Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters in New York City to call on her to speak out against the Dakota Access pipeline.

The group also visited Trump tower to urge the Republican candidate to weigh in.

Some remarks made by the young demonstrators:

“We made treaties and agreements. A violation of a native treaty is a violation of federal law. By refusing to stand against DAPL, Hillary is putting our environment, wildlife, culture and land at risk.” — William Brownotter, 16

“As a young person I want to know what the next four years are going to entail. Is Hillary going to be focused on protecting our land? I want to know if my younger family is going to be safe. Our present situation is in dire need of a leader that still remembers that our kids are here. We want to protect the future for the young ones that come after us. I’m here to support my family.” — Garrett Hairychin, 23

“We are coming directly to Hillary at her headquarters because as the future president, she is going to have to work for us, and we want her to uphold the treaties and her promise to protect unci maka (Mother Earth).” — Gracey Claymore, 19

“Young people need to speak up and not be scared of adult leaders. We are left to take care of what they mess up.” — Marilyn Fox, 18

“We are here to tell Hillary how badly we need to protect the water. We didn’t come all the way to NY for nothing. We didn’t run all the way to Omaha or DC for nothing. We want to ask Hillary if she wants to see her great-grandkids line up for water rations.” — Adam Palaniuk Killsalive, 18, who is one of the Ocheti Sakowin Runners

“With the land and the water, we don’t speak their language. But we understand enough to know that they are hurting, and need our protection.” — Danny Grassrope, 24

Greenpeace spokeswoman Lilian Molina, encouraging the delegation, said, “Now is the time for Hillary Clinton to prove her commitment to both strong climate action and Indigenous sovereignty. Silence is not acceptable. Waiting is not acceptable. We are grateful for the young people who have traveled so far to say enough is enough. If you claim to be a climate champion, that means respecting Indigenous sovereignty, rejecting new pipelines, and keeping dangerous fossil fuels in the ground.”

A large and growing community, led by indigenous groups, has come together to protest the planned Dakota Access pipeline.

Thousands of people have gathered at a series of encampments on the lands of the Standing Rock Sioux in opposition to the pipeline’s construction.

Additionally, more than 300 tribes have joined in solidarity, as well as 21 city and county governments and some national politicians, including U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

A statement from the youth group said, “The Dakota Access pipeline is a direct violation of the sovereign rights and culture of the Standing Rock Sioux, placing serious risk to the nation’s water supply, violating federal trust responsibilities guaranteed through treaties with the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota tribes and desecrating burial and other historical sites.”

On the Web

The letter to Hillary Clinton.

Global deal reached to limit powerful greenhouse gases

Nearly 200 nations have reached a deal, announced this weekend, to limit the use of greenhouse gases far more powerful than carbon dioxide in a major effort to fight climate change.

The talks on hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, were called the first test of global will since the historic Paris Agreement to cut carbon emissions was reached last year. HFCs are described as the world’s fastest-growing climate pollutant and are used in air conditioners and refrigerators. Experts say cutting them is the fastest way to reduce global warming.

President Barack Obama, in a statement Saturday, called the new deal “an ambitious and far-reaching solution to this looming crisis.” The spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it “critically important.”

The agreement, unlike the broader Paris one, is legally binding. It caps and reduces the use of HFCs in a gradual process beginning by 2019 with action by developed countries including the United States, the world’s second-worst polluter. More than 100 developing countries, including China, the world’s top carbon emitter, will start taking action by 2024, when HFC consumption levels should peak.

A small group of countries including India, Pakistan and some Gulf states pushed for and secured a later start in 2028, saying their economies need more time to grow. That’s three years earlier than India, the world’s third-worst polluter, had first proposed.

“It’s a very historic moment, and we are all very delighted that we have come to this point where we can reach a consensus and agree to most of the issues that were on the table,” said India’s chief delegate, Ajay Narayan Jha.

Environmental groups had hoped that the deal could reduce global warming by a half-degree Celsius by the end of this century. This agreement gets about 90 percent of the way there, said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

Zaelke’s group said this is the “largest temperature reduction ever achieved by a single agreement.”

The new agreement is “equal to stopping the entire world’s fossil-fuel CO2 emissions for more than two years,” David Doniger, climate and clean air program director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

It is estimated that the agreement will cut the global levels of HFCs by 80 to 85 percent by 2047, the World Resources Institute said in a statement.

Experts said they hope that market forces will help speed up the limits agreed to in the deal.

HFCs were introduced in the 1980s as a substitute for ozone-depleting gases. But their danger has grown as air conditioner and refrigerator sales have soared in emerging economies like China and India. HFCs are also found in inhalers and insulating foams.

Major economies have debated how quickly to phase out HFCs. The United States, whose delegation was led by Secretary of State John Kerry, and Western countries want quick action. Nations such as India want to give their industries more time to adjust.

“Thank God we got to this agreement that is good for all nations, that takes into consideration all regional and national issues,” said Taha Mohamed Zatari, the head of Saudi Arabia’s negotiating team.

Small island states and many African countries had pushed for early timeframes, saying they face the biggest threat from climate change.

“It may not be entirely what the islands wanted, but it is a good deal,” Mattlan Zackhras, the minister-in-assistance to the president of the Marshall Islands, said in a statement. “We all know we must go further, and we will go further.”

The U.N. says the next meeting in 2017 will determine how much of the billions of dollars needed to finance the reduction of HFCs will be provided by countries.

HFCs are less plentiful than carbon dioxide, but Kerry said last month that they currently emit as much pollution as 300 coal-fired power plants each year. That amount will rise significantly over the coming decades as air conditioning units and refrigerators reach hundreds of millions of new people.

HFCs don’t harm the ozone layer like chlorofluorocarbons and similar gases that were eliminated under the 1987 Montreal Protocol. The entire world ratified that agreement, helping to repair holes in the ozone that helps shield the planet from the harmful rays of the sun. The aim of this meeting was to attach an amendment to that treaty dealing specifically with HFCs.

“This is about much more than the ozone layer and HFCs. It is a clear statement by all world leaders that the green transformation started in Paris is irreversible and unstoppable,” Erik Solheim, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said in a statement.

Environmental groups were already turning attention Saturday to other greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

“Acting on HFCs does not exempt us from acting on CO2 or other important greenhouse gases like methane. We emit considerably more carbon, and it lingers in the atmosphere for more than 500 years,” Carol Werner, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, said in a statement.

The wealth gap and the pursuit of a climate pact in Paris

Exhausted global climate negotiators resumed wrestling over the language of an agreement on Thursday morning after talks that dragged through the night failed to bridge gaps between rich and developing countries.

French Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius, who is chairing the U.N. conference, said he still planned to issue a penultimate draft on Dec. 10 with as few disagreements or bracketed passages as possible to pave the way for a last round of revisions.

“We will now try to move towards a final agreement,” he told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as they met in the conference hall before talks resumed.

Fabius has insisted that an accord to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating global warming must be finished by Dec. 11, the meeting’s official closing date, rather than overrunning in the manner of previous conferences.

But ministers and negotiators from 195 countries remain divided over fundamental issues. They include which countries would be expected to shell out the hundreds of billions of dollars required to help developing countries shift from fossil fuels to lower-carbon energy sources.

That sticking point has accentuated backroom tensions between U.S. and China over what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has referred to as the “minimalist” approach by countries that could make a greater financial contribution.

For their part, the Chinese avoided discussing specific details but said they saw room for compromise.


“There will be another draft today where more square brackets will be removed but, most importantly, we need more consultations with our colleagues,” said Gao Feng, one of the Chinese negotiators. “On Friday or Saturday we may get there.”

The talks have also revived differences on how ambitious the deal should be in trying to control the rise in the earth’s temperatures.

A large block of developing nations are insisting that the agreement include the longer-term goal of keeping temperatures to a rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, even though The cuts in carbon emissions that countries have pledged to make over the coming decade would not come close to that level.

Many participants remain haunted by the calamitous failure to get a deal in Copenhagen in 2009, the last time the world tried to reach a consensus on dealing with climate change.

This time, said Alex Hanafi, head of climate change strategy for the U.S.-based Environmental Defense Fund, “there really is a desire to get a deal, but the open question is whether it will be a strong deal or a weak deal”.

Jose Ramos-Horta, a former president of East Timor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who is part of his country’s negotiating team, said that no nation should expect to get all they want from an accord.

“A treaty is not a Bible. We can also review,” he told Reuters, suggesting that whatever is agreed in Paris could be revised and toughened in the future.

Record number of UN countries call for moratorium on executions

A record number of countries this week backed a key United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty globally.

Amnesty International said 117 of the UN’s 193 member states voted in favor of the resolution at the UNGA plenary session in New York, while 38 voted against and 34 abstained. This was the fifth time a resolution on the issue was voted on by the UNGA. At the last vote in December 2012, 111 states voted in favor, 41 against and 34 abstained. 

“The record vote in favor is yet another indication that global support for the death penalty is becoming a thing of the past. This vote sends an important signal that more and more countries are willing to take steps to end the use of the death penalty once and for all,” said Chiara Sangiorgio, death penalty expert at Amnesty International. 

“The strong cross-regional support evident in today’s vote shows that ending the use of capital punishment is a truly global goal issue. The international community recognizes the death penalty as a human rights issue, and has opened up space for new dialogues on the abolition of the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.” 

Since 2007 there have been five resolutions calling for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty at the UNGA, with support increasing each time. Six more countries supported this week’s resolution compared to last time a similar vote took place in 2012. 

New votes in favor came from Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Fiji, Niger and Suriname. Also, Bahrain, Myanmar, Tonga and Uganda moved from opposition to abstention. Papua New Guinea went from abstention to a vote against the resolution. 

Although UNGA resolutions are not legally binding, they carry significant moral and political weight. 

“This result is also a wake-up call for those 38 countries that still voted against the resolution. They are increasingly isolated in their support for this horrendous punishment.  The death penalty does not serve any legitimate purpose and is a stain on their human rights records,” said Chiara Sangiorgio. 

Amnesty International, in a news release this week, urged all countries that still retain the death penalty — the United States is one — to immediately establish a moratorium on executions, commute all death sentences and abolish the death penalty for all crimes. 

Some background 

When the UN was founded in 1945 only eight of the then 51 UN member states had abolished the death penalty. Today, 95 of the UN’s 193 member states have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and, in total, 137 have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. 

The UNGA resolution was first adopted as a draft by the Third Committee of the UNGA on Nov. 21 November, with 114 votes in favor, 36 against and 34 abstentions. The adoption of five resolutions since 2007 on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty has generated momentum to renew the commitment to the abolition of the death penalty. 

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

Economic Forum study: Nordic nations lead the world on equality between the sexes

The world has seen only a small improvement in equality for women in the workplace in nine years of measuring the global gender gap. And, with all else remaining equal, it will take 81 years for the world to close the gender gap completely.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2014, launched in late October, shows that, the gender gap for economic participation and opportunity now stands at 60 percent worldwide, having closed by 4 percent from 56 percent in 2006, when the World Economic Forum first started measuring it.

“Much of the progress on gender equality over the last 10 years has come from more women entering politics and the workforce,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head of the Gender Parity Program at the World Economic Forum and lead author of the report. “While more women and more men have joined the workforce over the last decade, more women than men entered the labor force in 49 countries.

“And in the case of politics, globally, there are now 26 percent more female parliamentarians and 50 percent more female ministers than nine years ago. These are far-reaching changes — for economies and national cultures, however it is clear that much work still remains to be done, and that the pace of change must in some areas be accelerated.”

The ninth edition of the report from the forum finds that, among the 142 countries measured, the gender gap is narrowest in terms of health and survival. This gap stands at 96 percent globally, with 35 countries having closed the gap entirely. This includes three countries that have closed the gap in the past 12 months.

The educational attainment gap is the next narrowest, standing at 94 percent globally. Twenty-five countries have closed the gap entirely.

While the gender gap for economic participation and opportunity lags stubbornly behind and the gap for political empowerment, the fourth pillar measured, remains wider still, standing at just 21 percent.

With no one country having closed its overall gender gap, Nordic nations remain the most gender-equal societies in the world.

Last year’s leading four nations — Iceland (1), Finland (2), Norway (3) and Sweden (4) — are joined by Denmark, which climbs from eighth place to fifth.

Elsewhere in the top 10 there is considerable movement, with Nicaragua climbing four places to sixth, Rwanda entering the index for the first time at seventh, Ireland falling to eighth, the Philippines declining four places to ninth and Belgium climbing one place to 10th.

The United States climbs three places to 20, after narrowing its wage gap and improving the number of women in parliamentary and ministerial level positions.

By region

Countries from Europe and Central Asia occupy 12 of the top 20 positions in the index, one less than last year.

Of the region’s major economies, Germany climbs two places to 12th, France leaps from 45th to 16th, while the UK falls eight places to 26th.

France’s gain is mostly due to increases in the number of women in politics, including 49 percent women ministers — one of the highest ratios in the world, and narrowing wage gaps.

The UK’s lower position can be mainly attributed to changes in income estimates.

In Asia and the Pacific, the Philippines remains the region’s highest-ranked country, followed by New Zealand (13) and Australia (24). These nations are regional outliers, however, as only one other nation, Mongolia (42), places in the top 50. Singapore, the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos and Thailand come next in 59th, 60th and 61st place, respectively.

Japan moves one place to 104th; China falls 18 places to 87th, largely due to its very low sex ratio at birth; and India slumps to 114th, making it the lowest-ranked BRICS nation (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and one of the few countries where female labor force participation is shrinking.

At sixth, Nicaragua reinforces it position as Latin America and the Caribbean’s gender parity leader, due to strong performance in health, education and political gaps.

It is one of 10 countries from the region that make the top 50 this year.

Among the larger economies, Brazil’s nine-place decline to 71st happened in spite of having successfully closed both its educational attainment and health and survival gender gaps.

Mexico’s drop to 80th, on the other hand, comes as a result of reduced female representation in politics, but is partially offset by improvements in labor force participation and income gaps.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Kuwait, at 113th, is the highest-placed country in the region, after making significant gains in overall income, including for women. The United Arab Emirates, at 115th, falls in the rankings but shows major improvement relative to its past performance on economic and political participation and remains the second highest-ranked country in the region. The region is also home to the lowest-ranked country in the index, Yemen, which, at 142nd, has remained at the bottom of the index since 2006; but it has significantly improved relative to its own past scores.

Sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, boasts three countries in the top 20 of the index. The highest placed, Rwanda, scores highly in terms of economic and political participation and is the highest-ranked developing country in the index. Next is Burundi, which climbs five places to 17th, followed by South Africa. Nigeria, the region’s largest economy, falls 12 places to 118th.

Nine years of data

Progress has not been even across the four pillars of economy, politics, health and education. On educational attainment and health and survival, although many countries have already reached parity, the trend is actually reversing in some parts of the world. Nearly 30 percent of the countries covered have wider education gaps than they did nine years ago, and over 40 percent of countries have wider health and survival gaps than they did nine years ago.

The direction of change within countries from 2006 to the present day has been largely positive, but not universally so. Of the 111 countries that have been continuously covered in the report over the last nine years, 105 have narrowed their gender gaps, but another six have seen prospects for women deteriorate. These six countries are spread across regions: in Asia, it is Sri Lanka; in Africa, Mali; in Europe, Croatia and Macedonia; and in the Middle East, Jordan and Tunisia. In the Americas, no country has widening gender gaps.

While the Nordic nations continue to act as role models in terms of their ability to achieve gender parity, some of the biggest absolute and relative improvements of the past nine years have come from countries that are low in the rankings.

The most improved country relative to its starting point nine years ago for economic participation and opportunity is Saudi Arabia; Burkina Faso for educational attainment; Angola for health and survival; and the United Arab Emirates for political empowerment.

In absolute terms, the most improved countries include Guatemala for economic participation; Nepal for educational attainment; Angola for health and survival; and Nicaragua for political empowerment.

Within the economic participation category, Nepal, Botswana and Nigeria have had the most absolute gain in terms of increased rates of female labor force participation. Kuwait, Luxembourg and Singapore have seen the largest absolute gains on women’s income. The largest gains on women in senior roles — legislator, senior official and manager positions — have come from France, Madagascar and Honduras, while on high-skilled roles in general — professional and technical workers — Bulgaria, Honduras and Ecuador have the lead.

The countries with the most losses relative to their past performance are: Jordan on economic participation; Angola on educational attainment; India on health; and Botswana on political empowerment. The least-improved countries in absolute terms are: Mali for economic participation; Angola for educational attainment; India for health and survival; and Sri Lanka for political empowerment.

The region with the largest absolute change is Latin America, followed by North America, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Middle East and North Africa. Europe has shown the smallest absolute change. When compared to their own starting points nearly a decade ago, however, the order of relative change is slightly different, with the Middle East outperforming Asia. 

Business and policy implications

“Achieving gender equality is obviously necessary for economic reasons. Only those economies who have full access to all their talent will remain competitive and will prosper. But even more important, gender equality is a matter of justice. As a humanity, we also have the obligation to ensure a balanced set of values,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the forum.

Healthy and educated women create a cycle for any community or country. When the number of women involved in political decision-making reaches a critical mass, their decisions — which take into account the needs of a wider segment of society — lead to more inclusive results.

Companies that recruit and retain women, and ensure that they attain leadership positions, outperform those that do not.

Over the barrel: Activists champion 
efforts to divest from fossil-fuel industry

Meet Planet Enemy No. 1: The fossil-fuel industry.

And meet the new sheriff in town: The growing movement to divest ownership of fossil-fuel stock.

The divestment concept is not without precedent. In the 1980s, people around the world withdrew support from companies — and more than a few artists — who did business with South Africa. The campaign spread from college campuses and eventually 155 campuses, 80 municipalities, 25 states and 19 nations took economic action against the apartheid regime. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said the end of apartheid would not have come without international pressure, specifically “the divestment movement of the 1980s.”

Today, the Nobel Peace-Prize winner has called for an “anti-apartheid style boycott of the fossil fuel industry.” 

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, also endorsed the movement in a speech in May at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

“The scientific data on climate change is overwhelming, the experience of the affected overpowering. The few who still deny the science and argue for inaction of course have the right to hide their face in the sand, but the sand is warming rapidly, and they will soon have to face their children,” Figueres said.

She had praise for others: the institutional investors moving capital away from fossil fuels, the parties involved in the development of a “fossil free” investment index, the creation of a global finance lab in London and the activists in the campus and church campaigns driving divestment from fossil fuel assets. 

Commitments to change

That movement, according to GoFossilFree.org, has resulted in commitments to the going fossil-free campaign from 11 colleges and universities, 37 faith-based groups, 26 foundations, two counties and 28 cities. Included on the commitment list are the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee; Dane County, believed to be the first county in the United States to support the fossil-fuel movement; and Bayfield and Madison, among the first cities in the U.S. to adopt divestment resolutions.

Monona could join the league. The city sustainability committee unanimously approved a proposed resolution earlier this month that the city council is expected to take up this summer. The resolution, which doesn’t go as far as activists had hoped, would set as priorities the reduction of fossil-fuel consumption in municipal operations and the education of residents and business owners about “the importance of reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuels.” The resolution also suggests a variety of ways to work toward that goal,” including shareholder advocacy, fossil fuels divestment and reinvestment in renewable energy.

“I’m very proud of Monona for taking this step to not only acknowledge the reality of climate change but to take action on reducing its own fossil fuel use,” stated Monona resident Beth Esser. She’s co-coordinator of 350 Madison, an environmental action group at the forefront of the movement in the state. 

Esser added, “This resolution solidifies the city’s commitment to addressing the harsh realities of our need to quit using fossil fuels if we want to preserve a livable future for our children and our grandchildren.”

Fossil-free advocates also are campaigning throughout the University of Wisconsin system, on the campuses of private schools such as Carthage College and Lawrence University, and for changes in the state retirement fund.

Campaigners in some cases want a pledge that institutions or foundations will freeze any new investment in fossil-fuel assets and divest within five years. Others are promoting resolutions to support the cause, which received a nod from President Barack Obama in mid-June, when he told graduates at the University of California-Irvine, “You need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms.”

Do the math

Divestment advocates maintain that math is crucial to the argument for going fossil free. The fossil fuel industry has enough coal, oil and gas reserves to produce, if burned, 2,795 gigatons of CO2, according to the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a team of London financial analysts. That’s five times more CO2 than can be released to maintain 2 degrees of warming. And most governments agree that any warming above 2 degrees Celsius would be unsafe.

“The fossil-fuel industry’s business model is built on using up reserves that should not be used. We cannot invest in this recklessness,” said Gregory Ercherd, who is involved in the fossil-free movement in Portland, Oregon. “We have moral, ethical obligations to divest from fossil fuels.”

“And we have a spiritual obligation,” added Ercherd, observing the surge in support for the movement this summer among religious institutions. The Unitarian Universalist General Assembly voted to divest. The University of Dayton in Ohio became the first Catholic institution to join the movement. Quaker, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Episcopal denominations have voted to divest. And, in early July, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, a fellowship of more than 300 churches in 150 countries, endorsed divestment.

“This is a remarkable moment for the 590 million Christians in its member denominations: a huge percentage of humanity says today ‘this far and no further,’” McKibben said after the vote.

Serene Jones is president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, which is committed to divesting its $108.4 endowment of fossil fuel funds. She said earlier this month, “Scripture tells us that all of the world is God’s precious creation, and our place within it is to care for and respect the health of the whole. As a seminary dedicated to social justice, we have a critical call to live out our values in the world. Climate change poses a catastrophic threat, and as stewards of God’s creation we simply must act.”

Portfolio for the planet

“There’s no threat greater than the unchecked burning of fossil fuels,” according to Bill McKibben, leader of the environmental grassroots movement known as 350.org.

 “The (fossil-fuel) industry alone, holds the power to change the physics and chemistry of our planet, and they’re planning to use it,” he wrote.

Earlier this year, 350.org and two asset management firms — Green Century Capital Management and Trillium Asset Management — released a guide people through divesting.

“Since fossil fuel corporations are determined to burn their carbon reserves, which are five times the amount that scientists say our planet can safely absorb, there is a growing concern that investors may face a ‘carbon-bubble’ if carbon restrictions are put into place,” said Leslie Samuelrich, president of Green Century Capital. “With so many unknowns in the future, why not avoid the widely reported possible risk of stranded assets?”

“Actions taken by individuals and municipalities to transition away from fossil fuels send an important message to industry and political leaders and encourage further efforts regionally nationally,” said Adam Gundlach, a Monona resident and fossil-free advocate. “The transition becomes a reality with each decision we make and each step we take toward a sustainable existence.”

On the Web…

350.org: http://350.org

GoFossilFree: http://gofossilfree.org

350 Madison: http://350madison.wordpress.com

Green Century: http://greencentury.com 

Fossil-free faq

WHAT IS DIVESTMENT? It is the opposite of an investment. It is getting rids of stocks, bonds, investment funds.

WHAT DOES THE DIVESTMENT MOVEMENT WANT? For institutional leaders to freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies and to divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities.

HOW CAN DIVESTING IMPACT MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR COMPANIES? The top 500 university endowments hold nearly $400 billion. Plus, there are state pension funds, as well as investments from churches, synagogues and mosques.

INVESTING IS ABOUT MAKING MONEY. IS DIVESTING RISKY? Fossil fuel companies, presently, are extremely profitable. But they also can be risky investments — energy markets are volatile and their business models rest on emitting more carbon into the atmosphere than civilization can handle.

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UN science panel warns of war, violence with climate change

In an authoritative report due out March 31 (today), a United Nations climate panel for the first time is connecting hotter global temperatures to hotter global tempers. Top scientists are saying that climate change will complicate and worsen existing global security problems, such as civil wars, strife between nations and refugees.

They’re not saying it will cause violence, but will be an added factor making things even more dangerous. Fights over resources, like water and energy, hunger and extreme weather will all go into the mix to destabilize the world a bit more, says the report by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The summary of the report is being finalized this weekend by the panel in Yokohama.

That’s a big change from seven years ago, the last time the IPCC addressed how warming affected Earth, said report lead author Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution of Science in California. The summary that political leaders read in early 2007 didn’t mention security issues will, he said, because of advances in research.

“There’s enough smoke there that we really need to pay attention to this,” said Ohio University security and environment professor Geoff Dabelko, one of the lead authors of the report’s chapter on security and climate change.

For the past seven years, research in social science has found more links between climate and conflict, study authors say, with the full report referencing hundreds of studies on climate change and conflict.

The U.S. Defense Department earlier this month in its once-every-four-years strategic review, called climate change a “threat multiplier” to go with poverty, political instability and social tensions worldwide. Warming will trigger new problems but also provide countries new opportunities for resources and shipping routes in places such as the melting Arctic, the Pentagon report says.

After the climate panel’s 2007 report, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote that along with other causes, the conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan “began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change. ” While the IPCC report this year downplays global warming’s role in that particular strife, saying other issues were far more influential, the report’s drafts do add that there is “justifiable common concern” that climate change increases the risk of fighting in similar circumstances.

“Climate change will not directly cause conflict – but it will exacerbate issues of poor governance, resource inequality and social unrest,” retired U.S. Navy Adm. David Titley, now a Pennsylvania State University professor of meteorology, wrote in an email. “The Arab Spring and Syria are two recent examples.”

But Titley, who wasn’t part of the IPCC report, says “if you are already living in a place affected by violent conflict – I suspect climate change becomes the least of your worries.”

That illustrates the tricky calculus of climate and conflict, experts say. It’s hard to point at violence and draw a direct climate link – to say how much blame goes to warming and how much is from more traditional factors like poverty and ethnic differences. Then looking into future is even more difficult.

“If you think it’s hard to predict rainfall in one spot 100 years from now, it’s even harder to predict social stability,” said Jeff Severinghaus, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution for Oceanography who isn’t part of this climate panel. “Obviously that’s going to be controversial. The most important thing is that it’s going to be talked about.”

Severinghaus and other scientists say this will be one of the more contentious issues as the panel representing more than 100 nations meets here and edits word-by-word a 30-page summary of the multi-volume report for political leaders. Observers said the closed door meeting went through the security and climate section on March 30, in the hurried last hours of editing.

There’s an entire 63-page chapter on security problems, but most leaders will read the handful of paragraphs summarizing that and that’s where there may be some issues, he says.

The chapter on national security says there is “robust evidence” that “human security will be progressively threatened as climate changes.” It says it can destabilize the world in multiple ways by making it harder for people to make a living, increasing mass migrations, and making it harder for countries to keep control of their populations.

The migration issue is big because as refugees flee storms and other climate problems, that adds to security issues, the report and scientists say

While some climate scientists, environmental groups and politicians see the conflict-climate link as logical and clear, others emphasize nuances in research.

The social science literature has shown an indirect link, especially with making poverty worse, which will add to destabilization, but it is not the same as saying there would be climate wars, said University of Exeter’s Neil Adger, one of the study’s lead authors. It’s not exactly the four horsemen of the apocalypse, he adds.

Joshua Goldstein, an international relations professor and expert on conflict at the University of Massachusetts, sees that link, but says it is probably weaker than people think. It’s not as a big a problem as other impacts from climate change, like those on ecosystems, weather disasters and economic costs, he says.

Poverty is the issue when it comes to security problems – and policies to fight climate change increase poverty, says David Kreutzer at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington.

But environmental groups such as the Environmental Justice Foundation are issuing reports that dovetail with what the IPCC is saying.

Titley, the retired admiral, holds out hope that if nations deal with climate change jointly, it can bring peace instead of war to battling regions.

On the Web …

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: HTTP://WWW.IPCC.CH

Pentagon: Climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’

The U.S. Defense Department in a review released on March 4 says that climate change is a “threat multiplier” and must be considered in future defense strategy.

The reference is the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review and it reads, “Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, …will devastate homes, land and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs.”

The report continues, “The pressures created by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions — conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

The report goes on, stating that climate change may increase the frequency, scale and complexity of U.S. military missions and creates a need and an opportunity for “nations to work together.”

The Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development called attention to the passage in the Pentagon report.

IGSD president Durwood Zaelke said, “Secretary Hagel and his team at the Pentagon are climate realists, as they prepare the military to operate in the resource-stressed world of the future, where the frequency and severity of climate disasters continue to grow.”

The Pentagon report also cites a need make sure that U.S. military installations are hardened to deal with rising sea levels and extreme weather.

UN debates whether to denounce killing gays

A culture war has broken out at the United Nations over whether gays should be singled out for the same protections as other minorities whose lives are threatened.

The battle will come to a head Dec. 21 when the General Assembly votes to renew its routine condemnation of the unjustified killing of various categories of vulnerable people.

It specifies killings for racial, national, ethnic, religious or linguistic reasons and includes refugees, indigenous people and other groups. But the resolution, because of a change promoted by Arab and African nations and approved at committee level, this time around drops “sexual orientation” and replaces it with “discriminatory reasons on any basis.”

The U.S. government says it is “incensed” at the change, as are gay rights campaigners.

“Even if those countries do not support gay rights, you would think they would support our right not to be killed,” said Jessica Stern of the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

Stern said gay people all over the world are frequent targets of violence because of their sexual orientation.

Authorities in Jamaica are investigating a possible hate crime in the slaying earlier this month of a man who belonged to the sole gay rights group in the conservative, largely Christian nation. Uganda, among 76 countries that criminalize homosexuality, is debating whether to join the five other countries in the world that consider it a capital crime.

The General Assembly is set for a final vote Dec. 21 on its biennial resolution condemning extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings – without the reference to sexual orientation for the first time since 1999. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice has said she was “incensed” the reference was removed and the United States will move to restore it.

The battle over those two words underscores the historic split over gay rights among U.N. members and their diverse religious and cultural sensibilities. Activists say gay and lesbian issues got only minimal attention at the U.N. a decade ago.

“There has been slow, but steady progress on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights at the U.N.,” Stern said.

Stern cited as progress Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s “landmark” speech during a gay rights forum at U.N. headquarters on Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, calling for an end to laws around the world that make it a crime to be homosexual.

But as gay rights gain more acceptance in the U.N. system, some member states are pushing back, said Mark Bromley, of the Washington-based Council for Global Equality, which aims to advance gay rights in American foreign policy. “I think some states are uncomfortable and they are organizing to limit engagement on the issue.”

“We are seeing a backlash,” agreed Stern. “This is an illustration of the tensions around culture at the United Nations, and how power plays out and alliances are made.”

Benin, on behalf of African countries, introduced the amendment deleting the specific reference to sexual orientation at a Nov. 16 General Assembly committee meeting. Benin’s mission to the U.N. did not immediately respond to a request sent via e-mail for more information about why the amendment was introduced.

Benin, a largely Christian country of 8 million with a sizable Muslim population, argued that “sexual orientation had no legal foundation in any international human rights instruments.” Morocco, an Arab country in north Africa that is almost exclusively Muslim, asserted that such selectivity “accommodated particular interests and groups over others” and urged all U.N. member states “to devote special attention to the protection of the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society.”

Western nations opposed the move to delete the mention of sexual orientation.

Britain called it “an affront to human dignity,” and France and Norway said the move was “regrettable.” Sweden said the change amounted to “looking the other way” when people are killed for being gay.

The amendment narrowly passed 79-70, with 17 abstentions. The so-called Third Committee, which deals with human rights issues and includes all 192 U.N. member states, then approved the entire resolution on all unjustified killings for discriminatory reasons 165-0, with 10 abstentions.

General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but rather reflect the views of the majority of the world’s nations.

Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said the United States will introduce an amendment next week to restore the previous language including the phrase “sexual orientation” because “this is an issue that is important to us.”

“We’ve also been doing a great deal of lobbying” to get the restoration of the phrase approved, Kornblau said.

Gay rights and human rights activists also have been lobbying missions to the U.N. in New York in recent days, urging especially those delegations that abstained on the amendment to help restore the mention of sexual orientation.

“We only need a few more countries and we can change this vote around,” said Boris O. Dittrich, who directs the program on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights for the international advocacy group Human Rights Watch.

But gaining the world’s support for gay rights will take far longer.

More than two-thirds of U.N. members, many of them Muslim nations, are refusing to sign a separate United Nations statement condemning human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, especially with regard to the application of the death penalty and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Under the Bush administration in 2008, even the United States refused to join all other Western nations in signing that declaration, arguing that the broad framing of the language in the statement might conflict with U.S. laws.

After President Barack Obama took office, the United States last year joined other member states to support the declaration, saying it found that the language did not conflict with American laws. Sixty-eight of the U.N.’s members have now signed the declaration. That leaves 124 countries that have not.