6 February 2019   Leave a comment

John Christy has been appointed to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board. Christy is a Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama, Hunstville and is a very prominent climate change denier. According to Scientific American:

“When asked what his first priority would be as a member of the SAB, Christy said he would try to convince his colleagues that nature is responsible for rising temperatures, not people.

“‘I think it would be to demonstrate to the board what we know about climate and its variability and what’s really going on,’ Christy said. ‘And secondly is our inability to characterize it well with our models.’

“Christy said he wants EPA to revoke regulations related to greenhouse gases. He described the endangerment finding, which is the scientific underpinning for the agency’s climate rules, as being scientifically flawed.

“’I think the endangerment finding is one that doesn’t stand on the best science that we have out there, mainly because the best science is expressing tremendous uncertainties we have on this issue,’ Christy said. ‘The overconfidence we have on the climate issue in the climate community is incredibly large, and we need to pull back on that.’”

Today NASA announced that 2018 was the fourth warmest year ever recorded and The New York Times assesses NASA’s conclusion: “the
five warmest years in recorded history have been the last five, and that 18 of the 19 warmest years ever recorded have occurred since 2001.” Recent evidence indicates that a third of the glaciers in the Himalayas could disappear by 2100 putting at risk the fresh water of about 240 million people. It is also clear that Antarctica is losing its ice at an increasingly faster rate: “Antarctica as a whole went from losing about 40 gigatons of ice per year in the 1980s to 252 gigatons per year over the last decade. (One gigaton is a billion tons.)” Importantly, US President Trump did not even mention climate change in his State of the Union address last night.

Venezuela has blocked a critical bridge connecting it to Colombia in order to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching its citizens. The Maduro government used large trucks to block the bridge as a convoy of aid supplied by the US made its way from Bogota, Colombia into Venezuela. The convoy is an attempt to force the Venezuelan military to make a choice between supporting Maduro and allowing desperately needed supplies from reaching the civilian population. The Guardian points out the political stakes in this challenge:

“Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, tweeted: ‘The Venezuelan people desperately need humanitarian aid. The U.S. & other countries are trying to help, but #Venezuela’s military under Maduro’s orders is blocking aid with trucks and shipping tankers. The Maduro regime must LET THE AID REACH THE STARVING PEOPLE.’

“However, Maduro and members of his inner circle have remained publicly adamant that the aid will not be allowed in.

“’With this show of humanitarian aid they are trying to send a message: ‘Venezuela has to go begging to the world!’ And Venezuela will not beg for anything from anyone in this world,’ Maduro said on Monday.”

The world remains divided on whether to support Maduro or Guaido. It seems clear that many states are apprehensive about US interference in this situation. We should keep our eyes on the Venezuelan oil industry which is state-owned. There are a number of US oil companies which would love to enter the Venezuelan oil industry.

Some Americans often refer to the US as an “exceptional” country, contrasting the development of the United States with the behavior of European states in the world during the modern period. Indeed, the absence of an “imperial” past is often used to suggest that the US can play a unique role in fostering liberal values in the world system. Jackson Lears has written a very good book review for The New York Review of Books which assesses the accuracy of this claim. Lears makes a compelling case that there is no good foundation to the idea that, because the US had few formal colonies (the Philippines being the only analog to the European pattern), we can make the case that the US was, and is, not “imperial”. I highly recommend this insightful review.

Posted February 6, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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