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At the United Nations this week, President Joe Biden sought to distance his administration from the Trump administration’s attacks on climate policy. Biden announced that the United States will double its contribution to international climate finance to $11.4 billion annually by 2024 under the Paris Agreement to help poorer nations reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate disruption.
But Indigenous and climate justice activists largely characterized the new pledge as falling far short of what is needed to truly address the ongoing climate disaster. They are also calling on Biden to appoint climate leaders as financial regulators, and separately, to stop Trump-approved pipelines including the Dakota Access Pipeline and Canadian oil giant Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline.
“President Biden is attempting to turn the page from the Trump administration, but until he uses his authority to stop all Trump-era fossil fuel projects, our communities will continue to raise the red flag,” said Joye Braun, national pipelines organizer for Indigenous Environmental Network, in a statement.
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Biden’s pledge comes as a new UN report on global emissions targets found that the planet is still on track to warm 2.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100 — far above the 1.5 degrees that scientists and the Paris Agreement established the world should be targeting, and as Arctic sea ice has reached its annual low, the 12th lowest on record.
Congressional progressives including Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Representatives Jamaal Bowman and Ilhan Omar are using the moment to pressure Congress and Biden, calling on them this week to support the Polluters Pay Climate Fund Act, or “Make Polluters Pay” bill, and to incorporate the bill as part of Biden’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation package.
The bill would require companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron and other major climate polluters to pay a combined $500 billion at minimum into the Polluters Pay Climate Fund based on their respective percentage of global emissions. The money would be dedicated to helping vulnerable and marginalized communities adapt to climate impacts, transition to renewable energy and advance environmental justice.
“I’ve witnessed my district and community be devastated by recent storms and climate impacts that were the direct result of global emissions from major fossil fuel companies like Exxon, Shell, and Chevron,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman this week. “Polluters must take full responsibility for their destruction and pay up now.”“Polluters must take full responsibility for their destruction and pay up now.” —Rep. Jamaal Bowman
The lawmakers called the legislation a straightforward way to generate revenue for President Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, calling on him not cut the reconciliation bill without first adopting their “polluters pay” approach. Still, leading climate activists have noted that the bill would only account for a fraction of the fossil fuel industry’s damages while allowing the industry to continue to pollute.
Meanwhile, climate activists are also ramping up a pressure campaign demanding major Wall Street banks stop financing fossil fuels by the start of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1. Among COP26’s major goals are global emission reductions of about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and $100 billion in annual financial aid from rich to poor countries — with half of that going to poor nations to help adapt to climate disruption’s worst impacts.
Climate activists say the U.S. won’t be able to meet its emissions targets or climate finance goals, however, unless financial regulators force banks, insurers and asset managers to stop financing fossil fuels. With the Biden administration set to release its climate-related financial risk strategy, climate campaigners are renewing calls for President Biden to appoint a progressive climate leader to head the Federal Reserve and staging direct actions outside major fossil fuel financers.
More than 40 climate activists were arrested in New York City while blocking the entrances of JPMorgan Chase, Citibank and Bank of America on the 10-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street and in the run-up to New York Climate Week and today’s global climate strike. Dozens more risked arrest at Chase, Bank of America and the Canadian consulate in Seattle to demand the institutions stop bankrolling tar sands pipelines.
But even as climate finance activists with the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition celebrate a number of recent divestment wins — including from the MacArthur Foundation, Harvard, Macalester College, major insurer Chubb and the New York State pension fund — not a single major bank has committed to divesting from oil and gas, and all continue to have some exposure to coal, according to the coalition. In fact, the largest fossil fuel financer, JPMorgan Chase, is doubling down on funding oil and gas for years to come despite the International Energy Agency’s report earlier this year calling for an end to new investments in fossil fuels.
That’s why it’s so important, campaigners say, for the Fed to step in and why Stop the Money Pipeline is intensifying an internal White House push to replace Republican Fed Chair Jerome Powell at the end of his four-year term in February 2022.“We need a new Fed chair who’s more willing to take action on this critical threat to financial stability.”
“Frankly, the Federal Reserve is the most powerful financial regulator and it has done very, very little on climate, basically nothing, and it’s pretty clear Jerome Powell is not looking to do more than the bare minimum on climate, so we need a new Fed chair who’s more willing to take action on this critical threat to financial stability,” says Yevgeny Shrago, who is policy counsel for Public Citizen’s Climate Program.
A Fossil-Free Fed
Last week, another set of progressive House Democratic representatives, Mondaire Jones, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, introduced the Fossil Free Finance Act, which would force the Federal Reserve to break up banks if they do not reduce the carbon emissions they finance in line with the Paris Agreement.
Under Powell, the central bank has created several committees focused on climate-related financial risks, but has refused to turn the committees’ recommendations into regulatory requirements. Powell has rejected calls to use the Fed as a tool in the fight to mitigate the climate disaster, insisting it is not appropriate for the Fed to step beyond its mandate.“We cannot be originalists and textualists when it comes to monetary policy.”
“Congress has the power to increase or shrink the mandate of the Fed. That is fully within their province, so there’s a lot of detractors [of the bill], especially Republicans, saying, ‘That’s not the Fed’s place.’ Well, you know what, the Fed also weighs in on cryptocurrency and matters around racial justice and … issues that didn’t exist when the Fed was first formed,” says Tracey Lewis, a climate finance policy analyst with 350.org. “We cannot be originalists and textualists when it comes to monetary policy…. It gives an air of preserving a history that may not be worthy of preservation.”
She tells Truthout that the Fossil Free Finance Act would protect the stability of the financial system as a whole by protecting against the financial threats banks and insurers increasingly face from unfolding climate disasters, including floods, droughts, wildfires, polar vortexes and heat domes. “Increasing events means increasing loss, which means not just physical loss but financial loss,” she says. “Where we have smaller banks, regional banks, will they be able to absorb that loss? It’s very doubtful.”
Lewis says most campaigners for a Fossil Free Fed want to see Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard replace Powell as Fed chair. Brainard’s strong commitment both to full employment and to strong financial regulation could prove monumental in the success of the Biden administration’s stated agenda of mitigating the financial impacts of the pandemic and climate crisis, as well as addressing deepening structural racism and inequality. Her record stands in strong contrast to Powell’s, whose Fed has weakened Dodd-Frank reforms as well as tools that federal bank regulators use to monitor bank risk-taking and law compliance.
Fossil-free Fed campaigners also want to see progressive economists Sarah Bloom Raskin and Lisa Cook replace Randy Quarles and Richard Clarida as Federal Reserve vice chair of supervision and vice chair, respectively. Cook would be first Black woman to serve on the Fed’s board.
Lewis cited Cook’s work to study the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on women, especially women of color, from job losses and insufficient caregiving supports that resulted in almost 1.8 million fewer women in the labor force as of May 2021. She says these are the kinds of perspectives the administration should be focused on bringing in to the Fed Reserve board, not the same “white, heteronormative hegemons” whose neoliberal, Milton Friedman-style fiscal policies got us here in the first place.
The Stop the Money Pipeline coalition is also ramping up engagement with the Biden administration as Treasury officials are set to issue a report on the tools available for addressing climate risk in the financial system just after the Glasgow talks.“It’s a really important report because it could very well serve as a blueprint for regulatory action for federal agencies if it’s bold and meets the Biden administration’s rhetoric on climate.”
“It’s a really important report because it could very well serve as a blueprint for regulatory action for federal agencies if it’s bold and meets the Biden administration’s rhetoric on climate,” Public Citizen’s Shrago says. “It could be a path forward for appointees, including a new Federal Reserve chair, to protect the financial system from the advance of the climate crisis.”
He cautioned that it’s Treasury officials who should be leading the drafting of the report and urged a strong final draft that meets Biden’s climate commitments, rather than a watered-down draft that would come out of a consensus process with the Financial Stability Oversight Counsel, which consists of federal and state financial regulators and insurance experts, including three appointed by Trump. “We don’t think [Treasury] should strive for a consensus document when there’s three people appointed by someone who took no action on climate change and withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement,” Shrago says.
The push for the bills comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping announced Tuesday that his country will stop building coal-fired power plants overseas. Climate activists cautiously celebrated the announcement by far the biggest domestic producer of coal and the largest financier of coal-fired power plants around the world.
“One of the common criticisms of the climate finance regulation work is that as long as there’s demand for energy or fossil fuels, cutting off money or definancing it really isn’t going to work, because people will just go somewhere else for money, but what you see is even national governments like China are recognizing that these projects aren’t profitable and if you cut off the flow of financing now, it’s going to reduce the amount of fossil fuels in the air later,” Shrago tells Truthout.“National governments like China are recognizing that these projects aren’t profitable and if you cut off the flow of financing now, it’s going to reduce the amount of fossil fuels in the air later.”
The Chinese commitment comes as banks, asset managers and insurance companies continue to issue much less impactful or meaningless climate commitments that environmentalists are calling out as predictable greenwashing and cynical climate PR ahead of COP26. Bank of America, for instance, while sponsoring New York Climate Week, recently closed a deal to underwrite a new $1.5 billion Canadian, “sustainability-linked” bond for Enbridge, the company behind the Line 3 tar sands pipeline.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s $430 billion sovereign wealth fund is expected to announce its first green debt issuance, which raises funds for environmental investments by borrowing money from “green” bonds. It also announced that it will work with notorious fossil fuel funder and shadow bank BlackRock on developing an “environmental social and governance” framework, which Shrago called a climate “net negative” as long as Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, continues to extract fossil fuels.
Lastly, Royal Dutch Shell’s recent announcement that it will sell all of its assets in West Texas’s Permian basin to ConocoPhillips for around $9.5 billion is being described a “carbon shell game” by journalists who note that the company is simply offloading fossil fuel production to another company that will continue extraction in the Permian.
“There a bit of a ‘last-one-out’ problem in fossil fuels that it’s important for regulators to think about,” Shrago says. “As more and more people divest from fossil fuels, there’s going to be fewer and fewer buyers, so the next time someone wants to divest, fewer companies will pick up their assets and eventually you’re just going to see a market that dries up, and whenever that happens, whoever is left holding the potato is going to be in a lot of trouble, and there’s going to be a lot of banks, private equity funds, hedge funds and insurance companies that are behind the curve if regulators don’t act.”
The best way to ensure regulators do act, climate finance analysts say, is to retool the most influential financial institution in the country — the Federal Reserve. “This may be the absolute last chance that a Democratic president has to make real changes to the Fed and Fed policy,” 350’s Lewis tells Truthout. “President Biden has an opportunity that was not present for President Obama, not for President Clinton, not for President Carter.”
“I don’t agree with it. We’ve gotten to a point where we properly manage the wolves,” Montana state Sen. Bob Brown, a Republican, said.
Gray wolves in Montana.Dennis Fast / VWPics / Getty ImagesSept. 23, 2021, 12:24 PM PDTBy Deon J. Hampton
State officials and trappers in the Western U.S. say they don’t want the Biden administration to restore federal protections for gray wolves, with some arguing that doing so would lead to a population boom that could threaten livestock.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said last week it would spend up to a year reviewing whether or not to reinstate federal protections on gray wolves, a turnaround from August when the Biden administration said it would uphold the previous administration’s decision to remove the gray wolf from the list of animals protected by the Endangered Species Act.
“I don’t agree with it. We’ve gotten to a point where we properly manage the wolves,” Montana state Sen. Bob Brown, a Republican, said. “The state has been managing them, and I believe it should be up to the state to continue.”
While gray wolves have recovered from near extinction in parts of the country, they have not returned to their historic range in the lower 48 states.
The federal agency’s decision to re-examine its position came after it found credible a pair of petitions arguing that the animals should receive protection after some states adopted more permissive hunting laws.
In May, the Center for Biological Diversity and The Humane Society of the United States said in a petition to federal officials that laws enacted earlier this year in Idaho and Montana allow hunters and trappers to kill a large majority of gray wolves.
In July, the Western Watersheds Project, whose petition included about 75 other conservation and wildlife groups, voiced similar concerns and concluded that gray wolves could possibly become extinct in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
State officials in Montana and Idaho said that while the new laws do advance wolf hunting, measures are in place to maintain a sizable population.
For instance, if Montana’s wolf population drops below 450 or if Idaho doesn’t maintain at least 15 wolf packs — possibly 150 wolves — then an automatic review is triggered from either state’s fish and wildlife commission, which oversees hunting, officials said.
“It is unfortunate that Idaho’s wolf management has been mischaracterized and sensationalized,” Idaho Republican Gov. Brad Little wrote in a statement. “I am confident the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will recognize that Idaho has struck an appropriate balance that allows for active management of wolves while ensuring sufficient mechanisms are in place to maintain a healthy population.”
A record number of wolves were killed in both Montana and Idaho last year, yet the wolf population has remained flat, officials in both states said.
Still, federal wildlife officials saw enough in the petitions to warrant a review.
“The petitioners present substantial information that potential increases in human-caused mortality may pose a threat to the gray wolf in the western U.S.,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement. “The service also finds that new regulatory mechanisms in Idaho and Montana may be inadequate. Therefore, the service finds that gray wolves in the western U.S. may warrant listing.”
Designating wolves under the act would protect them from extinction by disallowing the hunting of the animals.
In 1978, the federal government reclassified the gray wolf as an endangered population throughout the U.S. with the exception of Minnesota, which designated the species as threatened, according to the service.
In 2011, the wolves were delisted in Idaho and Montana due to recovery, meaning their numbers were restored.
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Critics opposed to federal oversight of wolf hunting and the bestowal of an endangered species designation said the animals reproduce quickly and tend to roam Western states feeding on livestock, which hurts ranching and farming.
Both Montana and Idaho enacted laws this year making wolf hunting easier.
In Montana, Senate Bill 314 allows for the hunting of wolves with the intent to reduce the population to a sustainable level but not less than 15 breeding pairs, according to the legislation sponsored by Brown.
In Idaho, Senate Bill 1211 established a year-round trapping season for wolves on private property with the owner’s permission, there are no weapon or motor vehicle restrictions on designated public lands and dogs may be used to hunt wolves, the law reads.
State wildlife officials estimated there are roughly 1,200 gray wolves in Montana and around 1,550 in Idaho.
In 2020, both states had record-setting hunting seasons. There were 327 kills in Montana and 584 in Idaho. Wildlife officials in both states said the record hunts did not diminish the wolf population.
“Wolves are closer to being out of control than extinct,” said Chyla Wilson, spokeswoman for the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation. “Placing wolves on an endangered species list would essentially revoke hunting season and lead to a population boom. We’re 10 times above the required amount.”
Sharon Kiefer, spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, agreed the number of wolves would increase under federal protection, resulting in more elk, deer and private livestock being killed by wolves.
Neither state has a limit on how many wolves can be hunted.
Suzanne Asha Stone, director of Idaho-based International Wildlife Coexistence Network, said wolves are being eradicated.
“Wolves should be embraced like mountain lions, bears, elk and deer. Wolves are being persecuted in ways other animals aren’t,” she said. “In order for them to not be wiped out again, they need to be put on an endangered species list.”
Jim Dutcher, who famously spent six years raising and living with a wolf pack, said he wants the federal government to take control of wolf regulations in the West once the review is complete.
“We’re all for it. We’ve been asking for it to happen. Idaho is out of control,” said Dutcher, co-founder of the Idaho-based nonprofit Living With Wolves.
But there are many who maintain the two Western states are hunting wolves successfully.
“The new laws in Idaho and Montana are going to have very little effect on wolves,” said Rusty Kramer, president of the Idaho Trappers Association. “I’m seeing more wolves than ever before.”
As sea ice retreats in the Arctic, it’s leaving more open ocean. That’s having unexpected and strange impacts on the region’s cloud cover.
A new study published in Geophysical Research Letter this week chronicles how Arctic sea ice’s disappearance has led to more open water and waves that are creating more clouds. The mechanism for this process is even more wild: The waves are ejecting organic matter into the sky that becomes the nuclei of tiny ice particles. Oh, and the organic matter is increasing in the seas ringing the Arctic because they’re getting warmer water transported from the Pacific, making those seas more productive. Like I said, extremely weird!
The intricate study took place in the Chukchi Sea, which sits just north of the Bering Strait. Researchers from Japan gathered an incredible array of data in November 2018 on the trip for the new study. To study the ocean and sky above it, they observed the temperature, wind, humidity, cloud cover, and ocean productivity using a variety of instruments on the R/V Mirai.
While satellites have been used to monitor cloud cover in the Arctic, extensive on-the-ground (or more accurately, on-the-ocean) data is more challenging to come by. Jun Inoue, a geoscientist at Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research who led the study, said in email the researchers planned the trip for November because the ice-strengthened research ship could handle the conditions, offering “a great chance to find a new process.”
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That hunch turned out to be correct. Inoue and his group observed ice crystals forming in clouds during a period of relatively high waves and strong wind. The group was able to sample what are known as ice-nucleating particles, basically tiny bits of solid matter that ice can form around and condense into clouds. Soot, sea salt, and even pollution can all be part of that process. But tests on the samples Inoue and his colleagues gathered show that the particles were likely from oceanic organic matter.Top ArticlesREAD MOREHow to Use FaceTime If You Don’t Havean iPhonehttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.481.0_en.html#goog_1825246109https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.481.0_en.html#goog_1145947129https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.481.0_en.html#goog_583458416
Inoue noted that sea ice’s disappearance isn’t happening in a vacuum and its loss “can modify many things (winds, waves, ocean structure, aerosols, clouds),” all of which interact with each other. The new study neatly shows that. Previous research has shown that Arctic and Pacific Oceans are blurring together where they meet. (A similar process is happening in the Atlantic.) On impact of that blurring is that those areas are becoming more productive, with tiny organisms floating throughout the water column.
At the same time, climate change is eating into sea ice. Oh, and the Arctic is getting stormier. All that have now conspired to kick up more waves full of little critters and plant matter, which in turn are leading to more nuclei for ice particles in the air. I don’t mean to repeat myself, but this is all extremely weird!
“We will start the Antarctic expedition in 2022 (6 yrs project),” he wrote. “Representation in clouds over the Southern Ocean has a large uncertainty in climate models. The water depth in the Southern Ocean is deeper than the Chukchi Sea; however, we think there would be the same kind of air-sea interaction related to cloud formation.”
Or: How focusing on something other than “getting hotter” made me realize exercise works.
When I started thisarchery-focused strength training program, I had one goal: Increase my draw strength to at least 40 pounds so I could kill an elk if I happened to see one while hunting in Eastern Oregon with my dad. As I’ve mentioned previously, focusing on “losing weight” has never worked for me, nor has working out with the vague goal of “getting hotter.” Not only is “hotter” extremely relative and ever-shifting, it’s hard to track.
It’s absurd that bodies—most commonly women’s bodies—are subject to trends, but even in this supposedly more “body positive” age, certain types of bodies are still seen as more positive than others. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but ass is in. I have always had more T than A, and…
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September 23, 20213:31 PM ETHeard onAll Things Considered
NELL GREENFIELDBOYCELISTEN·3:533-Minute ListenAdd toPLAYLIST
A high-tech, five-layer sunshield helps the telescope stay at negative 370 degrees Fahrenheit, so it can detect heat signals from very distant objects.Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems
In December, NASAwill launch the most powerful telescopeever put into space. The James Webb Space Telescope will be able to study planets outside our solar system with unparalleled detail— including checking to see if their atmospheres give any indication that a planet is home to life as we know it.
The search for life beyond Earth isn’t easy, of course, and this telescope won’t be able to offer up rock-solid evidence that aliens are out there. But some researchers say it’s possible that this telescope could at least find hints of life on Earth-sized planets that…
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“We want leading politicians to publicly declare that Germany is in a climate emergency,”
Henning Jeschke, 21, said.
Sept. 24, 2021, 5:23 AM PDT/UpdatedSept. 24, 2021, 6:01 AM PDTByAndy EckardtandRhea Mogul
“We can still turn this around,” Thunberg, 18, told thousands of protesters in front of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin.
Thunberg and prominent German climate activist Luisa Neubauer also accused politicians of falling short, saying the programs of the country’s political parties were not far-reaching enough to limit global warming.
“There are natural disasters all over the world,” said fellow protester Quang Paasch, 21. “We are frustrated and angry. We need structural change, a social plan and actions that are based on scientific evidence.”
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(Paul Souders/Stone/Getty Images)ENVIRONMENT
DAVID NIELD24 SEPTEMBER 2021
As the polar ice sheets melt, the process is not just raising sea levels – it’s also warping the underlying surface of Earth, a new study reveals, and some of the effects can be seen across thousands of miles.
What’s happening is that Earth’s crust is rising and spreading as the weight of the ice across Greenland, Antarctica, and the Arctic Islands gets lifted. The movement isn’t huge, averaging less than a millimeter a year, but it’s there and it covers a lot of ground.
There’s a feedback loop happening too, because as the bedrock under the ice shifts, that in turn affects how the ice continues to melt and break away. A full understanding of how this works is essential in modeling how our world might look in the future.
“Scientists have done a lot of work directly beneath…
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Updated 12:36 PM ET, Fri September 24, 2021
(CNN)”The View” host Sunny Hostin and guest host Ana Navarro both tested positive for breakthrough cases of Covid-19 ahead of an interview with Vice President Kamala Harris.Harris did not interact with Hostin or Navarro before the show, according to a White House official. Harris went on to conduct the interview from a remote location after a delay.The positive results were announced by “The View” host Joy Behar during the show after Hostin and Navarro were asked to leave the set. Hostin and Navarro were seated at the table with the other hosts at the beginning of the program.
The tables were cleaned and disinfected after they left the set, Behar said, who continued hosting the show on set with her co-host Sara Haines. Behar said Hostin and Navarro were both…
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“The United States will compete, and will compete vigorously, and lead with our values and our strength,” President Biden told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. “We’ll stand up for our allies and our friends and oppose attempts by stronger countries to dominate weaker ones, whether through changes to territory by force, economic coercion, technological exploitation or disinformation. But we’re not seeking — I’ll say it again — we are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs.”
This was the only part of Biden’s speech where he said the words “Cold War.” They stood out; last everyone had heard, the U.S. was engaged in a “war on terror” that, thanks to the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), could conceivably run on until the stars burn out. The Cold War is black-and-white television, duck-and-cover drills, Ike, Kennedy, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Nixon, Ronald Reagan scaring the hell out of everyone, and finally a wall falling on my 18th birthday, seemingly a thousand years ago.
Biden did not say “China” in that particular passage either — though China was mentioned several times elsewhere in his remarks — but that country was most certainly the intended recipient of that specific message. Biden was speaking amid a diplomatic meltdown between the U.S. and long-time ally France over a new Australia/United Kingdom/United States (AUKUS) strategic alliance, and specifically over the sale of at least eight nuclear submarines to Australia by the U.S.
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France was perturbed because it only learned of the new AUKUS alliance after Australia publicly announced it. This was an open-handed slap from Australia’s conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a man any modern U.S. Republican would embrace on sight, to the more left-leaning French prime minister, Emmanuel Macron. France was legitimately outraged over having been excluded from such important, high-level discussions and the French ambassador to the U.S. was immediately called home.
Why the sudden reversal? Nuclear subs are more expensive to maintain and operate, and New Zealand does not allow anything nuclear within its territorial waters, which from a strategic standpoint leaves a huge swath of Australia’s coast exposed. The Pacific is massive, to be sure, but what set of circumstances exist that would lead Australia — and the U.S. — to believe that nation needs at least eight of the most fearsome weapons platforms ever devised?
Answer: The “pivot to Asia,” an Obama-era recasting of global strategic imperatives which was exacerbated by Donald Trump’s blizzard of nonsense tariffs against China. “Until this week, the so-called ‘pivot to Asia’ by the United States had been more of a threat than a reality for Europe,” reports The New York Times. “But that changed when the Biden administration announced a new defense alliance against China that has left Europe facing an implicit question: Which side are you on?”
“We are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs,” Biden said at the UN.
But the sudden new AUKUS alliance (a rigid bloc?), and the placement of U.S.-made nuclear submarines into that portion of the Pacific, seems vividly at odds with the president’s placating words. Indeed, it is beginning to feel as if a new Cold War is off and running.
Deploying U.S.-made subs in that part of the Pacific Ocean is a big, deliberate thumb in China’s eye, an act provocative enough to motivate UN Secretary-General António Guterres to speak words of warning a day before Biden’s speech. “We need to re-establish a functional relationship between the two powers,” Guterres told the Associated Press. “We need to avoid at all cost a Cold War that would be different from the past one, and probably more dangerous and more difficult to manage.”
At bottom, however, the argument between France and the U.S. was as much over money as it was national pride. France had already inked a deal to sell a dozen diesel-powered submarines to Australia, and the AUKUS nuclear sub deal blew that up. The collapse of this arrangement cost France tens of billions of euros — France is the United States of Europe when it comes to global arms sales, and France’s leaders take the arms trade as seriously as U.S. leaders do — which could translate into a whole slew of lost jobs if that money is not recouped. (French defense contractor Naval Group, which is partially owned by France and was already building the diesel subs, intends to bill Australia for the lost revenue.)U.S. politicians and the corporate “news” media have a casually self-destructive way of discussing military spending: They don’t.
It would surprise me not one single bit if the AUKUS agreement, and specifically the sub sale switcheroo from France to the U.S., first came into being after a few phone calls to some officers in “defense” procurement from lobbyists for General Dynamics and/or Huntington Ingalls, the only two shipbuilders in the U.S. with shipyards capable of building nuclear submarines. The cost to build one of these monstrously deadly machines runs, on average, around $3 billion per unit.
“Why are you letting France get that money?” would have almost certainly been the crux of such a call. “Don’t you love America?” And away we go.
Money. Cold Wars, you see, are notoriously expensive (read: wildly lucrative for the various war profiteers that circle the Pentagon like so many carrion birds).
The average military spending during “peacetime” in the Cold War ran about $285.4 billion per year. The first hot Cold War conflict in Korea, according to Richard M. Miller Jr. of Praeger Security International, cost $678 billion. The cost of the Korean Conflict spanning from 1951 to 2000 is over $1 trillion. The Vietnam War cost another $1 trillion. Benefits to the veterans and veteran families of those wars runs into the tens of billions of dollars per year. The total cost of the Cold War from 1948 to 1991 is estimated to be $13.1 trillion, including $5.8 trillion for the development and maintenance of a vast nuclear arsenal.
These eye-popping numbers, all pegged as closely as possible to current dollar values, scarcely tell the tale of the present moment. The “Black Budget” cost of the national security state, born during World War II and massively expanded during the Cold War, is unknown… well, somebody knows, but they ain’t telling. The Pentagon, for its part, currently has a $35 trillion hole in its accounting. Nobody seems to know just where that money went… but somebody knows, and again, they ain’t telling. Meanwhile, despite our “withdrawal” from Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on terror grinds on relentlessly, and expensively.
U.S. politicians and the corporate “news” media have a casually self-destructive way of discussing military spending: They don’t. If someone goes on TV and says we have to feed the poor, ten voices will be raised howling “How much will that cost?” and “We can’t afford it!” A president flips 20 missiles into a foreign country, at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars from construction to deployment to launch, and “How much did that cost?” never seems to come up.Among the many things the Cold War is remembered for, inflicted popular fear and mass control stand out.
It comes down to this: Every bullet, every bomb, every attack helicopter, every destroyer, every fighter jet, every field meal, every tent, every rifle, every pistol, every grenade, every land mine, every missile, every submarine (!), every uniform, every pair of boots, every body bag, every coffin, every everything that goes into the U.S. war-making machine is money flooding into some “defense” contractor’s bank account and stock portfolio.
It has been 73 years since the onset of the first Cold War, and the “terror” war is not quite the money spigot it was for the last two decades. Still, 53 cents of every tax dollar goes to the fighting of and preparation for war already, and a new Cold War with China would dramatically increase that.
It goes entirely without saying that a new Cold War with China is an astonishingly terrible idea, an undermining of nuclear nonproliferation efforts and a good reason for China to harm the U.S. by way of the massive share of our economy they already own and control. The potential cost in human life is nigh incalculable… but ask yourself this: When was the last time you can remember the warmakers actually thinking things through when massive profits were in play? I’m stumped.
There is also this: Among the many things the Cold War is remembered for, inflicted popular fear and mass control stand out. Here in the “free” U.S., the groupthink inspired by enmity toward the Soviet Union destroyed lives and constrained liberty for decades. It inspired two lucrative shooting wars, one of which technically never ended and another that lasted 20 years, along with a dozen proxy skirmishes around the world. All of this invigorated the fury and paranoia of enforced patriotism, and did great and lasting damage to those who did not take up the standard of war.
As we enter an era of unrest, amid racist police violence and state efforts to repress the popular uprising against it, a fascist authoritarian surge in the halls of government everywhere, and a climate preparing to show us all who is really in charge around here, a new Cold War with all attendant mechanisms of enforced control would be just the ticket for those looking to make a buck while avoiding actual solutions to these concerns.
“If you want a picture of the future,” wrote George Orwell, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” I am forced to wonder if future years will have us looking back on this seemingly insignificant submarine deal between the U.S. and Australia the way historians today regard George Kennan’s “Long Telegram”: One diplomat’s long transatlantic missive that is now widely regarded as the seedcorn for U.S. Cold War policy toward the U.S.S.R. — along with all its consequences — for the next five decades. It had to start somewhere. It always does.