Europe/Americas update: August 14 2018


A new scientific report on climate change and feedback loops has led to more justifiable handwringing over the future of human civilization, but as The Intercept’s Kate Arnoff writes, the report doesn’t just blame greenhouse emissions themselves for our plight, it also blames our neoliberal economic system:

Coverage of the paper tended to focus on one of its more alarming claims, albeit one that isn’t new to climate researchers: that a series of interlocking dynamics on Earth — from melting sea ice to deforestation — can feed upon one another to accelerate warming and climate impacts once we pass a certain threshold of warming, even after humans have stopped pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The best chance we have for staying below that catastrophic threshold is to cap warming at around 2 degrees Celsius, the target enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

That’s all correct and plenty daunting. Yet embedded within the paper is a finding that’s just as stunning: that none of this is inevitable, and one of the main barriers between us and a stable planet — one that isn’t actively hostile to human civilization over the long term — is our economic system.

Asked what could be done to prevent a hothouse earth scenario, co-author Will Steffen told The Intercept that the “obvious thing we have to do is to get greenhouse gas emissions down as fast as we can. That means that has to be the primary target of policy and economics. You have got to get away from the so-called neoliberal economics.” Instead, he suggests something “more like wartime footing” to roll out renewable energy and dramatically reimagine sectors like transportation and agriculture “at very fast rates.”



While the President of the United States is busy selling the right to vote on his Space Force’s new logo in return for campaign contributions, the people who work for him are worried that Russia might be militarizing space:

The United States voiced deep suspicion on Tuesday over Russia’s pursuit of new space weapons, including a mobile laser system to destroy satellites in space, and the launch of a new inspector satellite which was acting in an “abnormal” way.

Russia’s pursuit of counterspace capabilities was “disturbing”, Yleem D.S. Poblete, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, told the U.N.’s Conference on Disarmament which is discussing a new treaty to prevent an arms race in outer space.

A Russian delegate at the conference dismissed Poblete’s remarks as unfounded and slanderous.

Russia and China worked on a treaty banning weapons in space about 10 years ago, a fact the Russians made sure to mention at the conference, but the US hasn’t shown any apparent interest in reviving that effort.


In something of a surprise move, the Turkish government on Tuesday released two Greek soldiers who were picked up in March on the wrong side of the Greek-Turkish border and accused of espionage by the Turks. The two soldiers are either flying back or have already flown back to Greece, and their release could be a big step toward easing recent tensions between Greece and Turkey.


British police raided three houses in the country’s Midlands region after a driver swerved into a group of pedestrians and cyclists outside the the Houses of Parliament in London on Tuesday morning. Three people were injured, none seriously, in what is being treated as a terrorist attack.



Venezuelan authorities have arrested 14 more people in connection with the attempted assassination-by-drone of President Nicolás Maduro earlier this month. Among these were a general and colonel in the country’s National Guard. I’m not sure that means anything, but with all the talk of a potential military coup against Maduro it seems worth noting.


If we can all put aside the horror that was Donald Trump’s failure to properly sanctify next year’s Holy National Defense Authorization Act by invoking and praising its namesake, John McCain, Al-Monitor’s Jack Detsch argues that the budget reflects the Trump administration’s clear shift from the War on Terror to preparing for a Great Power War:

As Trump put his signature on the $716 billion legislation, named after intraparty rival John McCain, that puts the United States on a long course to build a 355-ship Navy and significantly cuts the post-9/11 warfighting fund, the new law faces a bureaucratic fight within the Defense Department as the massive agency tries to determine how to rebalance its forces.

US troops, ships and air assets have begun rotating out of the Middle East in the past few months. In February, the Associated Press reported that contractors in Iraq had begun shifting out of the country, and most elements of the 10th Mountain Division left US staging areas for Afghanistan and other deployments in May. Less than 100 of those troops remain. Al-Monitor reported in July that the Pentagon will also shift explosive ordnance disposal units out of the country.

On the plus side, a great power war remains unlikely, and if shifting resources in that direction leads to a reduction in the daily horror flick that is the Global War on Terror, then that might be good. But that will make John McCain sad. On the down side, if a great power war does happen most of us aren’t going to live to tell of it. But we’ll also kill lots of Russians and/or Chinese people, which will make John McCain happy.

Yes, exactly

I guess you have to take the good with the bad.

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