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Opposition to Iran Nuclear Deal Just Keeps Getting Weirder and Weirder

Mother Jones

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The congressional hearings into the Iran nuclear deal continue apace. Steve Benen points us today to this lovely exchange between Sen. Lindsey Graham and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter:

Graham: Does the Supreme Leader’s religious views compel him over time to destroy Israel and attack America?

Carter: I don’t know. I don’t know the man. I only —

Graham: Well let me tell you, I do. I know the man. I know what he wants. And if you don’t know that, this is not a good deal.

Graham: Could we win a war with Iran? Who wins the war between us and Iran? Who wins? Do you have any doubt who wins?

Carter: No. The United States.

Graham: We. Win.

So there you have it: (a) the Ayatollah unquestionably wants to destroy Israel and attack America, and (b) there is no doubt America would win this war. This sounds like mighty poor strategic thinking on the Ayatollah’s part to me, since presumably he knows as much as Lindsey Graham about the relative military strength of Iran and the United States. But I guess his pesky religious views compel him to commit national suicide anyway.

Now, you might be skeptical that Graham knows the Ayatollah as well as he thinks he does, or knows his religious views in any depth either. But even if we give him the benefit of the doubt on that score, his apparent view of things still doesn’t make sense. If the Ayatollah is as committed to war as Graham thinks, why would he bother with this deal in the first place? According to conservatives (I’m not sure what the CIA thinks these days), Iran is currently less than a year from being able to build a nuclear bomb. So why not just build a few and start the war? It can’t be because the sanctions matter. If war is inevitable thanks to the Ayatollah’s religious views, but America is going to win the war by reducing Iran to a glassy plain, who cares about a few more years of sanctions? Most Iranians are going to be dead a few hours after the war starts anyway.

So….it’s all still mysterious. Conservatives don’t like the deal Obama negotiated. Fine. But we can’t go back to the status quo. If we pull out of the deal, economic sanctions will decay pretty quickly and Iran will have lots of additional money and be a year away from building a bomb. The only other alternative is war. Graham is more open about this than most conservatives, but even he realizes he has to be cagey about it. He can’t quite come out and just say that we should go to war with Iran before they build a bomb. So instead he tosses in an oddly pointless question about who would win a war between Iran and America. Why? Some kind of dog whistle, I guess. Those with ears to hear understand what it means: Graham wants to see cruise missiles flying. The rest of us are left scratching our chins.

It all just gets weirder and weirder. The deal on the table, imperfect as it might be, doesn’t restrict American freedom of action at all. Plus it has a pretty stringent inspection regime and would prevent Iran from building a bomb for at least ten years—probably longer. That’s better than what we have now, so why not go ahead and sign the deal and then use the next ten years to figure out what to do next? What’s the downside?

I can’t really think of one except that it makes a shooting war less likely over the next decade. I call that a feature. I guess Graham and his crowd call it a bug.

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Opposition to Iran Nuclear Deal Just Keeps Getting Weirder and Weirder

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Why Are Americans Always Predicting Their Own Impending Doom?

Mother Jones

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This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

Wherever we Americans look, the threat of apocalypse stares back at us.

Two clouds of genuine doom still darken our world: nuclear extermination and environmental extinction. If they got the urgent action they deserve, they would be at the top of our political priority list.

But they have a hard time holding our attention, crowded out as they are by a host of new perils also labeled “apocalyptic”: mounting federal debt, the government’s plan to take away our guns, corporate control of the Internet, the Comcast-Time Warner mergerocalypse, Beijing’s pollution airpocalypse, the American snowpocalypse, not to speak of earthquakes and plagues. The list of topics, thrown at us with abandon from the political right, left, and center, just keeps growing.

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Why Are Americans Always Predicting Their Own Impending Doom?

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Congress Set to Decide Whether It Cares About Poor People or Corporations

Mother Jones

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Brad Plumer lists seven things that Congress needs to do this month. Two of them amount to “don’t be stupid and shut down the government.” One is just miscellaneous stuff. And another is confirmation of Janet Yellen as Fed chairman, which is uncontroversial and should take only a day or two. So really, we’re left with three things:

  1. Decide whether to extend emergency unemployment insurance.
  2. Pass a farm bill.
  3. Decide whether to extend 55 different tax breaks.

Unemployment insurance is a social safety net program. The farm bill is stalled over whether to enact cuts to food stamps. The 55 tax breaks mostly benefit corporations and campaign donors.

Any guesses about which of these urgent priorities will produce adamantine opposition from Republicans and which will get broad support and pass without too much trouble? Did you guess that #3 would be the easy one, despite the fact that it costs about five times more than the other two combined? Congratulations! You too can be a political pundit.

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Congress Set to Decide Whether It Cares About Poor People or Corporations

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Chicken vs. Turkey, Round 2

Mother Jones

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In the great chicken vs. turkey debate, a friend writes in with further data to support turkey lovers:

Consider how we deal with other fowl.

Duck certainly has a lot more flavor than either chicken or turkey, but it is far less available, more perishable (hence sold frozen) and substantially more expensive (4-8x more expensive than chicken). Similarly, other domesticated or farmed fowl is both more expensive and less available, regardless of taste. An average goose is roughly the size of a medium turkey, but offers less meat and more bone per pound of live weight. But the ultimate determining factor is that it is simply more expensive.

Game birds, such as guinea fowl, partridge, pheasant, quail, squab, cornish hens and a variety of ducks (as opposed to the standard Muscovite) are harder to raise, are inefficient meat sources and are supremely more expensive than both chicken and turkey, which is why we tend to save them for holidays and other special meals, if we eat them at all. No one in his right mind would argue that they are flavorless, and few would worry about their relative taste value compared to chicken, despite frequent personal dislikes of the particular flavors.

In other words, chicken isn’t objectively tastier, it’s just cheaper and easier to farm, in addition to being more convenient for consumers. So ignore the turkey haters and enjoy your leftovers today.

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Chicken vs. Turkey, Round 2

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How Online Mapmakers Are Helping the Red Cross Save Lives in the Philippines

Mother Jones

This story originally appeared on the Atlantic website and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

It will be months before we know the true damage brought about by super typhoon Haiyan. The largest death tolls now associated with the storm are only estimates. Aid workers from across the world are now flying to the island nation, or they just recently arrived there. They—and Filipinos—will support survivors and start to rebuild.

But they will be helped by an incredible piece of technology, a worldwide, crowd-sourced humanitarian collaboration made possible by the Internet.

What is it? It’s a highly detailed map of the areas affected by super typhoon Haiyan, and it mostly didn’t exist three days ago, when the storm made landfall.

Since Saturday, more than 400 volunteers have made nearly three quarters of a million additions to a free, online map of areas in and around the Philippines. Those additions reflect the land before the storm, but they will help Red Cross workers and volunteers make critical decisions after it about where to send food, water, and supplies.

These things are easy to hyperbolize, but in the Philippines, now, it is highly likely that free mapping data and software—and the community that support them—will save lives.

The Wikipedia of maps

The changes were made to OpenStreetMap (OSM), a sort of Wikipedia of maps. OSM aims to be a complete map of the world, free to use and editable by all. Created in 2004, it now has over a million users.

I spoke to Dale Kunce, senior geospatial engineer at the American Red Cross, about how volunteer mapping helps improve the situation in the Philippines.

The Red Cross, internationally, recently began to use open source software and data in all of its projects, he said. Free software reduces or eliminates project “leave behind” costs, or the amount of money required to keep something running after the Red Cross leaves. Any software or data compiled by the Red Cross are now released under an open-source or share-alike license.

While Open Street Map has been used in humanitarian crises before, the super typhoon Haiyan is the first time the Red Cross has coordinated its use and the volunteer effort around it.

How the changes were made

The 410 volunteers who have edited OSM in the past three days aren’t all mapmaking professionals. Organized by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team on Twitter, calls went out for the areas of the Philippines in the path of the storm to be mapped.

What does that mapping look like? Mostly, it involves “tracing” roads into OSM using satellite data. The OSM has a friendly editor which underlays satellite imagery—on which infrastructure like roads are clearly visible—beneath the image of the world as captured by OSM. Volunteers can then trace the path of a road, as they do in this GIF, created by the DC-based start-up, Mapbox:


Volunteers can also trace buildings in Mapbox using the same visual editor. Since Haiyan made landfall, volunteers have traced some 30,000 buildings.

Maps, on the ground

How does that mapping data help workers on the ground in the Philippines? First, it lets workers there print paper maps using OSM data which can be distributed to workers in the field. The American Red Cross has dispatched four of its staff members to the Philippines, and one of them—Helen Welch, an information management specialist—brought with her more than 50 paper maps depicting the city of Tacloban and other badly hit areas.

The red line shows the path of super typhoon Haiyan and the colored patches show where volunteers made additions to OpenStreetMap this weekend. Notice the extent of the edits in Tacloban, a city of more than 220,000 that bore the brunt of the storm. (American Red Cross)

Those maps were printed out on Saturday, before volunteers made most of the changes to the affected area in OSM. When those, newer data are printed out on the ground, they will include almost all of the traced buildings, and rescuers will have a better sense of where “ghost” buildings should be standing. They’ll also be on paper, so workers can write, draw, and stick pins to them.

Welch landed 12 hours ago, and Kunce said they “had already pushed three to four more maps to her.”

A part of the city of Tacloban before and after it was mapped by the Humanitarian OSM Team. Roads, buildings, and bodies of water were missing before volunteers added them. (@RBanick)

The Red Cross began to investigate using geospatial data after the massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Using pre-existing satellite data, volunteers mapped almost the entirety of Port-au-Prince in OSM, creating data which became the backbone for software that helped organize aid and manage search-and-rescue operations.

That massive volunteer effort convinced leaders at the American Red Cross to increase the staff focusing on their digital maps, or geographic information systems (GIS). They’ve seen a huge increase in both the quality and quantity of maps since then.

But that’s not all maps can do.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), operated by the US Department of Defense, has already captured satellite imagery of the Philippines. That agency has decided where the very worst damage is, and has sent the coordinates of those areas to the Red Cross. But, as of 7 p.m. Monday, the Red Cross doesn’t have that actual imagery of those sites yet.

The goal of the Red Cross geospatial team, said Kunce, was to help workers “make decisions based on evidence, not intuition.” The team “puts as much data in the hands of responders as possible.”What does that mean? Thanks to volunteers, the Red Cross knows where roads and buildings should be. But until it gets the second set of data, describing the land after the storm, it doesn’t know where roads and buildings actually are. Until it gets the new data, its volunteers can’t decide which of, say, three roads to use to send food and water to an isolated village.

Right now, they can’t make those decisions.

Kunce said the US State Department was negotiating with the NGA for that imagery to be released to the Red Cross. But, as of publishing, it’s not there yet.

When open data advocates discuss data licenses, they rarely discuss them in terms of life-and-death. But, every hour that the Red Cross does not receive this imagery, better decisions cannot be made about where to send supplies or where to conduct rescues.

And after that imagery does arrive, OSM volunteers around the world can compare it to the pre-storm structures, marking each of the 30,000 buildings as unharmed, damaged, or destroyed. That phase, which hasn’t yet begun, will help rescuers prioritize their efforts.

OSM isn’t the only organization using online volunteers to help the Philippines: MicroMappers, run by a veteran of OSM efforts in Haiti, used volunteer-sorted tweets to determine areas which most required relief. Talking to me, Kunce said the digital “commodification of maps” generally had contributed to a flourishing in their quantity and quality across many different aid organizations.

“If you put a map in the hands of somebody, they’re going to ask for another map,” said Kunce. Let’s hope the government can put better maps in the hands of the Red Cross—and the workers on the ground—soon.

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How Online Mapmakers Are Helping the Red Cross Save Lives in the Philippines

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3 Green Places to Shop from the Comfort of Your Computer

You’ll be happy shopping online with these green sites. Photo: Shutterstock

With claims of “green” and “natural” not always what they seem, shopping for environmentally friendly products takes equal parts research, skepticism and patience. Online, where it’s not always easy to read the “fine print,” it can become even trickier. But some sites out there are making it easier for consumers who want to make a difference when they’re making a purchase. Here are three worth checking out: has high standards and features “boutiques” that are dedicated to products that have been certified local, organic, gluten-free, Fair Trade, cruelty-free, etc. The array of products ranges from health and beauty to fitness gear to groceries, apparel and kid stuff. Plus, two-day shipping is free when you spend $49 or more.
Not everything on is green and natural — unless you shop the Green & Natural Store. Check the tabs at the top of the page to find the Green & Natural store, and you’ll open the door to more than 7,600 products that include baby, beauty, pet and skin care. There’s a huge selection of natural vitamins and supplements, and you can shop for on-sale items to get the biggest savings.
If you’re into upcycled shopping, prepare to fall in love. boasts tons of cool products, from housewares and furniture to apparel and jewelry, that have been reinvented for a second act. (And it just might give you new ideas of what to do with some things around your house!) Shipping is free for most orders over $49.

Empty Grey Goose vodka bottles provided the material for these upcycled glass bangles. Photo:


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3 Green Places to Shop from the Comfort of Your Computer

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IRS Complaint Filed Against Jeb Bush’s Ed Reform Foundation

Mother Jones

Jeb Bush has long been on the short-list of potential Republican presidential candidates. He was a popular Spanish-speaking governor of a big swing state, Florida, and since leaving office he has focused on education reform through his Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE). The foundation has provided a platform for working on a bipartisan public policy front—and access to potential donors among big companies (including those owned by Fox News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch) trying to privatize public schools and tap into billions of tax dollars. (See this Mother Jones story for a closer look at the way Bush has used his foundation to break down barriers to the growth of troubled online charter schools.)

This week, as Bush is back in the limelight in Boston kicking off his foundation’s annual education reform summit, a New Mexico advocacy group, ProgressNowNM, has filed a complaint with the IRS alleging that Bush’s foundation has failed to publicly disclose on its 990 tax forms thousands of dollars it paid to bring public school superintendents, education officials and lawmakers to foundation events where they had private “VIP” meetings with the foundation’s for-profit sponsors. Nonprofits are required to disclose payments for public officials’ travel and entertainment if it exceeds $1,000. Public records unearthed by the New Mexico group show payments for travel exceeding that amount for several state education officials whose travel wasn’t reported on FEE’s 990 form.

The complaint alleges that Bush’s foundation disguised travel payments for officials as “scholarships” to hide the fact that the nonprofit was basically facilitating lobbying between big corporations and public officials who control local tax dollars. The complaint notes:

The unorthodox manner of these scholarships—and the fact that they are used as a vehicle to meet with for-profit education corporations—further raises suspicions around the Foundation’s failure to properly disclose payment of travel expenses in 2010 and 2011. Additionally, it is possible these unreported payments to the government officials may be deemed to provide a private inurement in violation of IRS regulations.

In its complaint, ProgressNowNM notes that New Mexico’s education secretary Hanna Skandera received foundation funds to travel to Washington, DC, to testify before a US House committee on the expansion of “virtual” education in her state. Skandera asked House members to consider providing more flexibility in federal funding to pay for virtual schools. Some of the for-profit providers of those virtual schools—among them the troubled K-12 Inc.—in New Mexico are also donors to FEE. Using tax-exempt funds to subsidize congressional testimony, ProgressNowNM says, is an “apparent violation” of IRS regulations.

“This tax-exempt organization is serving as a dating service for corporations selling educational products—including virtual schools—to school chiefs responsible for making policies and cutting the checks,” ProgressNowNM’s Patrick Davis says in a statement. “Just like the American Legislative Exchange Council brought together gun manufacturers with legislators to pass ‘stand your ground’ laws, FEE is using it’s tax-exempt status to hide thousands of dollars it’s using to connect big private education businesses to government policy makers.”

FEE did not respond to a request for comment.

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IRS Complaint Filed Against Jeb Bush’s Ed Reform Foundation

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Eliot Spitzer’s Comeback—and Why It May Be a Good Thing

Mother Jones

A giggle or two about Eliot Spitzer’s attempted comeback would be quite natural. With the news that he’ll be running for comptroller of New York City, the former New York governor, who resigned after he was caught in an S&Mish prostitution scandal, invites the unavoidable comparison to Anthony Weiner, another former disgraced Dem currently seeking redemption by campaigning for NYC mayor. But when Spitzer reentered public life in 2008 as a Slate columnist, I noted that his return to the national discourse was worth a cheer or two—mainly because he had been and could once again be a well-informed voice regarding the excesses of Wall Street and Big Finance. Does that mean that he should be embraced by populist-minded voters and pundits, as he embarks on his make-over campaign? Judging politicians on morality is often a personal exercise, and reasonable people (prudes and non-prudes) can reach different but equally legitimate conclusions about the connection between a candidate’s personal life and his or her public standing. In other words, that’s up to you.

In any event, with Spitzer now water-cooler fodder, here’s the post I wrote when he first stepped out of the shadows:

It’s easy to snicker at Slate magazine for signing up Eliot Spitzer, former New York governor and onetime john, as a regular columnist. But judging from Spitzer’s first outing, it was a master stroke.

The manner in which Spitzer crashed and burned has essentially wiped out the pre-prostitution portion of the Spitzer tale, which included his longtime stint as a critic of corporate excesses. But Spitzer’s opening column in Slate is a reminder that in these days of multi-billion-dollar bailouts, there are few powerful and knowledgeable figures in government raising the appropriate questions and challenging the save-the-rich orthodoxy.

From his Slate piece:

What are we getting for the trillions of dollars in rescue funds? If we are merely extending a fatally flawed status quo, we should invest those dollars elsewhere. Nobody disputes that radical action was needed to forestall total collapse. But we are creating the significant systemic risk not just of rewarding imprudent behavior by private actors but of preventing, through bailouts and subsidies, the process of creative destruction that capitalism depends on.

A more sensible approach would focus not just on rescuing preexisting financial institutions but, instead, on creating a structure for more contained and competitive ones. For years, we have accepted a theory of financial concentration—not only across all lines of previously differentiated sectors (insurance, commercial banking, investment banking, retail brokerage, etc.) but in terms of sheer size. The theory was that capital depth would permit the various entities, dubbed financial supermarkets, to compete and provide full service to customers while cross-marketing various products. That model has failed. The failure shows in gargantuan losses, bloated overhead, enormous inefficiencies, dramatic and outsized risk taken to generate returns large enough to justify the scale of the organizations, ethical abuses in cross-marketing in violation of fiduciary obligations, and now the need for major taxpayer-financed capital support for virtually every major financial institution.

But even more important, from a structural perspective, our dependence on entities of this size ensured that we would fall prey to a “too big to fail” argument in favor of bailouts.

Spitzer has summed up the problem as well as anyone. He goes on:

Two responses are possible: One is to accept the need for gigantic financial institutions and the impossibility of failure—and hence the reality of explicit government guarantees, such as Fannie and Freddie now have—but then to regulate the entities so heavily that they essentially become extensions of the government. To do so could risk the nimbleness we want from economic actors.

The better policy is to return to an era of vibrant competition among multiple, smaller entities—none so essential to the entire structure that it is indispensable.

Spitzer, a populist in a suit, decries the “concentration of power–political as well as economic–that resided” in the Big Finance institutions that have dragged the economy down. He writes:

Imagine if instead of merging more and more banks together, we had broken them apart and forced them to compete in a genuine manner. Or, alternatively, imagine if we had never placed ourselves in a position in which so many institutions were too big to fail. The bailouts might have been unnecessary.

In that case, vast sums now being spent on rescue packages might have been available to increase the intellectual capabilities of the next generation, or to support basic research and development that could give us true competitive advantage, or to restructure our bloated health care sector, or to build the type of physical infrastructure we need to be competitive.

This is the opposite of Rubinomics. Spitzer is contemplating what must be done to rebuild our economy so that it truly competes internationally and, most important, generates wealth–not what must be done to rescue the high-fliers who have crashed and who seem to hold our credit lines and economy hostage. It’s a perspective not heard within the mainstream too often these days. His views could have been influential when the first Wall Street bailout was pulled together in September–had he been part of the public discourse at the time and had he not been such a bad boy in the Mayflower Hotel.

I’m not often a fan of second acts for disgraced public officials. But in this instance, I’m glad Slate is sponsoring the Spitzer rehabilitation program. In fact, after reading his article, I’d be delighted if Barack Obama dumped Lawrence Summers and tapped Spitzer to be head of his National Economic Council.

Spitzer, after the fall he took, is not likely to rise so high. But he’s demonstrated he deserves a platform. Let’s hope the marketplace of ideas operates better than the marketplace of Wall Street and recognizes the merits Spitzer still possesses.


Eliot Spitzer’s Comeback—and Why It May Be a Good Thing

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Obama Lets Loose on Evo Morales

Mother Jones

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I’m late to this and I don’t really have anything substantive to add, but just for the record:

Did we really, seriously, strong-arm the governments of France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy to deny the president of Bolivia permission to fly over their airspace? All because some moron in one of our intelligence services that supposedly tracks every communication on the planet decided that Evo Morales was serious when he joked about taking Edward Snowden home with him from Moscow?

If every country in South America responded by expelling every diplomat in every American embassy, it would hardly seem like an overreaction to me. This would have been outrageous and thuggish behavior even if Snowden had been in Morales’ plane. But he wasn’t, so it’s actually outrageous, thuggish, and clownish. Jesus.

UPDATE: The original headline of this post was “Obama Finally Shows His Chicago Thug Side for Real.” This was obviously a nod to the endless tea party invocations of Obama as a Chicago thug, but it’s been taken by many as a racial dog whistle. I apologize for that, since it certainly wasn’t my intent. I think the treatment of Morales’s plane was outrageous behavior, and quite likely a result of pressure from the United States, but that’s all.

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Obama Lets Loose on Evo Morales

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Kerry implores India to tackle climate change, ticks off Indian enviros

Kerry implores India to tackle climate change, ticks off Indian enviros

U.S. Embassy New Delhi

IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian, welcomes John Kerry. That’s America’s ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, in the background.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in India over the weekend and gave a speech urging the fast-developing country to work closely with the U.S. and other countries on solutions to climate change.

Kerry is leading a delegation to Delhi for U.S.-India talks focused on trade and energy; Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is part of the visiting group. The stop in Delhi is one leg of a trip Kerry is making throughout the region.

The Americans’ arrival in Delhi coincided with deadly floods in northern India that some Indian officials have linked to global warming. But though climate change poses urgent dangers in India, Kerry’s speech was not received warmly by all of the nation’s environmentalists. Some felt they were being lectured to by the secretary of state, a representative of a nation that is second only to China in total greenhouse gas emissions.

Kerry has long warned of the dangers of climate change, and it’s been one of his favorite topics to discuss abroad since he was sworn in as Obama’s top diplomat. “Everywhere I travel as secretary of state — in every meeting, here at home and across the more than 100,000 miles I’ve traveled since I raised my hand and took the oath to serve in this office — I raise the concern of climate change,” he wrote just last week in an opinion piece in Grist.

Kerry’s speech in India was part of a broader push by the Obama administration on climate change. The U.S. recently struck a deal with China to cooperate on reducing heat-trapping HFC emissions, and the president is preparing to make a big climate announcement on Tuesday.

The New York Times reports on Kerry’s speech:

“I do understand and fully sympathize with the notion that India’s paramount commitment to development and eradicating poverty [by increasing electricity supplies] is essential,” Mr. Kerry said in a speech at the start of a two-day visit. “But we have to recognize that a collective failure to meet our collective climate challenge would inhibit all countries’ dreams of growth and development.”

In an effort to prod the Indians to act, Mr. Kerry warned that climate change could cause India to endure excessive heat waves, prolonged droughts, intense flooding and shortages of food and water.

“The worst consequences of the climate crisis will confront people who are the least able to be able to cope with them,” he said. …

Mr. Kerry also pleaded with India to commit to working constructively on a global treaty to be negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

From Reuters:

Emerging economies like India have resisted pressure in global climate talks to commit to targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in a dispute with rich nations over whose industries should bear the brunt of the cuts.

The 1.2 billion people who live in India use far less electricity than do Americans, but the nation’s growing economy and its dependance upon coal pose major global warming threats.

Chandra Bhushan, a senior official at the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, was unimpressed by Kerry’s speech, as he explained in an opinion piece in Down to Earth, a leading Indian environmental magazine published by his nonprofit:

I have no problems with [Kerry’s] pitch for countries coming together to develop renewable energy. But I have issues with the fact that nowhere in his speech did he mention what the US is doing on renewable energy or what is the renewable energy target that the US has set for itself for, say 2020. The fact is that today close to 20 per cent of India’s electricity supply is from renewable sources (including hydropower). India has set itself a target for renewable energy; the US has not.

The US today is going the fossil fuel route. It is moving to shale gas big time. Kerry should know that this shale gas mania would destroy the renewable future of the world that he so fervently preached yesterday.

I found his speech hypocritical. He talked about how India should reduce its emissions from residential sector but gave the massive energy consumption in residential and commercial sectors in the US a convenient miss. The US is the largest consumer of HFCs in the world, but Kerry did not throw light on what the US is doing to phase out the highly potent greenhouse gas, and how quickly. While I agree that India should also phase out HFCs, … it should not be through a deal that only benefits American multinational companies.

Though Kerry’s comments might not have pleased everybody, they were delivered in a country that is being hit especially hard by global warming — and that needs to do more to tackle and adapt to it.

Climate change is causing India’s once-predictable monsoon to become erratic. It is pushing up temperatures in a region already known for its scorching summers. And it is melting glaciers that are relied upon by hundreds of millions of people for year-round water supplies.

Last year, the subcontinent’s annual summer monsoon arrived months late, parching farms and causing widespread blackouts by reducing hydroelectric supplies.

This year, the monsoon appears to have arrived early, and when it reached the country’s north, it collided with low-pressure troughs that had pushed unusually far south. That collision of weather systems triggered remarkable deluges. Resultant floods have killed at least 5,000 people in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. They also inundated Delhi’s international airport and pushed levels in the Yamuna River in the capital to their highest points since 1978.

Some Indian officials are saying climate change could be to blame for the flooding. There’s a paucity of scientific research into the possible effects of climate change on the nation, but some studies are underway. “We’re trying to assess the impacts of climate change on the regional climate and on the monsoons,” Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology monsoon researcher Raghavan Krishnan told Grist. “We’re trying to look at extreme precipitation.”

While the research continues, it may be a good idea for India to take stock of the global warming impacts that are already understood and at least follow America’s lead by starting to break its nasty coal addiction.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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