De Tony Blair a Zapatero (Catalan Edition)

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If the Greenland ice sheet actually melted, the oceans would come up 24 feet. Food production will be another casualty.

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

When crops fail, people will move and the logical place to go is north. It is not just war and unrest that is driving refugees toward Europe, but widespread crop failures brought about by too little or too much water.

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The beetles are increasingly active in the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Norway and, particularly, Russia, which host the largest temperate forests in the world. Each tree that dies is one less carbon sink to transmute CO2 to oxygen. And dead trees are also more susceptible to forest fires, which can pump yet more of the climate warming gas into the atmosphere.

Fires are not only increasing in countries like Spain, Greece and Portugal, but also in Sweden and Finland. The European Green Deal proposes using public investment banks to fund much of the plan, which is aimed at keeping rising temperatures to 1. While the price for rolling back emissions will certainly be high, the costs for not doing so are far greater, including the possibility that worldwide temperatures could go by as much as 5 degrees centigrade, a level that might make much of the world unlivable for human beings.

A jump of that magnitude would be similar to the kind of temperature rise the world experienced at the end of the Permian Era, million years ago. A major reason for the Permian die off was the expansion of cynobacteria, which produce a toxic cocktail that can kill almost anything they comes in contact with. Such cynobacteria blooms are already underway in more than places throughout the world, including a large dead zone in the Baltic Sea.

Some New York lakes have become so toxic that the water is fatal to pets that drink from them.

The major fuel for cynobacteria is warm water coupled with higher rainfall—one of the consequences of climate change—that washes nutrients into lakes and rivers. Of the countries that signed the Paris Climate Accords, only seven are close to fulfilling their carbon emission pledges. If all countries met their goals, however, the climate is still on target to reach 3 degrees Celsius. Even if the rise can be kept to 2 degrees, it will likely melt the Greenland ice cap and possibly the Antarctic ice sheets.

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As overwhelming as the problem seems, it can be tackled, but only if the world mobilizes the kind of force it did to fight World War II. It will, however, take a profound re-thinking of national policy and the economy. The US organization most focused on climate change these days is the Pentagon, which is gearing up to fight the consequences. But our enormous defense apparatus is a major part of the problem, because military spending is carbon heavy.

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Yet a number of European countries—under pressure from the Trump administration—are increasing their military spending , exactly the wrong strategy to combat the climate threat. The world will need to agree that keeping hydrocarbons in the ground is essential. Fracking, tar sands and opening yet new sources for oil and gas in the arctic will have to halt. Solar, hydro and wind power will need to be expanded, and some very basic parts of the economy re-examined. For instance, it takes 1, gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, compared to gallons for a pound of chicken.

Yogurt uses gallons.

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  5. While beef production uses 60 percent of agricultural land, it only provides 2 percent of human caloric intake. It is unlikely that people will give up meat—although growing economic inequality has already removed meat from the diet of many—but what we eat and how we produce it will have to be part of any solution. For instance, a major source of green house gases is industrial agriculture with its heavy reliance on chemical fertilizers. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, close to 30 percent of food production goes to waste, most of it in wealthy countries. A fair distribution of food supplies would not only feed more people, it would use less land, thus cutting green house gasses up to 10 percent.

    Add to that curbing beef production, and hundreds of millions of square miles of grange land would be freed up to plant carbon absorbing trees. Can this be done incrementally? It may have to be, but not for long. Climate change is upon us. What that future will be is up to the current generation to figure out, and while there is no question that concerted action can make a difference, the clock is ticking.

    When next the bell tolls, it tolls for us all. Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog. Leave a comment. Filed under Europe. Since the member European Union is preparing to vote on the makeup of the European Parliament at the end of May, those lessons are relevant. For starters, the majority did not vote for the EU, but, to the contrary, against the devastation the huge trading bloc has inflicted on Spain through a decade of austerity measures.

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    Indeed, if the European Union had been on the ballot it might have gone badly for Brussels, not exactly a Spexit, but hardly a ringing endorsement. For more than 40 years, the Popular Party has been an umbrella for the Spanish right, ranging from conservative businessmen and small farmers to unreconstructed supporters of the fascist dictator, Francisco Franco.

    But when the left-wing Podemos Party won 20 percent of the vote in , it unleashed centrifugal forces that smashed up the old two-party system that had dominated the country since the death of Franco in The Socialists also had their divisions. In this last election the PSOE stayed united, a major reason why Sanchez is in a position to form a government. Was the election a victory for the center?

    There is not a lot of evidence for that. The PP, Citizens and Vox all pounded away at the Catalan independence movement and immigration, two issues that did not resonate very strongly with the electorate. Only 8. In short, when the right was railing away at the Catalans and immigrants, most of the voters tuned out.

    The leftist UP also took a beating, dropping from 71 to 42 seats, but that was partly due to a falling out between the two major Podemos leaders, Pablo Iglesias and Inigo Errejon, and disagreements on how closely the leftist alliance should align itself with the Socialists. In contrast, the leftwing Catalan parties did well. While unemployment has come down from its height during the years following the financial crash, many of those jobs are low paying, benefit-free, temporary gigs.

    A Green New Deal would confront climate change and create new jobs. When they do, they pay the price: center-left parties all over Europe have been decimated for buying into the debt reduction strategy of the EU. Secondly, there is the Catalan problem. While Sanchez has pledged to open a dialogue with the Catalans, he has steadfastly refused to consider their demand for a referendum on independence. The Socialist leader argues that he is constrained by the Spanish constitution that explicitly forbids provinces from seceding. It is not even clear if the majority of Catalans would vote for independence, although the policies of Madrid—in particular the brutal crushing of a referendum effort this past October, and the arrest and imprisonment of Catalan leaders—certainly seems to have increased separatist sentiment.

    In the recent election Catalan independence parties won a majority in the Provence. Sanchez may try to construct a coalition without the Catalan parties, which would be a major mistake.

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    Many of the Catalan parties are more simpatico to the PSOE on economic and social matters than some of the other regional parties the Socialists will try to recruit to form a government. And, as the recent election showed, people want some answers to their economic problems. The referendum could require a super majority—maybe 60 percent—to pass, because it would be folly to take the province out of Spain on the basis of a narrow win.

    But the Catalan question cannot be dispersed with tear gas, billy clubs or prisons, and constitutions are not immutable documents. People want answers. The Dec. The conservative Popular Party PP also lost seven seats, but, allied with Vox and the rightwing Ciudadanos Citizens Party, the right now has enough seats to take power. On one level the Andalucian elections do look like Germany, where the neo-fascist Alternative for Germany AfG took 94 seats in the Bundestag, and Italy, where the rightwing, xenophobic Northern League is sharing power with the center-right Five Star Movement.

    There are certainly parallels to both countries, but there are also major differences that are uniquely Spanish. What is similar is the anger at the conventional center-right and center-left parties that have enforced a decade of misery on their populations.