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First, we need to decide if we’re actually going to do something about rising CO2 levels, increased air pollution and rising sea-levels, or whether we’re on another junket to a UN Climate Change Conference.
See: UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021, October 31 through November 1, 2021.
Once we’ve decided that, we’re in a better position to decide if this conference is the one that will save humanity (from itself) or whether we must wait for a future COP summit to make concrete progress toward clean air in cities, lower pollution levels generally, and decreased sea-level rise.
At Present, We’re On Track to Lose This Fight
It’s being widely reported by major media outlets that even if every government on Earth kept it’s best CO2 reduction promises, we’d still be far below meeting our CO2 reduction targets… by such a large margin that instead of limiting global warming to +1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels, we’d actually experience a global warming of +3ºC by 2050.
That is not acceptable.
Widespread crop failures due to agricultural drought (in some areas) massive flooding (in other areas) a huge uptick in wildlife die-offs, millions of square miles of low-lying land lost to the sea forever, and catastrophic consequences for human life would be the result of missing our 2015 Paris Agreement targets.
And if we end up in such a situation, we’ll have no one to blame except the politicians of today… for it is their job to create legislation and regulation, have them passed into law, and see that those regulations are enforced.
It isn’t the responsibility of hockey players, nor is it the responsibility of bus drivers, waitresses, fast food workers, airline pilots or English literature professors to do this — it’s the responsibility of politicians to protect us from the poor policies of previous politicians.
Is Climate Change ‘Too Big’ a File to Leave to Politicians?
Well, don’t look now, but yes, it is ‘too big a problem’ to leave to politicians if past experience is to guide us.
Yet, there have been signs of excellence in some jurisdictions.
California, for one, which used to have the worst air pollution in the United States along with astronomical respiratory related healthcare costs, is now among the best in the world in advanced clean air policy.
The beautiful country of Norway is another shining example that sources almost 100% of its electrical power from renewable energy and is a place where 40% of new cars sold are electric vehicles, and by 2025, petrol-engined cars won’t be available for sale. Existing petrol and diesel-engined cars will still be legal to own and drive in Norway, but you won’t be able to buy or import a new diesel or petrol-engined car in Norway. And the sky didn’t fall, Norway’s economy didn’t crumble, and life continues a.
There are other stellar examples in the world of farsighted environmental policy by governments, but not enough.
But California, Norway and others have proven that it is possible to reduce vehicle emissions and switch to renewable energy at the same time — and both enjoy robust economies — so don’t even try that argument.
Switching to a green economy does cost money, but saves more money than it costs over the medium and long term.
Three Concrete Ways the UK Could Take Real Action Against Climate Change:
- END ALL ENERGY SUBSIDIES. People who receive subsidized energy use more energy. Obviously. Lowering energy wastage is the best way to lower consumption. Whether petrol or diesel motor fuel subsidies, utility company subsidies, or other energy subsidies — ALL SUBSIDIES = MORE ENERGY USAGE/WASTAGE/CONSUMPTION/DEMAND. Therefore, even renewable energy subsidies, yes, even renewable energy subsidies, must be discontinued in order to lessen total demand. When you lessen demand, you meet your clean air and CO2 targets.
- SWITCH ALL MOTOR AND AIRCRAFT FUELS TO BIOFUEL BY 2025. Biofuel burns 80 per cent cleaner than conventional petroleum fuel in cars, light trucks and semi-trailer transport trucks. Even moreso in jet aircraft engines, as Boeing, Etihad Airlines, Virgin Air, Alaska Air and the US Navy have proven beyond any doubt. Those jets burn 94 per cent cleaner compared to conventional kerosene fuel and they have a lighter maintenance schedule because they don’t produce as much soot in the combustion process. When you burn clean biofuel, you meet your clean air and CO2 targets.
- LEGISLATE THAT ALL CARS, TRUCKS AND SEMI TRUCKS BE POWERED BY ELECTRICITY BY 2025, AS NORWAY HAS DONE. Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV’s) are wildly popular with those who own them, they require far less maintenance, they’re more reliable, they don’t pollute, and batteries will become about as recyclable as petrol engines are at the moment. And you can charge BEV’s at home from an ordinary wall socket. Plus, they have astounding acceleration from a standing start. And no noise. If you like peace and quiet, you’ll love electric vehicles. When you drive EV’s, you meet your clean air and CO2 targets.
It is important to state that by utilizing any one of those above three choices, the UK
(or any country) would meet its Paris CO2 emission reduction targets.
The Time for ‘Kicking the Can Down the Road’ is Long Past
Now is the time for real and concrete action designed to meet all of our clean air and CO2 targets.
There can be no excuse at this late date for inaction or tepid moves toward clean air/CO2 emission reduction, or people (voters) will become convinced that climate change/clean air targets/CO2 emission targets/sea-level prevention problems are ‘too big’ for mere politicians to solve, and at that point, politicians will increasingly find themselves disrespected and marginalized in every future decision-making process!
Save Our Planet or Leave!
So, by not solving the climate crisis now, today’s political leaders will become even more irrelevant to their citizens than at present.
In contrast, by solving the climate crisis now when it matters, it means that policymakers will help to create a less toxic environment for people and wildlife, help to reduce the incidences of floods, droughts, pestilence, a loss of biodiversity, and will help to lower healthcare costs and taper the mind-blowing financial costs associated with countering sea-level rise… and for politicians, it means saving their profession from contempt and eventual marginalization.
Written by John Brian Shannon
I’m tempted to say straight off that what goes on in Myanmar (formerly Burma) is entirely the business of the Burmese people and that other countries don’t have any business interfering in the affairs of a sovereign country. And that’s fine, as far as it goes.
But there’s a shared responsibility that the world’s leaders have to the world’s citizens, which is the responsibility to ensure that what we call ‘normal civil rights’ are preserved regardless of which government or junta is in power.
Normally, this is expressed through the august offices of the United Nations, first by the UN Security Council (in emergency situations) and later, by the UN General Assembly.
In the case of Myanmar, the UN Security Council has barely commented, and the UN General Assembly hasn’t yet discussed the plight of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the deposed, or partially deposed leader of that country — who, it must be said, barely ‘ruled’ the country in the first place, and that, only with the tepid approval of the powerful Burmese military.
Was she the leader at all, one wonders? Or was it all a pantomime to placate democrats around the world concerned about the purity of democratic process everywhere, and in particular, Myanmar?
I think it was the latter, because as soon as Aung San Suu Kyi began to implement democratic reforms she found herself under house arrest along with some of her government ministers charged with spurious offences. An utterly predictable outcome.
If you didn’t see this coming years ago, either you’re not an astute observer of international politics or you’re incredibly naive.
The Burmese Regime Has Been Preparing for This Moment for Decades
Obviously, it’s been the plan all along: Placate world leaders by installing a weak president bereft of any real power; arrest the president if he or she decides to implement real democratic reforms; and then get ready to repel invasion by international ‘do-gooder’ nations, and then, via the use of pre-placed terrorist operatives around the world, destroy their attackers from within, to ‘teach them a lesson’ about ‘messing with Myanmar’. Anything is possible in war they say.
Which isn’t a bad way for a country to make a name for itself and a good way for a large number of extremely wealthy Burmese generals to enhance and extend their grip on power. Totally logical. Efficient.
And likely to succeed on account of the extended preparation time that Myanmar’s military has enjoyed courtesy of a global order busy with postwar rebuilding, the Cold War, and various wars and economic crises in the postwar era. And during the entire time, Myanmar was at the bottom of the international ‘To Do’ list.
As I said, anyone could’ve seen it coming.
The Moral (and Tempting) Choice is for World Leaders to want to ‘Bring Myanmar to Heel’
But how is that possible without getting Aung San Suu Kyi killed, or worse?
And how is it possible for the world to quickly create a powerful military coalition to enforce change in Myanmar — without hundreds or even thousands of military casualties courtesy of the Burmese military which has been spoiling for this fight for generations and now seems ready to engage and fight this battle on their own carefully prepared turf…
It’s a fight that the existing order is wholly unprepared for and one they could actually lose.
No one thought that North Korea could fight to a draw, a robust America nearing the peak of its power in 1950-53.
No one thought that France could lose the war in French Indochina (Vietnam).
No one thought that the USA (at the peak of its power, 1962-1975) and acting in concert with some of its allies, could lose the Vietnam War.
No one thought that the Cold War would end in a stalemate, irreparably damaging the economy of the former Soviet Union and driving American debt to a sky-high 82% of GDP. Generations from now, American citizens will still be paying the debt on the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, the Afghan War, and countless brushfire wars, skirmishes, and ‘economic competition’.
No one thought that a single city (Mogadishu) could send the US Marines home damaged — not having ‘won’ their objective but not having ‘lost’ their objective either. And that was just one city.
And after all the billions spent to protect and defend American citizens, even the USA can barely protect itself from a tiny COVID-19 virus.
Myanmar’s military too, has been on an equipment spending spree for decades and it employs among the most sophisticated weaponry available in the world, its troops are trained to a very high standard, and Burmese generals seem to have no concern about losing thousands of their own citizens in civil war or international conflict. The fewer mouths to feed, the better. Unless they’re old enough to carry a rifle, that is…
It might be difficult for some to realize this, but the world has changed, and not just a little. The US, if it acted alone against the Burmese military in Myanmar, could lose that fight. Think about that for a minute. Think about how that would change the world.
What kind of world will we live in if upstarts like Myanmar can beat the mighty United States military and its allies (within Myanmar) and concomitantly wreak widespread (terrorist) destruction across America during and long after a war between the US allied group and Myanmar?
The world has changed people! Think about what you want to do, before you commit your country to a plan of action.
It’s Not What the Burmese Generals Know That Will Bite Them – It’s What they Don’t Know That Will Bite Them
Although the military junta has created a large and lethal army to protect their operation, there are other ways to get the citizens of Myanmar what they want and get what we want for Myanmar’s people. Peace and prosperity, along with civil rights.
One: Give the junta everything they want. Eventually, financial excess, unlimited political power and infighting will have the Burmese army consuming itself until there’s nothing left and then legitimate politicians can return to power and never again be challenged by their military after that negative experience.
Two: Cut off any travel by air or sea (only) to and from Myanmar. (A no-fly and no-sail zone along Myanmar’s entire coastline) Yes, plenty of trade could still be done via Myanmar’s land borders and this plan might merely inconvenience the ruling junta.
However, if they challenged America and it’s allies at sea, the junta would lose badly because naval power and air power happen to be Myanmar’s weakness. They have no real air force other than the latest-missile-equipped spotter-type aircraft and they have no real Navy other than small coastal patrol craft that are capable of sinking drug-runner boats. It must be emphasized again that Myanmar has a large and formidable (land-based) army, representing a huge capability for them.
So, when you go to war, you always want to fight the enemy on your own terms, doing that which your own side does best. You never want to fight the enemy on their strengths as that will dramatically increase your own casualty rate and the casualty rate of the civilians you’re trying to protect.
But cutting off air and sea access to Myanmar’s Bay of Bengal ocean frontage would embarrass the junta and let the citizens of Myanmar know that their plight has been heard and is being acted upon by a coalition of nations. (Hopefully, acted upon by all other nations)
And eventually, with enough billions of coalition dollars and enough coalition casualties, they would beat-down the junta enough that they would allow President Aung San Suu Kyi to rule Myanmar again. Unhindered this time.
Three: A long process; But so-called ‘Soft Power’ — employing diplomacy to work with the ruling junta to help it gain the same respect, maturity, and perspective that developed countries enjoy and employ to attain their goals — would work to raise the level of discourse among the generals that presently rule Myanmar. And this is what should’ve been happening all along, throughout the Cold War and especially since the end of that incredibly destructive (and wholly unnecessary) conflict.
Bringing Myanmar’s generals up to the same governance standards as the rest of the world is, by far, the best way to ensure peace, security, and prosperity for Myanmar and other countries in the region.
Helping Myanmar’s junta to become part of Myanmar’s solution instead of part of its own problem is the way to proceed.
Time for a Tony Benn quote: “All war, represents a failure of diplomacy.”
Let’s Plan Ahead and Get the Result We Want
Who doesn’t like peace and prosperity?
Who doesn’t like watching their hopes and dreams come true every day?
Everyone likes these things, and for good reason, they are the pathways that lead to happy and fulfilling lives for citizens and those things allow the robust economics that produce the reliable revenues that politicians need to deliver high quality government services to their citizens year in and year out.
So, let’s continue to plan for that in our own countries, and in the case of countries like Myanmar where governance is clearly still a work-in-progress, let’s help them plan for the same outcomes in their country by giving them the information and training they lack — thereby allowing their country to succeed — instead of them becoming yet another nightmare, another failed state that we all wind up paying for in blood and treasure.
Either this generation of world leaders are up to that task, or they aren’t. And if they aren’t, they haven’t learned from past mistakes and we’ll soon be at some kind of war in Myanmar. We shall see…
All people who live in democracies have the right to be governed in a way that the majority approves — that’s the foundation of the thing we call “democracy”.
And so it is in Belarus, a country that professes to be “democratic” and is a country that boasts a “democratic constitution” that guarantees the rights and responsibilities of citizens, government, the judiciary and the military. Therefore, no one could seriously argue that Belarus isn’t a democracy.
However, even in the best democracies, disputes can arise and sometimes those disputes relate to ‘who really won’ the most recent election.
Sometimes, it’s merely a case of ‘sour grapes’ where the losing side in the election won’t accept the results and subsequently mobilize their base to protest the loss, or to keep its base ‘fired-up’ until the next election, or they use the uprising to embarrass the governing party to induce it to submit to certain political demands. Which seems a bit sketchy, but it happens.
So, who won?
Thus far, no one has proven that the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, fraudulently won the August 9th election — nor has anyone proven that the opposition party led by Svetlana Tikhanouskaya lost the election, although tens of thousands of her supporters have been protesting every day since the election results were announced.
Which could be everything, or it could be nothing.
Therefore, what we need is an international effort, perhaps led by the UN, to investigate allegations that President Lukashenko stole the election and is refusing to step down, and have the UN publicly announce their findings.
Then, and only then, will we know who has won the Belarusian election.
How to Build Enough Momentum to Find the Truth of the Matter
1: Telephone Diplomacy Works
In 1990, then-U.S. President, George H. W. Bush’s telephone diplomacy worked wonders when Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, invaded the tiny country next door to Iraq on 2 August 1990. President H.W. Bush subsequently telephoned almost every world leader and convinced them that it was necessary for the world to deal with the murderous Iraqi dictator and to evict Iraq’s military from Kuwait.
It took only one weekend for H.W. to create a ‘Coalition of the Willing’ with the noble goal of evicting the Iraqi Republican Guard from peaceful Kuwait. And HW’s plan worked magnificently. In a matter of weeks, Kuwait was liberated with the help of several countries.
2: “How Many Divisions Has the Pope?”
In 1981, Poland’s new Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski imposed martial law (to purportedly) crush a rapidly growing pro-democracy trade union movement known as Solidarity which threatened his (autocratic at best, and dictatorial at worst) leadership of Poland.
America’s President Reagan quickly conferred with the Pontiff of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II (who was shot in a failed assassination attempt two weeks after that phone call in 1981) to ask what help the Church could offer to the people of Poland, most of whom were Christians of either Catholic or Russian Orthodox Church persuasion.
The quote above; “How many divisions has the Pope?” was uttered by former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin commenting on how much military power the Catholic Church didn’t have in comparison to the dozens of military units (divisions) that the former Soviet Union did have during Stalin’s time in power.
As it turned out, the fall of Soviet communism had much to do with the Catholic Church and its (even more powerful in Russia) brethren, the Russian Orthodox Church. So much so, that the Western attempt to engineer the fall of Soviet communism, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and end the Cold War would’ve failed without the help of tens of millions of Catholic and Orthodox Christians in the former Soviet Union.
How many divisions, indeed.
In today’s Belarus, most of the population there profess Christian belief and attend some kind of church, although, as in 1980’s Poland, most would be adherents of the Russian Orthodox Church, not Catholic. Still, there are many more Christians than Belarusian soldiers were you to count them by division strength.
In 1980’s Poland when (Christian) Polish soldiers were ordered to fire on (Christian) Solidarity movement supporters to end the many street protests, the soldiers refused to shoot their (Christian) brethren. And when the soldiers and police refuse orders to shoot, the largest majority wins.
Let’s hope that the situation in Belarus doesn’t ever approach that level of danger and drama, but it could be that if a fair and transparent body finds the Belarus leader has illegally held onto power after losing the recent election, that the threat of mobilization of millions of Belarusians by the Churches combined with the present level of citizen protests could provide the impetus for President Lukashenko to step down before things get out of hand.
That’s called a ‘leveraged exit’ in the diplomatic world where the leader will lose if world leaders proceed one way, but lose by a much wider margin if world leaders proceed another way regarding Belarus.
3: The UN ‘Soft Power’ Option
Of course, the United Nations has plenty of powers that it can bring to bear for a successful conclusion in Belarus, but only if it decides to do so. Unless a UN member proposes (basically sponsors) such an action, it usually doesn’t happen.
But the situation in Belarus is practically crying out for UN involvement — to at the very least! — have the UN independently verify which side won the August 9 election.
- The UN General Assembly could convene to discuss the matter and create a UN Resolution calling on President Lukashenko to step down if the evidence proves there’s been major fraud committed by the government or its agents.
- Further steps could be employed by the UN Security Council if it feels regional stability could be affected, employing a wide array of options against the Lukashenko regime if the evidence proves major fraud was committed by the government or its agents.
Such Security Council resolutions could involve trade restrictions against Belarus, ‘No Entry’ to any UN member country by Belarusian government officials, closing of Belarusian embassies and consulates around the world, and all airline traffic to and from Belarus could be cancelled until further notice, oil and gas shipments to Belarus could be diverted or delayed, and other options could be employed besides that very short list.
Life would quickly become very difficult for the present leader of Belarus if he’s found to have engaged in some kind of major election fraud.
Which to Choose?
It seems the first order of business is to ascertain whether the election was fraudulent or whether the results are merely unpopular with a vocal minority of voters.
Second, some kind of diplomacy must be employed to convince the Belarusian leader that it’s a fight he can’t win (if there has been election fraud) and that he must step down immediately in exchange for minimal prosecution.
Third, pressure must be brought to bear in a unified fashion, where the lightest punishment is first employed (the powerful Christian demographic added to the existing protest pool) and punishments are increased every 14-days (UN General Assembly resolution) followed by UN Security resolutions (closing Belarusian embassies and consulates) followed by curtailment of oil and gas to Belarus, and finally closing the airspace of Belarus to civilian airlines and closing of land borders especially to passenger trains — all designed to increase the pressure on President Lukashenko to step down for the good of the country.
At no time (assuming he’s guilty, which hasn’t been proven yet) should he feel that he could win, and he must be made to realize that every subsequent 14-days his life will be worse than in the previous 14-days.
So, let’s find out if there indeed has been election fraud — before we proceed! — because it’s astonishingly easy to depose a world leader when the facts become known in such cases. And then the UN, the Churches, and the citizens of that country can all work together to build a better future for their people no matter what has occurred.
Historically speaking, deposing a leader is the one thing that works every time that we actually try — but please! — let’s get our facts straight before we proceed further.