Strange Bedfellows: China’s Security Chief, FBI’s Comey Meet in Beijing



China’s Minister of Public Security met this morning (March 14) in Beijing with James Comey, director of the FBI. The two intend, according to Xinhau, the Chinese news service, to “enhance mutual trust and respect each others’ core interests to promote building a new model of major-country relationship.”

Gua told the news service he anticipates the two security agency leaders will “fully implement the consensus reached by [China President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama]” when they met in Paris last November at the summit meeting on the climate.

At that meeting, the two nations’ leaders “agreed to have more pragmatic cooperation in cyber security and anti-terrorism,” Xinhau said today.

But on another area of security, the two countries are poles apart: The construction by China of military installations on disputed islands in the South China Sea. Tensions have ratcheted up recently as China has reclaimed land in massive dredging operations, turning sandbars into islands equipped with airfields, ports and lighthouses, CNN reported on March 8.

The Washington Post reported on November 30 that after arriving in Paris the day before, “President Obama’s motorcade glided along the Seine through largely deserted streets [the French were banned from driving in the capital while the summit was going on] before stopping in front of Le Bataclan, the concert hall were scores of people were killed in the terrorist attacks on Nov. 13.” He placed a white rose on the street atop “the mound of flowers and candles already there then, after a few minutes of silence with his hands folded before him, Obama walked away, briefly placing  hand on the shoulders of French President Francois Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo,” the Post reported.


The more the global climate changes, the more planners don’t


While leaders of 100+ countries and some 40,000 support staff meet in Paris to discuss curbing global warming, reports (including here, and here) are describing how seriously rising sea levels are impacting widely-dispersed areas around the world. One of them is the world’s largest naval base, at Norfolk, VA., which some experts say will be so swamped by sea water that it will be nearly or completely inoperable in a mere twenty to fifty years. Another is the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, already being frequently subjected to serious flooding at high tide. [Note: The video imbedded in that NY Times story gives you a graphic idea of the ease with which the sea will overwhelm the Marshalls.]

Then there’s Greenland, where the ice pack is shrinking at an alarming rate, contributing to rising-water issues in a broad swath of places.

Sadly, the first attempt at an agreement among those working in Paris has been described as “a 54-page draft of mind-wrenching complexity – a textual labyrinth where gremlins and booby traps lurk in every dark corner.”

If I didn’t really not believe this, I’d strongly suspect that people who could do something about reducing greenhouse gases and all the rest are taking a ‘What, me worry’ attitude about that and other climate change issues.

So what if the Marshall Islands, parts of Virginia and numerous other low-lying areas around this country will be under the rising sea in 20 or more years – but probably not sooner? “I’ll be gone, then or soon thereafter,” they think, reckoning it’s OK to kick the issue down the sea-covered road for ‘a few more years’.

So, while many of those decision-makers and planners are at an age where global warming and climate change is likely to little affect them personally, the rest of us are looking to them to not kick the issues down the road, but to act, now, toward solutions.

Some of the same ‘involved’ people and others or their ilk are more concerned about how their nations would be affected by plans or rules requiring reductions in ‘carbon foot prints’ than they are about long-term impacts of their countries’ inaction in this area.

Sadly, for the future of the world as we know it, many of those planners and decision-makers are light-skinned – meaning, in effect, they reside in the Northern Hemisphere, commonly in areas not likely to be dramatically affected by rising sea levels, etc., in the foreseeable future.

A report earlier this year from a daily online version of Science magazine notes that, “Europeans today [and emigrants from Europe] are a mix of the blending of at least three ancient populations of hunter-gatherers and farmers who moved into Europe in separate migrations over the past 8000 years.” Some of those people had darker skin – harking back to human’s origins deep in Africa. As they mixed with people with lighter-shaded skin, the end result was the so-called ‘white’ people of today.

(Interesting side note: People who migrated over time from Africa to Europe ordinarily did not venture west, toward today’s South America. The reason is simple: They had no north star to navigate by. There are several references on this page that begin to address that issue, but none of them fully does, other than to note that birds migrate from the north to the south and back but not to and from warmer climes to the east or west. ‘Not quite the same issue, but the explanation is the same: Traveling between north and south, they could – and do – navigate both by the north pole and, as interestingly, by the gravitational field of the earth.)

Much of Bangladesh, a nation of brown-skinned people, is among the lowest-lying occupied land in the world. A sea water rise of one meter (3.28 feet) would affect “two thirds of the total population of 150 million people, more than half of whom subsist on less than a dollar a day; In addition, 10% of fertile land will be ruined . . .” says a fascinating report called ‘Sea Level Rise and the Vulnerability of Coastal Peoples’. It was produced by the United Nations University/ Institute for Environment and Human Security.

‘Ever heard of something called the Small Island Developing States, or SIDS? That encompasses the such Pacific islands as Tuvalu, Kiribati, and, among others, the Carteret Islands. “From the point of view of exposure, there would seem to be few places on earth more exposed to sea level rise,” that report says.

Another report, from the United Nations Environment Programme recently declared that, “Climate change-induced sea-level rise in the world’s 52 smallest island nations [is] estimated to be four times the global average.

One would hope that at least some of the people involved in putting together a plan to reduce global warming and climate change would have read some (if not all) of the reports behind these links before heading for Paris. Had they done so, the results of their conference no doubt would be better for the world than what we can expect from them: More talk, not much more action.


Climate Change and Oil Exploration – Never The Twain Should Meet

Just think: Mere days after President Obama announced he was authorizing further exploratory drilling for oil in Alaska – something ‘big oil’ has been encouraging, pleading and lobbying for almost forever – well, a decade or two, actually – Royal Dutch Shell, which has been doing exploratory drilling off the northwest coast of Alaska for some time, announced that because of costs and regulatory issues, it was halting drilling operations there.

The company said one 6,800 foot drill-down had disclosed “evidence” that oil and gas are present, but there was no indication that enough of either to justify continued exploration (and expenditure) at this time.

We can only hope that Shell’s decision, after expenditures running into billions of dollars in an area that is, under the best of conditions, more than likely to make oil- or gas-capturing exceptionally uneasy, will encourage other companies  to cash in their chips and skedaddle straight out of an area that is – and we all should care about this – environmentally sensitive.

Alaska encompasses more environmentally sensitive – and threatened – area than any several other U.S. states combined. Isolated it may  be (and certainly is, except from Sarah Palin’s  view of Russia from her front porch), Alaska is, with its vast forests, a tremendous source of oxygen, at the rate of some 260 pounds of it per tree per year, according to About Education.

That aside – and it shouldn’t be – Alaska is home to animal species that don’t exist and couldn’t survive elsewhere. Human activities that reduce their roaming/habitat areas threaten their very existence. People paying attention – and, admittedly, too few of us are – see polar bear-supporting habitat shrinking as the ice caps do. And they are doing so at rates that are very hard to measure, and may not be as significant as some would have us believe – but rates that some others see as particularly dangerous to low-lying areas that could, in a not-even-the-worst-scenario, simply disappear, along with the homes, businesses and all else of importance to the populations of thousands, or millions.

Ice caps shrink in three ways: Through melting from above, from the sun’s rays, from below, as water below the caps warms as the caps’ outer edges shrink, and through ‘calving’ – the splitting off of often huge chunks (some the size of Rhode Island) because, in part, of the warmer below-the-caps water. The calved pieces drift away from the main cap, entering even warmer water, where they melt and can, over the long term, contribute to rising ocean levels further to the south.

One of the reasons oil and gas exploration is so expensive in Arctic areas is because the weather can be so severe. Consider this: Global warming and its effects on the ice caps will more than likely reduce the severity of that weather, making oil/gas exploration easier, and cheaper.

That would, of course, open the door to more mistakes and accidents of the types that befoul shorelines and waterfowl – among other animals. Not to mention the long-term damage such ‘incidents’ do to affected areas.

Rather than easing up regulations on exploratory and production drilling in sensitive areas, our government and others should be ever

A polar bear walking along the edge of 'the ice bridge' in the Robeson channel, at 82.4 north, near the border between Greenland and Canada. This is the southernmost extent of the summer sea ice which usually extends much further south into the Nares Strait, it has receded dramatically in recent years. Greenpeace and leading climate scientists are in Greenland for a 3 month expedition using their icebreaking ship the Arctic Sunrise to gather climate change data for the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009.
A polar bear walking along the edge of ‘the ice bridge’ in the Robeson channel, at 82.4 north, near the border between Greenland and Canada. This is the southernmost extent of the summer sea ice which usually extends much further south into the Nares Strait, it has receded dramatically in recent years. Greenpeace and leading climate scientists are in Greenland for a 3 month expedition using their icebreaking ship the Arctic Sunrise to gather climate change data for the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009.

vigilant, with accompanying legal restrictions, to ‘let sleeping oil lie’.