Categories
Environment Sustainability

Stakes Have Gotten Higher

Image of Earth 7-6-15 from DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory)

Regardless of winners, there are only two issues that matter on Nov. 6: climate change and nuclear weapons. They represent the only existential threats to society as we know it.

Will Democrats or Republicans do a better job addressing climate change responsibly? I don’t know.

Stakes have gotten higher.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued an Oct. 6 report which said the impacts on humans of letting the planet warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius are bad. If it gets warmer they are worse.

The good news is there is time to address it. It will be hard.

“Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

Humanity does not have a good track record of making sensible change.

The IPCC indicated society has between 10-14 years to address global warming before it reaches a tipping point after which it becomes uncontrollable.

In other words, it will be incumbent upon elected officials to address humanity’s contributions to global warming regardless of party.

Please vote, and consider what candidates might do to address climate change as you do.

View the IPCC report here.

~ Published in the Oct. 18 edition of the Solon Economist

Categories
Sustainability

Helsinki and New START

B-61 Nuclear Bombs

I don’t know one person, acquaintance or public figure who thought the July 16 meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki went well.

The only people who found a ray of hope in the awkward encounter are those in the arms control community who pointed out some positives, not the least of which is an easing of tensions between the two nuclear powers evidenced in the meeting.

“It looks like Trump and Putin may have agreed in Helsinki to resume strategic stability talks.” Daryl Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association, posted on twitter. “One key issue: New START, which can be extended without complex negotiation, without further approval by Senate or Duma, and without Trump making unwise concessions.”

Such a move makes sense and would be an easy win for Trump. It may not be well received among Trump’s base supporters because, after all, the Obama administration negotiated New START. The 44th president called in his markers to get the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty. Some of us felt he gave away too much with a complex offering of perquisites to Republican hawks led by Jon Kyl. Not the least of these was an expensive, unneeded modernization of the U.S. nuclear complex. The Trump crowd won’t like it, regardless of the efficacy of an extension, because of the association with President Barack Obama.

Republicans have expressed disappointment with Trump’s foreign policy, such as it exists. They may (publicly or privately) attempt to reign in the president. At some point the U.S. wants to address perceived Russian violations of the INF treaty negotiated between Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, signed in 1987. Russia has threatened to withdraw from the INF treaty for many years, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

As we look forward with trepidation to the next meeting between the two heads of state, the arms control community will be working to advance the causes of nuclear disarmament and abolition. It is something they do regardless which party has majorities in the Congress or who is president.

~ First posted on Blog for Iowa

Categories
Sustainability

Rise of Nuclear Power was a Bad Idea

In a broader perspective, the rise of nuclear power was a bad idea. It always required substantial government subsidies, and there is no solution for handling spent fuel rods and radioactive equipment. If there is a disaster like Fukushima Daiichi was in 2011, there is no recovery from it years later.

On Friday major news outlets reported Duane Arnold Energy Center near Palo will cease electricity production in late 2020. Duane Arnold, owned by NextEra Energy Resources, is Iowa’s only nuclear power generating station.

Alliant Energy, the utility’s only remaining customer, entered an agreement with NextEra to cease operations five years earlier than planned.

The declining cost of other forms of energy led to the decision, according to NextEra spokesperson Peter Robbins in a Radio Iowa article.

“You are just seeing continued pressure on all sources of energy — from renewables and from natural gas — and we are certainly seeing that in the market place in Iowa,” Robbins said.

NextEra plans to invest in existing and new renewables generation across Iowa before the end of 2020, according to the article. Alliant Energy said it will save customers nearly $300 million in the next 21 years by switching away from the use of the nuclear power.

Duane Arnold’s fate reflects the general decline in nuclear power in the United States. While some, like retired scientist James Hansen and former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, point to nuclear power as a potential way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in electricity generation, it is just too expensive. Georgia Power remains the only company in the United States attempting to build new nuclear reactors. The construction at the Alvin W. Vogtle generating station near Augusta, Georgia has been plagued by delays and cost overruns endemic to the industry. The two plants may never be completed.

On June 1, President Trump directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take immediate steps to keep both coal and nuclear power plants running as a matter of national security. If the U.S. exits the nuclear power generation business there could be repercussions in ceding technological advancements to China and Russia. It could weaken existing nonproliferation standards if the U.S. discontinued its work as a supplier in the global nuclear marketplace. The flagship U.S. company for nuclear power technology is Westinghouse which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy March 29, 2017. Trump’s initiative isn’t going to help Duane Arnold stay operating as the marketplace is doing its work — there are no customers.

Duane Arnold employs about 540 employees, and because of the nature of nuclear power generation, about 300 will find continued employment during the lengthy decommissioning process. The federal government owns the spent fuel rods and there is no current, viable plan for off-site disposal. Storage time required for spent nuclear fuel rods is measured in multiple millennia. The plant’s license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had been extended until 2024.

The only successful application of nuclear has been in nuclear powered submarines and aircraft carriers where the question “what do you do with a nuclear submarine/aircraft carrier once its nuclear plant reaches the end of life?” has no good answers.

Renewable energy is Iowa’s future, it is the world’s future. Friday’s announcement was expected, as cost dictates how consumers source electricity. Nuclear power has never been cost-competitive. There will be disruption in workers’ lives and that’s unfortunate. However, the end had to come, and now that the announcement is made people can begin making plans.

~ First posted at Blog for Iowa

Categories
Sustainability

Break In At A Nuclear Weapons Storage Facility

Photo Credit – Pressenza International Press Agency

Last week, a group of peace activists gained access to a site on a German Air Force Base where 20 U.S. nuclear weapons are stored.

“The peace activists cut through razor wire and some other fences and several made it to the runway; three activists walked to a nuclear weapons bunker, and climbed up to the top where they were undetected for an hour,” according to the International Press Agency. “All 18 were eventually found by soldiers, handed over to the civil police, ID checked, and released from the base after 4-½ hours.”

This was personal.

One of the many jobs I had while serving in the Cold War Army was to standby in the event a nearby nuclear weapons storage facility suffered a break in or terrorist attack.

I was there when the Baader-Meinhof Gang, later known as the Red Army Faction, rose to prominence. I was stationed at a kaserne on the Rhine River during the “German Autumn” when Baader Meinhof and others committed murder, kidnapping, hijacking and more. Here’s a taste of what it was like where I lived from Wikipedia:

The German Autumn (German: Deutscher Herbst) was a set of events in late 1977, associated with the kidnapping and murder of industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer, president of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) and the Federation of German Industries (BDI), by the Red Army Faction (RAF) insurgent group, and the hijacking of the Lufthansa airplane Landshut by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). They demanded the release of ten RAF members detained at the Stammheim Prison plus two Palestinian compatriots held in Turkey and $15 million in exchange for the hostages. The assassination of Siegfried Buback, the attorney-general of West Germany on April 7, 1977, and the failed kidnapping and murder of the banker Jürgen Ponto on July 30, 1977, marked the beginning of the German Autumn. It ended on Oct. 18, with the liberation of the Landshut, the death of the leading figures of the first generation of the RAF in their prison cells, and the death of Schleyer.

Those were tense times. I remember German police cars on every corner and at every Autobahn exit during key moments in the drama that fall. Our unit was often on alert for potential response to an incident.

We were never called to secure a terrorist attack site. However, yesterday’s incident raises some questions about our deployment of nuclear weapons in Germany.

Why isn’t the United States working toward fulfilling our agreement in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) to eliminate nuclear weapons? Not only do we have a legal obligation, there is a moral imperative to do so.

Is Germany permitted to deliver U.S. nuclear weapons with their aircraft as part of NATO? Quoting from the article, “On this air force base, German pilots stand ready to fly Tornado fighter jets with U.S. B-61 nuclear bombs and could even drop them, on orders from U.S. President Donald Trump on targets in or near Europe.” Since Germany is not a nuclear state recognized in the NPT, it may be illegal for them to do so.

The incident at Air Force Base Büchel is not getting much press in the wake of today’s Donald Trump – Vladimir Putin meeting in Helsinki. Maybe it should.

~ First posted at Blog for Iowa

Categories
Sustainability

Why Stop Denuclearization at North Korea?

On June 14, 2018 PSR Board member Ira Helfand, MD met with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon in Seoul.

Responding to citizens everywhere who yearn for peace, political leaders in South Korea, North Korea, China and the United States staged a flurry of diplomatic activity this year to avert a Korean crisis.

We are not yet out of the woods. Physicians for Social Responsibility’s health professionals advocated for peace in Korea and will continue to promote diplomacy to denuclearize not only North Korea, but the rest of the world as well.

On June 7, PSR released and delivered to Congressional offices a “Health Professional Open Letter to Congressional Leaders” on Korea with signatures from 16 prominent health professionals including presidents of national physicians’ associations as well as deans and former deans of medical schools and public health schools. PSR members met with staff for their U.S. Representatives and Senators, placed op-eds at CNN.com, the Boston Globe,  the Baltimore Sun, and Quartz (see In the News). Immediately after the June 12 Singapore summit PSR issued a statement welcoming the outcome..

PSR will continue to advocate for careful and deliberate diplomacy toward a genuine peace accord between the Koreas.  The cancellation of joint U.S. – South Korean “Freedom Guardian” military exercises that were scheduled for August will surely help the peace process.

But for now, North Korea retains its nuclear arsenal, and eight other nations cling to their arsenals as well. The harrowing months of provocations, threats and counter-threats between the U.S. and North Korea showed once again that nuclear weapons do not provide security for any nation.  As experts explored the possible military scenarios involving Korea, the world was reminded of the horrific humanitarian impact of modern warfare, especially if nuclear weapons come into play.  To remove this profound public health threat, PSR joins with International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in prescribing total elimination of all nuclear arsenals with a strategy of “stigmatize, prohibit, eliminate.”

For more on this story, see a list of relevant current Congressional legislation, a PSR report onWhere Do We Go From Here?” and an overview of reactions to the Trump-Kim Singapore summit across the American political spectrum.

If you’d like to stay in touch with Physicians for Social Responsibility’s subscribe to the activist list by clicking here.

~ Cross posted from the Physicians for Social Responsibility blog which can be found here.

Categories
Living in Society

Preserve the Iran Deal

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility April 8, 2008 Photo Credit: Reuters

The 45th president doesn’t like the Iran Deal.

He campaigned against it. He begrudgingly certified Iran’s compliance with it after his inauguration. As additional 90-day certification periods passed, he didn’t. Neither did he move to end it.

With the installation of John Bolton at the National Security Council, and Michael Pompeo as Secretary of State, administration policy regarding Iran is expected to change.

The Iran Deal or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program (JCPOA) was the signature foreign policy achievement of President Barack Obama. The United States, along with the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Germany and China, stopped Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

In July 2015, Iran had almost 20,000 centrifuges used to enrich uranium in the cities of Natanz and Fordo, according to BBC News. Iran had been building a heavy-water nuclear facility near the city of Arak. Spent fuel from a heavy-water reactor contains plutonium suitable for a nuclear weapon. Iran agreed to restrict these activities in the JCPOA which brought a robust regimen of monitoring, verification and inspection designed to ensure Iran’s compliance with the deal. Every 90-day certification period, which is peculiar to the United States, international inspectors reported Iran maintains its compliance.

We should keep the Iran Deal. It’s not just me who says so.

“120 of America’s most respected national security leaders want to keep the Iran Deal,” wrote Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund. “Trump, Pompeo and Bolton want to kill it.”

Click on the link to read Keep the Iran Deal — 10 Good Reasons Why authored by the National Coalition To Prevent An Iranian Nuclear Weapon.

Categories
Environment Sustainability

Issues Come Home to Roost

Democratic Committee Volunteers Meeting in North Liberty, Iowa

In September I asserted we should be working to stop nuclear weapons and protect the environment. A year into Trump’s first term it’s clear I understated this need.

The Trump administration rolled out it’s nuclear posture review and oh brother. Obama was bad enough with the $1 trillion modernization plan he negotiated with Arizona Senator Jon Kyl to get the New START Treaty ratified. Our new president is off the charts mad regarding the nuclear complex, or as Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi described him, “insane and ignorant.” There’s a lot to do to resist.

On the environment, it’s as if the Trump administration handed the keys to the front door to the wolves who have been howling and trying to get inside where we live. Ryan Zinke at Interior has reduced the size of some national monuments to make way for exploitation of oil and gas deposits; Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency seeks to roll back regulations that protect us to loosen the regulatory chains he claims bind business; Rick Perry at Energy seeks to change the paradigm of growing renewable energy resources to one of increasing stockpiles of coal, oil and uranium. The plan was preconceived and executed with dizzying speed.

What to do to resist?

The focus has to be on electing Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections. Reason doesn’t matter to the Trumpkins. They understand political power. All efforts for the next eight months should be toward re-taking the U.S. Senate and/or House of Representatives, and to make inroads in the state of Iowa by electing a Democratic Governor and re-taking the house or senate or both.

It’s really that focused, that simple. Will a Democratic government get us what we want? The Obama administration nationally and the Culver-Judge administration in Iowa stand as examples it won’t. Regaining political power will re-establish our dominance and hold the wolves at bay, and that may be the best we can hope for this year.

It would be something positive in a government currently overrun with pirates seeking to loot the treasury and pillage the commons. As a society we can do better than this. We must pick our battles carefully and from today’s vantage point there is a lot to bring us together to stem the tide against reason. Nuclear abolition and protecting the environment are both worth our efforts. There are broader currents to bring us together during this election cycle.

Categories
Living in Society Sustainability

Letter to Elected Officials on the Iran Deal

Photo Credit: Des Moines Register

The following message was sent to Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, and to Congressman Dave Loebsack:

I urge you to protect and support the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 nations. Please refrain from any actions that would undermine it and encourage your Senate colleagues to do likewise.

I understand President Trump is expected to declare the Iran Deal is not in the U.S. national interest and withhold re-certification before the Oct. 15 deadline. If he does so, he would increase the threat of nuclear proliferation in an already dangerous world.

Four brief points:

1. A deal is a deal. There is no realistic option for renegotiating the current agreement, which is working effectively to block Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon.
2. Congress should not re-impose nuclear-related sanctions so long as the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms Iran is meeting its commitments under the agreement.
3. President Trump should focus on solving the North Korean nuclear crisis rather than provoking a proliferation crisis with Iran.
4. The administration should also focus efforts toward strengthening the Iran/P5+1 agreement with our international partners.

Thanks in advance for considering my message. Good luck with your deliberations on this complex topic.

Regards, Paul

Response from Senator Joni Ernst on Oct. 25, 2017:

Dear Mr. Deaton,

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly referred to as the “Iran deal.” It is important for me to hear from folks in Iowa on policy matters such as this.

On July 14, 2015, the Obama Administration announced they had reached a final deal with Iran on its nuclear program. At the time, I expressed concern that this agreement, which was reached as sanctions were crippling the Iranian economy, capitulated to Iran’s demands and threatened the security of the United States and our allies.

Overtly, the Iranian regime continues to exploit loopholes in JCPOA to advance its ballistic missile capability. Covertly, Iranian weaponization efforts are unknown, as military leaders have stated publicly they will refuse to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of their sites. All the while, sanctions relief has fueled Iran’s support for its terrorist organization proxies engaged in malign activities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Afghanistan, and elsewhere – places where these groups are engaged in direct combat with American service members or our partners. Indisputably the JCPOA failed to meet its requirements to appropriately and proportionally contain Iran’s nefarious activities – the original purpose of the agreement.

As you may know, President Trump decided not to certify the deal under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act on October 13, 2017. This action does not withdraw the U.S. from the JCPOA, but rather, it provides an opportunity for Congress to work with the Trump administration and our allies to fix the failures of the original agreement. I support the president’s decision and believe we will maintain a position of global leadership by upholding our obligations, while finally beginning to hold Iran accountable for not meeting the expectations of the international community.

I look forward to working with the Trump administration, my congressional colleagues and overseas partners to formalize a strategy that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and protects American interests. Feel free to contact my office with any further information, as I always enjoy hearing from Iowans.

Sincerely,

Joni K. Ernst
United States Senator

Response from Senator Chuck Grassley on Nov. 8, 2017

Dear Mr. Deaton:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me with your concerns. As your senator, it is important to me that I hear from you.

I appreciate hearing of your support for maintaining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal. First, I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss the tenants of the Iran nuclear deal and why I have been against it from the beginning.

On April 2nd, 2015, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry announced the parameters for a potential deal with the Iranian government to end the country’s nuclear enrichment capabilities and attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon.

President Obama and Secretary Kerry both made important statements about the goal of negotiations leading to the conclusion of the JCPOA – the goal was to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program. Secretary Kerry himself said, in the fall of 2013, that Iran has “no right to enrich” and that a good deal with Iran “would help dismantle its nuclear program.”

In reality, the deal has failed to achieve its key objective of a denuclearized Iran. This deal, as it stands, puts Iran in a position of strength – economically and militarily – from which to further destabilize the Middle East.

The nuclear deal granted Iran a series of continuous sanctions relief in exchange for a reduction in nuclear enrichment capabilities while requiring the access of international inspectors to certify the country’s compliance with the deal’s terms. However, although the United States has granted Iran sanctions relief upwards of $160 billion dollars, the architecture of the agreement only requires Iran to temporarily reduce its nuclear weapons program. This temporary reduction in activities grants massive sanctions relief to a country which could ultimately decide to pursue its threatening activities once the agreement’s sunset clauses expire without any additional punishment.

Despite assurances that the deal would include “anytime, anywhere” inspections, the Obama administrated negotiated away from these provisions and provided Iran with a 24-day inspection delay following an announcement from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigators of intent to inspect a site. Furthermore, the IAEA has not been able to conduct adequate inspections of Iranian Military sites where nuclear research is conducted. To a large extent, this deal requires the United States to accept, without good reason, that the Iranians are engaged in a good faith effort to not cheat.

On May 7th, 2015, the Senate passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act by a vote of 98-1 which provided an opportunity for Congress to express its approval or disapproval of the deal. Despite 98 Senators voting in favor of reviewing the agreement, a minority of Senators lead by then minority leader Senator Reid, voted to block debate, consideration and a vote on a resolution of disapproval.

Following the JCPOA’s implementation on January 16th, 2016, Iran has continued to engage in a number of activities violating key provisions of the agreement. Most notably, these include cheating on provisions requiring the country to limit its nuclear enrichment activities through centrifuge development, prohibitions on research technology procurement, and not adhering to limitations on the amount of heavy water that the JCPOA sets forth for Iran’s nuclear reactors.

On October 13th, 2017, President Trump announced his decision to decertify the JCPOA. President Trump asserted that the JCPOA does not address the full range of potential threats posed by Iran, or permanently ensure that Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon. In short, Iran is not living up to the spirit of the deal and that continued sanctions relief provided to Iran is not “appropriate and proportionate” to the measures taken by Iran to terminate its illicit nuclear program.

President Trump’s decision to decertify the Iranian nuclear deal is in full accordance with the statutory requirements imposed on the deal by Congress under the Iran Nuclear Review Act. Under the Iran Nuclear Review Act, the President is required to recertify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA every 90 days. The Iran Nuclear Review Act provides Congress 60 days to consider whether to re-impose sanctions waived under the JCPOA and or to modify the deal to ensure Iran’s compliance.

The United States has not formally withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal. Rather, President Trump’s decision to decertify the deal now puts the onus on congress to address the shortcomings of the deal. Iran continues to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and President Trump is right to point out the failings of the deal. I look forward to working with my colleagues to further curtail Iran’s dangerous and destabilizing behavior.

Rest assured, that as your senator I will continue to follow these developments.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. Please keep in touch.

Sincerely,

Chuck Grassley

Response from Congressman Dave Loebsack on Nov. 2, 2017

Dear Mr. Deaton,

Thank you for contacting me about the Iran Nuclear Agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Your opinion is very important to me and my priority is to provide Iowa’s Second District with the best representation possible.

From the beginning, I have made it clear that I believe it is unacceptable for Iran to be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. Today, it is more important than ever that we continue to work towards that commonly held goal and ensure the safety of the American people.

Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA), the President is required to publicly certify every 90 days that Iran is complying with the terms of the JCPOA. On Friday, October 13, 2017, President Trump announced that he is formally decertifying the nuclear deal with Iran. Decertification does not put the U.S. in violation of the JCPOA, but it does give Congress a 60-day window to reimpose the sanctions that were suspended by the deal.

I believe that the administration should be focusing its efforts on ensuring the conditions of the agreement are being thoroughly enforced. Instead, the administration has chosen to ignore the warnings of the White House’s own national security staff, sow uncertainty, and undermine our national security. I appreciate you reaching out to share your thoughts with me on the importance of the U.S. remaining part of the JCPOA. Please be assured that I will continue to monitor the situation closely, and will keep your thoughts in mind should legislation related to the JCPOA come before the House of Representatives for a vote.

Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue. I encourage you to visit my website at http://www.loebsack.house.gov and sign up for my e-newsletters to stay informed of the work I’m doing in Congress. I am proud to serve Iowa’s Second District, and I am committed to working hard for you.

Sincerely,

Dave Loebsack
Iowa’s Second District

Categories
Home Life Living in Society Sustainability

On Capitol Hill

At the U Iowa Homecoming Parade Marshaling Area

Originally posted April 8, 2008. My only meeting with Congressman Dave Loebsack in his office on Capitol Hill.

This morning, I walked to DuPont Circle and took the Metro to the Capitol. The Metro ticket cost $1.65 so that was quite a bargain. I emerged from the station near the Longworth House Office Building where Congressman Loebsack’s office is on the fifth floor. I got in an hour early, so with the help of some construction workers, I located a coffee shop and waited for my appointment. As I walked back to the Longworth Building, there was a haze covering the top of the capitol dome. Tulips were in bloom. I cleared security and located the office.

I was able to meet with the congressman one-on-one. I had a few minutes to talk about politics with him before his chief of staff and legislative assistant joined us. He offered me a seat in his professor emeritus chair from Cornell College. It was cool!

We talked about a number of issues, and I joked that I had a very long list of talking points. He made me feel like we had all the time in the world, and that was also cool.

We talked about the transportation industry, and specifically about the energy policy, or lack thereof as it pertains to class eight vehicles. I explained that using food for fuel was not a sustainable answer to our oil dependence or to high diesel prices. I explained that biodiesel was not a solution for the trucking industry. He asked me if biodiesel was equivalent to food for fuel, and I showed some restraint and said I would get him an answer.

We talked about the California law that regulated particulate emissions in port areas. I asked him to support keeping the federal government out of this dispute between the state and port operators and truckers. I presented information about the health impacts of fine particulate matter from engine emissions on residents living near the ports. He could support the federal government keeping out of this situation. This led to a longer discussion about cutting the rain forests down to plant palm oil and jatropha plantations for biofuels and the related effect of removing capacity to absorb CO2 by doing this. I also gave them suggested reading of Carbon Free and Nuclear Free by Arjun Makhijani.

We discussed the US-India nuclear trade deal that is currently being debated in India. I explained that if this initiative was allowed to go forward, the rest of the world would view this as a form of nuclear proliferation and would set a poor example. He agreed.

We discussed the need to have a surge in diplomacy with Iran by holding talks without preconditions. I believe that if we focus our efforts on discussing preconditions, that no discussions would take place. Whereas if we had discussion and reached impasse, then we would gain respect in the world for having tried.

I asked him to cut all funding for reliable replacement warheads from the federal budget as was done last year. He said he would.

We discussed a number of other issues ranging from food deserts to public health to trucking to politics. It was a great start to the day and a memorable one.

Categories
Sustainability

Hand on the Button

Nuclear Spring in Sioux City

What do U.S. nuclear abolitionists do when the administration has no plans other than vaguely stated goals of “modernizing the nuclear complex” and spending money on a missile defense system that has never been proven to work?

Focus on a long term strategy toward the goal of nuclear abolition, using the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a hook and the consequences of nuclear war as the message.

It’s a tough row to hoe because the United States and other nuclear states stand in opposition to the ban treaty promulgated at the U.N., now open to signature.

A colleague in the nuclear abolition movement reported July 14 from New York:

The emotional electricity in the room was palpable. Everyone could feel that history was being made in Conference Room 1 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. And when the vote tally came in, it was followed with a roar of approval in the room. Bucking intimidation from the nuclear-armed superpowers, 122 nations voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons with one vote “no” and one abstention. It’s official: nuclear weapons are illegal!

I’ve never felt hopeful about the ban treaty because President Obama and his successor both indicated they would modernize our nuclear complex, investing more than a trillion dollars. President Trump’s recent statement while taking questions at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey is disappointing on multiple levels.

“We are going to be increasing our budget by many billions of dollars because of North Korea and other reasons having to do with the anti-missile,” Trump said. “As you know, we reduced it by five percent, but I’ve decided I don’t want that. We are going to be increasing the anti-missiles by a substantial amount of billions of dollars.”

Modernization is not really his decision because the Congress must appropriate funds for it. It’s the normal checks and balances designed into our government by the framers of the constitution. However, what is in President Trump’s control is launching a nuclear war within a few minutes at his sole discretion. That can and should change.

Once accepted without vocal opposition, the president having his hand on the nuclear button should be challenged. No president should have sole discretion to unleash a human Armageddon that could end civilization as we know it.

There is chatter in the news media that President Trump won’t complete his full, four-year term. The better bet is he will and will mount a formidable campaign for re-election. Republicans in the Congress won’t impeach, and the 45th president won’t resign.

We shouldn’t be distracted by the hope this presidential term will soon be over. Regardless of who’s president, if the U.S. doesn’t sign on to the nuclear weapons ban, as it currently appears we won’t; if we won’t fulfill our obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to which we are a party; others should be included in any decision to use nuclear weapons.

That change is something nuclear abolitionists can and should work on now.

To learn more, click on Martin Fleck’s report from the UN here.