Opinion | Worrying About Your Carbon Footprint Is Exactly What Big Oil Wants You to Do – The New York Times

Mr. Schendler is the senior vice president of sustainability at the Aspen Skiing Company, the chairman of the board of the group Protect Our Winters and the author of “Getting Green Done.”

“Everybody’s going carbon neutral these days, from the big boys — Amazon, Microsoft, Unilever, Starbucks, JetBlue — to your favorite outdoor brand, even ski resorts. Probably your neighborhood coffee roaster, too.

What’s not to like? Becoming carbon neutral means cutting greenhouse gas emissions as much as you can, then offsetting what you can’t avoid with measures like tree planting. Seems admirable.

Well, not exactly. Carbon neutrality doesn’t achieve any sort of systemic change. A coal-powered business could be entirely carbon neutral as long it stops some landfill gas in Malaysia from entering the atmosphere equal to the emissions it’s still releasing. American fossil fuel dependence would remain intact, and planet-warming emissions would continue to rise. The only way to fix that is through politics, policymakers and legislation. But distressingly, most businesses don’t want to play in that arena.”

Opinion | Hurricane Ida Is a Glimpse of the Future of Climate Change – The New York Times

Dr. Horowitz, who lives in New Orleans, is the author of “Katrina: A History, 1915-2015.”

“As a boy, Louis Armstrong worked for the Karnofsky family. The Karnofskys’ tailor shop on South Rampart Street in New Orleans became a second home to him, and the family helped him buy his first cornet. On Sunday night, the Karnofsky building, long neglected by the city and a succession of private owners who promised to restore it, finally collapsed under the force of Hurricane Ida’s winds.

I live in New Orleans, but I saw the news on my phone, as I scrolled from the safety of a rented apartment in Birmingham, Ala. My family and I arrived on Friday. We are among the Louisianans who could afford to evacuate. We got here by driving I-59 to I-20, which is to say, we relied on the comparatively well-funded public infrastructure of interstate highways to get out of harm’s way.”

Searching for Bird Life in a Former ‘Ocean of Forest’ – The New York Times

By Jennie Erin SmithPhotographs by Federico RiosAug. 31, 2021, 2:30 a.m. ETLeer en españolFLORENCIA, Colombia — In June 1912, Leo Miller, a collector with the American Museum of Natural History, arrived in the Caquetá region of Colombia, where the eastern foothills of the Andes melt into the forested lowlands of the Amazon basin.Miller was working for Frank Chapman, the celebrated curator of birds at the museum. Chapman suspected that Colombia’s wildly varied topography had given rise to an unusual density of species, and sent collectors like Miller to bring him birds from all corners of the country to study.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Trump Rule Governing Water Pollution – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Monday struck down a Trump-era environmental rule that drastically limited federal restrictions against pollution of millions of streams, wetlands and marshes across the country.

The Biden administration had already begun the lengthy process of undoing the policy, which President Donald J. Trump established in 2020 to please real estate developers and farmers. Mr. Trump’s policy allowed the discharge of pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and industrial chemicals into smaller streams and wetlands.

But on Monday, Judge Rosemary Márquez of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona found “fundamental, substantive flaws” with the Trump administration’s policy and said that it was in conflict with the 1972 Clean Water Act. She warned of the “possibility of serious environmental harm” if the Trump rule remained in place.”

In Afghanistan, War and Climate Change Collide – The New York Times

Somini Sengupta has reported on more than 10 conflicts around the world, including in Afghanistan.

“Parts of Afghanistan have warmed twice as much as the global average. Spring rains have declined, most worryingly in some of the country’s most important farmland. Droughts are more frequent in vast swaths of the country, including a punishing dry spell now in the north and west, the second in three years.

Afghanistan embodies a new breed of international crisis, where the hazards of war collide with the hazards of climate change, creating a nightmarish feedback loop that punishes some of the world’s most vulnerable people and destroys their countries’ ability to cope.

And while it would be facile to attribute the conflict in Afghanistan to climate change, the effects of warming act as what military analysts call threat multipliers, amplifying conflicts over water, putting people out of work in a nation whose people largely live off agriculture, while the conflict itself consumes attention and resources.”

Opinion | The Proliferation of Toxic Plastics and Chemicals Must End – The New York Times

“As the United States comes to grips with the climate crisis, fossil fuels will slowly recede from being primary sources of energy. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that the petrochemical industry is counting on greatly increasing the production of plastics and toxic chemicals made from fossil fuels to profit from its reserves of oil and gas.

That transition is why the challenges of climate, plastic pollution and chemical toxicity — which at first might each seem like distinct problems — are actually interrelated and require a systems approach to resolve. The danger is that if we focus on only a single metric, like greenhouse gas emissions, we may unintentionally encourage the shift from fuel to plastics and chemicals that are also unsafe and unsustainable.

Already, according to a 2018 report from the International Energy Agency, petrochemicals, which are made from petroleum and natural gas, “are rapidly becoming the largest driver of global oil demand.”

Petrochemicals are ubiquitous in everyday products, and many of them are poisoning us and our children. Stain repellents, flame retardants, phthalates and other toxics are contributing to cancer, falling sperm counts, obesity and a host of neurological, reproductive and immune problems, research has shown.”

Afghanistan: What has the conflict cost the US and its allies? – BBC News

How much money has been spent?

“The vast majority of spending in Afghanistan has come from the US.

Between 2010 to 2012, when the US for a time had more than 100,000 soldiers in the country, the cost of the war grew to almost $100bn a year, according to US government figures.

As the US military shifted its focus away from offensive operations and concentrated more on training up Afghan forces, costs fell sharply.

By 2018 annual expenditure was around $45bn, a senior Pentagon official told the US Congress that year.

According to the US Department of Defense, the total military expenditure in Afghanistan (from October 2001 until September 2019) had reached $778bn.

In addition, the US state department – along with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other government agencies – spent $44bn on reconstruction projects.

That brings the total cost – based on official data – to $822bn between 2001 and 2019, but it doesn’t include any spending in Pakistan, which the US uses as a base for Afghan-related operations.

According to a Brown University study in 2019, which has looked at war spending in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US had spent around $978bn (their estimate also includes money allocated for the 2020 fiscal year).”

Source: Afghanistan: What has the conflict cost the US and its allies? – BBC News

Spencer Bokat-Lindell | Is There a Nuclear Option for Stopping Climate Change? – The New York Times

Mr. Bokat-Lindell is a staff editor.

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“Humanity’s failure to avert the crisis of a warming climate is sometimes framed as a grand technological problem: For centuries, countries relied on fossil fuels to industrialize their economies and generate wealth, and it was only in recent years that alternative ways of powering a society, like solar and wind energy, became viable.

But when it comes to electricity, at least, that story isn’t true. Today, the United States gets 60 percent of its electricity from fossil fuels and just 20 percent from renewables. The final 20 percent comes from nuclear power, a technology that has existed since the 1950s, produces no carbon dioxide and has killed far fewer people than fossil fuels.”

Ezra Klein | Let’s Not Pretend That the Way We Withdrew From Afghanistan Was the Problem – The New York Times

“. . .  Focusing on the execution of the withdrawal is giving virtually everyone who insisted we could remake Afghanistan the opportunity to obscure their failures by pretending to believe in the possibility of a graceful departure. It’s also obscuring the true alternative to withdrawal: endless occupation. But what our ignominious exit really reflects is the failure of America’s foreign policy establishment at both prediction and policymaking in Afghanistan.

“The pro-war crowd sees this as a mechanism by which they can absolve themselves of an accounting for the last 20 years,” Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, told me. “Just think about the epic size of this policy failure. Twenty years of training. More than $2 trillion worth of expenditure. For almost nothing. It is heartbreaking to watch these images, but it is equally heartbreaking to think about all of the effort, of lives and money we wasted in pursuit of a goal that was illusory.” “

Bret Stephens | Our ‘Broken Windows’ World – The New York Times

“. . . We now live in a broken-windows world. I would argue that it began a decade ago, when Barack Obama called on Americans to turn a chapter on a decade of war and “focus on nation-building here at home,” which became a theme of his re-election campaign.

It looked like a good bet at the time. Osama bin Laden had just been killed. The surge in Iraq had stabilized the country and decimated Al Qaeda there. The Taliban were on the defensive. Relations with Russia had been “reset.” China was still under the technocratic leadership of Hu Jintao. The Arab Spring, eagerly embraced by Obama as “a chance to pursue the world as it should be,” seemed to many to portend a more hopeful future for the Middle East (though some of us were less sanguine).   . . . “

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Hi Bret,
Nice column, but you reach too far, and fall short, though there are criticisms you approach that are valid. Comparing the Russian gas pipeline to other failures seems silly, like comparing apples to oranges. Everyone needs a little natural gas for the next 50 years or so. Even Biden didn’t cancel all the pipelines from Canada. Our walking out of Afghanistan doesn’t show that we are over as a great power, but that we are starting to act again like an intelligent as well as great power, with more fights in the future than just against the primitive Taliban. You are still right about several important and serious mistakes. We should be occupying Syria right now not Afghanistan. Ignoring the red line Obama had drawn himself was dumb, cowardly, and over cautious. But Afghanistan is history. We should be discussing an invasion or insurrection in Brazil, to save the rain forest. That is in our national interest.
David is a jack of all trades and master of none, and a military historian, who blogs at InconvenientNews.net.