Union of Concerned Scientists

Cambridge, MA, United States

Union of Concerned Scientists

Cambridge, MA, United States
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World leaders have pushed Donald Trump to join the rest of the world in combating climate change - but the President has made no promises despite the White House insisting his views are “evolving”. G7 nations had hoped the US leader, who has previously described climate change as a "hoax", would publicly back the Paris Agreement and the commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Rather, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leaders had a “controversial debate” on the subject. ​Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Independent that the mood at the meeting was “tense” around climate and migration discussions in particular. Despite that, and despite repeated criticism that Mr Trump has turned his back on science, the US insisted that the President had gone to listen and learn to the other world leaders. The meeting in Taormina, Italy, of the heads of the world’s seven major industrialised economies, did secure widespread agreement on other issues, including Syria, Libya, and fighting terrorism. The group ramped up pressure on internet service providers and social media to increase efforts to purge extremist content, four days after the terror attack in Manchester that killed 22 people, by toughening a final statement to fight terrorism, honing in on the role of companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, sometimes referred to generally in Europe using the acronym Gafa. “We will combat the misuse of the Internet by terrorists. While being one of the most important technological achievements in the last decades, the Internet has also proven to be a powerful tool for terrorist purposes,” said the joint statement signed by the leaders meeting in Sicily. However that co-operation did not stretch entirely to the issue of Global warming. “There is one open question, which is the US position on the Paris climate accords. All others have confirmed their total agreement on the accord,” Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said. “We are sure that after an internal reflection, the United States will also want to commit to it,” he added. The White House’s decision to go slow on making a decision about his commitment to the 2015 climate change agreement - something Mr Trump said he would withdraw from when he was campaigning - led the other leaders to mount their campaign of persuasion. During the opening months of this presidency, he has shown he can change his position, especially when confronted by strong and unified global opinion. For instance, he backed away from tough campaign talk about trade with China after a summit with President Xi Jinping and abandoned his criticism of Saudi Arabia. The White House said as much in briefings to reporters after the meeting, the final stage on the president’s nine-day foreign visit. “He feels much more knowledgeable on the topic today,” said Gary Cohn, the Mr Trump’s top White House economic advisor. “He came here to learn, he came here to get smarter.” However, White House National Security Adviser HR McMaster said that Mr Trump would make his decisions based “on what's best for the American people” - bringing things back to 'America First' policy that energised the president's supporters during last year's presidential election campaign. One specific issue Mr Trump has been consistent on is job creation. He ran his 2016 campaign on a platform of job creation in rural areas of the US and EU leaders may be discussing how they have “decoupled” economic growth, job creation, and carbon emissions, said Mr Meyer. According to senior White House officials, the president is particularly worried that the US will fall behind India and China in manufacturing and job creation. China has also become a leader in renewable energy investment, particular solar panels. New investments in renewable energy outpaced new money in the oil and gas sector for the first time ever in 2015 to the tune of $350bn (£273bn). A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that the world’s economies could boost economic growth by nearly three per cent by 2021 if they institute policies that would lower greenhouse gas emissions. By 2050 that growth could reach up to five per cent.


News Article | May 25, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

PRINCETON, N.J.--The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) relied on faulty analysis to justify its refusal to adopt a critical measure for protecting Americans from the occurrence of a catastrophic nuclear-waste fire at any one of dozens of reactor sites around the country, according to an article in the May 26 issue of Science magazine. Fallout from such a fire could be considerably larger than the radioactive emissions from the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan. Published by researchers from Princeton University and the Union of Concerned Scientists, the article argues that NRC inaction leaves the public at high risk from fires in spent-nuclear-fuel cooling pools at reactor sites. The pools -- water-filled basins that store and cool used radioactive fuel rods -- are so densely packed with nuclear waste that a fire could release enough radioactive material to contaminate an area twice the size of New Jersey. On average, radioactivity from such an accident could force approximately 8 million people to relocate and result in $2 trillion in damages. These catastrophic consequences, which could be triggered by a large earthquake or a terrorist attack, could be largely avoided by regulatory measures that the NRC refuses to implement. Using a biased regulatory analysis, the agency excluded the possibility of an act of terrorism as well as the potential for damage from a fire beyond 50 miles of a plant. Failing to account for these and other factors led the NRC to significantly underestimate the destruction such a disaster could cause. "The NRC has been pressured by the nuclear industry, directly and through Congress, to low-ball the potential consequences of a fire because of concerns that increased costs could result in shutting down more nuclear power plants," said paper co-author Frank von Hippel, a senior research physicist at Princeton's Program on Science and Global Security (SGS), based at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. "Unfortunately, if there is no public outcry about this dangerous situation, the NRC will continue to bend to the industry's wishes." Von Hippel's co-authors are Michael Schoeppner, a former postdoctoral researcher at Princeton's SGS, and Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Spent-fuel pools were brought into the spotlight following the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. A 9.0-magnitude earthquake caused a tsunami that struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, disabling the electrical systems necessary for cooling the reactor cores. This led to core meltdowns at three of the six reactors at the facility, hydrogen explosions, and a release of radioactive material. "The Fukushima accident could have been a hundred times worse had there been a loss of the water covering the spent fuel in pools associated with each reactor," von Hippel said. "That almost happened at Fukushima in Unit 4." In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, the NRC considered proposals for new safety requirements at U.S. plants. One was a measure prohibiting plant owners from densely packing spent-fuel pools, requiring them to expedite transfer of all spent fuel that has cooled in pools for at least five years to dry storage casks, which are inherently safer. Densely packed pools are highly vulnerable to catching fire and releasing huge amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere. The NRC analysis found that a fire in a spent-fuel pool at an average nuclear reactor site would cause $125 billion in damages, while expedited transfer of spent fuel to dry casks could reduce radioactive releases from pool fires by 99 percent. However, the agency decided the possibility of such a fire is so unlikely that it could not justify requiring plant owners to pay the estimated cost of $50 million per pool. The NRC cost-benefit analysis assumed there would be no consequences from radioactive contamination beyond 50 miles from a fire. It also assumed that all contaminated areas could be effectively cleaned up within a year. Both of these assumptions are inconsistent with experience after the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents. In two previous articles, von Hippel and Schoeppner released figures that correct for these and other errors and omissions. They found that millions of residents in surrounding communities would have to relocate for years, resulting in total damages of $2 trillion -- nearly 20 times the NRC's result. Considering the nuclear industry is only legally liable for $13.6 billion, thanks to the Price Anderson Act of 1957, U.S. taxpayers would have to cover the remaining costs. The authors point out that if the NRC does not take action to reduce this danger, Congress has the authority to fix the problem. Moreover, the authors suggest that states that provide subsidies to uneconomical nuclear reactors within their borders could also play a constructive role by making those subsidies available only for plants that agreed to carry out expedited transfer of spent fuel. "In far too many instances, the NRC has used flawed analysis to justify inaction, leaving millions of Americans at risk of a radiological release that could contaminate their homes and destroy their livelihoods," said Lyman. "It is time for the NRC to employ sound science and common-sense policy judgments in its decision-making process." The paper, "Nuclear safety regulation in the post-Fukushima era," was published May 26 in Science. For more information, see von Hippel and Schoeppner's previous papers, "Reducing the Danger from Fires in Spent Fuel Pools" and "Economic Losses From a Fire in a Dense-Packed U.S. Spent Fuel Pool," which were published in Science & Global Security in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The Science article builds upon the findings of a Congressionally-mandated review by the National Academy of Sciences, on which von Hippel served.


News Article | May 13, 2017
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

The Trump administration is planning to nominate Sam Clovis — the Department of Agriculture’s senior White House adviser — as head of USDA’s Research, Education and Economics division, according to individuals briefed on the decision. The move would mark a break with recent Republican and Democratic administrations alike, which have previously reserved the high-level position for scientists with expertise in agricultural research. Clovis — a former economics professor and talk radio host in Iowa who served as one of the Trump campaign’s first policy advisers — has bachelor’s degrees in political science and government, a master’s in business administration and a doctoral degree in public administration, according to his LinkedIn page. In other public biographies he’s emphasized his 25-year stint in the Air Force and expertise in national security and foreign policy. As Agriculture’s White House senior adviser, Clovis has played a key role in the department since President Trump took office. He helped run USDA during the time before Secretary Sonny Perdue took office, and he signed off on directives such as one employees received just after Inauguration Day that instructed them to clear any public communications in advance with the secretary’s office. The job he’s now under consideration for, Agriculture’s undersecretary of research, education and economics, ranks as a top-level science position that oversees the department’s extensive scientific mission. The department’s chief scientist also oversees Agriculture’s economic bureaus, including the Natural Agricultural Statistics Service and the Economic Research Service. Clovis’s expertise appears most closely related to these bureaus. [Senior White House advisers are Trump’s eyes and ears in federal agencies] The possible appointment of Clovis was first suggested Friday by Agri-Pulse. An Agriculture spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday. Reached by phone, Clovis said, “I can’t speak to the press.” Congress established the post in the 1994 Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act, and during the past two presidential administrations, it has been occupied by scientists and public health professionals. The position’s description was updated in the 2008 farm bill to clarify that the undersecretary will also hold the title of the department’s chief scientist, and that the position “shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, from among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.” In 2001, then-President George W. Bush appointed to the post Joseph Jen, a comparative biochemistry PhD who had previously headed the University of Georgia’s Division of Food Science and Technology and served as the dean of the College of Agriculture at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Bush later nominated Gale Buchanan, a plant physiologist, to the post in 2006. When Barack Obama took office he tapped Rajiv Shah, who holds both a medical degree and a master of science in health economics from the University of Pennsylvania, for the post. Catherine Woteki, who earned her doctorate from Virginia Tech and held senior positions at USDA, Health and Human Services and the White House Office of Science and Technology, served as Agriculture’s chief scientist from Sept. 16, 2010 until Jan. 20, 2017. A food nutrition expert, Woteki served as Iowa State University’s dean of agriculture for five years between Bill Clinton’s and Obama’s time in office. The current acting undersecretary, Ann Bartuska, is described as an ecosystem ecologist who’s served on multiple scientific councils and panels, including the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, criticized the prospect of Clovis’s selection. “If the president goes forward with this nomination, it’ll be yet another example of blatant dismissal of the value of scientific expertise among his administration appointees,” Salvador said in a statement. “Continuing to choose politics over science will give farmers and consumers little confidence that the administration has their interests at heart.” Woteki said in an interview with ProPublica on Friday that since the position serves as the agency’s chief scientist, the occupant “should be a person who evaluates the scientific body of evidence and moves appropriately from there.” In the past, Clovis has challenged the scientific consensus that human activity is the primary driver of climate change over the last 50 years. In a 2014 interview with Iowa Public Radio, Clovis suggested that “a lot of the science is junk science. It’s not proven; I don’t think there’s any substantive information available to me that doesn’t raise as many questions as it does answers. So I’m a skeptic.” In the same radio interview, Clovis said, “I have enough of a science background to know when I’m being boofed,” though he did not detail any past research experience involving the hard sciences. As the undersecretary, issues related to climate change would fall under Clovis’s purview. A 2010 Agriculture Department report, “A Roadmap for USDA Science,” states that “agricultural and forestry ecosystems are climate dependent and could be affected in myriad ways by a changing climate” and suggests that the agency “anticipate and accommodate climate change effects such that agriculture, forestry, and U.S. producers realize net benefits.” While Clovis does not appear to have conducted extensive research in the hard sciences, he is a veteran Republican Party activist who joined Trump’s presidential campaign. In addition to working as a talk radio host, he served as a professor of economics at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, and made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 2014. During that Senate run, Clovis described his credentials for running in an Iowa Public Radio interview: “25 years in the military, and the various jobs and opportunities I had while serving the nation, my experience as a business man, and my academic preparation … my experience in a variety of other fields, including homeland security, foreign policy, national security policy, creating jobs and all those things.” In 2015, Clovis took a leave of absence from his position at Morningside College to join the Trump campaign as a chief policy adviser. In this position, he inspired controversy among the college’s administration with his role in developing a Trump campaign proposal that would ban Muslims from entering the United States, a university spokesman told the outlet Iowa Starting Line. “This is not the Sam Clovis that we knew when he was here. Sam was a staunch defender of the Constitution and a strong advocate for religious freedom,” said university spokesman Rick Wollman. “If he played a role in drafting or advising the Trump campaign on this issue, we will be outraged and extremely disappointed in Dr. Clovis.”


Donald Trump says he 'can't imagine Russia is pleased' as North Korea fires ballistic missile into Sea of Japan Donald Trump "cannot imagine Russia is pleased" with North Korea's latest missile test as it landed closer to Russia than Japan. North Korea's ballistic missile flew for half an hour and reached an unusually high altitude before landing in the Sea of Japan, the South Korean, Japanese and US militaries said. "With the missile impacting so close to Russian soil, in fact – closer to Russia than to Japan – the President cannot imagine that Russia is pleased," the White House said in a statement. North Korea had been "a flagrant menace for too long," it said, and Washington maintains its "ironclad commitment" to stand with its allies in the face of the serious threat it poses. The latest "provocation" should serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against the North, it added. North Korean defector: Kim Jong-Un would launch a nuclear attack if his rule was threatened The North's launch was "not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile," the US Pacific Command said. Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said the missile flew for about 30 minutes, travelling about 800km (500 miles) and reaching an altitude of 2,000km (1,240 miles) — a flight pattern that could indicate a new type of missile. David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the missile could have a range of 4,500km (about 2,800 miles) if flown on a standard, instead of a lofted, trajectory – considerably longer than Pyongyang's current missiles. He said the launch may have been of a new mobile, two-stage liquid-fuelled missile North Korea displayed in a huge military parade last month. The flight path of the ballistic missile was a considerable distance from Russian territory and posed no threat to Russia, the Russian defence ministry said. A Kremlin spokesman said earlier that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is visiting Beijing, was concerned about the missile test. North Korea is widely believed to be developing an intercontinental missile tipped with a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States, which Mr Trump has vowed not to let happen. The North's state media said the nation will bolster its nuclear capability unless the United States abandons its hostile policy. "The United States should never expect us to give up our nuclear capability," the main Rodong newspaper said in a commentary carried by the Korean Central News Agency. It said Mr Trump's "maximum pressure and engagement" policy is only aimed at "stifling us" and will compel the North to "strengthen our nuclear deterrent at the maximum speed." Mr Trump has previously said he would be "honoured" to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un under the right circumstances. Yesterday, a top North Korean diplomat said the reclusive state was open to dialogue with the Trump administration under the right conditions. North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un watches a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army (Reuters) South Korea and Japan also swiftly condemned the launch, which jeopardises South Korean leader Moon Jae-in's willingness for dialogue with the rival North. "The president expressed deep regret over the fact that this reckless provocation ... occurred just days after a new government was launched in South Korea," a senior presidential secretary said. "The president said we are leaving open the possibility of dialogue with North Korea, but we should sternly deal with a provocation to prevent North Korea from miscalculating." Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters the launch was "absolutely unacceptable" and Japan will respond resolutely. Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said he and his South Korean counterpart agreed "dialogue for dialogue's sake with North Korea is meaningless." China's foreign ministry expressed opposition to the missile test and called on all sides to exercise restraint. A Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said countries "should not do things that further escalate tensions in the region". In Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Russian counterpart Mr Putin their countries are both playing an "important role as a balancing power" in world affairs by seeking a peaceful way out for of the crises in Syria and the Korean Peninsula. Last month, North Korea launched the Pukguksong-2 missile, an upgraded, extended-range version of its submarine-launched ballistic missile, from the same site. South Korean and US military officials said the launch was a significant development as it successfully tested a solid-fuel engine from a mobile launcher. The missile flew about 500km with an altitude of 550km. The North attempted but failed to test-launch ballistic missiles four times in the past two months but has conducted various tests since the beginning of last year at an unprecedented pace. It also conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests last year. The launch also comes as troops from the US, Britain, France and Japan gather on remote US islands in the Pacific for drills that are partly a message to North Korea. The USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft supercarrier, is also engaging with South Korean navy ships in waters off the Korean Peninsula.


News Article | May 9, 2017
Site: cen.acs.org

A membership shake-up in an Environmental Protection Agency scientific advisory council could be a sign of more changes to come at the regulatory agency, policy experts are saying. In an unusual action, EPA did not grant nine of the 18 members on its Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) a second three-year term. An additional four were already scheduled to rotate off the board this year due to term limits, BOSC chairwoman and environmental chemist Deborah L. Swackhamer tells C&EN. Composed of scientists from outside the agency, the board reviews technical and management issues related to EPA’s in-house research. The unexpected dismissals and statements from EPA officials leave Swackhamer and others concerned that the agency will open itself to potential conflicts of interest by filling the vacant slots with members from regulated industries. EPA spokesman J.P. Freire says the agency has received hundreds of nominations to serve on the board, and the agency intends to “carry out a competitive nomination process.” Gretchen Goldman, research director of the Center for Science & Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, is watching to see what the move portends for other scientific review groups at the agency. These include the Science Advisory Board, whose work is more closely tied to policy outcomes than BOSC’s, she says. The move is another way that the Trump Administration is trying to take science out of the regulatory process, Goldman asserts. “It builds on other actions that we’re seeing this administration take with respect to science and science advisors.” With their diminished numbers, BOSC’s remaining five members may find their capacity to review the agency’s scientific research program limited, several board members tell C&EN. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, last week asked EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for more information about the dismissals. Carper says he is concerned that through this and other actions, EPA is engaging in “a broad approach of denying the science that forms the basis of sound environmental regulation.”


News Article | May 8, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

With tensions brewing between the United States and North Korea — highlighted by a flurry of failed nuclear missile tests and fighting words by both countries — the possibility of nuclear war seems closer than it has been in years, according to experts. Though most analysts agree that at this point, North Korea lacks the technical capability to deploy a nuclear missile that could reach American targets, the mere possibility has put people around the world on edge. And in the event that things escalate, is there any way to stop nuclear missiles once they've been fired?  [7 Strange Cultural Facts About North Korea] One option that has been floated — and refloated — over the years, is to somehow create a shield or defense system to protect people from nuclear attacks. From the earliest uses in 1959 of the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which is designed to deliver nuclear weapons, the U.S. has been working on methods that would protect people from such an attack. Yet decades later, the country still has only a flawed system that most experts believe would not reliably protect Americans against a nuclear attack, said Philip E. Coyle III, a senior science advisor with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and the former director of operational tests and evaluation with the Pentagon, who has extensively evaluated missile defense systems. But why has it taken so long to get a nuclear missile shield up and running? And is there any possibility that this technology might work in the future? "This is the hardest thing the Pentagon has ever tried to do, as our nearly 70 years of trying shows," Coyle told Live Science. The first attempts at building a nuclear missile defense program started up almost as soon as intercontinental missiles were invented in the 1950s, though most of those projects were put on hold in 1972, after the U.S. and the Soviet Union signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which limited the number of missiles each side could retain. A number of wacky ideas have been proposed over the years, including Operation Argus, which aimed to create a protective radiation belt above Earth by detonating a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere, and Project Seesaw, which explored using particle beams to zap nukes, according to "The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Agency That Changed the World," (Knopf, 2017) In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan said he was uncomfortable with "mutually assured destruction" (that is, the idea that both the United States and Russia had enough nuclear weapons to destroy each other in the event of a nuclear war) as the only protection against the U.S.S.R. He pushed for the development of the Strategic Defense Initiative, or the Star Wars program, in which nuclear-powered lasers placed in space would zap nuclear weapons. The program was an expensive flop, in part because the whole concept was too fantastical, said Laura Grego, an astrophysicist and expert on missile defense and space security at the Union of Concerned Scientists. [Top 10 Ways to Destroy Earth] In some ways, the failure of these projects isn't surprising: Intercepting an intercontinental ballistic missile is really hard, Grego said. An ICBM launches, spends 15 minutes traveling through the vacuum of space and then reenters the atmosphere before hitting its target. So an ICBM could be intercepted at just a few points on its journey: when it first launches, once it's out in space, and as it reenters the atmosphere and is zooming toward its target. Each of these approaches has its limitations. For instance, "the launch phase is a minute to a few minutes long," Grego told Live Science. That doesn't leave much time for a rocket to intercept and "kill" a nuclear missile, she added. What's more, historical United States rivals, such as Russia and China, have large land masses. They would likely keep their missiles far inland, meaning sea-based interceptors couldn't get to a missile during its launch phase. So killing a missile early in the course of its flight would require hovering over likely launch sites, Grego said. Early on, the military proposed placing giant Boeing 747s with bomb-killing lasers in the skies above Russia and China. "Pretty quickly, you can see the operational difficulty with that," Grego told Live Science. "Are you going to have several large 747s just hovering indefinitely for decades, just waiting for something to happen?" Beyond that, there are other problems with the "launch-phase" approach. If the interceptor doesn't hit exactly the right spot on the missile, the missile "may not quite make the target it was intended. It will fall somewhere else, like Canada, which Canada will not like," Grego said. "You really have to be explicit and target the payload at the tip of the missile." Using unmanned aerial vehicles has also been as an option, but they lack the firepower to destroy a missile, she added. The second option, and the most viable one, is to intercept the missile during its longest flight course — in space. An advantage of that approach is that, because most U.S. enemies are west of the Pacific, they would all likely program their missiles to take a path above the poles, meaning that just one ground-based interceptor could be placed in Alaska and likely protect the whole country. But intercepting a missile in space also has its problems. "The incoming missile is going 15,000, 17,000 miles an hour [24,000 to 27,000 km/h]," Coyle said. "And going that fast, if you miss by an inch, you can miss by a mile." There's another problem, too: There's no air resistance (or drag) in space. That means a decoy like a balloon that's shaped like a nuclear warhead could travel in the same way as the true warhead, making it difficult for a missile to distinguish the real missile from the decoy. And because balloons are so light, a sophisticated warhead could easily launch 20 or 30 decoy balloons to obscure the path of the warhead, Grego said. Finally, the last-ditch effort would be to intercept as the missile reenters the atmosphere, before it hits the target. An advantage of this approach would be that air resistance would prevent decoys from distracting a system. On the other hand, "you don't have very much time to defend, because it's rapidly coming toward you, so it's not a workable strategy," Grego said. And jamming the electronics in nuclear warheads with something like an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) would likely not work; the weapons are designed to be robust enough to survive the effects of EMPs from other nuclear weapons nearby, Grego said. [Flying Saucers to Mind Control: 22 Declassified Military & CIA Secrets] As a result, the military has in recent decades focused on attacking an ICBM during its midcourse, known as ground-based midcourse missile defense. The military developed a prototype under the Clinton administration that saw early success. But under Bush, the military pushed the weapon from an early prototype and rushed it to operational status. Since then, it has missed the target in 9 out of 17 tests, according to the military. And since 2010, it has missed the target in 3 out of 4 tests. "The failure in flight-intercept tests is all the more surprising, because these tests are highly scripted to achieve success. If these tests were planned to fool U.S. defenses, as a real enemy would do, the failure rate would be even worse," Coyle said. What's more, "it counts one of those failures a success if the interceptor hit the target with a glancing [blow] but did not destroy it," Coyle said. "Close only counts in horseshoes and not in nuclear war." Part of the problem is that the systems were rushed through the engineering process and suffer from design flaws, both Coyle and Grego said. In addition, the military needs to develop additional technology infrastructure, such as radar in different wavelengths, or better satellites to detect missiles, that could do a better job of locating and visualizing the target. But even if the projects were redesigned from the ground up, with careful thought and the best use of existing and new technologies, some challenges with nuclear defense may be insurmountable, Grego said. For instance, so far, no one has come up with a way to solve the problem of nuclear warhead decoys in space, she said. And focusing on "strategic defense" that can protect American cities half the time may be much more expensive and ultimately more dangerous for the world, compared to using those resources for more effective war-deterrence strategies such as diplomacy, Grego said.


Coastal communities are enduring growing flood risks from rising seas, with places like Atlantic City, sandwiched between a bay and the ocean, facing some of the greatest threats. Guided by new research by Climate Central’s Scott Kulp and Benjamin Strauss, reporter John Upton and photographer Ted Blanco chronicled the plight of this city’s residents as they struggle to deal with the impacts. Upton spent months investigating how the city is adapting, revealing vast inequity between the rich and the poor. A driver plowed a sedan forcefully up Arizona Avenue, which had flooded to knee height during a winter storm as high tide approached. The wake from the passing Honda buffeted low brick fences lining the tidy homes of working-class residents of this failing casino city, pushing floodwaters into Eileen DeDomenicis’s living room. “It wasn’t bad when we first moved in here — the flooding wasn’t bad,” DeDomenicis said on a stormy morning in March, after helping her husband put furniture on blocks. She counted down until the tide would start to ebb, using a yardstick to measure the height of floodwaters climbing her patio stairs. She was tracking how many more inches it would take to inundate the ground floor. “When somebody comes by in a car, it splashes up. It hits the door.” DeDomenicis has lived in this house since 1982, a few hundred feet from a bay. She used to work as a restaurant server; now she’s a school crossing guard. Her husband walked a mile to his job at Bally’s Casino until he retired in January. They’ve seen floods worsen as the seas have risen, as the land beneath them has sunk, and as local infrastructure has rotted away. “It comes in the front door, the back door, and then from the bottom of the house, in through the sides,” DeDomenicis said. “You watch it come in and it meets in the middle of the house — and there’s nothing you can do.” Two miles east of Arizona Avenue, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is spending tens of millions of dollars building a seawall to reduce storm surge and flooding risks for Atlantic City’s downtown and its towering casinos, five of which have closed in the past four years. A few miles in the other direction, it’s preparing to spend tens of millions more on sand dunes to protect million-dollar oceanfront homes. But the federal government has done little to protect the residents of Arizona Avenue, or the millions of other working class and poor Americans who live near bays up and down the East Coast, from a worsening flooding crisis. Seas are rising as pollution from fossil fuel burning, forest losses, and farming fuels global warming, melting ice, and expanding ocean water. With municipal budgets stretched thin, lower-income neighborhoods built on low-lying land are enduring some of the worst impacts. Climate Central scientists analyzed hundreds of coastal American cities and, in 90 of them, projected rapid escalation in the number of roads and homes facing routine inundation. The flooding can destroy vehicles, damage homes, block roads and freeways, hamper emergency operations, foster disease spread by mosquitoes, and cause profound inconveniences for coastal communities. Atlantic City is among those facing the greatest risks, yet much of the high-value property that the Army Corps is working to protect was built on a higher elevation and faces less frequent flooding than neighborhoods occupied by working class and unemployed residents — an increasing number of whom are living in poverty. Earthen mounds called bulkheads built along Atlantic City’s shores to block floods have washed away, or were never built in the first place. Flap valves in aging storm drains have stopped working, allowing water to flow backward from the bay into the street when tides are high. At high tide, stormwater pools in Arizona Avenue, unable to drain to the bay. The flooding is getting worse because seas have been rising along the mid-Atlantic coast faster than in most other regions, and the land here is sinking because of groundwater pumping and natural processes. High tides in Atlantic City reach more than a foot higher than they did a century ago, and sea-level rise is accelerating. New Jersey has done little to address the problem, aside from administering federal grants that have helped a limited number of residents abandon or elevate vulnerable houses. “We expect each town to focus on planning and budgeting for mitigating flooding,” said New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson Bob Considine. Atlantic City can nary afford the kinds of capital improvements needed to provide meaningful relief. The Army Corps last year began a study of bay flooding in a sweeping stretch of New Jersey covering Atlantic City and 88 other municipalities, home to an estimated 700,000. The study was authorized by Congress in 1987, but it wasn’t kickstarted until federal research identified widespread risks following Superstorm Sandy. The bay flooding study is “fairly early in the process,” said Joseph Forcina, a senior Army Corps official who is overseeing more than $4 billion worth of post-Sandy recovery work by the agency, including construction of a $34 million seawall in downtown Atlantic City and tens of millions of dollars worth of sand dune construction and replenishment nearby. The study is expected to take more than two years. “We really are in the data-gathering mode.” The study will help the agency propose a plan, which Congress could consider funding, to ease flood risks when high tides and storms push seawater from bays into streets and homes. It will consider the effects of sea-level rise, but it won’t directly address flooding from poor drainage of rainwater, meaning any fixes spurred by the study are likely to be partial at best. “The Corps is not the agency that deals with interior drainage,” Forcina said. “That’s a local responsibility.” Floods are driving up insurance rates, while routinely causing property damage and inconveniences. Federal flood insurance promotes coastal living in high-risk areas, and the program is more than $20 billion in arrears following Hurricane Katrina and Sandy. Arizona Avenue residents received Federal Emergency Management Agency letters in March warning of insurance rate increases ahead of 5 to 18 percent a year, which “makes us want to leave even more,” said Tom Gitto. Raising three children on Arizona Avenue, Gitto and his wife have been unemployed since the closure last year of Trump Taj Mahal, where they worked. He said the flooding has become unbearable but property prices are so low that they feel trapped. Two houses on Arizona Avenue recently sold for less than $35,000. Gitto paid a similar price for his fixer-upper in the 1990s, then spent more than the purchase price on renovations. Flood insurance provided $36,000 for another refurbishment after Sandy ravaged their home. Flooding strikes the Jersey Shore so often now that the National Weather Service’s office in Mount Holly, New Jersey, raised the threshold at which it issues flood advisories by more than three inches in 2012 “to avoid creating warning fatigue,” flooding program manager Dean Iovino said. Such advisories were being issued nearly every month in Atlantic City before the policy change, up from an average of four months a year in the 1980s. One out of 10 of the 20,000 homes in Atlantic City are at elevations that put them at risk of flooding each year on average, Climate Central found, though some are protected by bulkheads and other infrastructure that help keep floods at bay. The research was published Wednesday in the journal Climatic Change. The proportion of the city’s streets and homes affected by flooding is projected to quickly rise. Within about 30 years — the typical life of a mortgage — one out of three homes in Atlantic City could be inundated in a typical year. That would be the case even if aggressive efforts to slow climate change are put in place, such as a rapid global switch from fossil fuels to clean energy. The worsening woes aren’t confined to Atlantic City, though risks here are among the greatest in America. Neighborhoods near bays can experience rapid increases in the number of streets and homes exposed to regular floods, with small additional sea level capable of reaching far into flat cityscapes and suburbs. Elsewhere at the Jersey Shore, in Ocean City, New Jersey, the analysis showed one out of five homes are built on land expected to flood in typical years, a figure that could rise to nearly half by 2050. Other cities facing rapid increases in risks include San Mateo along San Francisco Bay in Silicon Valley, the lumber town of Aberdeen at Grays Harbor in Washington state, and Poquoson, Virginia, which has a population of 12,000 and juts into the Chesapeake Bay. The greenhouse gas pollution that’s already been pumped into the atmosphere makes it too late to prevent coastal flooding from getting worse. It’s simply a matter of how much worse. The benefits of acting now to slow the effects of warming later would become clearest in the second half of this century. In Atlantic City, if global pollution trends continue and defenses are not improved, 80 percent of current homes risk being inundated in typical years by the end of the century, the analysis showed. By contrast, if greenhouse gas pollution is aggressively reduced almost immediately, the number of homes expected to be exposed to that risk in 2100 would fall to 60 percent. As efforts to protect the climate flounder in the U.S. and elsewhere, unleashing higher temperatures and seas, communities like the DeDomenicises’ have three basic options for adapting. They can defend against floods with infrastructure that keeps tidal waters at bay, such as bulkheads, pumps, and marsh and dune restorations. They can accommodate the water using measures such as elevating existing houses and building new ones on stilts. And they can relocate altogether, an option that’s expected to lead to mass migrations inland during the decades ahead. Modeling by University of Georgia demographer Mathew Hauer projects 250,000 being forced by rising seas from New Jersey by century’s end if pollution levels remain high, with nearly 1.5 million refugees fleeing to Texas from U.S. coasts elsewhere. And from Florida — the poster child for sea-level dangers in the U.S. — 2.5 million may be driven to other states. All three strategies are being pursued to some extent in Atlantic City. All of them are expensive, limiting the options available for a city in decline. “Cities boom and bust,” said Benjamin Strauss, coauthor of the new study and vice president for sea level and climate impacts at Climate Central, which researches and reports on climate change. “Neighborhoods can thrive, and fall into decay. Those are, to some extent, natural cycles of economic life. But now, superimposed onto that for Atlantic City at just the wrong time is this awful existential sea-level threat.” Barrier islands like Absecon Island, upon which Atlantic City grew as a gaming and vacation mecca, line the East Coast, from New York to Florida, natural features associated with the coastline’s wide continental shelf and shallow waters. Until barrier islands were developed and armored with seawalls, roads, and building foundations, low-lying shores facing the mainland could keep up with rising seas. Wind and waves washed sand and mud over growing marshes, helping to build up the land. Now, a century of development has locked down the shape and position of the islands, blocking natural processes. “It’s a huge problem for the U.S.,” said Benjamin Horton, a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, which is a global leader in researching sea rise. “These barrier islands are important for so many things — important for housing, important for the economy. They’re important for a variety of industries. They’re especially important for ecosystems. And the barriers protect the mainland from hurricanes; they’re a first line of defense. You lose the barrier islands and where do you think the big waves are going to hit?” As barrier islands and mainland coastlines were developed, wealthy neighborhoods clustered near ocean shores, where the elevations tend to be higher — which reduces flood risks — and where views are considered the best. Lower-income neighborhoods and industrial zones grew over former marshlands near bays and rivers, where swampy smells are strongest and where flooding occurs most frequently. That divide between rich and poor is clearly on display on Absecon Island, where stately houses built on higher land facing the ocean are often occupied only during summer — when risks of storms are lowest. The vacation homes and downtown Atlantic City casinos will be protected from storm surges by a new seawall and sand dunes built by the Army Corps, despite lawsuits filed by homeowners angry that dunes will block ocean views. Poorer neighborhoods are exemplified by Arizona Avenue, a block-long street between a bay and a minor thoroughfare. Bricks in fences and walls are stained by floodwaters and decaying beneath the effects of wakes from passing cars. The century-old, two-story houses have concrete patios and little landscaping — plants are hard to grow in the flood-prone conditions. During high tides that accompany new and full moons, the street can flood on sunny days. Rubber trash cans can be buoyant in floodwaters, tip over and foul the street with spoiled food and bathroom waste, which residents sweep away after floods recede. Cars are frequently destroyed. Many of the houses along Arizona Avenue had to be stripped and renovated after Sandy filled them with floodwaters and coated walls and ceilings with mold. The winter storm that inundated Arizona Avenue in March was a typical one for the region. The nor’easter struck during a full moon, meaning it coincided with some of the highest tides of the month. Floodwaters stopped rising a few inches beneath the DeDomenicises’ front door. Emergency crews patrolled in vehicles built to withstand high water. These kinds of floods are called “nuisance floods” by experts. Nuisance floods are becoming routine features of coastal living around America, and their impacts are difficult to assess. Washington and other major cities could experience an average of one flood caused by tides and storm surges every three days within 30 years, according to a study published by researchers with the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists in the journal PLOS One in February. Rain and snow that fall during storms increase flood risks. Residents of Arizona Avenue describe anxiety when tides and storms bring floods, especially if they aren’t home to help protect their possessions. The rising floodwaters can be emotional triggers — reminders of the upheaving effects of floods wrought by major storms like Sandy in late 2012 and Winter Storm Jonas in early 2016. Some of the residents have spent months living in hotels while their homes were repaired following storms. One of Tom Gitto’s children was born while the family was living in a hotel room paid for by the federal government after Sandy. Susan Clayton, a psychology and environmental studies professor who researches psychological responses to climate change at the College of Wooster, a liberal arts college in Ohio, said such triggers can lead to sleeping difficulties, “profound anxiety” and other symptoms. The frequent risk of flooding may also make people constantly fear for their homes and for the security their homes provide. “It tends to be very important to everybody that they have some place that they feel they can relax, where they can be in control,” Clayton said. “Your home is your castle. When your home is threatened, that can really undermine a sense of stability and security. It’s not just the flooding, it’s the idea that it’s your home itself that’s being threatened.” The economic impacts of nuisance floods can also be far-reaching — researchers say they’re more impactful than most government officials assume. “Since they don’t get a lot of attention, we don’t have a data record of nuisance flooding costs,” said Amir AghaKouchak, a University of California, Irvine, scientist who studies hydrology and climatology. AghaKouchak led a study published in the journal Earth’s Future in February that attempted to quantify the economic impacts in large coastal cities. The researchers were hamstrung by the dearth of data. Their preliminary findings, however, suggested that the cumulative economic impacts of nuisance floods might already exceed those of occasional disaster floods in some areas. “There’s a lot of cost associated with this minor event,” AghaKouchak said. “Cities and counties have to send out people with trucks, pumps and so forth, they have to close down streets, build temporary berms.” On Arizona Avenue, residents say they feel abandoned by all levels of government. Like an Appalachian coal town, many here depend upon a single industry — an entertainment sector that’s in decline, anchored by casinos that draw visitors to hotels, arcades, restaurants, gas stations and strip clubs. “They forget about us,” said Christopher Macaluso, a 30-year-old poker dealer who owns a house on Arizona Avenue and grew up nearby. “We’re the city. If they didn’t have the dealers, the dishwashers, the valet guys, the cooks and the housemaids, what have you got? We definitely feel left out.” With casinos operating in nearby Pennsylvania and elsewhere following the lifting of gambling bans, the flow of visitors to Atlantic City has slowed over a decade from a gush to a trickle. Some towering casino buildings stand abandoned, like empty storefronts in a dying downtown. Others are filled well below capacity with gamers and vacationers; their gaudy interiors faded and gloomy. One out of every six jobs in Atlantic City was lost between 2010 and 2016 as nearly 5 percent of the population left, according to the latest regional economic report by New Jersey’s Stockton University, which is building a campus in the city. The number of Atlantic City residents using food stamps rose to 15 percent in 2015, and more than one out of every five children here is now officially living in poverty. President Trump’s construction of two ill-fated casinos in a saturated industry intensified the Atlantic City gaming bubble that began its spectacular burst a decade ago. (As president, Trump is dismantling regulations designed to slow sea rise and other effects of warming.) The city is so broke that its government operations are being overseen by New Jersey. “From the moment they started pulling handles in Pennsylvania, the cash that was pouring into slot machines in Atlantic City started to fall,” said Stockton University’s Oliver Cooke, who compares the city’s economic plight to that of Detroit. “As the economy melted down and the land valuations in the city headed south, the tax base just completely melted away.” Unable to pay for far-reaching measures taken by wealthier waterfront regions, like road-raising in Miami Beach and sweeping marsh restorations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Atlantic City has taken only modest steps to ease flooding. Using funds from a bond sale and state and federal grants, the city has been refurbishing sluice gates in a canal that were built to control floodwaters but haven’t worked in more than half a century. It plans to replace flap valves in two stormwater drains near Arizona Avenue for $16,000 apiece. “We’re treating that money like gold,” said Elizabeth Terenik, who was Atlantic City’s planning director until last month, when she left its shrinking workforce for a job with a flood-prone township nearby. That’s far shy of the tens of millions of dollars being spent just blocks away. The Army Corps is using Sandy recovery money to alleviate hazards in wealthier parts of the city and elsewhere on Absecon Island and in New York and other nearby states, while flooding affecting low-income residents of Arizona Avenue and similar neighborhoods is overlooked. “The Corps does not say, ‘Here’s a problem, and we’re going to fix it’ — somebody has to ask them to help,” said Gerald Galloway, a University of Maryland engineering professor and former Army Corps official. “It depends on a very solid citizen push to get it done. The Corps of Engineers has a backlog of construction awaiting money. You need very strong organizations competing for it.” Coastal New Jersey’s working class have little power in Washington and their cities manage modest budgets. The divide in Atlantic City reflects a grand injustice of global warming — one that’s familiar to Pacific nations facing obliteration from rising seas, and to Alaskan tribes settled by the government on shrinking coasts. While the wealthy may be able to adapt to the effects of climate change, the poor oftentimes cannot. “In some cases, the most vulnerable populations will not be able to move,” said Miyuki Hino, a Stanford PhD candidate who has studied coastal resettlements around the world. “In other cases, they’ll be forced to.”


News Article | May 14, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

An insider’s view on how we got here — and what Trump can do about it. North Korea launched what appears to be a new type of ballistic missile on Sunday, extending the range and flight time over other recent tests, a development that could potentially put U.S. bases in Asia within Pyongyang’s range. The launch of the as yet unidentified missile could signal advances over known North Korean capabilities, adding to tensions in the region as the Trump administration seeks to prevent Pyongyang from developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. The test also presents an early challenge to South Korea’s new president, who was elected this month after vowing to return to conciliatory policies toward Pyongyang. The test may represent “a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile,” said John Schilling, an engineer and analyst with 38 North, a project of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins, adding that the launch “could be a substantial advance to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile.” The missile flew for about 30 minutes, during which it traveled about 620 miles and reached a height of 1,200 miles, according to early assessments. The U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement that the flight “was not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile,” but analysts said that if the missile were to be fired on a standard trajectory it could travel about 2,800 miles, potentially endangering the U.S. air base in Guam. It was the 10th ballistic missile test for Pyongyang so far this year, one more than the nine tested at this point in 2016. The White House has applied more pressure on Beijing in recent weeks to take a harder stand with the regime of Kim Jong Un to curb his ballistic missile and nuclear programs. In a statement Saturday night, the White House brought Russia into the discussion, noting that the missile splashed down closer to Russia than Japan, adding that “the president cannot imagine that Russia is pleased.” Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two leaders said in a statement they had discussed the security situation on the Korean peninsula and had “concerns,” but did not offer specifics. The Russian Ministry of Defense said that its missile defense systems tracked the North Korean missile for 23 minutes before it fell about 310 miles from the Russian coast. Given its altitude, “the range is considerably longer than the estimated range of the Musudan missile, which showed a range of about 3,000 km [1,864 miles] in a test last year,” wrote David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists in a blog post on Sunday. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who only took office on Wednesday after his predecessor was impeached, held his first National Security Council in response to the launch, which he called a “clear violation” of U.N. Security Council resolutions.


News Article | May 14, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks as he presides over a meeting of the National Security Council at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, May 14, 2017. North Korea on Sunday test-launched a ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan, the South Korean, Japanese and U.S. militaries said. The launch is a direct challenge to the new South Korean president elected four days ago and comes as U.S., Japanese and European navies gather for joint war games in the Pacific. (Yonhap via AP) SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Sunday test-launched a ballistic missile that flew for half an hour and reached an unusually high altitude before landing in the Sea of Japan, the South Korean, Japanese and U.S. militaries said. The launch, which Tokyo said could be of a new type of missile, is a direct challenge to the new South Korean president and comes as U.S., Japanese and European navies gather for joint war games in the Pacific. It wasn't immediately clear what type of ballistic missile was launched, the seventh such firing this year, although the U.S. Pacific Command said that "the flight is not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile." Japanese officials, however, said the missile flew for about 30 minutes, traveling about 800 kilometers (500 miles) and reaching an altitude of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) — a flight pattern that could indicate a new type of missile. David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the missile could have a range of 4,500 kilometers (about 2,800 miles) if flown on a standard, instead of a lofted, trajectory — considerably longer than Pyongyang's current missiles. He said Sunday's launch may have been of a new mobile, two-stage liquid-fueled missile North Korea displayed in a huge April 15 military parade. South Korea, Japan and the U.S. swiftly condemned the launch, which jeopardizes new South Korean leader Moon Jae-in's willingness for dialogue with the rival North. "The president expressed deep regret over the fact that this reckless provocation ... occurred just days after a new government was launched in South Korea," said senior presidential secretary Yoon Young-chan. "The president said we are leaving open the possibility of dialogue with North Korea, but we should sternly deal with a provocation to prevent North Korea from miscalculating." For more news videos visit Yahoo View, available on iOS and Android. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that the launch was "absolutely unacceptable" and that Japan will respond resolutely. Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said he and his South Korean counterpart agreed that "dialogue for dialogue's sake with North Korea is meaningless." The White House took note of the missile landing close to Russia's Pacific coast and said in a statement that North Korea has been "a flagrant menace for far too long." The statement said Washington maintains its "ironclad commitment" to stand with its allies in the face of the serious threat posed by North Korea. The latest "provocation" should serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against the North, it said. Outside militaries and experts will closely analyze what the North fired. While Pyongyang regularly tests shorter-range missiles, it is also working to master the technology needed to field nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland. Past North Korean missiles have flown farther than Sunday's test, landing closer to Japan, but this launch follows a series of high-profile failures. Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said North Korea might have launched a "new type of missile," given the altitude and duration of its flight. But she said more analysis was needed. Inada's remarks suggest the missile might have been on a "lofted" trajectory, meaning it could have a far longer range than it actually flew. Japan's Kyodo News agency said the missile may be capable of covering a range as far as 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) if launched at a normal trajectory, citing unidentified sources. Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni said the G-7 summit his country is hosting later this month will discuss how to deal with the risk North Korea's missile launchings pose to global security. He said in Beijing that "it's a serious problem for global stability and security, and I'm convinced that the upcoming G-7, in friendship, will contribute to resolving this issue." South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile was fired early Sunday morning from near Kusong, in North Phyongan province. North Korea's past satellite rocket launches have been called clandestine tests of ICBM technology, but it is not believed to have tested a true intercontinental ballistic missile yet. The Trump administration has called North Korean ballistic and nuclear efforts unacceptable and has swung between threats of military action and offers to talk as it formulates a policy. The North's state media said Saturday that the nation will bolster its nuclear capability unless the United States abandons its hostile policy. "The United States should never expect us to give up our nuclear capability," the main Rodong newspaper said in a commentary carried by the Korean Central News Agency. It said President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure and engagement" policy is only aimed at "stifling us" and will compel the North to "strengthen our nuclear deterrent at the maximum speed." The launch also comes as troops from the U.S., Japan and two European nations gather near Guam for drills that are partly a message to North Korea. The USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft supercarrier, is also engaging with South Korean navy ships in waters off the Korean Peninsula, according to Seoul's Defense Ministry. Moon, the first liberal leader in Seoul in nearly a decade, said as he took his oath of office that he'd be willing to visit the North if the circumstances were right. Trump has also said he'd be "honored" to talk with leader Kim Jong Un under favorable conditions. On Saturday, a top North Korean diplomat in charge of U.S. relations, Choe Son Hui, told reporters in Beijing that Pyongyang would be willing to meet with the Trump administration for negotiations "if the conditions are set." She did not elaborate. Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Frances D'Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.


News Article | May 9, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

Donald Trump hires lawyers to help defend him over Russia allegations Donald Trump has yet to make a decision on whether to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change as global talks continue in Bonn, Germany. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during a news conference that the decision would not be announced until after the Group of Seven (G7) meeting in Italy later this month. Mr Trump had said many times that he wanted to “cancel” the Paris Agreement. Andrew Light, Senior Fellow at World Resources Institute and former US State Department climate official, said White House senior officials and Cabinet members were slated to meet on Tuesday regarding the decision but the meeting has been postponed. Mr Light said the official reason given was that there were scheduling conflicts with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and no rescheduled date has been made public. Nearly 200 countries signed onto the Paris Agreement in December 2015 and it became a cornerstone for President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy. The agreement entered into force for the US on 4 November 2016 - just days before Mr Trump was elected. The process for the US to decide whether they can or should withdraw from the agreement is complex, though the Paris Agreement was not ratified through Congress. Mr Obama felt at the time that he would have faced too much opposition from climate deniers in Congress despite the country being one of the world’s largest emitters of carbon dioxide. Mr Trump has sent a smaller team than usual to the current round of negotiations taking place in Bonn, Germany this month. No country’s officials are saying they are changing their own policies based on Mr Trump’s indecisiveness but they are keeping an eye on him. Climate diplomats see that Mr Trump has proposed cutting the budget by nearly a third to agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which also funds several state and local climate change programmes. He also appointed climate deniers like EPA head Scott Pruitt and advisor Steve Bannon to key roles. Mr Tillerson is a former Exxon executive and has yet to appoint deputies in the State Department on a range of issues including climate change, though has said he thinks climate change is real. The delayed announcement by the White House is a situation members of the G7 were hoping to avoid. During the last summit in April, which focused on energy, no joint statement was issued on climate change as had been done in the past. The G7 issued a joint statement from their 2015 meeting saying that climate change was a major global security threat, noting that its impact crosses borders, adds to violent conflicts, and has a negative impact on economies in the developing world. Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists told The Independent said the more interaction and exposure Mr Trump gets to the G7 leaders while they meet in Italy later in May, “the better.” Mr Trump does seem to prefer face-to-face interactions with world leaders to clarify his positions rather than other diplomatic avenues. He called climate change a “hoax” perpetrated by China but his tune has changed since his personal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has led his country to be a global leader on investing in renewable energy.

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