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February 2011
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October 2011

Chance to keep global warming to 'safe' levels is slipping away

IMG_1188 The latest report from the IEA is not good news: despite the economic downturn, carbon emissions rose so sharply in 2010, on this trajectory it will be impossible to keep temperature rises to "safe" levels of 2 degrees C.

There are two major reasons for this. The first is that we have not transitioned sufficiently to renewables and nuclear for electricity generation, meaning fossil fuel power stations are locked in to the productive grid for the forseeable future. The second is we have not capped developing countries' emissions while buying ever more of their exports.

Unless these issues are addressed very quickly and effectively, there is a 50% chance of temperatures rising by 4 degrees C by 2100 - and that will mark the start of mass extinction events, including of the human species.

Is it now time to begin seriously asking the question, is this the playing out of a collective death wish?

Knowth, Loughcrew and Tara - Irish Neolithic treasures

100_0275Knowth is one of three large passage-graves located at the Boyne valley in eastern Ireland - the others are Newgrange and Dowth. These pictures, taken in September 2010, reveal the astonishing nature of the rock art on the kerbstones at the site. As at Newgrange, it is likely many of these designs have astronomical properties. Kate Prendergast

The passage-graves on the hill summits at Loughcrew are earlier in date than Newgrange and Knowth. These photos show the presence of the double and tripal spiral motif, and the backstone at carin T may have been carved to represent a ram. Its east-west alignment - the entrance and passage is aligned on the rising sun at equinox - shows that an interest in astronomy - also reflected in the rock art - was well developed several hundred years before the huge Boyne sites were built.  

48 poorest countries lose $197 billion 1990-2008 - and UK richest make £77 bilion in 2010

100_0162_2 A new report from Global Financial Integrity details massive capital flows out of the poorest countries of the world and examines how the structural characteristics of Least Developed Countries could be facilitating the cross-border transfer of illicit funds.

Compare and contrast this with recent reports in the UK press that the collective wealth of the country's 1000 richest people rose 30% in 2009-10 in the wake of the economic crisis.

Key findings of Illicit Financial Flows from the Least Developed Countries: 1990-2008 include: 

  • Illicit flows divert resources needed for poverty alleviation and economic development
  • Approximately US$197 billion flowed out of the 48 poorest developing countries and into mainly developed countries, on a net basis over the period 1990-2008
  • The top ten exporters of illicit capital account for 63 percent of total outflows, while the top 20 account for nearly 83 percent
  • Based on available data, African LDCs accounted for 69 percent of total illicit flows, followed by Asia (29 percent) and Latin America (2 percent)
  • Trade mispricing accounts for the bulk (65-70 percent) of illicit outflows from LDCs, and the propensity for mispricing has increased along with increasing external trade

GFI notes that approximately 60% of global trade is conducted by multi-national corporations, and half that amount is between subsidiaries of a parent company. They quote OECD, who argue that “intra-group transactions are not subject to the same market forces as transactions between unrelated parties operating on the free market, there is a huge potential for profit shifting via under or over pricing of intra-group transactions.”

In other words, multinationals are dictating the terms by which capital flows in and out of the world's poorest countries, and they have fixed these flows to ensure that in practice a developing country will derive little or no revenues from the FDI attracted to its territory. World trade on these terms represents no more than a global transfer of resources from the very poor to the very rich; as Nicholas Shaxon has revealed, corporations do not get taxed adequately in rich national jurisdictions either.

It seems to go without saying that until this is halted and reversed, we will not achieve sustainable development, either in the west, or across the world.