A roundup of news, views and ideas from the main stream press and the blogosphere.  Click on the headline link to see the full article.


Regulators Warn 5 Top Banks They Are Still Too Big to Fail

Nathaniel Popper And Peter Eavis, New York Times
The nation’s top bank regulators have added an unexpected voice to the growing chorus of critics worried that the biggest American banks, nearly eight years after the financial crisis, are still too big to fail.

The Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said on Wednesday that five of the nation’s eight largest banks — including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America — did not have “credible” plans for how they would wind themselves down in a crisis without sowing panic.

That suggests that if there were another crisis today, the government would need to prop up the largest banks if it wanted to avoid financial chaos…


Should we scrap benefits and pay everyone £100 a week whether they work or not?

John Harris, The Guardian
Imagine a Britain where the government pays every adult the basic cost of living. Whether rich or poor – or, crucially, whether you’re in paid employment or not – everyone gets the same weekly amount, with no strings attached. The harsh, punitive model of modern “welfare” is a distant memory; passing in and out of employment in the so-called gig economy is now something everyone can afford. The positive consequences extend into the distance: women are newly financially independent and able to exit abusive relationships, public health is noticeably improved, and people are able to devote the time to caring that an ever-ageing society increasingly demands. All the political parties are signed up: just as the welfare state underpinned the 20th century, so this new idea defines the 21st.

Welcome to the world of a unconditional basic income, or UBI, otherwise known as citizens’ income or social wage. It might look like the stuff of insane utopianism, but the idea is now spreading at speed, from the fringes of the left into mainstream politics – and being tried out around the world. The UK Green party has supported the notion for decades: staunch backing for a version of UBI was one of its key themes at the last election. At its spring conference last month, the Scottish National party passed a motion supporting the idea that “a basic or universal income can potentially provide a foundation to eradicate poverty, make work pay and ensure all our citizens can live in dignity”. A handful of Labour MPs have started to come round to the idea – and serious work is being done among thinktanks and pressure groups, looking at how it might work in the here and now…

And then there is the rising noise from Silicon Valley. The California-based startup incubator Y Combinator has announced that it wants to fund research into UBI’s viability. Its president, Sam Altman, says: “It is impossible to truly have equality of opportunity without some version of guaranteed income.” In New York, the influential venture capitalist Albert Wenger has been sounding off about a basic income for at least three years, claiming it offers an answer to a very modern question. If, as he says, “we are at the beginning of the time where machines will do a lot of the things humans have traditionally done”, how do you avoid “a massive bifurcation of society into those who have wealth and those who don’t”?…


What Is France’s ‘Nuit Debout’ Protest Movement?

Josh Lowe, Newsweek
The Nuit Debout (“Up All Night”) protest movement that is sweeping France has grown far faster than its ideological cousin, the Occupy Wall Street movement, according to one of the original organizers of that 2011 protest.

“What’s remarkable is how fast it happened, just how many people got involved so quickly, it almost has potential for a real social explosion,” says David Graeber, an American anthropologist who was heavily involved with Occupy and is currently visiting the Nuit Debout camp in Paris.

So what is the movement, and where is it going?…


CO2’s Role in Global Warming Has Been on the Oil Industry’s Radar Since the 1960s

Neela Banerjee, John H. Cushman Jr., David Hasemyer And Lisa Song, Inside Climate News
The oil industry’s leading pollution-control consultants advised the American Petroleum Institute in 1968 that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels deserved as much concern as the smog and soot that had commanded attention for decades.

Carbon dioxide was "the only air pollutant which has been proven to be of global importance to man’s environment on the basis of a long period of scientific investigation," two scientists from the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) told the API.

This paper, along with scores of other publications, shows that the risks of climate change were being discussed in the inner circles of the oil industry earlier than previously documented. The records, unearthed from archives by a Washington, D.C. environmental law organization, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), reveal that the carbon dioxide question—an obscure corner of research for much of the 20th century—had been closely studied since the 1950s by some oil company researchers…


Greenland’s Melt Season Started Nearly Two Months Early

Brian Kahn, Climate Central
To say the 2016 Greenland melt season is off to the races is an understatement.

Warm, wet conditions rapidly kicked off the melt season this weekend, more than a month-and-a-half ahead of schedule. It has easily set a record for earliest melt season onset, and marks the first time it’s begun in April…


Call climate change what it is: violence

Rebecca Solnit, The Guardian
If you’re poor, the only way you’re likely to injure someone is the old traditional way: artisanal violence, we could call it – by hands, by knife, by club, or maybe modern hands-on violence, by gun or by car.

But if you’re tremendously wealthy, you can practice industrial-scale violence without any manual labor on your own part. You can, say, build a sweatshop factory that will collapse in Bangladesh and kill more people than any hands-on mass murderer ever did, or you can calculate risk and benefit about putting poisons or unsafe machines into the world, as manufacturers do every day. If you’re the leader of a country, you can declare war and kill by the hundreds of thousands or millions. And the nuclear superpowers – the US and Russia – still hold the option of destroying quite a lot of life on Earth.

So do the carbon barons. But when we talk about violence, we almost always talk about violence from below, not above.

Or so I thought when I received a press release last week from a climate group announcing that "scientists say there is a direct link between changing climate and an increase in violence". What the scientists actually said, in a not-so-newsworthy article in Nature two and a half years ago, is that there is higher conflict in the tropics in El Nino years, and that perhaps this will scale up to make our age of climate change also an era of civil and international conflict.

The message is that ordinary people will behave badly in an era of intensified climate change…


In-depth: Experts assess the feasibility of ‘negative emissions’

Staff, Carbon Brief
To limit climate change to “well below 2C”, as nations agreed to do in Paris last December, modelling shows it is likely that removing carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere later on this century will be necessary.

Scientists have imagined a range of “negative emissions” technologies, or NETs, that could do just that, as explained by Carbon Brief yesterday. But are any of them realistic in practice?

Carbon Brief reached out to a number of scientists, policy experts and campaigners who have studied both the necessity and feasibility of negative emissions.

We sent them the following identical email:

The Paris Agreement calls for “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels”. However, as the IPCC AR5 report showed, the majority of modelling to date assumes a significant global-scale deployment of negative emissions technologies in the second half of this century, if such temperature limits are to be achieved.

1) What negative emissions technologies offer the most promise – and why?
2) Is it feasible to achieve the scale of deployment required to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement? If so, how? If not, why?…


Why Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, just went bankrupt

Brad Plumer, Vox
The US coal industry is imploding. And here’s the most spectacular casualty yet: Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in St. Louis on Wednesday.

It’s hard to overstate what a seismic shift this is. Peabody has been a giant in the mining industry seemingly forever, after starting out in Chicago in 1880 with just a wagon and two mules. Two decades ago, coal provided fully half of America’s electricity, much of it dug up by Peabody. At its peak in 2008, the company had a market cap of $20 billion, supplying coal to 26 countries worldwide.

But then came the fall. The emergence of fracking and cheap shale gas in the United States, coupled with stricter environmental regulations, has helped push hundreds of coal-fired power plants out of business in recent years. US coal production has nosedived from 1.17 billion metric tons in 2008 to just 752.5 million in 2016. Coal consumption in China, another crucial market, has also cooled off of late.

Between 2012 and 2015, Peabody laid off more than 20 percent of its global workforce and shuttered some of its US mines. Today, the company is saddled with $10.1 billion in debt and its future looks gloomy. Hence the bankruptcy filing…


Scientists of the Future Will Have One Word for the Present: Plastics

Faye Flam, Bloomberg View
Historians may soon be looking back at the 20th and early 21st centuries as the time of computers and the Internet, bold ventures into space and the splitting of the atom. But what will scholars in the distant future find worthy of note? If there’s anyone around with a penchant for paleontology hundreds of thousands of years from now, a surprise awaits in the stratigraphic layers containing the remains of our time.

Anyone digging into the earth would find a sudden, explosive increase in a new kind of material — plastic. Once underground, plastic will fossilize well, leaving a distinct signature. And there’s plenty of it. Until the 20th century, plastic was virtually nonexistent. Since then, humans have created 5 billion tons. The paleontologist Jan Zalasiewicz has calculated that if it were all converted into cling wrap, there would be enough to wrap the globe…

 

News clippings image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.