Working towards peace and sustainability

Coronavirus: What it Reveals and What it Distracts From--Plus More!

As we live through unprecedented times, Peaceworks extends our wishes for good health to all, and for a speedy end to the Coronavirus Crisis. We very recently sent a newsletter out to our members sharing some of our concerns and thoughts regarding the present moment. If you've not yet seen it, we invite you to read through this newsletter by clicking HERE. We welcome your thoughts and feedback.
Above is page 1 of our four page newsletter. To read the full newsletter, please click HERE.

New War in the Midst of Impeachment Season?

We are living in perilous times. The assassination of Qasem Soleimani was a unilateral act of aggression by the Trump regime—an act of war—that was not only illegal and immoral, but it is likely to have very adverse consequences.

Some speculate that an armed conflict is desired by the administration that is on the ropes politically and facing a reelection battle this year. Most are familiar with the notion of a "Wag the Dog," scenario to distract from misconduct and get at least some voters to rally around the flag and the incumbent administration.

Whether that is the intention of the President is not as significant as are the consequences of this action. This comes on top of Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord, his imposition of new, draconian sanctions, followed by the escalation of fighting with Iranian allies/proxies, skirmishes in the Persian Gulf and more.

Some might not yet recognize just how important a figure Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani was. He was according to many accounts the second most important political figure in Iran, after only the Supreme Leader.

Soleimani was revered by many. Thus this action will only stoke hatred for the U.S. not just in Iran, or Iraq, which also lost an important official--Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi--in the attack, but throughout much of the world, especially in predominantly Muslim countries.
A portion of the massive crowd at Qasem Soleimani' funeral.
Yet the Trump administration claims this act of war was a “de-escalation” of the U.S.-Iran conflict; a step toward ending, not starting, war; one that will “save lives.” Such claims are preposterous. Yet, sadly, if Trump or his surrogates say it, there are some who’ll believe it, no matter how off the wall it might be.

Clearly, killing central figures in other countries' governments is not a path to settling conflict. In fact, it has exactly the opposite effect. To pretend otherwise will only hoodwink the extremely gullible, or those so thoroughly indoctrinated that they will believe virtually anything someone they’ve put their faith in says. It makes a fool or a liar, in the eyes of the rest of us, of anyone who makes such ridiculous assertions. And, in the process, it deepens and widens the chasm between Trump's true believers and the rest of the citizenry.

Heating a Cold War & Accelerating Nuclear Proliferation

Last Friday, an already dangerous situation in the Persian Gulf region became a much greater threat, both in the near term and looking forward. Sadly, we are likely to see the ratcheting up of a cycle of violence in which the U.S. and Iran both inflict violence, death and destruction. The U.S. is already sending thousands of additional troops to the region, while Iran is already stating they will seek revenge. It is not yet clear how much blood, or whose blood, will be shed, but this will not be pretty.

Moreover, this greatly strengthens the hand of those in Iran who favor nuclear weapons development as a deterrent to U.S. aggression. The Iranians have already announced that they will no longer be bound by the constraints agreed to in the accord. While we in Peaceworks are in favor of nuclear weapons abolition and oppose proliferation, it's hard to argue with the logic of nuclear deterrence. We all can see that countries like Iraq and Iran, which don't have nuclear weapons, are on the receiving end of U.S. attacks, while North Korea, which does, has its leader wined and dined and praised to the high heavens.
This map shows U.S. military bases thousands of miles from our shores and surrounding Iran. It helps to answer the question who is threatening whom.
 War Crimes & Justice

Some assert that Qasem Soleimani was an evil figure, guilty of many crimes, and thus he deserved his fate. While it may be true, as these defenders of the assassination assert, that he is guilty of serious crimes, we are a nation that bases our governance on the rule of law. This includes domestic and international law. If Soleimani was a war criminal, he should have been apprehended and placed in the dock at The Hague, where he could have had a fair trial, rather than face summary execution.

While our government was instrumental in bringing many of Germany and Japan’s top officials to justice after World War II—establishing the Nuremberg Principles in the process—there has been a general U.S. reluctance, in recent decades, to respect international law. For example, our government has refused to accept the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court. Further, they haves steadfastly held that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and other architects of the crime against the peace otherwise known as the Iraq War should face no sanctions for their actions, at home or abroad.

By simultaneously denying U.S. officials are subject to facing consequences for their actions, while denying others accused of heinous acts the right to a fair trial, their actions are seriously undermining the already tattered framework of international law, and, in the process, implicitly proclaiming that might makes right. This can only lead us further down the path of having the law of the jungle replace the rule of law.

It is also worthy of note that making war on Iran is not only a violation of international law, but also has no legal justification under U.S. law. Congress has not declared war or authorized the use of military force. The authorizations passed after 9/11 and prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq do not apply to the current situation and thus, the various threats made by Trump would not be legal unless taken first to Congress and supported by both houses.

Our Actions Now Matter

This is no time to be quiet. There's way too much at stake. It's time for all of us to speak out for peace and reconciliation and to oppose a drive to war by Trump.

It’s time to be visible and demonstrate publicly our concern. There already are two weekly peace demonstrations in CoMo (Wednesdays, 4:30-5:30 p.m. at Broadway & Providence, and Saturdays, 10-11 a.m. at the CoMo Post Office on Walnut). There will be others, including injecting a peace presence at the Jan. 18 Solidarity Rally & March.

We also need to raise war and peace concerns in every arena we can, including at work, at school, in our interactions with friends, at our houses of worship, on-line and more.

We certainly should be communicating with our members of Congress, but this is really not sufficient. We are in an election year and these concerns need to be raised with all the candidates, made a key voting criterion. We, as Peaceworks, neither support nor opposed candidates for office, but we do encourage our members and supporters to engage in active citizenship, which includes, of course, registering and voting, as well as backing candidates. We hope you will take seriously both the perils of our current situation and the opportunities we face this critical election year. Please engage as you can.

Peaceworks Truly Needs--and Values--Your Support.

Peaceworks is able to do all you see above, and lots more, primarily due to the active participation of community members. It does, however, take financial support to keep our boat afloat and during this, the closing quarter of the year, we are aiming to raise $30K. To do this will take the generous support of a couple of hundred of our supporters. So, we are asking today for your support.

To learn more, we invite you to CLICK HERE.

To donate securely on-line CLICK HERE.

Or, if you'd rather you can mail your donation to Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, 804 E. Broadway Ste. C, Columbia, MO 65201.

If you'd like to print and fill out a coupon, you can CLICK HERE.

You can also bring your donation to the Peace Nook or call in a donation by calling us at 573-875-0539.

However you give, we really appreciate your support. Your donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.

Support the CoMo CAAP/Responses to Critics

On Monday, June 17 the Columbia City Council will take an historic vote, hopefully adopting the Columbia Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP). Peaceworks encourages members and supporters to attend the Council meeting that evening and to contact your councilperson and the mayor prior to the meeting to share your thoughts on the CAAP.

So far most reactions to the CAAP have been positive and we are hopeful that the Plan will be passed unanimously. We have heard a very modest number of objections or concerns. We’d like to respond to those concerns, but first a little on what the CAAP is and what it is not.

Columbia’s CAAP is a general roadmap to a carbon-neutral future. Drafted as the result of a two-year process with ample opportunities for public input, the plan lays out many steps and broader strategies to achieve net carbon neutrality for the community at large by 2060 and net carbon neutrality for city operations by 2050. The CAAP includes interim targets for the community of reductions from a 2015 baseline of 35 percent by 2035 and 80 percent by 2050. It also calls for a 50 percent reduction in emissions from city operations by 2035.

The CAAP includes sections dealing with energy, housing, transportation, waste, health/safety and natural resources. It includes what are considered Cross-Cutting Strategies and Actions, as well as Sector Specific Strategies and Actions. We encourage everyone to access the CAAP draft on-line.

The CAAP does not enact the needed changes, but rather lays out a general path to get from here to there. Any changes that would be made in city operations or requirements (e.g. changes in building codes, W&L operations, mass transit, etc.) would be done at a later date with input from citizens and action by the Council required.

Framers of the CAAP have done extensive research as to our current situation here in CoMo and also have looked closely to see what other cities have done. The result is a very deliberate, flexible and incremental approach. Some may fault the CAAP for not being ambitious enough, but, given the magnitude of the crisis we face, few would think it too bold.

This said, there are some critics, and some of the concerns they’re raising are due to misinformation or misinterpretation of the facts. So, let us respond:

Climate Change is Real and a Very Real Threat:  There is a broad, international scientific consensus based upon both an understanding of physics and the analysis of data scientifically collected, that the planet is warming and, with this warming is coming significant climatic changes including more extreme weather events (super storms, floods, droughts, etc.) that are causing serious dislocation, damages, crop failures, fires, loss of human life and limb, loss of habitat, species extinction, climate refugees, etc.

Those who deny the reality of these readily observable phenomena are disputing the conclusions reached by virtually every major scientific organization here in the U.S. and around the world, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They are also denying the conclusions of the National Climate Assessment conducted under the Trump administration.

How Much Warming: Some critics have made claims that we don’t have to worry (or take action) because the world is actually cooling. There is no basis for these claims.  While the National Climate Assessment projects the average increase in temperature by the year 2100 range from 1.5-4.5 degrees Celsius (2.7-8.1 degrees Fahrenheit), the former assumes that immediate and bold action is taken to limit and eliminate emissions, while the latter assumes business as usual.

The implications of the high-end scenarios are truly unthinkable, and it is therefore incumbent upon us in Columbia to join people of conscience everywhere who are taking action to effectively address the crisis.
The Cost of the CAAP:  A major objection raised by CAAP opponents is that effective climate action will be costly. There are two major flaws in these assertions. First of all, they fail to recognize that many of the actions the CAAP calls for will have both costs and savings.

For example, if a house, apartment or other structure has an energy efficiency upgrade, there will be an initial cost and then there will be significant savings in future utility costs, as it will take less energy to heat, cool and otherwise operate the building. Most retrofits pay back the investment in six years or less, which means a 16 percent or better annual return on the investment. And these upgrades generally continue to return such savings for decades to come, long after the initial investment is repaid.

The other flaw is the failure to recognize the existence of very significant costs attributable to our use of fossil fuels that are currently “externalized.” Cost externalities are generally recognized by economists as a major source of market failure. These are costs that are real, but are not included in the prices we pay.

In this case burning fossil fuels pollutes our air and water, significantly impacts the health of our population, and alters our climate, all of which lead to serious costs to society, both today and in the future. But these costs are not currently incorporated into the price of the fuels we purchase. The costs of actions called for in the CAAP will be, in general, more than offset by savings to society at large.

The bottom line on cost is yes, it will cost to mitigate and adapt to climate change, but it will cost even more not to take effective action now.

Costs & Benefits of Home Energy Upgrades:  Some have raised concerns about the cost impact of weatherization and other home energy improvements. According to the Missouri Division of Energy in the Department of Economic Development, following weatherization improvements to a home, on average the occupant will save $435 annually on their energy bills. Additionally, a study done by the C40 association of cities found that even the lowest income quintile was able to increase their disposable income (income after taxes) by 3.1 percent after energy efficiency improvements to their residence.  

Solar and Wind:  Opponents question whether we can meet our energy needs relying primarily on solar and wind power. There is a natural variation in the availability and intensity of these sources, but these are predictable, and, through a combination of wheeling power over the grid, installing storage, and load shifting, we can have a 100 percent renewable electric utility within the CAAP timeline.

Cost of Renewables:  Some opponents have asserted that renewable energy is too expensive. While we understand concerns about costs, the trends are all pointing in favor of renewables. In an article published in Forbes on May 29, 2019, it was reported that “The cost of renewable energy has tumbled even further over the past year, to the point where almost every source of green energy can now compete on cost with oil, coal and gas-fired power plants, according to new data released today.” The article references a study Renewable Power Generation Costs, released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an inter-governmental body with around 160 members.

Some opponents have cited studies that looked at past costs, but these costs have declined significantly. Columbia Water and Light is already paying significantly less for renewables than it did previously. Purchased wind power is costing our utility less than half the price of coal-generated purchased power, while solar is marginally cheaper than coal, but has the price locked in for 30 years, with no fuel costs.

Wind and Birds:  Some opponents of wind power have raised concerns regarding bird deaths from wind turbines. Of course, no one wants to see birds killed. The number of birds killed by wind generators, however, isdwarfed by those killed by cats, by moving vehicles, by birds flying into buildings and even by conventional power plants. If properly sited, wind generation is not a serious threat to birds, while climate change most definitely is. That’s why many conservation organizations, including most prominently the Audubon Society, which are deeply concerned about birds, are also strong supporters of wind-generated power.

Electric Vehicles:  Some opponents have pointed out that switching to electric vehicles will increase demand for electricity making a renewable energy future much more difficult to attain. What they fail to recognize is that savings from efficiency improvements will offset much of the increased transportation sector demand. Shifting from gasoline and diesel-fueled vehicles to EVs should not require any further reduction in demand for electricity from existing uses. If more electricity is needed, we will simply have to be purchasing more power from wind or solar generation to meet the vehicular demand.

Two pieces of good news: First, the cost of running an EV is a lot less than the cost of using gasoline or diesel. Second, our cars will be able to charge their batteries at times when power is readily available. This can be done overnight, using abundant wind at a time when other uses are low. It also can be done during the day while we’re at work, using solar power available to vehicles charging up in parking lots at our workplaces.

Roll Carts: While some are concerned about roll carts, which were mentioned as a possible option in the original draft. The proposal to use roll carts has been removed from the CAAP.

In closing we would like to thank our Mayor and City Council for having the vision to recognize the urgency of addressing climate change, as well as thank all on the city staff, the Mayor’s Task Force and all members of the public who participated in the process of drafting the CoMo CAAP. We look forward to its adoption and implementation.
Mayor's Climate Action & Adaptation Task Force. We thank them for their hard work to make the CAAP a reality.