"The European Union and Canada signed a far-reaching trade agreement on [October 30, 2016] that commits them to opening their markets to greater competition, after overcoming a last-minute political obstacle that reflected the growing skepticism toward globalization in much of the developed world." The obstacle may indeed have reflected increasing resistance at the time to globalization, but this veil can be pulled back to reveal the underlying political obstacle--that of states' rights in the E.U., taken to a crippling extreme.
In 2015, average global CO2 levels for the year
surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time, the WMO revealed in its 2016
annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. At the time, any scientists regarded that ratio of carbon
dioxide to other gases in the atmosphere as a “climate change touchstone.” Curiously, however, 400
ppm was not considered a tipping point. It was still possible to reverse the
progression of the ratio—yet no one seems to ask how long that would take. In
this regard, the ratio’s accelerating rate
is particularly telling. Practically speaking, 400 ppm may in fact be a tipping
CO2 concentrations in 2015 “were about 144 percent
higher than pre-industrial levels. Other emissions measured in the report,
methane and nitrous oxide, were up 256 percent and 121 percent from
pre-industrial levels, respectively. Among those, however, CO2 contributes
the most to warming and [was] responsible for about 81 percent of the increase
in radiative forcing from 2005 to 2015.”Ralph
Keeling, who runs the Scripps Institution of
Oceanography’s carbon dioxide monitoring program, pointed to the
irreversibility of the ratio of CO2 in the atmosphere. “[I]t already seems safe
to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year ― or ever again for the indefinite future.” Practically speaking, 400
ppm may be a tipping point in that the likelihood of getting below it again in
the foreseeable future is nil.
Lest it be thought that the Paris treaty could turn
things around, that the vows are voluntary and without repercussions for
failing to adhere to the promised cuts. Moreover, “even if all Paris pledges are fully implemented, predicted emissions in
2030 will still place the world on track for a temperature rise of 2.9 to 3.4
degrees this century,” according to UNEP in 2016. CO2 emissions would have
to be cut an additional 25 percent by 2030 to avoid the worst effects of
I assume even that would not be enough to get CO2 levels down below 400.
Sadly, we weren’t even going in the right direction at
the time of the U.N. Environment Program’s report. In other words, the CO2
ratio’s rate was accelerating. “The increase of CO2 from 2014 to 2015 was
larger than that observed from 2013 to 2014 and that averaged over the past 10
years,” the report noted. Predictably—though not in
terms of the acceleration—studies at NASA and the University of California at
Irvine showed in 2016 that Smith and Pope Glaciers in Antarctica were “growing
thinner” and “retreating at the fastest rate ever observed.” Since 1996, “Smith
Glacier’s grounding line retreated at an annual rate of 1.24 miles per year and
Pope’s at an annual rate of 0.31 mile per year,” according to NASA. Smith Glacier “lost
between 984 and 1,607 feet of ice thickness between 2002 and 2009.” That this pace “is nearly
six times faster than a previous estimate” is in line with the accelerating
ratio of Carbon parts per million in the atmosphere. I contend that the
estimates of the impact of the ratio were low because the ratio’s accelerating
rate of increase had not been detected. By implication, estimates of how much
carbon-emissions should be reduced by have also been too low.
In fact, even the focus on reducing carbon-emissions
may be insufficient. The accelerating rate of the ratio as well as the
likelihood that we won’t see anything less than 400 ppm may indicate that we
have not yet gotten to the underlying causes. According to the WMO’s report, the
bulk of the increase in the ratio was due to unbridled human activities ranging
from “growing population, intensified agricultural practices, increase in land
use and deforestation, industrialization and associated energy use from fossil
Even among these causes, that of growing population is most fundamental. The
human being necessarily takes energy from the environment and expends waste,
including pollution. Simply put, our species has been too successful
genetically; we have multiplied. Yet the climatic data suggests that we have over-multiplied.
Crucially, the rate
of increase in the global population has been increasing. It took 123 years
for the total to go from 1 to 2 billion, then only 33 years to reach 3 billion
in 1960. The population reached 4
billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, and 7 billion in 2011. How could there not be an
astounding impact on the planet’s climate? As a maximizing variable, human
population may be out of control, with the ecosystems bearing the brunt. An
analysis in 2014 claims there is a 70% chance that the human population “will
rise continuously” from 7 billion in 2014 to 11 billion in 2011. This poses “grave
challenges for food supplies, healthcare and social cohesion”—not to mention
The head of the research team stressed that population should return to the top
of the international agenda.
Unfortunately, population decrease is typically viewed
as a problem in many countries, while those with the largest populations—China
and India—have not set population decline
as a policy goal. To be sure, decreasing population too fast presents social
problems, such as not having enough wage-earners to support retired people. Even
so, the accelerating feature of the CO2 ratio and its effects on the
climate—most notably, on glaciers and oceans more generally—suggests that
serious attempts to reduce reproduction-rates globally—and especially where the
rates are highest—are warranted. In addition to international agreements to
decrease CO2 emissions, declining population targets should also be negotiated.
Both individually and as a group, governments can no longer afford to skirt the
underlying cause of the problem, which looks increasingly likely to result in
the extinction of our species.
Genetically speaking, our species has been very
successful in terms of multiplying our DNA in many, many individual members,
yet this very success may be short-lived; it may be breeding extinction, which
is failure in genetic terms. Put another way, our short-term thinking that
reigns on Wall Street may apply even genetically. It may be up to the people
serving in governments around the world to make hard choices in order to extend
our species’ perspective enough that we can self-regulate our species back to a
reasonable number rather than continue to spiral out of control and be at the
mercy of nature’s constraints rather than those of our own choosing.
Considering the population growth during the twentieth century alone, we can no
longer afford as a species to skip over the underlying cause of climate change,
for the acceleration is not limited to the ratio of CO2 and glacier-melt. Add
in the lifespan-extending advances in medical science, and it becomes clear
just how severe we need to be as a species in limiting our reproduction.
On October 18, 2016, Saudi Arabia executed a member of the
royal family for committing murder during a brawl. Prince Turki bin Saud bin
Turki bin Saud al-Kabeer was put to death most likely by beheading in a public
square—as this was the usual method at the time. As horrific as such an
execution is, the point that law applies to everyone is laudable—especially “on
point” for countries in which the rich can “get away with murder” by hiring the
best (and most expensive) lawyers. The
atrocious means of execution coupled with the dictum that the law really does
apply to everyone renders this case particularly difficult to analyze from an
“The greatest thing is that the citizen sees the law applied
to everyone, and that there are not big people and other small people,” Abdul-Rahman
al-Lahim, a prominent Saudi lawyer wrote.
In other words, the verdict and sentence sent the message that no one is above
the law. To be sure, thousands of people are in the Saudi royal family enjoying
perks not available to the rest of Saudi Arabia’s 20 million people; yet that
the member executed was from a prestigious arm of the family sufficiently makes
the point that no one is above the law.
This lesson is a valuable one for the United States, as
financiers got away with fraudulently mislabeling the risk of sub-prime
mortgage-based bonds before the financial crisis of 2008. Yet, interestingly,
the Saudis could look to the United States for a lesson on how to execute
people humanely. I submit that this combination of lessons demonstrates that a
country can be very ethical in one sense yet abysmal in another. This point in
turn impedes claims that some countries are more humane, or advanced ethically,
than others. Within a culture, insistence
on justice in one sense can coexist with toleration for injustice in another
sense. Put another way, the human mind seems able to compartmentalize justice,
without realizing the cognitive dissidence involved.
1. Ben Hubbard, “Saudi Prince Is Executed for Murder,” The New York Times, October 19, 2016.
With Britain set to secede from the European Union, one major question was whether British businesses would continue to get unfettered access to the E.U.’s domestic market. I submit that subjecting free-trade negotiations to stipulations that are oriented to states rather than trading partners is unfair to Britain. Given the extraordinary influence of E.U. state officials at the federal level, this is a case in which the political influence of British business would be constructive rather than subversive of the public domain to private interests.
Speaking in October, 2016, Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, “stressed . . . that the U.K. wouldn’t get full access to the European Union’s single market without fully accepting the four basic principles . . . freedom of goods, services, capital and people.” I submit that these principles pertain domestically within a country—whether a single sovereign state or a union of states—rather than to a trade treaty. That is, the four freedoms are typically established within a country rather than between trading partners (i.e., international trade). Free trade need not be justified by the free movement of people; it is sufficient to allow for the exchange of goods and services, and of course money.
The U.S. and Mexico, for example, have a free-trade treaty without the free movement of people. So too, a free-trade treaty between the E.U. and Britain need not include the free movement of people. In short, Merkel failed to distinguish the E.U. itself, internally, from it being one of two trading partners; she was applying a domestic trait to international trade. By implication, she failed to distinguish the E.U. from a free-trade treaty. Subjecting a sovereign U.K. to what E.U. States must accept fails to recognize the real change that is secession.
Whereas Merkel voiced concern that E.U. and state officials would not “be put under pressure constantly via European industry associations to, in the end, allow full access to the internal market even if all freedoms aren’t respected,” I submit that Merkel’s own interests in favor of businesses in her state render her involvement in E.U. policy-making on the secession of Britain suspect. That is to say, she may have been exploiting a conflict of interest in which German businesses would gain from subjecting the continuing free trade of British businesses to freedoms that pertain to E.U. states rather than foreign states trading with the E.U.
 Ruth Bender and Andrea Thomas, “Germany Pushes for Hard Line on Brexit,” The Wall Street Journal, October 7, 2016.
Just months after the British voted to secede from the Union, the E.U.’s Counsel of Ministers discussed “proposals for increased military cooperation” amid concerns from the British state government as well as those of some eastern States that “such collaboration could undermine” NATO. The proposals being discussed were “part of a push by European officials and diplomats to strengthen European ties” after Britain’s vote to secede. I submit that both the expression, “military cooperation,” and Britain’s involvement in the discussion are ill-fitting and inappropriate, respectively.
Federica Mogherini, the E.U.’s foreign minister, said that better cooperation could help the state governments spend their defense budgets more effectively and increase their military strength. Such an enhancement could make continued shifts of governmental sovereignty from the States to the Union more difficult, however, as the states have a more solid power-base with which to resist transfers. Furthermore, in American terms, increasing the cooperation between state militias and the E.U. army goes not go far enough in furnishing a closer Union.
At the time, the E.U. did indeed have an army, so Mogherini’s proposal for a new E.U. military headquarters is not as radical as it may seem by the use of terms such as “multinational military headquarters.” Such a term ignores the governmental sovereignty that the E.U. had at the time. Additionally, the term encourages the category mistake that compares the E.U., a federal system, with NATO, a military alliance. I submit that the concern that the E.U. might duplicate NATO is the same concern that the U.S. might do so as well. In both cases, a union of States is being conflated with a military alliance. A states’ rights ideology is behind the ill-fitting terms.
This leads me to contend that the state of Britain should not have been allowed to take an active role in the discussions, as they pertain to what the E.U. might be like after that State secedes from the Union. Michael Fallon, the British defense secretary, said at the time that his State continued “to oppose any idea of an EU army or an EU army headquarters which would simply undermine NATO.” Such opposition had been part of the reason why a majority of British residents had voted to secede, so it should not play a viable role in determining what the post-secession E.U. might be like. For example, the future E.U. would not have to deal with so much denial—as in that of Fallon saying that the E.U. did not at the time already have an army. Nor would the future E.U. have to deal so much with the category mistake of likening the federal system to a military alliance.
In short, the discussions themselves evinced the E.U. trying to proceed with one hand tied behind its back. Even using the term, multinational military cooperation, undermines the E.U. from being able to move on towards a closer, more viable Union after the state of Britain secedes.
 Julian E. Barnes, “EU Pushes for Deeper Defense Cooperation,” The Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2016.