Friday, November 30, 2012

BBC News - Palestinians win upgraded UN status by wide margin

BBC News - Palestinians win upgraded UN status by wide margin: "The UN General Assembly has voted to grant the Palestinians non-member observer state status - a move strongly opposed by Israel and the US.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the assembly the vote was the "last chance to save the two-state solution" with Israel.

Israel's envoy to the UN said the bid pushed peace process "backwards", while the US said the move was "unfortunate".

The assembly voted 138-9 in favour, with 41 nations abstaining."

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Participation and development under fire | Development Policy Blog

Participation and development under fire | Development Policy Blog: "Robert Chambers makes the point that it is those things that are least socially transformative that are most measurable and attributable and unfortunately are what aid donors want, ignoring the unpredictable complexity of people and social processes. In his book Provocations for Development he labels what has been happening ‘a dysfunctional absurdity… driven by politicians that do not understand or who believe that taxpayers do not understand’.
One of purposes of the conference is to look at examples of new and challenging ideas, and aid projects which overcome the barriers that value for money and results based programs try to saddle development work with. It will provide examples where positive social change occurs and provide a counterpoint to the prevailing ideology of what can be measured is what makes a good aid program.
The Challenges for Participatory Development Conference is being held at the ANU on November 28 and 29 as part of the ACFID Universities linkages program. Material from the conference will be available here in the weeks to come."

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In Asia, it's time to talk about toilets - AlertNet

In Asia, it's time to talk about toilets - AlertNet: "The economic impact of sanitation is enormous. A World Bank study on the Economic Impact of Sanitation in Southeast Asia found that poor sanitation brought economic losses of at least US $9 billion per year, with communities suffering from illness, loss of life, high medical costs and time away from work. For the millions of boys and girls who miss school every year due to illnesses resulting from poor sanitation the implications are far-reaching, affecting their ability to learn and fully participate in their education.

Poor sanitation also has a big impact on the safety and wellbeing of women and girls; the day-to-day humiliation and risks faced by women and girls without access to appropriate sanitation facilities have been demonstrated time and again. In countries such as Pakistan, women and girls who do not have sanitation facilities but still observe strict social codes will only defecate at night, further increasing their risk of violence and abuse. As recently as last month a girl was raped in East Java, Indonesia, on the way back from defecating near her home. "

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Do farmers get the message? - AlertNet

Do farmers get the message? - AlertNet: "The game of communication is indeed a complicated one, and prone to failure if it is not closely moderated. This fact is especially true when attempting to convey a complicated theme—such as climate projections or weather information—to an audience with no background or even cultural reference to the subject, across multiple levels of information technology.

This is the challenge facing researchers with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) as they attempt to help farmers cope with increasingly erratic climate and weather patterns via improved information and advisory services, ones that connect all the way to the “last mile.”"

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Social Protection for the Poor in Asia Can be Affordable and Deliver Big Gains | Asian Development Bank

Social Protection for the Poor in Asia Can be Affordable and Deliver Big Gains | Asian Development Bank: "Recent economic and financial crises, food and fuel emergencies, and the rapidly increasing frequency of natural disasters have starkly exposed the inadequacy of the region’s national social protection systems to guarantee a minimum level of subsistence and meet people’s basic needs.

The evaluation study—Asian Development Bank: Social Protection Strategy—finds convincing evidence that social protection programs, and especially well-designed safety nets that transfer resources to the poor, can reduce the depth and severity of poverty and inequality.

“Governments around the world tend to scramble to adopt social protection programs in times of crisis,” says the Director General of Independent Evaluation Vinod Thomas. “But comprehensive systems built in stable years are much more effective in coping with the human impact of future economic or political crises or natural disasters.”"

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BBC News - Gaza baby 'only knew how to smile'

BBC News - Gaza baby 'only knew how to smile': "The death of civilians on either side in the Israel-Gaza conflict is tragic - especially when children are among the casualties. The BBC correspondent in Gaza, Jon Donnison, witnessed just such a tragedy at close quarters.

My friend and colleague Jehad Mashhrawi is usually the last to leave our Gaza bureau. Hard-working but softly spoken, he often stays late, beavering away on a laptop that is rarely out of arm's reach.

He has a cool head - unflappable, when others like me are flapping around him. He is a video editor and just one of our local BBC Arabic Service staff who make the office tick.

But on the Wednesday before last - only an hour or so after Gaza's latest war erupted with Israel's killing of Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari - Jehad burst out of the editing suite screaming.

He sprinted down the stairs, his head in his hands, his face ripped with anguish.

He had just had a call from a friend to tell him the Israeli military had bombed his house and that his 11-month-old baby boy Omar was dead."

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Friday, November 23, 2012

BBC News - Did the Lomo camera save film photography?

BBC News - Did the Lomo camera save film photography?: "On Friday 23 November, Lomography is celebrating its 20th anniversary, by starting a series of parties in some of its 36 stores around the world.

The movement's art-school ethos is enshrined in 10 golden rules of Lomography, with an emphasis on spontaneity and experimentation - and a rejection of some of photography's basic laws of composition and focusing. It's common for Lomographers to "cross-process" slide film in negative chemicals, which gives an additional boost to colours and contrast, and to play around with colour filters."

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

BBC News - Are these animals too 'ugly' to be saved?

BBC News - Are these animals too 'ugly' to be saved?: "A project run by the Zoological Society for London (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) is trying to raise awareness of these less appreciated creatures.

"I love all the species on the Edge list," says Carly Waterman, director of Edge.

"But I think some do need a little extra help to get them a place in hearts of the general public."

Here are a few of the less doe-eyed and fluffy and more spiky, scaly, big-nosed and slimy animals that might be conservation icons."

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BBC News - Nudity ban passed in San Francisco

BBC News - Nudity ban passed in San Francisco: "San Francisco lawmakers have voted to ban nudity in public places, ending a bitter dispute with a group of nudists.

City officials voted 6-5 in favour of banning anyone over five from exposing "his or her genitals, perineum or anal region" in most public locations.

"Freedom, expression and acceptance does not mean anything goes under any circumstances," district supervisor Scott Wiener said.

The ruling allows exceptions for certain street fairs and events."

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Why markets - not NGOs - are key to solving the sanitation crisis - AlertNet

Why markets - not NGOs - are key to solving the sanitation crisis - AlertNet: "The ideal sanitation market would see local businesses taking the primary role of providing ongoing sanitation services to those most in need, forever.

To achieve our core mission and have an exit strategy from the start, NGOs need to reorient their work away from latrine construction to facilitating market system development.

A growing number of organizations have moved beyond the short-term, “project”-oriented, approach of simply measuring success by the number of toilets built and have recognized the importance of setting the stage for local businesses to enter the market and provide a reliable supply chain of sanitation goods to meet customer demand.

In this scenario, NGOs provide training for entrepreneurs to develop the skills needed to grow and maintain successful sanitation businesses."

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Price of Oil - Oil Change International

The Price of Oil - Oil Change International: "Oil Change International campaigns to expose the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitate the coming transition towards clean energy"

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They Rule aims to provide a glimpse of some of the relationships of the US ruling class.

They Rule aims to provide a glimpse of some of the relationships of the US ruling class. It takes as its focus the boards of some of the most powerful U.S. companies, which share many of the same directors. Some individuals sit on 5, 6 or 7 of the top 1000 companies. It allows users to browse through these interlocking directories and run searches on the boards and companies. A user can save a map of connections complete with their annotations and email links to these maps to others. They Rule is a starting point for research about these powerful individuals and corporations.
A few companies control much of the economy and oligopolies exert control in nearly every sector of the economy. The people who head up these companies swap on and off the boards from one company to another, and in and out of government committees and positions. These people run the most powerful institutions on the planet, and we have almost no say in who they are. This is not a conspiracy, they are proud to rule, yet these connections of power are not always visible to the public eye.
Karl Marx once called this ruling class a 'band of hostile brothers.' They stand against each other in the competitve struggle for the continued accumulation of their capital, but they stand together as a family supporting their interests in perpetuating the profit system as whole. Protecting this system can require the cover of a 'legitimate' force - and this is the role that is played by the state. An understanding of this system can not be gleaned from looking at the inter-personal relations of this class alone, but rather how they stand in relation to other classes in society. Hopefully They Rule will raise larger questions about the structure of our society and in whose benefit it is run.
The Data
We do not claim that this data is 100% accurate at all times. Corporate directors have a habit of dying, quitting boards, joining new ones and most frustratingly passing on their names to their children who not entirely coincidently are also found to be members of US corporate boards. There is no single easily parsed single authoritative public record containing these shifting datasets. Luckily there is a community of obsessive data miners who specialize in "profiling the powers that be." Little Sis has very generously made their data available to They Rule through their API. If you see something that is incorrect you can contribute to both projects by signing up at Little Sis and editing the data there. That correction should become immediately available on They Rule, however, it will not be instantly updated in the auto-mode or in saved maps.
This site was made by Josh On with the indispensable assistance of Special thanks to Matthew Skomarovsky of Little Sis who really went out of his way to help make the data from Little Sis work with They Rule. The latest version of They Rule would not have happened were it not for a fellowship from Renew Media (now Media Artists).
Thanks to Amy Balkin of Public Smog for her help and encouragement. Thanks to Amy Franceschini and Futurefarmers for their support. Thanks to the Mission branch of the International Socialist Organization for putting up with my complete spaciness as I was consumed in the production. Thanks to Media Temple for their great and generous hosting.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tanzania, Gates Foundation launch three new initiatives to tackle deadly cassava diseases

"Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives (MAFC) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have launched three new projects Saturday to support efforts to develop cassava varieties with resistance to Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) and to establish more sustainable seed systems to enable smallholder farmers better access to such varieties.

The projects were officially announced during a Cassava Value Chain event organized in Dar es Salaam that brought together representatives from the government, donor community, private sector and development partners. Also present was International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga."

IPS – Senegal Villages Aspire to Self-Sufficiency in Rice | Inter Press Service

IPS – Senegal Villages Aspire to Self-Sufficiency in Rice | Inter Press Service: "“Agricultural production has been intensified here for several years now, thanks to the revival of rice farming,” Marie Sagne told IPS proudly.

Farmers in Sagne’s home village, Boyard Ndiodiome, had stopped growing rice altogether, as soil fertility was compromised by rising salinity. They were able to begin planting rice again thanks to work carried out by the Project to Support Local Small-Scale Irrigation (PAPIL), financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

PAPIL built an anti-salt dam in the village, restoring the productivity of many of the fields which had fallen into disuse. Since 2006, PAPIL has also been providing local farmers with quality seeds, fertiliser and technical training, in collaboration with its partners, the National Agency for Rural and Agricultural Advice (ANCAR) and the Regional Office for Rural Development (DRDR) in Fatick, the regional capital."

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International Development - Development Disrupted: How Business Is Changing the Global Development Landscape

International Development - Development Disrupted: How Business Is Changing the Global Development Landscape: "“If we’re going to succeed in the task of ending extreme poverty and suffering, we will only do so through partnerships with companies like yours,” said Raj Shah, USAID’s administrator, to a room of business executives at last month’s BSR conference in Manhattan.

The definitiveness of Shah’s statement reflects the new normal of international development. Formerly a sector dominated by donors, multi-laterals and NGOs, now corporations are at the table, bringing with them new ideas, new funding sources and new questions about the most effective way to lift the world’s poor out of poverty.

Many say it’s a transformative moment. Old assumptions and operating models are falling away, while the shape of what’s to come has not yet emerged. What is clear is that the private sector has injected new energy into the world of international development, even as a new focus on social good is changing the way business operates around the world."

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IRIN Africa | CAMEROON: New cassava species could boost food security | Cameroon | Economy | Environment | Food Security | Gender Issues | Natural Disasters

IRIN Africa | CAMEROON: New cassava species could boost food security | Cameroon | Economy | Environment | Food Security | Gender Issues | Natural Disasters: "YAOUNDE, 13 November 2012 (IRIN) - Scientists and farmers’ associations have high hopes that a variety of cassava could help build their resilience to droughts and food insecurity.

Cameroon’s National Development Programme for Roots and Tubers (PNDRT) has distributed seedlings of a new high-yield, pest-resistant variety of cassava to 1,000 smallholder farmers - most of them women - all over the country with a view to buying back cuttings from them to multiply distribution in coming years.

While regular cassava varieties produce 9-10 tons per hectare, these improved varieties can yield as much as 20-35, according to Rachid Hanna, country representative with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and PNDRT. The two institutions have been working since 2005 to develop these new species, with backing from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). "

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

BBC News - Woman dies after abortion request 'refused'

BBC News - Woman dies after abortion request 'refused': "The death of a woman who was 17 weeks pregnant is the subject of two investigations at University Hospital Galway in the Republic of Ireland.

Savita Halappanavar's family said she asked several times for her pregnancy to be terminated because she had severe back pain and was miscarrying.

Her family claimed it was refused because there was a foetal heartbeat. She died on 28 October.

An autopsy carried out two days later found she had died from septicaemia.

Ms Halappanavar, who was 31, was a dentist.

Her husband, Praveen, told the Irish Times that medical staff said his wife could not have an abortion because Ireland was a Catholic country and the foetus was still alive."

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Monday, November 12, 2012

BBC News - The Philippines: The world's budget English teacher

BBC News - The Philippines: The world's budget English teacher: "The Philippines is fast becoming the world's low-cost English language teacher - with rapid increases in overseas students coming to learn English or study in English-speaking universities.

There might be other countries that people think about as a classic place to learn English, such as the UK, the US or Australia.

But there is one key reason that they are switching to the Philippines. It's much cheaper. And in the competitive market for language students, it means the Philippines is attracting people from countries such as Iran, Libya, Brazil and Russia.

"We have very competitive rates compared with other countries," says English teacher, Jesy King, citing her school's fees of $500 (£313) for a 60-hour class - about a third of the price of an equivalent course in the US or Canada.

Another major advantage is the accent.

Filipinos speak with a clear American accent - partly because the Philippines was a US colony for five decades, and partly because so many people here have spent time working in call centres that cater to a US market."

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Brazilian artist Angelica Dass created the visually stunning project Humanæ, where she matches skin tone to a PANTONE® color. The ongoing portraiture project takes a sample of 11×11 pixels of the model’s face and then matches it to the exact PANTONE® tone. The background is then dyed to the exact tone. You could say the result is a color “HUE”MAN (ha!)?

Read more at Design Milk:

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2012 state vote totals: cartogram map shows votes cast by state. - Slate Magazine

2012 state vote totals: cartogram map shows votes cast by state. - Slate Magazine: "Tuesday delivered President Barack Obama to the White House for a second term, but fewer voters turned out in this presidential election than the last. While 131 million people voted in 2008, about 120 million (and counting) voted in this election, according to preliminary data. The map above shows how the 2012 electoral map would look if states were sized according to the number of votes cast in them.
Mouse over each state to see its turnout rate. The country as a whole saw a 58-percent turnout rate, down 4 percent from the last presidential election, according to the Associated Press. Click and drag the map to see Hawaii and Alaska."

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Friday, November 9, 2012

BBC News - Banana war ends after 20 years

BBC News - Banana war ends after 20 years: "An international trade dispute over bananas dating back two decades has finally been settled.

The European Union and ten Latin American countries signed an agreement to formally end eight separate World Trade Organisation (WTO) cases.

The head of the WTO Pascal Lamy called it a truly historic moment.

The formal agreement followed the EU agreeing in December 2009 to gradually reduce the tariffs on Latin American bananas."

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BBC News - Can the 'American Dream' be reversed in India?

BBC News - Can the 'American Dream' be reversed in India?: "America's Silicon Valley has always been a hub for some of the brightest and best Indian immigrants to start businesses. Now, in a reversal, more people from the US are moving to the sub-continent with their ideas.

Valerie Wagoner is a smart and articulate woman. Educated at Stanford University, and a former employee at the online auction site Ebay, her credentials could get her work anywhere in the world.

She chose India."

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Former UN official says climate report will shock nations into action

Former UN official says climate report will shock nations into action: "THE next United Nations climate report will ''scare the wits out of everyone'' and should provide the impetus needed for the world to finally sign an agreement to tackle global warming, the former head of the UN negotiations said.

Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief during the 2009 Copenhagen climate change talks, said his conversations with scientists working on the next report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested the findings would be shocking.

"That report is going to scare the wits out of everyone,'' Mr de Boer said in the only scheduled interview of his visit to Australia. "I'm confident those scientific findings will create new political momentum.''

The IPCC's fifth assessment report is due to be published in late 2013 and early 2014."

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mali seed entrepreneur discovers taste for food security – in pictures | Global development |

Mali seed entrepreneur discovers taste for food security – in pictures | Global development | "Mali seed entrepreneur discovers taste for food security – in pictures
Mali's first woman seed entrepreneur Maïmouna Coulibaly has launched an agribusiness which brings tasty and nutritious seed varieties on to the market. 'When the seeds are good, so are the yields. But people need to like the taste to buy it at the market. When we do food tastings we find out what works,' she says"

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Millet for our bread in 2050? - AlertNet

Millet for our bread in 2050? - AlertNet: "A new study by the CGIAR Consortium’s Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) estimates that the global production of wheat, rice and maize could decrease by 13 to 20 percent in the coming decades because of climate change.

Potato, a plant not really adapted to warm temperatures and the world’s fourth largest food crop, will also decline. This predicted production loss, due to warmer temperatures and a dryer climate, will be particularly harsh for smallholder agriculture in the South.

Global agricultural production will have to battle against this loss, even as production needs to rise by an estimated 70 percent to feed the 9 billion people by 2050. To do that, CGIAR scientists suggest that farmers may have to cultivate crops that are more drought and heat tolerant, like millet, sorghum, barley, cassava, cowpea, chickpea and pigeon pea."

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Gcard conferences presentations

Gcard conferences presentations:

Agricultural research for development - what are the next steps? | CGIAR Climate

Agricultural research for development - what are the next steps? | CGIAR Climate: "“We want GCARD to become a real process, not just an event,” said Monty Jones of FARA-Ghana, in his role as chair of the Outcomes Session on the final day of the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2).

That means holding the participants and organizers - especially Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and the CGIAR - of the conference accountable for the actions they propose to pursue between now and GCARD 2014. For posterity, then, a summary of the most important outcomes of the GCARD parallel sessions:"

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FAO Media Centre: Women are main guardians of crucial livestock diversity

FAO Media Centre: Women are main guardians of crucial livestock diversity: "Women livestock keepers worldwide must be recognized as the major actors in efforts to arrest the decline of indigenous breeds, crucial for rural food security and animal genetics, a new FAO study argues.

Yet women's contribution to indigenous livestock breeding and conservation is poorly documented and undervalued, the study Invisible Guardians: Women manage livestock diversity says.

Of the 600 million poor livestock keepers in the world, around two-thirds are women, whose men often have migrated to the cities. Women stay at home with the children and live by cultivating crops and keeping indigenous smallstock such as chickens or goats, and perhaps a cow."

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Eliodomestico Solar Water Distiller | Best Inventions of the Year 2012 |

Eliodomestico Solar Water Distiller | Best Inventions of the Year 2012 | "Freelance designer Gabriele Diamanti created this solar-powered distiller for use in coastal areas in the third world that are deprived of freshwater. It is half as expensive and 67% more efficient than existing models, and his hope is that local manufacturers will adopt the open-source design and mass-produce it for local populations."

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Best Inventions of the Year 2012 | The Civilization Starter Kit |

Best Inventions of the Year 2012 | The Civilization Starter Kit | "Marcin Jakubowski built a tractor in six days. Then he told the world how to do it: he made the designs, the budget and an instructional video available free online. A farmer and technologist and the founder of Open Source Ecology, Jakubowski has identified the 50 most important machines required for modern life—from the soil pulverizer to the oven—and is working to make a prototype of a low-cost DIY version of each so that anyone anywhere can build them. “If we can lower the barriers to farming, building and manufacturing,” he says, “then we can unleash massive amounts of human potential.”"

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Pigovian_tax | Learn everything there is to know about Pigovian_tax at

Pigovian_tax | Learn everything there is to know about Pigovian_tax at "Pigovian tax
A Pigovian tax  (also spelled Pigouvian tax ) is a tax levied to correct the negative externalities of a market activity.
Pigovian taxes are named after economist Arthur Pigou ( 1877- 1959), who also developed the concept of economic externalities. William Baumol was instrumental in framing Pigou's work in modern economics."

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Climate Change - Building a Green Economy -

Climate Change - Building a Green Economy - "In fact, once you filter out the noise generated by special-interest groups, you discover that there is widespread agreement among environmental economists that a market-based program to deal with the threat of climate change — one that limits carbon emissions by putting a price on them — can achieve large results at modest, though not trivial, cost. There is, however, much less agreement on how fast we should move, whether major conservation efforts should start almost immediately or be gradually increased over the course of many decades."

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Which Costs More: Preventing Climate Change or Dealing With Its Effects? LearnVest

Which Costs More: Preventing Climate Change or Dealing With Its Effects? LearnVest: "Sandy is the only latest reminder of the dangers of climate change, with wildfires, drought and polar ice loss at record highs in recent years. Even the number of record-high temperatures is at a record high, with this year producing about seven record highs for every record low, whereas through most of the 20th century, the number of record highs and record lows were about even.

With the election coming up next week, but both presidential candidates mum on the subject of climate change, we want to ask: What is more expensive–trying to prevent climate change or living with its consequences?"

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