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New members join the UN Security Council

Earlier this month the United Nations General Assembly elected Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay to two-year terms as non-permanent members of the 15-member U.N. Security Council, on Jan. 1 to succeed Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania and Nigeria, which are rotating off the council.

The Security Council is constituted of five permanent members, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, each bearing a veto, which means that each separately can block any action of the council. The role of the 10 non-permanent members is important, and the slots are eagerly sought, but it remains the case that a vote could be 14-1 but the dissent would determine the outcome if cast by a permanent member.

The changes in non-permanent membership decided last week don’t make much difference to the United States, although the addition of Ukraine, with its current divided status, leaves a question mark as for whom exactly its government’s representative speaks.

The five permanent members are in place because the creation of the United Nations was one outcome of World War II. Those five won the war. Until 1971, China’s seat was held by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist China, by that time lodged on the island of Taiwan. Reality finally prevailed and the People’s Republic of China — Communist China — took Taiwan’s place on the council.

Since then, there have been other reality-based drives to change the composition of the council. If permanent membership were based on population, India, with 1.3 billion, would have a good claim. If it were economics, Japan would be there. If it were based on regional justice, there would probably be one European Union representative country, not two. If permanent membership were based entirely on region, complicated questions of which country would represent a region could become bitter.

The complexity of that question is what has preserved the status quo since 1945. The beat goes on.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct. 20

Exxon missed an opportunity

What did Exxon executives know about global warming and when did they know it? A report by InsideClimate News published Sunday suggests the company’s own scientists were warning as far back as the 1970s that carbon dioxide from fossil fuels were putting the planet at risk.

From a 2015 perspective, it appears that Exxon missed a golden opportunity to take a responsible course and gradually steer the world away from a reckless dependence on fossil fuels. Instead, the company spent years publicly denying global climate change and the role humans play by burning fossil fuels.

ExxonMobil spokesman Alan Jeffers responds that it’s unfair to apply today’s standards to what was highly debatable back when Exxon’s internal studies were warning of future problems.

James F. Black, a senior Exxon scientist, warned the company in 1977 that the continued burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline could lead to a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Trapped heat could boost global temperatures by 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit — even higher at the poles. Black and other Exxon scientists warned of dire agricultural effects, skewed rainfall patterns and growing desertification — amazing prescience considering today’s rising seas, increasingly violent and costly storms, severe droughts and heavy flooding.

The record is undeniable that former Exxon chief executive Lee Raymond, whose opinions resonated throughout Washington, led the charge against what he portrayed as a global warming boogeyman. A full decade after Black’s first scientific results were issued, Raymond called global warming “an illusion.” He derided the need for an international pact aimed at reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Sadly, Exxon had the opportunity to lead the world toward a measured, manageable approach toward a solution. With profits to protect, Exxon provided climate-change doubters a bully pulpit they didn’t deserve and gave lawmakers the political cover to delay global action until long after the environmental damage had reached severe levels. That’s the inconvenient truth as we see it.

​The Dallas Morning News, Oct. 21

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