Iran (a Middle East country bordering Iraq and Afghanistan) just struck a deal with the USA and other countries over its use of nuclear power.
In 2002 it was made public that Iran was working towards creating nuclear power. And that they’d tried to keep it a secret. Naughty Iran.
Nuclear power ditches fossil fuels and uses Uranium to create an energy that produces less greenhouse gases. It’s purpose? Less pollution.
Messing about with Uranium is properly dangerous. If exposed to large amounts you can suffer rashes, kidney failure and the cells in your body begin to prematurely die.
The most famous nuclear disaster was 1986 in Chernobyl, Ukraine. A nuclear reactor failed, spilling radioactive material into the environment. The estimate for deaths brought on by the catastrophe is disputed: ranging from 4,000 to half a million.
There’s also no way to dispose of nuclear waste.
And then there’s the security side of things… Uranium can also be used to make nuclear weapons.
Watch-dog organisation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) doesn’t fully trust that Iran’s nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and isn’t just a front to create nuclear weapons.
World powers have been attempting to dissuade Iran away from nuclear power with a series of sanctions including the European Union banning importation of oil from Iran. The EU used to import 20% of Iran’s oil so this was a big step.
Whether it’s right for Iran to have nuclear power is not for us to say – but this debate has created massive tension for years.
Over several sessions Iran’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met representatives from the governments of the United States of America, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.
This group is known as P5 + 1. Don’t ask us why. They also go by E3/EU+3. Again, this means nothing to us.
For over 18 months the discussions attempted to come up with a solution. In April the group were delayed in reaching an agreement.
A draft of the Iran Nuclear deal was agreed, but there were issues still to be resolved – such as what research into nuclear power Iran would be allowed to undertake and what they would get in return for cutting down their nuclear ambitions.
Finally after several delays a final deal has been agreed. Iran will cut back on its nuclear programme in return for economic restrictions being lifted by other countries. Better late than never, guys.
Iran will give up most of its Centrifuges; equipment to make nuclear fuel. They currently have around 20,000 and this will drop to 6,000. Centrifuges can also be used to create a nuclear bomb so cutting down on the numbers makes it harder for Iran to build a nuke.
Uranium will only be enriched to 3.67% – powerful enough for fuel, but not for a nuclear bomb.
Iran will also give up nearly 97% of its nuclear material. This means it would take them much longer to make a nuclear bomb. So if they break the rules it’s more likely they’ll get caught. They get to keep their two battle-protected Nuclear bases but only one will be used to create fuel; the other will become a research facility.
Economic sanctions from the other countries will begin to lift at the end of the year; so long as Iran shows commitment to the deal by autumn. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gets to check nuclear sites, especially those which look dodgy. But with some sites Iran will “manage” the visit – so investigators can’t just turn up unexpectedly.
This historic deal could succeed in stopping Iran from building nuclear bombs. If so it will be remembered as a turning point in history. The leaders of the countries involved all made proud announcements when the deal was signed. The USA especially is keen to emphasise their role in the proceedings. The Iran Nuclear Deal means that some of the politics in the Middle East might start to transform. Iran’s economy, which has been suffering due to the sanctions, could be on the rise, and it has been suggested that they might be able to support the fights against ISIS.
Those sanctions can be put back in place real quick. If member of the P5 + 1 thinks Iran has broken the deal they can list this complaint to a panel of eight countries (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China, Iran and the EU) who have 35 days to sort out the issue between themselves.
But if any member disagrees with the ruling of the panel they can send the complaint to the United Nations Security Council. Ooooh.
The UN then has 30 days to decide that sanctions should not be brought back in. They all have to be agreed, otherwise the sanctions automatically “snap back” into existence.
Not so fast, hot-shot. The deal still had to be checked and approved by the United States Congress. Things look good though.
Everyone thought the United States House of Representatives (their version of the House of Commons) was where this deal would stop dead.
The Republican party (supported by some congressmen from the Democrat party) put forward a resolution to block the deal. This resolution was blocked, and the deal is likely to pass.
If the House of Representatives had voted to block the deal, then President Obama had the option to veto their decision. This means he would use his presidential power to push the deal through anyway. Obama threatened to veto the resolution even if it made him unpopular. Maybe as he’s leaving next year he doesn’t care what people think, and wanted to score a win for the history books.
If Obama had vetoed the resolution, the deal would pass through to the United States Senate (the US upper house; their version of the House of Lords). Two thirds of the Senate would have to vote against the President’s veto to override it.
The finer details of the deal are now being discussed, but the BBC reports that Obama will be able to lift sanctions on Iran starting next week. Consider that history made.
Having passed it’s biggest test in United States Congress, things look promising for the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Israel isn’t happy about the deal though. They don’t get on with Iran (partly due to who owns land in the middle east) and their Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been slating the deal, stating that the deal is too easy on Iran.
Is the Iran Nuclear Deal enough to keep Iran on the straight and narrow? Should Iran be allowed any nuclear power at all?
Hostages are people that have been kidnapped and taken prisoner. Their safe return is then offered in exchange for ransom money. Pay up, and the hostage is returned in one piece. Refuse and… well, then it gets really nasty.
Hostage taking is big business for terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State. The New York Times reported that Al-Qaeda have made $125 million from hostage taking.
More worryingly; this article in The Telegraph suggests that recent ransom demands from IS are part of a battle with Al-Qaeda to outperform one another.
The question is; should we pay up to get our loved ones home?
Both the UK and USA governments are clear; no ransom will be paid to terrorists. Their view is that paying ransoms just encourages the groups.
Some European countries take a different stance. Despite all major western countries agreeing to a G8 commitment not to pay terrorists, countries like France and Germany have not stuck to the bargain. The more that gets paid; the higher the ransoms go. C’mon guys, get with the programme.
When US journalist James Foley was murdered by Islamic State a few months after his European co-worker was freed people asked; why didn’t the US government just pay up? The amount demanded for Foley’s release was $132 million. The average amount asked for a Western hostage is £6 million. The amount asked for Foley was higher because as a US journalist, he had immense political value. As well as being illegal, hostage ransoms are just really unfair.
For years the US were also pretty tough on members of the public paying off ransoms. People paying to get loved ones home could face prosecution. Even discussing a ransom with a terrorist could be seen as a “concession”.
In the UK the Terrorism Act 2000 made funding terrorists illegal. “It’s a criminal offence to provide, use or possess funds or property where an individual intends or has reasonable cause to suspect that such funds/property will be used for the purposes of terrorism”
And in 2014 Home Secretary Teresa May made further changes; insurance companies would no longer be able to reimburse people if they had sent ransom money to terrorist groups.
So far, so tough. However, President Obama recently made an announcement that may change things.
President Obama says families will no longer be prosecuted if they send money to hostage takers.
The US government’s official policy is the same; no deals for terrorists. But the White House now also says this “does not mean ‘no communication'”.
So they won’t pay up, but they will communicate with terrorists sometimes on behalf of the families.
Does Obama’s U-turn mean the UK government will also reconsider?
We decided to ask the Home Office that very question;
“The UK’s position on payment of terrorist ransoms is very clear: we do not pay, on the basis that providing money or property to a terrorist group fuels terrorist activity; and encourages further kidnaps.”
That’s a no then.
It’s impossible to tell if Obama’s changes will lead to a rise in kidnappings across America. What is certain is that the price of hostages is being pushed up. This leads to a difficult situation. All ransom demands are different, and are calculated on the financial and political worth of the hostage. We are reaching a situation where some families will be able to afford ransom demands, whilst others may not.
Luckily we created a video answering that very question.
So… Climate Change = Long Term Weather. However, a deal to stop Climate Change shouldn’t = Long Term Plan.
This December the world’s politicians are going to sort it all out. Or so they say. COP21 or the 2015 Paris Climate Conference is the annual meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that 193 countries in the world are signed up to. Their aim is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change, locking in the target of keeping global warming below 2°C.
If the Earth heats above 2°C it’s generally agreed that we’ll see serious side effects. Think natural disasters like floods and freak weather events. If we keep burning fossil fuels at the rate we currently are we could hit this level by around 2036. No pressure then.
Countries attending the Paris climate conference were asked for plans outlining the amount of carbon they will reduce. These are called “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions”. Yeah, no offence, but I prefer “No Carbs before 2020”.
At the moment these are only promises and at COP21 politicians will attempt to turn these into a binding agreement. Good plan, guys.
It’s an ambitious target and yes, we have been here before. A deal was expected to be signed in Copenhagen in 2009… but fell through.
Even worse news; research is suggesting that even if a deal is struck at the Paris Climate Conference, the pledges from the countries involved may not be enough to slow global warming down. So how will the Paris Climate Conference make sure countries keep their word? There has been talk of creating a “ratcheting” system which would allow the UN to monitor the progress of each country. This would allow more pressure to be put on countries which aren’t pulling their weight. Come on guys, crank it up a notch!
Climate Action Supporter; “the science is there and 97% of scientists agree, the world is heating up. We may already be too late to stop it, but have to act now.”
Climate Change Denier; “How do we know that the planet warming up is down to humans? Surely there are other natural causes? We don’t know that the predicted results of ‘Climate Change’ would be a bad thing.”
Strange as it may seem, there are a small number of people who say that Climate Change has nothing to do with humans. However, a lot of people who are undecided about Climate Action are:
On the fence; “I think we need Climate Action… but isn’t it really expensive?”
Lots of developed countries are playing hard to get as they think Climate Action will have a negative effect on their wallets. For example China is keen to tackle Climate Change in the long run, but want a few more years of economic growth thanks to fossil fuels.
Paris may be the city of romance, but some are hoping mankind’s love affair with fossil fuels ends here. Will the Paris Climate Conference lead to a proper international agreement to stop Climate Change?
David Saddington is a climate change communicator, social entrepreneur, Huff Post blogger and TEDx speaker who has studied the science & policy behind the climate topics and is actively engaged in tackling the problem. You can follow him @