Category Archives: global warming

In Defense of the Human Individual

While it is very late in the life cycle of homo sapiens, with extinction now due to consign us to Earth’s fossil record I would like to make a belated pitch for the importance of the human individual and why nurturing each individual’s uniqueness is so important even if it is now probably too late.

‘Why are you writing about this?’ you might ask, adding that many people accept that each one of us is unique, important and deserves the opportunities and support necessary to live a fulfilling life according to our own culture and choices. It is just the sexists, racists, bigots (religious and otherwise), upper class, governments, corporations, members of the global elite, and some other categories of people, as well as many organizations, particularly those that are violent, that do not.

Well, I wish that this were true, but I am troubled by the overwhelming evidence that suggests it is not. In fact, from my own observations and investigations, I see virtually no evidence that anyone really works to actively nurture the uniqueness of individual human beings. The whole purpose of socialization is to terrorize the child into surrendering their unique individuality so that they become like everyone else.

Of course, you might counter my claim by noting that socialization is necessary to make the child fit into their society but once they have done so, they can make certain choices of their own. This particularly applies once the individual is an adolescent or an adult when, for example, they can choose their own school subjects (from the range offered), their work (from the employment options available), decide for whom they will vote to govern them (from a narrow selection of individuals and political parties) if they live in a ‘democracy’ and, if they work hard enough at socially-approved employment and thereby accumulate enough wealth while living in a relatively wealthy industrial society, they can also choose the foods, clothing, housing, entertainment and travel options they will consume.

Needless to say, to children we do not even offer this parody of ‘freedom’ whether they live in an impoverished country where many of these opportunities are not available or even if they live in a wealthy industrialized one. Under the unending threat of violence (usually labeled ‘punishment’ to obscure from ourselves that we are using violence) by parents, teachers, religious figures and adults generally, children are coerced into doing what we believe is in their ‘best interests’ as we define them. We do not listen to children so that they can tell us what they need in order to travel their own unique life journey.

You might argue that children do not have this capacity to tell us what they need. But this is not my experience and I wonder if it is really yours. Most parents are ready to complain about the enormous effort (that is, violence) it takes ‘to train a child to do as they are told’; that is, to obey the orders of all adults in all contexts.

But because each adult, when they were a child, was terrorized into unconsciously accepting the importance of obedience, only the rarest individual ever reaches a point in life where they are able to consciously reflect on their own childhood and ask fundamental questions about it. Questions such as these: ‘Why do I believe that obedience is so important? And is it?’, ‘Is terrorizing a child into obedience really the best way to raise a child?’ and ‘What would happen if I listened to a child and let them guide me on the support they need to become their own unique Self?’

Tragically, it is that most hallowed of institutions – school – which I call ‘prison for children’ where much of the damage is done. Designed to terrorize children into obedience and conformity on the basis that ‘one size fits all’, school destroys the physical, sensory, intellectual and emotional capacities of children churning out individuals with near-zero capacity to feel anything profound, think creatively and behave powerfully with integrity.

That is, we take the uniquely gifted baby at the moment of birth and turn them into an individual who has multiple lifetime disabilities, physically, sensorily, intellectually and emotionally.

Of course, this suits governments and those corporations who want vast quantities of cheap labor to work as soldiers, in a factory or at one of the other dangerous and/or meaningless jobs that qualify as ‘employment’ in the modern economy. But before you conclude that it is only working class employment that is in this category, only the rarest of professionals, in any industry, has the capacity to feel deeply, think genuinely creatively (as distinct from within the narrow parameters of their profession) and to act powerfully with integrity. In short, those who work 8-5, five days (or more) a week, doing what others trained them to do at University or elsewhere, are simply being better rewarded for surrendering their soul as a child.

But, unfortunately, it is not school that does the most damage. All children within the childhood home experience extensive ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence, and many experience ‘visible’ violence as well.

The inevitable outcome of this violence is that the child suppresses their awareness of the feelings that would have guided them to behave most functionally in each and every circumstance of their life (including about whether or not to attend school). Moreover, a consequence of suppressing their awareness of these feelings is that the child is left with an (unconscious) legacy of fear, self hatred and powerlessness, precisely because they have been terrorized into suppressing their own Self-will and obeying the will of another.

But because these feelings of fear, self hatred and powerlessness are very unpleasant to feel, and the child has never been given the opportunity and support to focus on feeling them, the child will unconsciously learn to project their fear, self hatred and powerlessness as fear of, hatred for and a desire to exercise control over individuals within ‘legitimized victim groups’. For brief explanations of these phenomena in particular contexts see, for example, ‘Islamophobia: Why are So Many People So Frightened?’, ‘Why are all those Racists so Terrified?‘, ‘Understanding Self-Hatred in World Affairs‘ and ‘Why Are Most Human Beings So Powerless?’

So by the time the child is forced to attend school – no free choices about this, you may have noted, with homeschooling (to an externally-imposed syllabus) only marginally less violent – they have already been terrorized into submission, doing what they have learned is least terrifying and, hopefully, also gains them approval by adults.

Thus, virtually all children are utterly powerless to perceive the world clearly, analyze it, make intelligent and moral choices about how to respond, and to then behave powerfully in doing so. And a decade, more or less, of school makes sure that only the rarest of individuals survives to achieve some version of their evolutionary potential, which required a nurturing, not terrifying, social environment.

In short, this person is not an individual with an unshakable sense of their own self-worth who, as a result, inherently values the worth of all others. They are simply a person who has been terrorized into conformity with a set of localized norms by the significant adults in their life.

At its worst, the outcome is an adult who is so devoid of a Self that they identify with other similarly and equally damaged individuals and then violently attack people in ‘legitimized victim groups’. This individual might be a prominent political leader who wages war against other national groups that are ‘different’; it might be a corporate executive who exploits people in other parts of the world who are ‘different’; or it might be an ‘ordinary’ person who hurls abuse at someone in their neighborhood who is ‘different’.

But the most common outcome is those who are simply too scared and powerless to respond meaningfully to the violence in our world and particularly the extinction-threatening assault on Earth’s biosphere.

And so, at this point in human history, it is extraordinarily difficult to get the typical human being to focus their attention on reality (including military, economic and ecological reality), astutely observe the phenomena presented, analyze the evidence in relation to it, devise (or seek out) a thoughtful strategy to resolve any problem or conflict that has arisen without resorting to violence, and to then behave appropriately, powerfully and with integrity in response.

Hence, instead of nurturing emotionally and intellectually resourceful and resilient individuals who are engaged with the world and capable of identifying and grappling powerfully with problems and conflicts early so that they do not spiral out of control, we are now faced with a last-ditch fight to avert our own extinction with most people still living in the delusion that we have an ‘end of century’ time frame. How intelligent is that?

So can we get out of this mess?

I don’t know and, frankly, I doubt it. But if you want to be part of the effort to try, consider making ‘My Promise to Children‘, which particularly requires the capacity to listen deeply to children so that we start to nurture each child to become the extraordinarily powerful individual that is built into their genetic potential.

And we don’t have to settle for just improving how we relate to children. We can improve our own functionality and access our conscience and courage too. How? See ‘Putting Feelings First‘.

If you are following the evidence in relation to the imminent extinction of human beings – see articles above – rather than the garbage published in the corporate media, and want to respond powerfully, consider joining those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

You might also like to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘ and/or participate in a strategically-focused nonviolent campaign on a crucial issue related to conserving the biosphere.

So how important is the human individual? In the context of life on Earth at the current time, I simply respond with ‘What is more important?’

We can do nothing about our fate if we do not value, above all else, the human individual and their potential. Including our own. This potential is difficult to nurture; it is easily destroyed.

But, as Mohandas K. Gandhi once observed in one of his many memorable lines: ‘The individual is the one supreme consideration.’

And remember, if the challenge to honour the human individual and to act powerfully yourself (as vital parts of our strategy to avert human extinction) sounds daunting, Gandhi also noted that: ‘Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it.’

In essence, the foundation of any strategy for human survival must be the powerful individual. It is this individual who will mobilize some of those around them simply by making their own life-enhancing behavioural choices consciously and courageously.

Agreed Rules, COP24 and Climate Change Protest

If children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we can all do together if we really wanted to.

Greta Thunberg at COP24, December 2018

The world, if it goes off in a burn, will do so courtesy of the rules – or their elastic interpretation.  It was a fine show of contradiction at Katowice, and the Polish hospitality did not deter the 14,000 delegates drawn from 195 countries from bringing forth a beast of regulation to delight climate change bureaucrats for years.  Everyone clapped themselves in way emetic to any bystander suspicious about what had actually been achieved.  The question to ask, of course, is whether this fluffy, self-congratulatory exercise makes it past the canapés and becomes a genuine policy document.

Little progress was actually made on the issue of commitments to cut emissions, even if there was, in principle, an agreement on a set of rules to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement. As things stand, the planet is set to reach 3°C, while the Paris Agreement stresses the need to keep matters manageable to an increase of 1.5°C, which would lead to more modest environmental destruction. Considerable troubling silences persist on the issue of technicalities.  What, for instance, constitutes a suitable, measurable reduction in emissions or who monitors a country’s progress.

There were certain concessions.  Poorer states received more solid reassurances of assistance from wealthier states to deal with greenhouse-gas emissions and attendant environmental challenges.  China was pressed into accepting certain uniform guidelines to measure those emissions.  States who cannot follow the “rules” to reduce emissions must explain why and show a pathway to redress that failure, more a case of nudging than punishment.

Coal advocates would not, however, have left COP24 dispirited.  Poland’s own president, Andrzej Duda, gave a rumbustious display of refusal: his country, with 80 percent of its energy derived from coal, could not be asked to abandon 200 years’ worth of reserves before the idealistic abstinence of any green lobby.  Poland, not the planet, came first.

Michal Kurtyka, COP24’s chair and secretary of state in the Ministry of Environment, saw little by way of contradiction in a performance run by the Polish Coal Miners Band during the talks, nor coal displays in the foyer greeting guests.  It would have been silly, surmised Kurtyka, to dismiss the coal industry.  “There are also energy companies of course engaging in a path of sustainable development.”

But a certain smell lingered at COP24, the sense that the conference had been sponsored by the very same entities whose behaviour was to be controlled and, in the future, abolished altogether.  Kurtyka did little to dispel the aroma.  “I don’t sense that there is a problem with anybody’s participation, provided that we have the same goal.”

The climate change talks were also being held, as it were, in the den of fossil fuel symbolism.  Katowice was made by the legacy of coal rich reserves discovered in the mid-eighteenth century. Such delightful irony, as well, that the city could play host both to such a conference and the largest coal company in the European Union.

This did not deter Joanna Flisowska, a Katowice native and policy coordinator on coal for Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.  “We can be such a bright example for the transition away from coal if only we could put effort into using these opportunities.”

On other fronts, the climate change lobby has taken something of a battering.  France’s Emmanuel Macron granted some concession to massive protests against fuel-tax rises supposedly designed to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.  Living standards have squared off against environmental policies.

The result of the foot dragging has been to illustrate a growing divide between citizen and government official.  “Hope,” claimed a despondent May Boeve, executive director of the climate change campaign group 350.org, “now rests on the shoulders of the many people who are rising to take action: the inspiring children who started an unprecedented wave of strikes in school to support a fossil-free [sic] future; the 1,000-plus institutions that committed to pull their money out of coal, oil, and gas, and the many communities worldwide who keep resisting fossil fuel development.”

Australia is particularly illustrative of this point, something emphasised by Greenpeace chief executive David Ritter.  “The divide between the Government and the young people of Australia is probably the greatest it’s been since those huge protests of the Vietnam War era, and I think it’s for a similar reason.”

Students of varying ages certainly add to Ritter’s suggestions, with thousands of Australian school children taking to the streets in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Coffs Harbour and Bendigo, to name but a spread of Australian cities, insisting that Prime Minister Scott Morrison heed their calls.  “The politicians aren’t listening to us when we try to ask nicely for what we want and for what we need,” suggested an irate Castlemaine student Harriet O’Shea Carre.  “So now we have to go to extreme lengths and miss out on school.”

It was, however, a 15-year-old Swede by the name of Greta Thunberg, whose single person vigil outside Sweden’s parliament building featured the sign “school strike for climate change”.  Three weeks were spent sitting in front of the Parliament during school hours, though she did return to classes for four days, using Friday as her weekly day of protest.

At Katowice, she made her own mark, a scolding aunt in the body of a disturbed teenager.  “You are not mature enough to tell it like is,” she told delegates in her capacity as a representative of Climate Justice Now. “Even that burden you leave us children.”

Thunberg is right about one fundamental point.  “You have ignored us in the past, and you will ignore us again.”  But to ignore the future in favour of the present, to cobble together an ineffectual regime that privileges current living standards in the hope that devastation can be postponed, is an inherent condition of the species.  Fiddling as the planet burns will continue.

Facing Greta’s Challenge

On Thursday, 13 December 2018, Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old climate activist from Sweden, addressed the U.N. Plenary Session at Katowice, Poland, to condemn global inaction in the face of the climate change crisis. Her address of under 4 minutes was a diamond of unadorned clarity, a challenge to all adults worldwide. In an 11 minute address earlier this year, Greta described her own evolution as a climate change activist while still a child, from learning about the crisis, to spurring herself into solo public advocacy, and now forcefully challenging national and international politicians to act immediately in response.  Greta’s withering criticism of her elders is fully justified because no real action in response to climate change has occurred during the last quarter century, and since Severn Cullis-Suzuki, then 12, issued the exact same critical challenge to the world’s adults, over the course of 6 sparkling minutes, at the Rio de Janeiro summit on climate change in 1992.

We all know what effective action means: an immediate disavowal of capitalism, militarism and imperialism, and the obscene wealth inequities they protect and are motivated by; and the redirection of the human energies, financial treasures and political powers wasted as tribute for the preservation of global rule by the elites of those wealth pyramids, to instead propel a vigorous and unlimited global program of climate change action based on economic equity and climate justice. Basically, Green World Socialism without end (or till the end).

The only barriers to achieving this social and political transformation of the world are purely mental, not physical: the reluctance in less than perhaps 800 million minds (10.43% of humanity) to relinquish extracting unnecessary and excessive wealth and luxury from the operations of socio-political and economic systems that impoverish, exploit, injure and kill people in the disadvantaged 90% of humanity. What is lacking is a species-wide solidarity among homo sapiens. How do we gain that?

Solidarity arises out of a homogeneity of misery. A steep grading of affluence, along with a media-indoctrinated consensus for devotion to anxiety, acquisition and up-class envy, assures against any outbreak of solidarity. When there can be no thought for the world until the wanted “needs” of me and mine have first been met, we have a societal atomization assuring against any disruption, by enmeshing social solidarity, of our parallel isolated preoccupations. Societal inertia is condensed from the individually encapsulated and blunted awarenesses of people immersed in a regime of economic disparity. Transformative social evolution is simply the fluid mixing of a commonality of experience in the struggle for life within a leveled and even disorganized population.

To meet a species-wide challenge to survival, like climate change, we must first develop a species-wide solidarity. And, our history suggests that for that to happen we must first suffer a leveling catastrophe so the survivors and their successors can marinate in an equality of want for a sufficiently long time until it ferments into tangles of solidarity that eventually connect all human thought. This is how democratic socialism and social democracy emerged in Western Europe after World War II.

Our dread today is that we don’t want to suffer such a leveling catastrophe because it would be a devastatingly painful, tediously drawn out tragedy, and a holocaust undeserved by multitudes of its innocent victims, regardless of how just a retribution it would be against our criminal elite who brought us to this extremity; and we don’t want to suffer through such a catastrophe because the survivors of that purge (maybe you and me?) would have no idea how long they would have to scratch and shift largely alone and unprotected in the pitiless rubble of human society’s destroyed past before mind, spirit and moral character revived and interconnected into a new socially uplifting solidarity. But, that uplift might never occur, and the destruction that begs for it could be terminal. So, how do we break through the paralyzing dread and proceed expeditiously anyway?

We can’t wait for hope; hope follows action. Action must engage without relying on hope because for all we know the geophysical situation may be hopeless, and the social benefits of action would be widespread and immediate regardless of the duration and ultimate outcome of our efforts. Concerns over the financial costs of those efforts are irrelevant because only the social value gained matters. Waiting for some reassuring hope, telegraphed back into the present from the uncertain future, guaranteeing that our careening societal inertia can be finessed with minimal change to its governing prejudices and inequities, so it can then swerve around the geophysical wall our fossil-fueled fate is raising along the entire line of our horizon, is a blind and cowardly stupidity unworthy of our intellectual capabilities.

Some, including me, have wished for a mass popular awakening that erupts into a socialist revolution that then engenders a socially transformative climate change response. Such a response would surge toward the goal of achieving a self-sustaining balance between universal human aspirations and needs, with the enduring processes of Nature that support All-Life. Short of such a miraculous mass satori, I see little prospect of anything beyond a trail of excuses ejected behind our obviously inevitable surprising collision with fate’s wall.

In the absence of a species-wide solidarity, we are left with the prospect of class, race and intergenerational wars erupting out of the struggles for survival during the accelerating calamities of advanced climate change. The young and the striving workers, whose futures and economic viability are being robbed, will be driven by a righteous anger and the courage of those with nothing to lose to rebel and make war against the parasitic fossil-fueled regimes destroying them. Such wars would be heartbreakingly bloody for the rebels against capitalism because of the monopoly on highly technological violence held by the entrenched capitalist powers, a machinery of violence which would be used mercilessly against the much larger impoverished populations in rebellion. It would be like the Vietnam War, perhaps multiply and perhaps globally. Why do I think such gloomy thoughts? Because I have not yet found a major counterexample to the observation by Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) that:

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

Gaining the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the abolition of slavery, exclusive of prison labor) required the bloodletting of the American Civil War (1861-1865). The liberation of so many countries from dictatorial regimes and from colonial exploitation by foreign powers over the last two centuries required tsunamis of blood and long periods of societal torture of the oppressed. And, what of the Yemenis, Palestinians and the Uyghurs, among others today? It seems that Douglass’s dictum will remain a tragic tautology for humanity for some time.

If the capitalist establishment remains intransigent in its embrace of fossil-fueled inequity and acquisitiveness then any determined uprising against it, motivated by both a thirst for socio-economic justice and the mounting of an all-encompassing response to advancing climate change, has the potential to expand into a conflict that could itself collapse civilization in advance of the geophysical termination of planetary habitability for us.

An anti-capitalist and climate change motivated revolution that did triumph after sustaining massive losses over a long war would undoubtedly be morally coarsened by the experience, and their postwar socialist regime might not be as generous and utopian as we could wish for. But none of this need be so. As Greta and Severn have said, we could all just decide to agree and bypass all the “blood, toil, tears and sweat” of resisting, and get the job done.

So, I don’t bother being critical of the many types of advocacy for climate change action that are being tried today, from the confrontational consciousness-raising theatrics of Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement, to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s political proposal of a Green New Deal, to the articles, books, speeches, sermons and rants by many people, from distinguished to unknown. It’s all good if it tickles our species to wake up, unite, discipline its greedy capitalists and take control of its destiny. However, all these efforts combined have yet to induce government action, so it is obvious that a great deal more “motivation” has to be found or manufactured to spur governments to act now.

The time for our somnambulant capitalist bullshit and our hypocritical navel-gazing narcissism is over. Greta is right to kick us “adults” in the ass. We need to wake up, stop making excuses, unite, and get moving. Act now!

Is COP24 One More Big Bust?

Two hundred nations at Katowice COP24 Poland just wrapped up two-weeks of climate meetings. If history is a guide, CO2 emissions will continue to accelerate until COP25 next year in Chile. Still, the delegates did adopt a rule book to put Paris ’15 into action, Ahem!

But, hark! There’s a ray of sunshine peering out from behind the Katowice coal-clouded skyline because big money interests may be altering the landscape for combating global warming.

According to reports out of Katowice1 global investors managing $32T issued a “stark warning” that the world faces financial Armageddon worse than 2008 if carbon emissions are not cut, including a phase-out of coal. Wow!

That sets the stage for proving/disproving the old maxim “money talks.” If it does, there’s a glimmer of hope for Miami’s survival.

Accordingly, some of the world’s deepest pocket investors including pension funds, insurers, and asset fund managers exhibited their most impressive intervention ever by insisting that (1) fossil fuel subsidies must end and (2) substantial taxes must be slapped on carbon.

According to the IMF, current subsidies for fossil fuels amount to $5T per year, which makes fossil fuel subsidies alone equivalent to some of the largest economies in the world. Ipso facto, if $5 trillion/year pivots from fossil fuel subsidies to renewable investments, just imagine the impact. By way of comparison, in 2017 total investment in renewables reached $280B.

Of course, the big money interests would also be feathering their own nests by switching fossil fuel subsidies to renewables as the world economy accelerates with the thrust of a space shuttle blast-off, creating jobs, jobs, and more jobs in the Renewable Global Economy.

Thus, a whole new world opens to massive infrastructure investments, accelerating global wealth creation, and the world turns clean, assuming it’s not too late by the time they get serious, a big assumption, indeed.

In stark contrast to that message from 415 financial institutions, ever since Paris 2015, the US, China, and Japan provided $500B in financing for new coal plants. Oops!

The day after the closing of COP24 Mexico announced plans to spend $3.65B to boost crude oil production 45% by 2025. This is comparable to stabbing COP24 in the eye with a sharp stick. Nothing mentioned about renewable energy.

The following statements by big money interests at Katowice tells an interesting story:

“The long-term nature of the challenge has, in our view, met a zombie-like response by many,” said Chris Newton, of IFM Investors, which manages $80Bn and is one of the 415 groups that signed the Global Investor Statement. ‘This is a recipe for disaster as the impacts of climate change can be sudden, severe and catastrophic.”2

“Investment firm Schroders said there could be $32Tn of global economic losses a year in the long term without rapid action. This permanent economic damage would be almost four times the scale of the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis. Standard and Poor’s rating agency also warned leaders: ‘Climate change has already started to alter the functioning of our world.”((Ibid.))

“Thomas DiNapoli, of the $207bn New York State Common Retirement Fund, another signatory, said taking action on global warming not only avoids damage but could boost jobs and growth. ‘The low-carbon economy presents numerous opportunities and investors who ignore the changing world do so at their own peril.”2

Heretofore, the nations of the world have failed miserably for nearly three decades. At COPs there’s always plenty of pomp and ceremony, cocktail parties, caviar, formal dinners, and millions upon millions of dollars spent staying in fancy hotels but nothing positive on CO2 emissions in 26 years, other than increasing public awareness and adding more scientific studies, all of which increasingly point to rapid deterioration of ecosystems around the world, way beyond prior estimates. This trend negatively surprises the scientific community, but it has not moved nation/states to take action.

Thus, the world is at serious risk of collapsing ecosystems, which can happen with remarkable suddenness and without warning. The telltale signals are already present, as lesser species are already going extinct in all-time record numbers, 1,000-10,000 xs the normal background rate. This current rate of extinction makes the dinosaur-era extinction rate 65M yrs ago look like a walk in the park and should be taken very seriously.

In point of fact, climate change/global warming has worsened considerably ever since the Kyoto protocol (1992), aka Conference of the Parties3 or COP3, which was the first agreement to mandate country-by-country reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (“GHG”). Ever since, GHGs have gone straight up (with one small hiatus), not down.

Meanwhile, fossil fuel usage has remained static at approximately 80% of worldwide energy production for the past 40 years. No change, which is the perfect setup for unmitigated climate disaster.

The most recent readings of CO2 shows Mauna Loa (Hawaii) CO2 @ 408.2 ppm as of November 2018 versus 405.12 ppm in November 2017. According to NASA, in 1992 when Kyoto met, CO2 was 356.42 ppm. Consider: Over the past 40,000 years, up until 200 yrs ago, CO2 was 200-300 ppm, the Holocene Age with its Goldilocks Climate not too hot, not too cold but rapidly coming to an end. Then, what?

The global warming risk indicator: In 1850 human-generated CO2 was 50 million tons/yr. Nowadays, it only takes 12 hours, not a year, to put out that same 50 million tons (USGS analysis). Try that one on for size Mister Global Warming!

Here’s the crux of the issue that makes it nearly impossible to tackle the global warming crisis w/o US help (P.S.- the US delegation at COP24 promoted fossil fuels – honestly, they did.): “Ten percent (10%) of the global population (hint-hint- mostly the US) are responsible for 50% of carbon emissions and twenty percent (20%) of global population are responsible for 70% of all global emissions… tells us that we need to be tailoring our policies towards that small group rather than trying to squeeze the emissions out of the majority of world population who are hardly emitting anything at all… if the 10% reduced their carbon footprint to the level of the average European citizen, that would be equivalent to a 1/3rd cut in global emissions, even if the other 90% did nothing… for example, the average Rwanda citizen emits 0.10-0.50 tons CO2 versus the average American at 30-35 tons.”3

As it happens, the rate of CO2 growth is itself growing, having now reached about 2.3 ppm/yr the highest growth rate in modern times. It is not just a “business as usual” scenario. it is worse than that, as we are moving backwards, becoming more and more unsustainable with every year. This shows unequivocally that the efforts undertaken so far to limit GHGs are woefully inadequate.

Every COP meeting since 1992 has been greeted with higher CO2 emissions than the year before, now accelerating faster than ever in paleoclimate history. That locks-in, guarantees big time troubles down the road, when least expected.

Postscript:

For 25 years, countless people have come to the U.N. climate conferences begging our world leaders to stop emissions, and clearly that has not worked as emissions are continuing to rise. So, I will not beg the world leaders to care for our future. I will instead let them know change is coming whether they like it or not.

— Greta Thunberg, 15-year-old Swedish speaker at COP24.

  1. e.g., Damian Carrington’s The Guardian article d/d December 9, 2018: “Tackle Climate or Face Financial Crash, Say World’s Biggest Investors.”
  2. Ibid.
  3. Kevin Anderson, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research interview with Democracy Now! at COP24.

Peace Activists’ Best Hope? The Sunrise Climate Movement

Introduction: Connecting the Peace and Climate Dots

Let’s start by facing a crucial fact: both major U.S. political parties love war. In fact, they love it so much that they’re completely willing to sacrifice a livable climate—and human existence with it—to their militaristic aims. Manuel Garcia’s incisive, cut-to-the-chase article, underlining how U.S. elites’ love of military domination (which both major parties simply reflect) is the death knell for any effective climate action, should be required reading for all peace and climate activists.

At least for all who take these life-or-death issues seriously enough to demand timely, meaningful action. Like, say, before the end of recorded history.

Let’s face a second crucial fact: whether as separate issues—or as properly connected—our elites (and the major parties and corporate media who reflect their agendas) don’t give a flying frack about peace or climate. This fact is clearly illustrated by their deafening silence about the twin apocalyptic threats of nuclear war and climate Armageddon throughout the midterm election campaigns. A silence which Noam Chomsky rightly brands “moral depravity.”

When elites (and their political and media lackeys) wish to bar all policy action on an issue, they simply shroud the issue in silence. And blather endlessly about distractions — like Trump’s purported collusion with Russia — to crowd the far more serious (but taboo) issue out of media space. That the peace and climate issues have been given the silence-and-distraction treatment is compelling evidence they are taboo issues our elites don’t want discussed, much less acted on.

What I hope I’ve established so far is that peace and climate are tightly interconnected life-or-death moral issues, both subject to political and media conspiracies of silence and distraction, that our ruling elites have overwhelming vested interests—contrary to humanity’s interests—in not acting upon. What follows is that peace and climate activists have an overwhelming vested interest in joining forces (and making a huge public stink) on these tightly linked life-or-death issues, now tabooed from mainstream political discourse. As the real adults in the room, peace and climate activists must play regent to the willful, destructive, “child king” of our ruling elites, overruling their edict that everyone must overlook their unspeakably reckless acts of juvenile vandalism. While the planet literally burns.

The only important strategic question, for peace and climate activists desperately savvy enough to join forces, is whose issue should take the lead as the banner issue. I’ll argue here that it should be the climate issue, but framed not merely as a call for climate action but for climate justice, where world peace is rightly viewed as an absolutely critical precondition for addressing humanity’s climate emergency.

So my case here depends partly on arguing that climate justice—which includes peace—is the master moral and political narrative of our times. But even more importantly, it depends on highlighting a potent newsmaking force for climate action — and latently for climate justice and peace — already on the ground: the Sunrise climate movement.

Sunrise, by its strategically savvy targeting of Democrats, is already modeling for climate justice and peace activists the correct way to make a big, newsworthy stink. And its call for a “Green New Deal” is implicitly not merely a climate but a climate justice program necessitating (by its funding requirements alone) a huge scale-back of U.S. militarism. In short, the Sunrise Movement, now mainly a climate movement, is potentially an enormous Trojan horse for smuggling the climate-justice-and-peace agenda inside the halls of power (where Sunrise has already begun to arrive). Climate justice and peace activists would be foolish — tragically foolish — to look such a huge gift horse in the mouth.

Climate Justice: Master Narrative for These Apocalyptic Times

As life-or-death issues ignored by our elites, peace and climate have been in natural — and deeply unfortunate — competition for activist attention and campaign building. After all, hundreds of thousands of people suffer or die globally due to perverse elite policy on both issues, and either nuclear war or runaway climate change alone has the potential to destroy civilization as we know it, perhaps entailing total human extinction in the bargain.

It would be a fool’s errand, and a needless one, to convince peace or climate activists that the competing (but intimately linked) issue is more important. Fortunately, we have a master narrative — climate justice — that leads with the issue with greater promotional “legs” (our climate emergency) while insisting on peace as an absolutely essential precondition for addressing that emergency. Intelligent current activism, in my view, involves supporting the biggest newsmaking movemen — the Sunrise Movement — that approximates having a climate justice narrative (its call for a Green New Deal) while nudging Sunrise closer to a full-bore climate justice narrative. Above all, by insisting on a vast scaleback of U.S. militarism as essential to its Green New Deal aims.

(In that regard, journalists Sonali Kolhatkar and, even more importantly, Naomi Klein, have performed an immense public service by promoting the Sunrise Movement and showed penetrating political insight by proclaiming Sunrise “a glimmer of hope on the horizon for climate justice” amidst the uniformly dismal stream of climate news. One can only hope progressive and leftist opinion leaders are insightful enough to follow Kolhatkar’s and Klein’s lead — and mine — in taking up cudgels for the Sunrise Movement. Precisely while nudging it to fulfill its vast climate justice potential.)

But, before further arguing why Sunrise is peace and climate activists’ most promising horse to ride to victory — ultimately, humanity’s victory — I need to explore why the climate issue has greater promotional “legs” than the peace issue. (But please remember, as I make my case, that I’m endorsing the climate justice narrative, where climate leads, but peace follows immediately behind; if Sunrise pushes for its Green New Deal without pushing for peace, its efforts are guaranteed to fail.)

Betting on Climate, the Horse with Natural “Legs”

Pretty obviously, the U.S. public is not nearly as concerned with either climate or peace as humanity’s looming apocalypse warrants. Again, most of the blame lies with our ruling elites — especially our political and media elites — and their self-serving, morally depraved conspiracy of silence about these life-or-death issues.

But, amidst our public’s dangerously low concern about peace and climate, there’s strong reason to think the climate issue is growing political “legs” and, compared to peace as a single, isolated issue (which neither should be), will continue to run faster and faster.

First off, there’s the already mentioned newsmaking climate protest by the Sunrise Movement, a miracle of politically savvy timing and great political luck.  With the astutest conceivable political timing, Sunrise chose to launch its protest of likely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just as both Democrats’ recapture of the House from Republicans and Pelosi’s own contentious quest to become Speaker were making national news.

It’s hard to imagine peace activists finding such a propitious moment for a comparable protest; and even if they had, it’s hard to imagine them offering such an appealing package as the Green New Deal tied up with the ribbon of peace rather than climate. As Naomi Klein’s fittingly titled book and film This Changes Everything amply prove, climate action has an inner logic that points inevitably toward a comprehensive program of climate justice — in many ways, a populist program a majority of Americans already desire. If there’s any current ground to fault Sunrise (and remember, the movement is young in more than one sense), it’s for failing to emphasize how intimately its alluring domestic Green New Deal is linked to a foreign policy of peace.

But beyond Sunrise’s impeccable political timing and the inner climate justice logic of effective climate action, there’s a deeper reason to embrace climate as the horse with stronger political “legs”: nature itself is irrefutably making the climate action case. Whether it’s unprecedented California wildfires or statistically improbable megastorms striking every few years, nature itself has become climate activists’ most effective ally for curing the climate change skepticism of everyday people. As a result, 70% of Americans now believe climate change is happening, and 58% believe it’s caused by human activities.

The case for peace, depending on the purely human whims of warmakers and how successfully they manage public opinion, has no such effective advocate as nature itself. By elites relying on a professional military for their warmongering — giving a piddling minority of Americans personal “skin” in the peace game — peace activists are at a serious disadvantage compared to climate activists who have increasingly frequent natural disasters as “up close and personal” persuaders.

And peace activists’ serious disadvantage is compounded by not having a professional expert lobby. While social scientists study war-and-peace issues, and there are academic courses called “Peace Studies,” there’s simply no professional field called “peaceology” in the same sense there’s a professional, credential-giving scientific field called climatology. Social science disciplines, however legitimate their aims, simply lack (probably by the more complex nature of their subject matter) the sheer quantity of evidence-based results — and consequent greater credibility — of the hard sciences.

Simply by publishing peer-reviewed papers hardening the existing climate change consensus, climatologists automatically serve as advocates for the climate activist cause. And, precisely because their hard-science studies have such profound human consequences, many climatologists (most notably, NASA’s James Hansen) feel a compelling moral obligation to become climate action activists. Both by the nature of their research and its life-or-death moral implications, climatologists constitute a professional climate action “lobby” peace activists can only impotently envy and will probably never have.

Finally, climate as an activist issue has the overwhelming advantage of an increasingly scary, short-term action timetable. While nuclear war could end human civilization as we know it in just a few hours, there’s no clear timetable for required action, and there is a 70+ year history of humanity surviving the nuclear holocaust threat (though few people are aware how closely we’ve skirted catastrophe).

For all these reasons — the newsmaking success of Sunrise, the popular appeal of a climate justice “Green New Deal,” the superior persuasive power of the climate cause, the scientific “lobby” supporting it, and the compelling urgency of the climate timetable — peace activists should cede the lead role to climate justice activism and back (rather than enviously try to rival) Sunrise. But only conceived as a full-fledged climate justice movement whose success depends absolutely on peace.

Conclusion: Sunrise as History-Making Spearhead of the REAL Resistance

All successful political organizing — whether movement or electoral — is about communicating a narrative, and cognitive scientist George Lakoff is right (as is the Poor People’s Campaign) that the winning narrative needs to be a moral narrative. For me, the climate justice narrative (as sketched, say, by Naomi Klein or David W. Orr) is the definitive moral narrative for our potentially apocalyptic times, the most comprehensive moral “umbrella” for building an activist resistance coalition. One resisting precisely the moral depravity of our pro-war and anti-climate ruling elites.

For me, the best candidate for a real resistance movement — one resisting not just Trump but the corrupt, morally depraved system that gave us Trump — is one with a full-bore climate justice narrative. If no such movement exists (our current case), the best solution is an on-the-ground movement that approximates a climate justice narrative and shows potential to be nudged in that direction. Initially, my prime candidate for the real system-changing was the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC), whose moral agenda of fighting poverty, racism, militarism, and ecological devastation (Martin Luther King’s original “three evils” wisely updated with an ecological fourth) makes it implicitly a climate justice movement.

But the collective moral evils produced by politics require a political analysis and not just a moral narrative; theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society — which influenced Dr. King — is especially perceptive in analyzing the collective moral evils produced by political actors not necessarily so evil when acting merely as individuals. (Almost needless to say, Niebuhr’s analysis has much to tell us about the many surprisingly decent people who follow Trump.) While I had reservations from the get-go about the PPC being the long-awaited real resistance movement, what eventually soured me on the PPC (despite its implicit climate justice agenda) was how it left its moral criticism hanging in a political void, without any analysis fingering the political actors responsible for the collective moral depravity.

Black Agenda Report’s Bruce Dixon framed this criticism well when he upbraided the PPC for its “lack of any political endgame beyond the call to ‘vote like never before.’” Dixon’s BAR colleague Glen Ford brought us even closer to grasping why the Sunrise Movement — and not the PPC — is now the best candidate for spearheading the long-overdue real resistance  when he wrote, “The Democratic Party is the primary mechanism that suppresses progressive thought and action in the United States” (boldface emphasis mine).

Yes, yes, a gazillion times yes! — and by targeting specifically Democrats for their climate foot-dragging, the Sunrise Movement has proven itself almost infinitely superior to the PPC as the long-awaited real climate-justice-based resistance. And peace activists — for the reasons previously stated — need Sunrise as much as Sunrise needs them.

Veneration Of Power Leading To Climate Catastrophe

In a recent media alert, we presented a few rules that journalists must follow if they are to be regarded as a safe pair of hands by editors and corporate media owners. One of these rules is that ‘we’ in the West are assumed to be ‘the good guys’. This seriously damaging narrative, flying in the face of historical evidence and endlessly crushing state policies, ensures that the public is kept ignorant and pacified. The consequences have been deadly for millions of the West’s victims around the world, and now mean climate catastrophe that could end human civilisation.

First, take the recent devout coverage following the death of George Herbert Walker Bush, US President from 1989-1993, and Vice-President under Ronald Reagan from 1981-1989. When a (former) Western leader dies, the raw propaganda is often at its most fawning and servile. On Bush’s death, ‘mainstream’ media outlets broadcast and published eulogies and fanciful words of praise, divorced from reality. For example, BBC News channelled former President Barack Obama:

George HW Bush’s life is a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. And he did tremendous good along the journey.

The Clintons – like the Bush dynasty, part of the US ruling class – added their own gushing propaganda tribute:

Few Americans have been – or will ever be – able to match President Bush’s record of service to the United States and the joy he took every day from it.

Referring to the massive US attack following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the 1990-1991 Gulf War, ‘impartial’ BBC News launched into full-blown Orwellian newspeak:

The subsequent battle proved to be a triumph for American military expertise and a major boost for the nation’s morale.

Likewise, the Guardian‘s obituary described Bush Senior’s devastation of Iraq as ‘triumphant’; ‘the president did not put a foot wrong’; ‘his most impressive achievement’; ‘Bush’s masterly management of the first Iraq war’; and so on, in an elite-friendly script that was essentially a press release from the very centre of US power.

The cruel reality of Bush’s ‘most impressive achievement’, as we noted in a 2002 media alert, was that Iraq’s entire civilian infrastructure was targeted and largely destroyed under the rain of bombs. All of Iraq’s eleven major electrical power plants, as well as 119 substations, were destroyed. 90 per cent of electricity generation was out of service within hours; within days, all power generation in the country had ceased. Eight multi-purpose dams were repeatedly hit and destroyed, wrecking flood control, municipal and industrial water storage, irrigation and hydroelectric power. Four of Iraq’s seven major water pumping stations were destroyed. According to Eric Hoskins, a Canadian doctor and coordinator of a Harvard study team on Iraq, the allied bombardment:

effectively terminated everything vital to human survival in Iraq – electricity, water, sewage systems, agriculture, industry and health care.1

Under the 88,500 tons of bombs – the equivalent of seven Hiroshimas – that followed the launch of the air campaign on January 17, 1991, and the ground attack that followed, 150,000 Iraqi troops and 50,000 civilians were killed. The Guardian‘s glowing obituary omitted all of these brutal facts. The Observer, the Guardian‘s Sunday sister paper, sang from the same hymn sheet, describing the former head of the CIA and US president as:

an American patriot with a deep sense of duty.

The guff piece was written by serial propagandist Simon Tisdall who has variously been a foreign leader writer, foreign editor and US editor for the Guardian. Tisdall waxed that:

Bush set great store by civility in public life. As Republican candidate in 1988 he called for a “kinder, gentler nation”. He was, quintessentially, a decent man, with a taste for the lifestyle of an English country gentleman.

Bush’s ‘most admirable quality’, opined the Guardian man, was ‘his deep sense of public duty and service.’ That word ‘service’ again, repeated over and over like a mantra. But who was really being served by Bush’s violence?

The Guardian devoted a section of its website to Bush Sr, featuring headlines such as:

A different command”. How Bush’s war shaped his work for peace’

a man of the highest character’

The “dear dad” dedicated to faith, family and country’

Steady hand during collapse of communism’

“Dear Bill.” Clinton heralds letter from Bush as source of lasting friendship

When Official Enemies portray their Glorious Leaders in this way, western commentators routinely sneer with derision. Al Abunimah, editor of Electronic Intifada, highlighted the above litany of nonsense in a single tweet, and rightly scorned the Guardian as ‘a bastion of regime propaganda and sycophancy to powerful elites.’

Meanwhile, BBC News, like the rest of the corporate media, virtually canonised Bush as a saintly agent of Western benevolence. Even his ‘service dog’ Sully paid a ‘touching last tribute‘, sleeping beside the late President’s casket. We were to understand that Sully was heart-broken after long years spent devotedly serving his ‘master’. In fact, he had been assigned to assist Bush in the summer of 2018, just a few months ago.

By glaring contrast, a Morning Star editorial gave an honest assessment of Bush Sr’s contribution to the world, summed up as:

A lifetime in the service of imperialism.

Nathan Robinson, editor of Current Affairs, listed numerous appalling crimes and abuses of human rights carried out by Bush, almost entirely buried by sycophantic journalists on his death, and concluded:

Coverage of George H.W. Bush’s death proves that Noam Chomsky’s media theory is completely true.

‘Mainstream’ media professionals do not know, or do not care, what Bush actually did in his life. Perhaps they also assume that the public do not know or care either. Obedient journalists have simply buried the destruction and mass death wreaked on Iraq in the Gulf War. In his Bush obituary, Nick Bryant, the New York-based BBC News correspondent, brushed all this away and stuck to the standard deception of ‘mistakes were made’ in Iraq. By ‘mistakes’, Bryant meant that the US encouraged the Kurds and Shia-dominated south to revolt against Saddam Hussein, but then failed to offer sufficient backing. Under BBC ‘journalism’, Bush’s ‘mistakes’ do not include mass killing and destruction. That is simply unthinkable.

The truth is that the corporate media, the BBC very much included, do not care about the deadly effect of mass sanctions and infrastructure destruction on Iraq through the 1990s, up to the 2003 Iraq War. Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, reported that 4,000 more children under five were dying every month in Iraq than would have died before Western sanctions were imposed. A total of half a million children under five died, amongst a total death toll of over one million Iraqis. There is clearly no need or desire for western corporate media to dwell on Bush Sr’s role in such horrors.

Nor do corporate journalists care about his service to death, torture, secret assassinations, and propping up of dictators in his role as head of the CIA. They do not care that, as Vice-President, Bush refused to apologise for the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 over the Persian Gulf by the US warship Vincennes on July 3, 1988. All 290 people on board the plane were killed, including 66 children. Instead, he said callously:

I will never apologize for the United States — I don’t care what the facts are. … I’m not an apologize-for America kind of guy.

Clearly, most corporate journalists do not care that Bush shares responsibility for the multiple bloodbaths that soaked Latin America in the 1980s. They do not care that Bush was, as historian Greg Grandin notes, an ‘icon’ of ‘brutal US oppression in the Third World’. They do not care that Bush invaded Panama in 1989, in the biggest deployment of US force since the Vietnam War, ostensibly to capture former US ally Manuel Noriega on charges of drug trafficking. US planes heavily bombed populated areas, resulting in the estimated deaths of 3,000 Panamanians. Grandin says that the ‘lasting impact of the Panama invasion’ is the US wars that followed in subsequent decades. On Bush’s death, the corporate media did their job of whitewashing his blood-soaked legacy; just as they covered for his crimes when he was in power.

‘Climate Catastrophe Now Inevitable’

All this matters because the media’s veneration of Bush, and western leaders generally, is a glaring symptom of a deep truth about the corporate media: their primary function is to project a severely distorted view of world events, one that embodies state and corporate priorities rooted in power and short-term profit at any cost.

The public is perennially starved of rational facts about the real state of the planet, and the greed-driven policies that hold sway over electorates and even over global ecosystems. The appalling consequence is that we are now certainly headed for climate catastrophe. Even a few within the corporate media have started to admit as much. Science writer Robin McKie noted in the Guardian that:

Climate catastrophe is now looking inevitable.

McKie added that the US has produced around one third of the carbon dioxide responsible for global warming:

Yet it has essentially done nothing to check its annual rises in output. Lobbying by the fossil fuel industry has proved highly effective at blocking political change – a point most recently demonstrated by groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute, which helped persuade President Trump to pull out of the Paris agreement, thus dashing the planet’s last hope of ecological salvation.

He cited environmentalist Bill McKibben:

The coalition [fossil fuel lobby] used its power to slow us down precisely at the moment when we needed to speed up. As a result, the particular politics of one country for one half-century will have changed the geological history of the Earth.

Global carbon emissions reached a new high in 2018. In other words, nothing of real significance has been achieved in thirty years of supposedly trying to cut emissions – other than making the problem very much worse – and we now only have a decade to completely turn things around. The blocking effects by powerful industry lobbies and corporate-captured political ‘leaders’, hugely underreported by the corporate media, are a disaster for the human race. Stefan Rahmstorf, a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, highlighted a new analysis of carbon emissions by the Carbon Research Project and said:

See how easily we could have solved the climate crisis if we had started in 2000! Only 4% reduction per year. Now we need 18% per year. You can thank climate deniers, lobby groups and cowardly politicians for this delay.

Kevin Anderson of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Research concurred:

Spot on by [Rahmstorf]. The academic community also take some responsibility for all too often remaining quiet about completely irresponsible decisions. Just listen to the roar of complicit silence over the UK’s shale gas plans, the new oil platform, airport & road expansion.

Renowned climate scientist Michael Mann declared:

We’ve got a LOT of work to do folks. After flat-lining for 3 years, CO2 emissions have now ticked up two years straight. This is no time for climate change denying/delaying politicians. We must vote them out & elect in their place politicians who will LEAD on climate.

He added:

It is no longer enough for politicians to just say the right things about climate change. They must demonstrate a commitment to meaningful actions & specific policies aimed at rapid reductions in carbon emissions. We are now officially starting to run out of time…

Julia Steinberger, Associate Professor of Ecological Economics at the University of Leeds, put the scale of the challenge succinctly:

If people had ANY idea of the harm and loss that is coming our way with #ClimateBreakdown, they would stop driving, flying, eating meat, overheating and overconsuming pretty much instantly, and work tirelessly to build new low carbon societies.

Instead, powerful industry lobbies are working tirelessly to block the radical action that is required.

A new Met Office study shows that the UK summer heatwave this year was made thirty times more likely by the human impact on climate. Met Office scientist Peter Stott issued a deadly warning:

Humanity just won’t be able to cope with the world we are heading for.

Last year, Arctic News editor Sam Carana pointed out the dangers of methane, a highly potent global warming gas:

As the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, it seems inevitable that more and more methane will rise from its seafloor and enter the atmosphere, at first strongly warming up the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean itself – thus causing further methane eruptions – and eventually warming up the atmosphere across the globe.

A giant ‘burp’ of methane gas could happen suddenly and increase global temperatures rapidly. If this sounds like a scare story, Harold Wanless, Professor of Geology and a specialist in sea level rise at the University of Miami, puts it in perspective:

Scientists tend to be pretty conservative. We don’t like to scare people, and we don’t like to step out of our little predictable boxes. But I suspect the situation is going to spin out of hand pretty quickly. If you look at the history of warming periods, things can move pretty fast, and when that happens that’s when you get extinction events.

I would not discount the possibility that it could happen in the next ten years.

In summary, scientists are calling for immediate large cuts in carbon emissions. Given the normally conservative pronouncements by overly cautious experts, such warnings should stop us all in our tracks. Climate scientists are virtually screaming at those running our political and economic systems to make drastic changes now.

However, at the start of a new UN climate conference in Poland, the follow-up to the 2015 Paris summit, a BBC News article observed starkly:

The gap between what countries say they are doing and what needs to be done has never been wider.

In other words, the dangers of rapid and cataclysmic global warming are now so glaring that some degree of urgency is being communicated occasionally, very occasionally, from within the corporate media. It would hurt establishment media credibility too much in the eyes of the public were that otherwise.

Safe ‘national treasure’ David Attenborough has become more outspoken of late. He addressed the UN conference:

We’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.

He told the BBC:

All over the world there are people who are suffering as a consequence [of climate change] whose voices have not been heard.

Last week, the Daily Mirror went as far as putting Attenborough’s warning on its front page:

Time Is Running Out To Save Planet

But the daily diet of ‘news’ pumped out by the major news media is still a massive distraction from the huge widespread changes in society, politics and the economy that are needed immediately. Why is the climate crisis not a vital component, perhaps even the primary component, of news reporting on the economy, business, commerce, politics, and Parliament? Why is it usually restricted to science and environment ‘stories’? For instance, how often does the BBC’s business editor, Simon Jack, address the climate crisis in his reports? Never, if our occasional sampling is indicative. Nor does he ever respond to our polite challenges to do so. The same applied to the recently departed BBC economics editor, Kamal Ahmed. This is a gross dereliction of duty by the BBC to the public who pays for it.

Are we supposed to obsess over slight changes in interest rates, currency exchange rates, the FTSE 100 index, and the size of the UK economy, even while the planet’s natural resources are plundered, ecosystems collapse, and the mass loss of species accelerates? Why are these much latter, more crucial numbers and facts about the state of the planet not routinely cited in corporate media reporting on the state of business and the economy? Perhaps we are supposed to regard the number of rivets on the Titanic a reliable measure of the ship’s robustness, even as it plummets beneath the waves.

Just consider the US news media reporting on the appalling forest wildfires in California last month. Although scientists have stated clearly that climate change is a significant factor in these catastrophic wildfires, national US television networks made the link with climate in less than four per cent of their reports on the calamity. We are not aware of any similar study of UK television coverage. But it was certainly apparent that BBC News at Ten made very little mention of the links between global warming and the Californian wildfires, just as climate was glaringly absent from its coverage of this summer’s drought in the UK.

It is true that the burgeoning grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion, and the remarkable 15-year-old Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, are not entirely absent from news coverage. But, given the stakes, their activism and their urgent messages to society as a whole would be making headlines every day in a sane media system. Extinction Rebellion are calling for peaceful mass civil disobedience to demand:

an immediate reversal of climate-toxic policies, net-zero emissions by 2025 and the establishment of a citizen’s assembly to oversee the radical changes necessary to halt global warming.

During one recent climate protest that blocked five major bridges in central London, one protester said:

We have tried marching, and lobbying, and signing petitions. Nothing has brought about the change that is needed.

Extinction Rebellion issued a stark warning:

Our aims may be ambitious. But we are striving for nothing less than the fate of our planet.

The inspiring clip that goes along with these words depicts suffragettes, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and many others pushing for positive changes in the world. Thunberg has explained in very simple and powerful terms how and why she became so motivated to do something about climate change. It happened in school at the age of nine:

They [teachers] were always talking about how we should turn off lights, save water, not throw out food. I asked why and they explained about climate change. And I thought this was very strange. If humans could really change the climate, everyone would be talking about it and people wouldn’t be talking about anything else. But this wasn’t happening.

Now, at 15, her commitment to go on school strike to devote herself to climate activism is an inspiration to many around the world, including the Extinction Rebellion movement. She has a succinct riposte to those who accuse her of neglecting her education:

Some say I should be in school. But why should any young person be made to study for a future when no one is doing enough to save that future? What is the point of learning facts when the most important facts given by the finest scientists are ignored by our politicians?

The time has passed for the public to rely on political leaders taking the right steps to tackle the climate crisis. As Thunberg said in her speech to the UN climate conference:

So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.

As ever, it is up to each one of us to ensure that this change happens.

  1. Quoted Mark Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power, Zed Books, 1995.

Climate Crisis Made Worse By Presidential Mis-Leadership Throughout This Century

Barack Obama, speaking to the Baker Institute, made sure the audience of wealthy Texans, many in the oil business, gave him credit for making the United States a world leader for oil and gas production. He said, “American energy production . . .went up every year I was president. And . . . suddenly America’s like the biggest oil producer, that was me, people,” eliciting cheers.

Throughout this century, even though the climate science was clear, presidential leadership has escalated the dependence on oil and gas, built infrastructure for pipelines and compressor stations, encouraged fracking in the US and around the world and prevented a global response to reducing carbon gas emissions.

This dereliction of consistent misleadership has put the planet on a dangerous path of climate crisis. In a just world, the political and corporate leadership of the United States would be held accountable. As it is, leadership for confronting the climate crisis must come from the people, not from political leaders.

Obama’s Sordid History of Undermining the Climate

Obama’s legacy confuses some people because, unlike President Trump, he did not deny climate change and, unlike President Bush, he did not come from the oil industry. But in reality, Obama watered down global climate agreements and grew oil and gas output and infrastructure in the United States.

As a newly elected president, Obama came to the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 with the goal of weakening the agreement so there would be no internationally enforced reductions of climate gases. Ban Ki-moon, the UN general secretary, warned leaders that they held in their hands “the future of this entire humanity.”

NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed that the US monitored communications between countries before the summit, and planned to spy on the negotiations during the conference. The NSA knew of China’s efforts to line up its negotiating position with India. Chinese negotiators entered the talks willing to undertake mandatory emissions cuts, but needed other major countries in the the developing world to agree. The US developed a strategy to stop China, indeed to make them the villain.

As the Copenhagen meeting was progressing, Obama, who had already “won” a Nobel Peace prize and was a political star as the first black president, flew to the meeting with Secretary of State Clinton. Obama and Clinton crashed a meeting of Chinese, Indian, South African and Brazilian leaders who were trying to agree on enforceable standards. The US made sure their agreement would not threaten US oil interests.

As a result of Obama’s intervention, the accord set no target for concluding a binding international treaty, leaving the implementation of its provisions uncertain and fueling criticism that it was more of a sham than a breakthrough. US intervention stopped a collective agreement among nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050, which was included in earlier drafts. Obama also successfully prevented adequate US funding for climate justice policies for poorer countries and scuttled the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed on in 1992.

Obama undermined the UN climate process and became known as “the man who killed Copenhagen,” said Greenpeace US head Phil Radford.

Bill McKibbon said:

The president has wrecked the UN and he’s wrecked the possibility of a tough plan to control global warming. It may get Obama a reputation as a tough American leader, but it’s at the expense of everything progressives have held dear.

At the time, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that world emissions need to peak by 2015 to give any chance of avoiding a 2ºC rise.

Obama declared a phony negotiating victory for the climate in Copenhagen and went on to make sure the Paris Accords also contained no enforceable standards, making it an inadequate treaty for the climate crisis. Climate scientist James Hansen called the Paris agreement a “fraud” of “worthless words.”

Domestically, after running against “drill baby drill” Republicans, Obama governed in the era where fracking became widespread, off-shore drilling increased and massive oil and gas infrastructure were put in place. In 2012, Obama said, “We’ve opened up new areas for exploration. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to circle the Earth and then some.” Obama fast-tracked the approval process for oil and gas infrastructure at a time when scientists were saying we should build no more carbon-polluting infrastructure. While he delayed portions of the high profile Trans-Canada pipeline, his administration approved the equivalent of ten Keystone pipelines.

Under Obama, while there was a decline of 37% in coal production, gas production vastly increased by 34% due to fracking. Obama presided over the highest gas production in history and crude oil production rose by 88%, the fastest rate in the 150-year history of the U.S. oil industry. On the positive side, his tenure was also timed with big increases in solar and wind energy. Obama also deserves credit for putting in place fuel economy and emissions standards for cars.

Obama’s bragging about increasing US oil and gas production at the Baker Institute came shortly after the dire October IPCC report, which warned the world has 12 years to put in place a radical transformation of the energy economy to prevent climate catastrophe, and the November 23rd release of the 4th National Climate Assessment, which warned of the serious impacts of the climate crisis in the United States. In this environment, Obama took credit for this crisis situation that will kill hundreds of thousands, cause mass migration and trillions of dollars in damage.

From Pinterest

Bush-Cheney Climate Deniers Of The Oil Industry

Despite the above, Obama’s presidency looks good in comparison to the George W. Bush administration, which denied climate science. and was marinated in oil with deep oil connections. Climate scientists were kept out of meetings to develop energy policy while the oil and gas industry worked closely with the administration.

President Bush was in the oil industry for more than two decades and came from an oil family. His investors included the bin Laden family and other members of Saudi Arabia’s oil-wealthy elite. Bush called the Saudi ambassador, Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, “Bandar Bush” because he was so close to the Bush family.

Vice President Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, one of the world’s largest providers of products and services to the oil industry. Cheney developed energy policy in secret meetings with the oil industry. He fought to the Supreme Court to keep information about those meetings secret from the public.

National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice was a director of Chevron and Secretary of Commerce Don Evans was head of an independent oil company in Colorado. Former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay was George W. Bush’s most generous campaign contributor. Bush received more campaign contributions from oil companies than any other administration in history.

The Bush administration ignored climate change for eight years, wasting precious time. Bush invaded and occupied Iraq in what was a disastrous war for oil domination. In 2008, President Bush’s last year in office, the US produced 1.06 billion metric tons of coal — an all-time high.

From Change.org

Trump Takes Climate Denialism and Climate Destruction To New Levels

As bad as previous presidents have been, President Trump’s climate denial policies have reached a new low for presidential misleadership.

When the recent National Climate Assessment revealed that global warming is causing ongoing and lasting economic damage, President Trump denied the findings of the 13 federal agencies who wrote it. Trump said, “I don’t believe it,” while noting he has “very high levels of intelligence,” and had his political appointees and press secretary attack the report.

Trump appointed the former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., Rex Tillerson, as Secretary of State and appointed other industry supporters; e.g., Rick Perry at the Department of Energy, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, now replaced by industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler. Trumps’s policy is “Energy dominance,” the expansion of coal and oil production as well as the weakening of environmental regulations, including those that address climate change.

Trump pulled out of the climate agreement, boosted oil and gas drilling on public lands, opened sensitive areas to oil drilling, leased nearly 80 million acres of federal waters off the Gulf of Mexico for drilling, repealed Obama’s fuel economy and emissions standards for cars and repealed rules, saving polluting industries billions of dollars in regulatory costs.

From People’s Climate March,in April 2017 from Orlando Rising.

Climate Justice From the Bottom Up

The science on climate has been known since 1990 when the first international agreements to combat climate change were negotiated. Since then, the science has only become stronger. We must not produce any more gas-fueled cars or build any new power plants or buildings of any kind unless they are replacing old ones or are carbon-neutral. When we build a factory, power plant, house, automobile or anything else that uses energy, we are committing to using energy through that structure for up to 40 years, depending on its lifespan.

This century has shown that facing up to the challenges of climate change will not come from the top of the US political system, which is polluted by the oil and gas industry as well as investors who profit from carbon pollution. Change is going to come from the bottom up.

Recently, we have seen how activity from below can impact political reality. The Green New Deal, developed in 2007 by Green Party activists, is now being taken on by Democrats. Establishment Democrats and Republicans will fight it, but it is making its way onto the agenda and will become reality if people keep mobilizing for it.

The Extinction Rebellion, started in the United Kingdom, is growing around the world. And there is now a call to build towards a general strike in September with actions throughout the year, beginning on January 15. Follow #EarthStrike.

Tampa Bay Rebellion

If the constant hurricanes and wildfires didn’t get your attention, the scientific bombshell should have.  In October the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report, Global Warming of 1.5 °C.  The panel is a UN body of thousands of scientists that analyses all the latest scientific papers to draw conclusions.  They found that in order to have a decent chance of avoiding the runaway climate change found above 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, we must aim to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 (based on 2010 levels), and then reach zero emissions by the middle of this century.

These numbers, and the scale of challenge they represent, horrified many people.  But I haven’t seen much reporting on what it means for specific countries. The United States emits higher levels of greenhouse gases per person than most nations, so the cuts must necessarily be even deeper.  I invite more statistical minds to improve on them, but according to my rough calculations based on population size and global emissions share (neither of which has changed drastically since 2010), in order to do its fair part the United States must cut emissions by around 85% in the next twelve years.

The IPCC’s recommendations are buttressed by calls for a global 20% cut in material consumption levels, dropping coal use by around two thirds, oil in half, and natural gas by a third, all by 2030.  Again, all of these targets will need to be higher in wealthy, high consumption countries.  Look at the figures and ask yourself if the IPCC, scientists with an inclination to say nothing they can’t prove, are appealing for anything other than the bare minimum of what they think might be necessary.  We need to aim higher than these goals to have a chance of at least meeting them.

It is on the basis of all this that on October 31st, over one thousand people in the United Kingdom launched a giant campaign of non-violent direct action in Parliament Square.  Under the name Extinction Rebellion, they are demanding that the government declare a state of emergency over climate breakdown, enact legally binding “wartime mobilisation” policies to get the country to net zero emissions by 2025, and for the building of citizen’s assemblies to oversee the transition.  Roadblocks and actions have continued throughout November with the involvement of thousands more.  The May government is accused, among other infractions, of overriding democracy by ramming through unpopular fracking and airport expansion measures.

An International Declaration of Rebellion invites people of other nations to join them leading up to a coordinated action day on April 19th.  The same week as the Parliament Square event, thousands of people in western Germany protested and blocked a coal train to try and stop the further expansion of a lignite mine into a 12,000-year-old forest.  On December 2nd there will be a launch event for Extinction Rebellion US in Washington D.C.  Groups are preparing under the banner in Canada, Sweden, New Zealand and many other countries and cities.  The call for international rebellion is building on fertile ground.

There are numerous reasons why you may not have heard about these protests, the most obvious being the drama of the midterm elections.  We should care about who is put in office. The Trump administration’s assault on the environment is representative of an increasingly desperate fossil fuel industry.  But when it comes to climate change, we haven’t the luxury of obsessing over it, as the click-dependent media that helped to put him in power would have us do. If our movements are strong, worthy politicians will seek to follow them.  Largely independent of Trump, plans are in the dirty pipeline to expand two major sources of greenhouse gases in Tampa Bay, and they have so far been met with almost no opposition. Nothing makes the people destroying our environment happier than silence.

Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach is the only coal burning plant located around Tampa Bay, and is one of the largest in the state.  Operator Tampa Electric (TECO) sent out a customer letter in May of this year detailing their hopes for modernisation.  The plan is to retire one antiquated coal-and-gas-fired unit and convert another to a modern natural gas unit (two primarily coal-fired units would remain in use).  It sounds like progress. This conversion, however, is gambling on the long-term continuation of the American fracking boom and all of its associated problems (fracked wells now provide two thirds of U.S. natural gas production).  The Trump government has spent the last two years trying to remove rules that oblige oil and gas companies to at least try to plug methane leaks, rather than letting it vent into the atmosphere, and those attempts can be expected to continue.  Because methane is some 86 times more potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide, fracked gas is arguably just as bad for the climate as coal, if not worse.  This proposal is not progress at all.

If we believe fracking is unsuitable for Florida, it’s hard to see why we should financially support it happening in other places.  Tampa Electric says the project, if implemented, will cost $1 billion, take ten years to finish, and should be expected to last thirty-five or forty.  These numbers should set alarm bells off in the heads of all climate activists considering the small window of time we have left.  Are we going to let them expend all this money and effort to make a one-time conversion that will make no discernable difference to electricity emissions?

The company has made much of its investments in solar, including one project at Big Bend itself, which they brag is the biggest in Tampa Bay.  The array produces 23 megawatts (MW) of electricity, or approximately 1.35% of the amount currently produced at the fossil power station.  Other projects are expected to bring their total solar to 600 MW, or 7% of their total generation, by 2023.  But sunny Florida ranks a sad 8th in total solar generation nationwide, with California producing over ten times our capacity and powering 17% of their grid.  TECO has the means to expand these solar plans rapidly rather than give a money stream to the fracking industry, and that’s where the majority of the $1 billion budget should be going (aside from the decommissioning costs of the coal units).

This investment is even worse when you consider that natural gas, whether fracked or not, is now in direct competition with renewables to replace coal, and TECO’s current funding of solar amounts to a mere $50 million.  In the decade leading up to 2016 their profits almost doubled to $250 million.  CEO Nancy Tower earned $1.5 million last year, while CEO of parent company Emera, Robert Bennett, earned almost $2.2 million.  All that matters in judging a proposal in terms of climate change is whether it lines up with the goals of the IPCC report, not whatever positive framing a company might use to present it to the public.  Construction is expected to begin in June 2019.

When it comes to the various failures of the big green NGOs in this country, nothing stands out like their disregarding of the climate change impacts of aviation.  Going on a flight is the most damaging climate choice that an individual can make. A fully-booked return trip from London to New York produces around 1.2 tonnes of CO2 per person (with the average American carbon footprint being about 19 tonnes a year).  Planes use vast amounts of kerosene over vast distances, with a global warming effect that is, according to the IPCC, around 2.7 times higher than the carbon emissions they produce (due partially to the height at which planes operate).  While aviation currently accounts for about 5% of global warming, it is also the fastest growing sector, at a time when other industries are at the very least under pressure to shrink their emissions.  The 20,000 planes in the air today are projected, under a business as usual scenario, to number 50,000 by as soon as 2040.  The EU predicts that if this exception continues to be made for aviation its share of global CO2 output could be 22% by 2050.

The ballooning of the sector hugely outstrips all slight improvements in fuel efficiency, as most of the significant gains on this front have already been made.  Alternative fuels (like hydrogen) and tech designs (like solar planes) remain little more than public relations stunts  Even if such routes were feasible, planes are expensive, so airlines keep them in service for decades, and are not likely to retire them early and build new ones without massive political pressure.  Until a pathetic voluntary offset deal was struck in 2016, aviation was routinely ignored by national and international climate treaties because governments didn’t want to admit a simple fact: the only way to get a large cut in airline emissions is a large cut in the number of flights.  Despite American driving habits, flying already makes up 12% of all transport emissions nationally (it’s not clear how, or if, this number includes international flights).

With this information in mind, it’s possible that what is slated to happen at Tampa International Airport is even worse than what is happening at Big Bend  The publicly owned airport has already spent a billion dollars on part one of a three phase plan, and intends to spend another billion.  It involves turning the airport into what some have called a “mini-city“, complete with offices, retailers, hotels, restaurants, and a giant car rental centre, with phase two expected to begin in late 2019.  More alarmingly, the final phase of the project is designed to expand capacity from the 19.6 million passengers of 2017, to accommodate 34 million in the coming years as demand grows.  This is classic expansionist spin: by building the extra gates and capacity, the airport is helping to stoke the increase in demand.

“It’s critical that we keep this airport up to date and support this kind of growth for the next twenty to thirty years,” Hillsborough County Aviation Authority chair Robert Watkins said in February.  I’m sure it will seem like a wonderful investment when Tampa is hit by a seventeen foot storm surge that puts the runways underwater.  In a world where oil consumption must be cut in half within twelve years, is it logical or fair to allow an airport to almost double its emissions?  Or should all that effort perhaps go into alternative modes of travel? If you’re currently objecting that our economy is highly dependent on flights from tourists, seasonal visitors and retirees, you are correct, and should be very angry at business people and politicians who for decades have argued that this is a sustainable model.  Luckily, CEO Joe Lopano (projected compensation for this year: $625,000, one of the highest paid airport CEOs in the country) has another plan, which is to have Tampa International achieve carbon neutral status.  There’s just one problem: it only includes emissions from planes when they’re within the perimeter of the friggin’ airport.

Given the almost complete lack of dissenting voices against these projects from either the press or local environmentalists (with the quiet exception of Sierra Club), direct action that causes disruption and draws attention is the only tactic that is going to drag them into public consciousness in anything like the speed that is necessary.  These actions would be demanding and potentially dangerous. Last summer five workers were burned to death at Big Bend whilst trying to clean underneath an active boiler.  Airports are terrifying places to contemplate breaking the law.  But climate activists managed interventions against runway expansions at Heathrow Airport and other UK airports in the years immediately following the attacks on the London Underground, and the introduction of the “liquids as bombs” terrorism approach that annoys fliers to this day.  The U.S., with its paranoid and highly armed security apparatus, offers more challenges. But like all the others, we must overcome or subvert them.

The Extinction Rebellion protests are aimed primarily at political targets in capital cities.  Aside from the issue of geographic barriers that we face from way down here, actions against actual emission points are still important, and can supplement and build momentum for the general idea of the non-violent uprising (and we can, of course, find worthy structural targets closer to home should we so choose).  If we don’t oppose these plans that go full throttle in the wrong direction, and oppose them hard, they will make a mockery of any commitments our region makes — in the present or future — to 100% renewable energy. Climate change work that focuses on what we build at the expense of what we close down is missing the fundamental point.

Individuals can only choose honestly for themselves, but we must be brutally honest about what is a reason for holding back and what is an excuse.  As a childless, partially youthful white male, I have certain advantages when it comes to confrontational protest. But I’m also a green card holder in an age where even green card holders and American citizens are not safe from deportation, and it seems as if almost anything can happen.  I’m still more afraid of climate change than I am of the government. The chances are good that you also have room to maneuver in assisting with such actions.  As ever, we need supporters, such as legal experts, child care givers, drivers, writers, medics and mental health experts, cooks, artists and funders.  That means we need you.

This is a call to all the good people who support local businesses, care about plastic and straw pollution, voted to ban offshore oil drilling and expand transit spending in Hillsborough, decry the red tide and go on climate change demonstrations  Now or never is the time for commitment and sacrifice. In my article on the Rise Up Climate march in St. Petersburg in September, I raised questions about whether it was worth our finite efforts to force a transition in a part of the world that is incredibly vulnerable to already locked-in climate change.  I still think that is an important discussion. But whether we remain here or not, there is now no doubt that we have a responsibility to suffocate major sources of greenhouse gas emissions on our doorsteps. If we fail to see any developments on this front, if the community appears to have insufficient will to survive, it will only become worthy of abandonment in another sense.  Tampa Bay is heading for extinction. The architects of that extinction are banking on our indifference. Are you ready to rebel?

• The Extinction Rebellion Tampa Bay planning page can be found here. The first meeting will be in the next few weeks.

Carbon Capture: Does it Work?

Harken! Good news (maybe) “encouraging news” is a better description, as Negative Emissions Technology (“NET”) starts coming into focus. Conceptually, carbon removal or direct air capture removes CO2 from the atmosphere, which would be great for suppressing climate change.

In that regard, Elizabeth Kolbert recently interviewed (Yale Environment 360) Stephen Pacala (Princeton professor) chairman of the US scientific panel studying carbon removal under the auspices of the National Academies. Which means the project has top-notch clearances, in fact, blue chip.

Of course, the big question about direct carbon capture is whether it can fix a very big problem created by humans burning fossil fuels like crazed Madhatters portending an ecological disaster in-waiting because of excessive levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, possibly leading to human extinction way ahead of schedule, too early, or looked at another way, extinction occurring well ahead of scientists’ models. But really, honestly and truly who in his/her right mind “models” human extinction?

Negative Emission Technology -NET- that removes carbon dioxide (“CO2”) from the atmosphere would be a dream come true, assuming it happens fast enough to prevent already-collapsing ecosystems from further total collapse; e.g., permafrost throughout the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the East Siberian Arctic Sea, ESAS, where subsea permafrost covers massive quantities of methane (CH4) in extraordinarily shallow waters. It’s the world’s largest reservoir, and CH4 is the most potent of the greenhouse gases. Problem: The subsea permafrost protective cap is rapidly thinning because of global warming. Already a Russian/American research team has witnessed alarmingly large columns of methane escaping into the atmosphere in the ESAS.

Therefore, the crucial question of the 21st century:  Does technology for carbon removal ultimately measure up to the task at hand, meaning, long-term survival of Homo sapiens?

Answer: Yes~er~no, maybe, depending. After all, it’s not a straight line from concept to actual carbon removal. For example, the infrastructure for effective capture and sequester of carbon is overwhelmingly huge.

According to Wallace Broecker of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in order to capture “current annual CO2 emissions” requires 100,000,000 trailers or carbon removal modules, or using his words: “…one-hundred million units.” He did not specify the size of the “units.”1

One hundred million units, assuming each one is the length of a semi-truck, end-to-end would circumnavigate Earth 44xs and cost trillions of dollars.

Hello… anybody still out there?

Yes, 44xs around Earth. And, if Direct Carbon Removal sounds too good to be true in the first instance… well, yes, maybe as it requires worldwide cooperation and lots of money and land and massive infrastructure almost as much as the fossil fuel industrial complex. Imagine that for size!

And 44xs around the planet is only for current emissions. What about all of the GHGs already up there?

Elizabeth Kolbert’s interview of Dr. Stephen Pacala revealed a couple of important considerations, for example:

  • “Our panel thinks direct air capture could be brought into the marketplace in a heavy way within 10 years’ time.” (Pacala)
  • “Now, in the [2017] tax bill, an entirely Republican bill, they retained subsidies on wind and solar that are 1.9 and 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, and they retained a $7,500 tax credit (drops to $3,750 in 2019) on buying an electric car. Then, last February, a bipartisan act created a $50-per-ton tax credit for carbon capture and storage. That means that the Republican Congress passed subsidies for the entire enchilada. I think it’s very interesting to contemplate why it is that on the one hand we have this political rhetoric, and on the other hand we have this subsidizing of the alternatives.” (Pacala)

According to Pacala, the reason more work is not being done on negative emissions today has everything to do with “the price of carbon, which is inadequate” meaning, in Pacala’s mindset, the best formula for NET success is similar to the success behind solar and wind; meaning, government subsidies until operating costs and production costs fall enough for capitalism’s longstanding shopworn paradigm of mass manufacturing.

According to Pacala:

In the last 15 years, wind and solar went from extremely expensive green luxury items maintained by subsidy to the cheapest forms of energy ever. That happened because government subsidized wind and solar, made a market for it that companies competed over, and they relentlessly drove the cost down. It’s a remarkable achievement – that conservatives should relish – of market success, but through government subsidy.

Effectively, Pacala calls for the free market to handle the impending crisis, and similar to success with solar and wind energy, after a period of government subsidizing, the free market takes over, expanding the market via profitable transactions. All of which brings to mind a question: Who is willing to subsidize, and when? Hello… anybody still out there?

Thus, the very market forces of neoliberalism or gonzo capitalism, which caused the problem to begin with, should now be induced to fix it. Milton “Free Market” Friedman would be proud. How ironic if capitalism profits by removal of carbon that it created in the first instance.

For certain, NET can’t come soon enough. (P.S. It’s not ready for the big time, not yet.) According to knowledgeable sources fossil fuels account for 80% of energy today, which is about the same as 75 years ago, meaning progress has been negligible even with 195 countries agreeing to the Paris climate accord way back in 2015.

In point of fact, the entire world has been alerted to climate change for decades now. Still, no real progress as both renewables and fossil fuels each grow along side one another. Thereby, exposing the vulnerable underbelly of the Paris ‘15 climate accord where countries voluntarily agreed to reduce their emissions. Yes, voluntary.

On October 30 and 31, 2018, the “Negative Emissions Conference: Integrating Industry, Technology and Society for Carbon Drawdown” was held at the Shine Dome, Canberra, focusing on the need to explore and develop a new suite of approaches to address climate change via removal of greenhouse gases.

Here’s a key message from that Conference:

Even rapid decarbonization through emissions reduction will not be sufficient to stabilize climate at the global temperature thresholds of the Paris Agreement. To limit warming at 2 degrees or less requires NETs to draw down past and future emissions and store this carbon in land, ocean, and geological reservoirs…..

However, there is already evidence galore of ecosystems starting to collapse well ahead of reaching the infamous 2C, which is a faux guardrail if only because it creates false comfort for public consumption, meaning people figure if it took a couple hundred years to get to +0.80C above baseline, then we’ve got at least a hundred years to go before 2C becomes relevant. Wrong- A lot of serious, maybe irreparable, ecosystem damage will occur on the way to 2C, and it is happening faster, faster, and faster, making a couple of hundred years ago look very ancient.

Recent studies have highlighted that current NETs, despite their potential, are as yet, not sufficiently mature to be implemented at scale. Key questions exist around the efficacy and scalability of proposed NETs.2

In conclusion, key questions surrounding the efficacy and scalability of “proposed NETs” are likely enough to push back funding by private or sovereign sources, bringing into question how, when, and if any source is willing to commit to billions, and more likely trillions of dollars to capture and sequester carbon?

There is no known response to that question in the public domain.

But, what is known is not encouraging, meaning, world leadership on climate change is, at best, splintered and lackadaisical. Here’s proof: According to the World Bank, fossil fuel energy as a percentage of total energy in 1988 was 79%, the year Dr. James Hansen warned the U.S. Senate, and the world via New York Times’ headlines, that human-caused greenhouse gases had been detected. Today fossil fuels are still approximately 80%. No movement!

And, according to British Petroleum’s 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy: Global oil consumption growth for last year averaged 1.8%, or 1.7 million barrels per day (b/d), above its 10-year average of 1.2% for the third consecutive year. China (500,000 b/d) and the US (190,000 b/d) were the single largest contributors to growth. Fossil fuels retain a hefty leadership position.

After three decades of ongoing brilliant glaring public exposure of a festering problem that could lead to major climate upheaval accompanied by massive starvation and untold deaths, here are the results of how the world has reacted, according to Carl Edward Rasmussen, University of Cambridge, as of September 14, 2018:

What does the data tell us? It shows that all is not well in the state of the atmosphere! In order to prevent further warming, the carbon dioxide levels must not grow any further. On the growth curve, this corresponds to the curve having to settle down to zero ppm/yr. There is absolutely no hint in the data that this is happening. On the contrary, the rate of growth is itself growing, having now reached about 2.3 ppm/y the highest growth rate ever seen in modern times. This is not just a “business as usual” scenario, it is worse than that; we’re actually moving backwards, becoming more and more unsustainable with every year. This shows unequivocally that the efforts undertaken so-far to limit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are woefully inadequate.

It’s been 30 years since Dr. James Hansen testified to the Senate, making NYT headlines the next morning:3

The earth has been warmer in the first five months of this year than in any comparable period since measurements began 130 years ago, and the higher temperatures can now be attributed to a long-expected global warming trend linked to pollution, a space agency scientist reported today.

Postscript:

After spending three or four years interacting with the Bush administration, I realized they were not taking any actions to deal with climate change. So, I decided to give one talk, and then it snowballed into another talk and eventually to even protesting and getting arrested.

— James Hansen- Earth Institute, Columbia University.

  1. Interview of Climatologist Wallace Broecker: “The Deniers Are Going To Go Apeshit. They’re Going to Have a Riot,” YouTube, November 4, 2018.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate,” The New York Times, June 24, 1988

The Global Rise of Fascism: Capitalism End Game?

Photo from the archives of Torbak Hopper

It is everywhere. In a few years, it has metastasized like a cancer, on all continents. Its fervent proponents and ill-informed supporters call it populism or nationalism. In the Italy, Germany, or Spain of the 1930s, however, this ideology of exclusion and fear, defined by a hatred of the other, together with a tyrannical executive power, was called by its proper name: fascism. Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany and Franco in Spain were the bloodthirsty tenors of capitalism’s symphony orchestra, singing the deadly opera quietly conducted by the military-industrial complex. When the fascism-induced collective psychosis was put to an end in 1945 by Russia and the Western allies, between 68 and 80 million people had been slaughtered worldwide.

Banksy

MAGA is America Uber Alles

The disease, expressed by the term Deutschland Uber Alles (Germany above all else), was also contagious. It has been repackaged under the thinly concealed Make America — or Italy, Austria, Hungary, Brazil, or Israel — Great Again. The doctrine of one country above all else is, in reality, the best way to justify the tyranny of the State against its own population. Constant threats, external or internal, mostly fabricated and hugely amplified by subservient media, keep societies on edge and make people tolerate or, even worse, embrace an omnipresent security apparatus, either military or police. Fascist regimes always blur the line between military and police. Why not, indeed, be able to deploy your military against your own citizens if you have brainwashed them with the notion of lurking internal enemies? After all, fear and paranoia are the most powerful vectors of the global Orwellian empire we live in.

The nexus of fascism and capitalism

The neofascists have draped themselves in the flag of populism and nationalism and therefore have disingenuously convinced their supporters that they are the champions of a fight against globalism, elitism, and the corruption of the neoliberal political system. They are, however, fierce proponents of dog-eat-dog capitalism and its abject systematic exploitation of labor. Fascists enthusiastically support the global military-industrial complex as well as capitalism’s senseless exploitation of resources through mining and deforestation. For fascists, just as for capitalists, wealth must be concentrated in fewer hands, and money may circulate across borders without constraint while ordinary people may not.

Photo by Sandra Cohen-Rose

There is indeed nothing new under the sun. If industrialists today profit from wars on both sides of conflicts, giant US companies such as Ford and General Motors did the same in the build up to and even during World War II. Historian Bradford Snell wrote, more than 20 years ago, that “the Nazis could not have invaded Poland and Russia without GM.” The cozy relationship of Ford and GM with the Nazi regime went back to the early 1930s. Henry Ford himself was a Nazi supporter, and Hitler was a fan of the automaker. The two companies, Ford and GM, credited themselves with being “the arsenal of democracy” by transforming their production lines for US military purposes, but they were also, openly at least until 1942, the arsenal of fascism.

Banksy

The same apparent schizophrenia is at play today. Just like Ford and GM were complicit with the Nazis, global capitalism, driven by the merchants of death of the military-industrial complex, is profiting from war crimes by, for example, selling a massive amount of weapons to the Islamo-fascist regime of Saudi Arabia, which is currently committing crimes against humanity by killing thousands of civilians and starving the entire population of Yemen. These war crimes are committed with weapons made in the USA, the UK and France, in the respective order of the volumes sold to the Saudis. France has a liberal and pseudo human-rights champion as its leader in the person of Macron. Nevertheless the booming French military-industrial  complex sells 7 billion Euros worth of weapons per year. India, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are the top buyers of death made in France: a criminal industry that employs more than 200,000 people.

Banksy

Fascists have built mental walls of hatred

The likes of Trump, Salvini, Kurz, Orban and Bolsonaro were elected largely on the false premise and racist notion of culture wars and clash of civilizations: the mythical threat that, in an already multi-ethnic world, immigrants, the outsiders often with darker skins or another religion, represent an existential peril for host countries. The neofascists have risen by building mental walls of hatred in fortress Europe and fortress America. The worldwide proliferation of neofascism constitutes a new form of ideological globalization, and global capitalism is banking on it. For example, once it became obvious that Bolsonaro would be elected president of Brazil, the country’s stock market rose by 13 percent in two weeks while all the major international markets fell. During World War II the fascist axis powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan. Now they are the US, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Brazil, and India to some extent. All of it has the curious blessings of the mighty little State of Israel and the large money bags called the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Banksy

Geopolitical conundrum

The global rise of fascism will change a landscape already on shaky ground. Trump’s National Security adviser, John Bolton, has already set the agenda and put in the neofascist crosshair Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, which he called the “troika of tyranny.” Naturally, Bolton counts on the new fascist regional helpers of US imperialism, Colombia and Brazil, to enforce a revived full-blown Monroe Doctrine.  In Europe, neofascists have risen to power in Hungary and the coalition governments of Italy and Austria. Their ideological comrades in Germany, Poland, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands have not risen to power, but their political clout is quickly growing. This rise of the neofascists, combined with the UK’s Brexit, is jeopardizing the European Union. In these developments, Steve Bannon of the US is playing the part of a fascism ideologue and black-clad eminence grise.

Banksy

The Russians, for their part, have developed a dangerously cozy relationship with today’s European fascists, as if the history of World War II has not taught them anything about fascism.  The pact of non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the USSR, signed in August 1939, not only allowed Hitler to unleash his killing spree on the West, but also did not prevent the German army from launching an attack two years later on the USSR. Stalin’s strategic mistake resulted eventually in the deaths of 27 million Soviet citizens. In the current context, it seems that a potential dismantlement of the EU is one of the only geopolitical goals that Russia and the US can agree on. As an example, the Russians as well as the US’ Bannon like and promote Italy’s powerful Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, a rising star of European neofascism and a euro-skeptic whose motto is: “Make Europe Great Again!”

From the archives of Kitchener

Gott Mit Uns (God with us)

“Gott Mit Uns,” in raised letters around an eagle and swastika, was the inscription that adorned the German army’s belt buckles during World War II. If there is a God, his power certainly did not much help the soldiers of the Third Reich! That being said, there is definitely a religious track in the rise of global fascism. In the US and in Brazil, the vote of the evangelical Christians was a primary factor in the elections of Trump and Bolsonaro. “Born-again” Christian fundamentalists in the US are mainly concentrated in the formerly Confederate Southern states of the Civil War. These evangelical fundamentalist communities largely reject evolution, secularism, and the reality that climate change is man-made. Many in these communities believe that the US should be a Christian state. These Christian fundamentalists are the most reliable voting block for Trump, just as they were for George W. Bush. Well-funded far-Right fundamentalist think tanks like The Heritage Foundation have been pulling the strings in the background since the early 1970s.

 

Photo by Gilbert Mercier

Brazil’s Bosonaro was raised a Catholic, but he became, in what could be viewed as a cynical political calculus, a “born-again” evangelical. The evangelical voting block arguably gave him the edge on his opponent during the country’s October 2018 presidential election. Meanwhile, in what they see as fortress Europe, the European fascists have embraced their so-called Christian heritage, and they fuel anti-Islam sentiments, blurring the line between racism and religious intolerance. In Israel, under what can be called PM Netanyahu’s Judeo-fascism, Palestinians are dehumanized and persecuted, as the Jews were in Europe’s pogroms. In Saudi Arabia, the Islamo-fascist Mohamed bin-Salman does the same by painting Iran’s Shiites as heretics and terrorists. In India, PM Modi, who is considered by many Indian Muslims to be a Hindu-fascist, is also using religion to create conflicts and justify massive military spending. In brief, religious fundamentalists of all stripes are today the neofascists’ best assets to manipulate people and turn them, often violently, against each other.

 

Photo by Gilbert Mercier

Fascism’s unbearable ecological footprint

In the mold of Trump in the US and Bolsonaro in Brazil, neofascists are by-and-large climate change deniers, or “skeptics,” as they prefer. After all, the Lord or Allah knows best and holds the key to their destinies. For the rest of us, who do not expect God to have an extra planet Earth in his back pocket, the rise of global fascism offers a grimmer prospect for  humanity’s survival. Under the jackboots of the global fascism stormtroopers, the little that is left of our shattered ecosystem will meet its final solution. Bolsonaro could engineer a tabula rasa in the Amazon, which is considered the lung of the earth, due to its capacity to absorb CO2. The super-rich who control global capitalism will give carte blanche to their fascist surrogates to grow and use a massive military-police apparatus to repress the billions of climate change refugees and victims of ecological collapse. Despite their assumptions and planning, discretely run by the Pentagon based on climate change becoming a national security issue, climate change will be capitalism’s end game. All the gold and diamonds in the world will not stop the storms or shield the atmosphere from the deadly rays of a blazing sun.

• First published at News Junkie Post