Category Archives: Oil, Gas, Coal, Pipelines

Oil Industry promotes Automobility

Is it simply business as usual or a corporate conspiracy to destroy the planet? However one characterizes it our planet is being cooked so already wealthy people can make even more profit.

Last Friday the New York Times published a front-page story titled “The Oil Industry’s Covert Campaign to Rewrite American Car Emissions Rules.” The article pointed out that Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Marathon Oil, Koch Industries and other oil/refining interests won “rollbacks” to vehicle fuel mileage rules that “have gone further than the more modest changes automakers originally lobbied for.” The legislative changes are expected to “increase greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by more than the amount many midsize countries put out in a year.”

With internal combustion engines consuming nearly two-thirds of US petroleum, industry profits are threatened by measures that cut gasoline consumption (be it better fuel mileage, diverting funds from roadway, eliminating auto infrastructure, etc.). About 150,000 gas stations do hundreds of billions of dollars in sales every year. In The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World Paul Roberts explains that the oil industry’s business model is planned around the gasoline pump, “from the kind of crude oil it sought to the kind of refineries it built, to its intense focus on retail marketing.”

The oil industry’s recent opposition to regulating automakers is consistent with its history of promoting automobility, as I and Bianca Mugyenyi detail in Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay. As far back as 1925, oil representatives packed a committee organized by the US surgeon-general concerning the health effects of leaded gas. They successfully argued that lead was harmless despite the fact that companies such as Standard Oil of New Jersey knew leaded gasoline was a health threat. Over the next 60 years lead levels increased a hundred-fold until it was finally banned in 1986.

In the 1930s and 40s Standard Oil of California and Phillips Petroleum were part of the corporate conspiracy against trolleys that changed the face of urban landscapes across North America. With General Motors and other companies they set up a network of front organizations that ripped up, converted and resold a hundred electric transit systems in 45 cities.

Amidst increasing smog in California in the 1950s, oil interests engaged in a fight against anti-pollution legislation. They financed the Stanford Research Institute to contest the findings of Professor Arie J. Haagen-Smit who demonstrated that automobiles and oil refineries were the major sources of smog.

In 1970 oil companies helped defeat California’s Proposition 18, an initiative to divert a small portion of the state gas tax to public transit.

Oil companies were part of the National Highway Users Conference (NHUC) that was set up during the Depression to lobby for roadway funding. When the Chicago Transit Authority proposed using $30 million in state fuel tax to finance improvements to mass transit in the mid-1950s, the NHUC sent in two full-time workers to successfully coordinate opposition (with the Illinois Highway Users Conference) against the proposal.

In 1951, the NHUC launched Project Adequate Roads, which called for a national highway system. Project Adequate Roads helped win the massive Interstate Highway System.

Oil interests were part of another group that lobbied for the Interstate. Beginning in 1942 the “Road Gang”, a secret society of men representing, automobile, truck and tire makers as well as highway engineers, top highway bureaucrats, etc. met regularly in a private Washington, DC, restaurant to push for more roadway.

The private automobile has risen to dominance in large part because of its ability to draw together a wide array of powerful corporate interests from steel makers to real estate developers, rubber companies to big box retailers. During the automobile’s embryonic phase, the oil industry was already big business. At that time, oil was mainly used to fuel the kerosene lamp, a business destroyed by the emergence of gas and electrical illumination. The powerful oil interests of the day, led by the Rockefeller family, were bailed out of this crisis and set up for life with the advent of the automobile. And as barrel upon barrel was drained from the earth and pumped into gas tanks, big oil swam in its profits.

So, in many respects, oil interests lobbying against restrictions on automakers is simply business as usual, given their history of promoting automobility. But, given the dangers of climate disturbances ‘business as usual’ takes on the appearance of a criminal corporate conspiracy to destroy civilization.

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.

Crimes against the Earth

Dear Caesar
Keep Burning, raping, killing
But please, please
Spare us your obscene poetry
And ugly music

— From Seneca’s last letter to Nero

The excavation of more than 600 billion tons of toxic carbon and hydrocarbon geological remains of previous biospheres and their transfer to the atmosphere as carbon gases constitutes nothing less than insanity leading to global suicide. With estimated profitable carbon reserves in excess of 20,000 GtC (Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change, including oil shale, tar sand, coal seam gas, further emissions would take the atmosphere, oceans and biosphere back to early Eocene (~55-40 million years ago) and Mesozoic-like (pre-65 million years ago) greenhouse atmosphere and acid oceans conditions, during which large parts of the continents were inundated by the oceans. Most likely to survive the extreme transition over a few centuries would be grasses, some insects and perhaps some birds, descendants of the fated dinosaurs. A new evolutionary cycle would commence. Survivors of Homo sapiens may endure in the Arctic.

Figure 1. Global warming by January 2018 relative to 1951-1980

Since about 542 million years ago, acting as the lungs of the biosphere, the Earth’s atmosphere developed an oxygen-rich composition over hundreds of millions of years, allowing emergence of breathing animals.

A critical parameter in Drake’s Equation, which seeks to estimate the number of planets that host civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy, is L – the longevity of technological civilizations. Estimates of L range between a minimum of 70 years and 10,000 years, but even for the more optimistic scenarios, only a tiny fraction of such planets would exist in the galaxy at the present time. It is another question whether an intelligent species exists in this, or any other galaxy, which has brought about a mass extinction of species on the scale initiated by Homo sapiens since the mid-18th century and in particular since 1945..

The history of Earth includes six major mass extinctions defining the end of several periods, including the End-Ediacaran, Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Each of these events has been triggered either by extra-terrestrial impacts (End-Ediacaran and K-T), massive volcanic eruptions, or methane release and related greenhouse events. Yet, with the exception of the proposed role of methanogenic bacteria for methane eruptions, the current Seventh mass extinction of species constitutes a novelty. For the first time in its history, the biosphere is in crisis through biological forcing by an advanced form of life; i.e., of a technological carbon-emitting species.

The distinct glacial-interglacial cycles of the Pleistocene (2.6 million years ago to 10,000 years ago), with rapid mean global temperature changes of up to 5 degrees Celsius rises over a few thousand years, and, in some instances shorter periods, forced an extreme adaptability of the Genus Homo. Of all the life forms on Earth, only this genus mastered fire, proceeding to manipulate the electromagnetic spectrum, split the atom and travel to other planets, a cultural change overtaking biological change.

Possessed by a conscious fear of death, craving a god-like immortality and omniscience, Homo developed the absurd faculty to simultaneously create and destroy, culminating with the demise of the atmospheric conditions that allowed its flourishing in the first place. The biological root factors which underlie the transformation of tribal warriors into button-pushing automatons capable of triggering global warming or a nuclear winter remain inexplicable.

Inherent in the enigma are little-understood top-to-base mechanisms, explored among others by George Ellis, who states:

Although the laws of physics explain much of the world around us, we still do not have a realistic description of causality in truly complex hierarchical structures.1

66 million years ago, huge asteroids hit the Earth, extinguishing the dinosaurs and vacating habitats, succeeded by the flourishing of mammals. At 56 million years ago, in the wake of a rise of atmospheric CO2 to levels near-800 parts per million, the monkeys made appearance. About 34 million years ago, weathering of the rising Himalayan and Alps sequestered CO2.  Earth was cooling, the Antarctic ice sheet formed and conditions on land became suitable for large, warm blooded mammals.

About 5.2 to 2.6 million years ago, in the Pliocene, with temperatures 2 – 3oC and sea levels 25+/-12 meters higher than during the 15th to 18th centuries, the accentuation of climate oscillations saw the appearance of the genus Paranthropus and the genus Homo. At least about one million years ago the mastering of fire by Homo Erectus, about a quarter of a millennium ago the appearance of Homo sapiens, and about 8,000 years ago the stabilization of the interglacial Holocene, saw the Neolithic and urban civilization.

Since the industrial age about 1750 and in particular from 1950, a period denoted as the Anthropocoene2, deforestation and climate change led to the demise of an estimated 10,000 species per year due to destruction of habitats, ever increasing carbon pollution, acidification of the hydrosphere.

Planetcide stems back to deep recesses of the human mind, primeval fear of death leading to yearning for god-like immortality. Once excess food was produced, fear and its counterpart, violence, grew out of control, generating murderous orgies called “war“, designed to conquer death to appease the Gods.

From the Romans to the Third Reich, the barbarism of empires surpasses that of small marauding tribes. In the name of freedom they never cease to bomb peasant populations in their small fields. Only among the wretched of the Earth is true charity common, where empathy is learnt through suffering.

War is a synonym for ritual sacrifice of the young. From infanticide by rival warlord baboons, to the butchering of young children on Aztec altars, to the generational sacrifice such as in WWI, youths follow leaders blindly to the death. Hijacking the image of Christ, a messenger of justice and peace, fundamentalists promote a self-fulfilling Armageddon, while others see their future on space ships and barren planets. Nowadays a cabal of multi-billionaires, executives and their political and media mouthpieces are leading the human race and much of nature to ultimate demise, with little resistance from the majority of people, either unaware or too afraid to resist the slide over the cliff.

Humans live in a realm of perceptions, dreams, myths and legends, in denial of critical existential factors3 in a world as cruel as it is beautiful. Existentialist philosophy allows a perspective into, and a way of coping with, all that defies rational contemplation. Ethical and cultural assumptions of free will rarely govern the behavior of societies or nations, let alone an entire species.

And although the planet may not shed a tear for the demise of technological civilization, hope on the individual scale for the moment is possible. Going through the black night of the soul, members of the species may be rewarded by the emergence of a conscious dignity devoid of illusions, grateful for the glimpse at the universe for which humans are privileged for the fleeting moment:

Having pushed a boulder up the mountain all day, turning toward the setting sun, we must consider Sisyphus happy.

— Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942

• Revised from “Planet Eaters

  1. “Physics, complexity and causality”, Nature, 435: 743, June 2005.
  2. cf. Steffen, Crutzen and McNeill, Ambio, 36, 614-621, 2007.
  3. Janus: A summing up, Arthur Koestler, 1978.

Journey into Obsolescence: The Adani Carmichael Project

The Carmichael mine being pursued in the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland is a dinosaur before its creation.  On paper, it is hefty – to be some five times the size of Sydney harbour, the largest in Australia and one of the largest on the planet.  Six open cut and five underground mines covering some 30 kilometres are proposed, a gargantuan epic.  The coal itself would be transported through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area, and would feature a rail line subsidised by the money of Australian taxpayers.

Even before the initial steps are taken, its realisation is doomed to obsolescent indulgence and environmental wearing.  It has been endorsed by a bribed political class best represented by Liberal senator Matt Canavan, who sees Adani through tinted glasses as a “little Aussie batter”; it is run by an unelected plutocratic one.  This venture has seen Australian politicians, protoplasmic and spineless, do deals with a company run by a billionaire in a way that sneers at democracy and mocks the common citizenry.

The Adani group, run by its persistent Chairman Gautam Adani, has worked out what political figures want to hear and how far it can go, even in the face of mounting opposition.  His closeness to the halls of power has been noted: influential be he who has the ear of the Indian Prime Minister, Nahendra Modi.

How divisive the Carmichael project is between Australia’s morally flexible politicians and a growing body of disaffected citizenry can be gathered from the open letter to the Adani Group from some 90 notable Australians that was submitted in the first part of last year.  The list was impressively eclectic: authors such as Richard Flanagan and Tim Winton; investment banker Mark Burrows; and former Australian test cricket captains Ian and Greg Chappell.  (“The thought,” Ian Chappell ruefully, “that this could affect the relationship, hopefully that’ll get through.”)

The text of the note was simple enough.  “We are writing to respectfully ask you to abandon the Adani Group’s proposal in Queensland’s Galilee Basin… Pollution from burning coal was the single biggest driver of global warming, threatening life in Australia, India and all over the world.”

That same year, the British medical journal The Lancet deemed the Adani mine project a “public health disaster” though Australian authorities remain indifferent to recommendations that independent health assessments be conducted on the impact of the mine.

In very tangible ways, air pollution arising from the burning of coal is a global killer.  Australia’s menacing own contribution to this casualty list comes in at around three thousand a year; in India, the list, according to a 2013 study by the Mumbai-based Conservation Action Trust, is an eye-popping 115,000. “I didn’t expect the mortality figures per year,” remarked Debi Goenka, executive trustee of the Conservation Action Trust, “to be so high.”

The trends in energy generation and resources are against fossil fuels, and even the banks have heeded this, refusing to supply a credit line to the company.  But Adani knows a gullible audience when he sees one.  Like a sadhu aware of a westerner’s amenability to mysticism, the chairman and his worthies say the right things, and encourage the appropriate response from the ruling classes they are wooing.  The company feeds them the fodder and rose water they wish to hear, and massages them into appreciative stances. The campaign by the Indian company has been so comprehensive as to include decision makers from every level of government that might be connected with the mine.

Adani, not to be deterred by delays of some six years, has suggested that it will pursue a different model, though this remains vague.  Extravagance is being reined in, supposedly trimmed and slimmed: targets will be cut by three-quarters, and the company has now promised to finance the project itself.  “We will now,” claimed Adani Mining CEO Lucas Dow this week, “be developing a smaller open-cut mine comparable to many other Queensland coal mines and will ramp up production over time.”

Nothing this company says should ever be taken at face value.  Exaggeration and myth making is central to its platform.  Slyly, the company’s Australian operation is also given a deceptive wrapping; a visit to the company’s website will see information on Adani’s efforts to “become the leading supplier of renewable energy in Australia.”

Dow has become a missionary of sorts, repeatedly telling Queenslanders that the project can only mean jobs, and more jobs.  Astrological projections more in league with tarot card reading are used.  Last November, Dow, in a media statement, was brimming with optimism over those “indirect jobs” that would be created in Rockhampton, Townsville, Mackay and the Isaac region.  “Economic modelling, such as that used by the Queensland Resources Council in its annual resources industry economic impact report, show that each direct job in the industry in Queensland supports another four and a half jobs in related industries and businesses, therefore we can expect to see more than 7,000 jobs created by the initial ramp up of the Carmichael project.”

Not merely does the Carmichael mine smack of a crude obsolescence before the first lumps of coal are mined; it is bound to take a wrecking ball to any emissions reduction strategy Australia might intend pursuing.  (Matters are already half-hearted as they are in Canberra, poisoned by a fractious energy lobby and ill-gotten gains stakeholders.)  Professor Andrew Stock of the Climate Council has explained that once coal begins being burned, Australia’s “total emissions” are set to double, nothing less than an act of “environmental vandalism”.  Work on the mine will also contribute to such despoliation: the clearing of 20,200 hectares of land will add to the climate chance quotient; the Great Artesian Basin’s groundwater system will also be affected.

Another graphic projection is also being suggested.  For the duration of its projected 60 year lifespan, as epidemiologist Fiona Stanley reminds us, Adani’s venture will produce as much carbon as all of Australia’s current coal fired power stations combined.  All this, even as the Indian state promises to phase out thermal coal imports, rendering the Adani coal project a white, if vandalising, elephant.  The only difference now is that the elephant proposed is somewhat smaller in scale and size.

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.

Governments’ Failures On Climate Spur New Actions

We are currently traveling in the United Kingdom, following our participation in the No US NATO Bases conference in Dublin, Ireland and delivery of a letter to the International Criminal Court in The Hague calling for a full investigation of Israel’s war crimes. We spent the past few days meeting with activists and visiting some friends and family.

A major concern in the UK is Brexit. Everyone is talking about it. There is great fear that if Brexit goes through, it will harm the UK. Repeatedly, people told us they feared violence by Brexiters if there was another vote and the Remainers won. News reports indicate there are plans for the UK military to be on the streets if chaos breaks out over Brexit. Today, the EU’s Council agreed with Prime Minister May’s proposed Brexit agreement, but now it appears that the agreement is unlikely to pass the UK Parliament.

We also heard quite a bit about the National Health System which has been under attack by privatizers for years. Due to cuts and changes, they are already starting to experience some of the problems that are rampant in the US such as denials of care. People are seeing some of the worst aspects of the US healthcare crisis exported to the UK and do not want to see further starvation and privatization of their system.

On a positive note, the public transportation system in the UK is excellent and used heavily and there are cooperatives of all sorts. The cooperative movement has a long and strong history in the UK, starting prior to 1800 and really taking off when the Rochdale Principles were created in 1844.

Kevin J. Frost // ShutterStock

Action on climate change

There is a lot of enthusiasm for the new climate change effort in the UK, the Extinction Rebellion. Launched on October 31, the Extinction Rebellion calls for mass nonviolent, disruptive actions targeting the government for its failure to take appropriate action to address the climate crisis. On November 17, there were actions across the UK. Thousands of protesters shut down five major bridges in London.

There were also solidarity actions in other countries. 50,000 people marched in Montreal, Quebec to tell their government it needs to take stronger action. March organizers said that the lack of discussion of climate change in the elections is one element that is galvanizing people to take action.

Organizers in the UK hope the campaign goes worldwide. We interviewed Marijn Van de Geer who works with the Extinction Rebellion in London on Clearing the FOG. Van de Geer explained that while there is resistance to many fossil fuel projects in the UK, the Extinction Rebellion provides a way for the many campaigns to unite against a common target, the government, and still engage in their individual activities.

People opposed to the Potomac Pipeline and the Rockwool factory it would supply with gas gather to deliver petitions to the National Park Service./Photo courtesy of CCAN

Impossible to avoid the reality of climate change

There are strong campaigns in the US trying to stop fossil fuel projects. Activists with Rainforest Action Network are bird dogging JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon because of his bank’s investment in fossil fuel projects. This week, they disrupted his speech at Axios and delivered a copy of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC) report to him.

Pipeline protests continue. Activists working to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline had another success this week. The US Army Corps of Engineers has suspended permits that would allow the pipeline to cross bodies of water. Activists in West Virginia and Maryland are pressuring the National Park Service to deny permits for TransCanada to build a pipeline under the Potomac River in a fragile area. And Enbridge Line 3 opponents have vowed to continue their resistance.

On Friday, Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment was released by the Trump administration. Mandated by Congress and authored by officials from thirteen federal agencies, the report, though conservative, admits that climate change is happening rapidly, that human activity contributes to it, that the impacts are significant and that more needs to be done.

Of course, these are the same findings of the Third National Climate Assessment released in 2014, yet the United States government has not taken appropriate action to address the crisis and climate change was absent as a major topic in the most recent election. Perhaps it is time to organize an Extinction Rebellion in the United States.

The Democrats are already positioning themselves to give the appearance of doing something about the climate crisis. The newly-elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes has stated her intention to introduce a “Green New Deal,” an idea championed by the Green Party for over a decade. Will Morrow raises valid concerns that the Democratic Party Green New Deal will be more fluff than substance.

Mark Dixon/flickr/cc

Solving the climate crisis goes deeper than shifting to renewable energy

We don’t have time for the usual partial solutions offered by Democrats. The climate crisis is intimately related to racism, colonialism, capitalism, militarism and imperialism. It can’t be solved in isolation. It will take an organized movement of movements to mitigate and adapt to climate change in a way that causes the least harm.

In “Confronting Carbon Capitalists,” the Seattle IWW explain that privileged liberals are coming to understand what colonized people have known for a long time, that capitalism is at the root of climate change. They write, “labor and ecological exploitation has remained vast and systemic… and the story is always the same: colonize a population, use violence to break them from their land and means of subsistence, extract fossil capital, then move on and leave the decimated landscape to the locals.” They call for solidarity with the Indigenous and colonized people.

Manuel Garcia, Jr., writes that US imperialism will prevent the US from adequately tackling climate change. He explains, “American political power is based on fossil fuels, and the US military is the engine that consumes those fuels to produce that power.” In order to address climate change, there will have to be a massive shift in political ideology and power.

There are opportunities to move toward making the necessary changes. In California, the energy corporation PG&E has been found responsible for three major fires, including the most recent one in which 85 people died and hundreds are still missing. As a result, PG&E is on the verge of bankruptcy. This provides an opportunity for the state to make PG&E a public entity. Johanna Bozuwa describes what that would look like and how it would enable the state to act more quickly to move to renewable energy.

New economic models are also being developed. Through the Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building, Native communities are creating new institutions that are centered in decolonization. Read more about a Lakota community’s efforts.

As with all of our efforts at transformational change, we need to connect our struggles, share a common set of principles and work together strategically to effect change. It is a process of both resistance to harmful policies and practices and creation of positive alternatives based on our values that will lead to success. There is something for everyone to do.

Denials Down Under: Climate Change and Health

Richard Horton’s note in an October 2015 issue of The Lancet was cautiously optimistic.  It described the launch of Doctors for Climate Change Action, led by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference COP21.  The initiative had arisen from a statement endorsed by a range of medical and international health organisations (some 69 in all), specifically emphasising that ancient obligation for a doctor to protect the health of patients and their communities.  But, as if to add a more cautionary tale of improvement, the 2015 Lancet Commission also concluded that the response to climate change would, in all likelihood, be “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.

A more sombre note tends to prevail in such assessments.  The RACP has itself made the observation that:

Unchecked, climate change threatens to worsen food and water shortages, change the risk of climate-sensitive diseases, and increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.  This is likely to have serious consequences for public health and wellbeing.

In recent years, the link to a rise in temperatures has been associated with specific medical events, such as the transmission of infectious diseases.  The Lancet notes one example specific to mosquitoes and their increasingly energised role:

Vectorial capacity of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus has increased since 1990, with tangible effects – notably the doubling of cases of dengue fever every decade since 1990.

Mona Sarfarty, director of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, could only be gloomy at this month’s International Panel on Climate Change report, releasing a statement rich with claims.

As a physician, I know that climate change is already harming the health of Americans.  Doctors and medical professionals see it daily in our offices, including the effects of extreme weather events like Hurricane Florence to droughts, smoke from large wildfires, spreading Lyme disease, and worsened asthma.

What, then, to be done?  The RACP’s November 2016 position statement outlines a set of canonical objectives still deemed profane by climate change sceptics, notably those coal deep: a decrease in fossil fuel combustion in the generating of energy and transport; a reduction of fossil fuel extraction; decreasing emissions from food production and agriculture; and the improvement of emergency efficiency in homes and buildings.  Not exactly scurrilous stuff, but highly offensive to fossil fuel fiends.

The Morrison Government, hived off from such concerns, is more focused on immediate, existential goals.  Its own electoral survival, shakily built on the reduction of energy costs to pacify a disgruntled electorate, has featured a degree of bullying on the part of the prime minister towards energy companies.  Energy retailers, Morrison warns, must drastically reduce prices from January 1 or face the intrusive burdens of regulation.  The considerations of the planet, and the health of its inhabitants, have been put aside, a point made clear in the Australian government’s response to the IPCC findings.

The note of the report is one of manageable mitigation, shot through with a measured fatalism: “Limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. While admitting that, “Some impacts may be long-lasting and irreversible, such as the loss of some ecosystems (high confidence)” stabilising temperatures at 1.5ºC would at least draw a ring around the catastrophe.  “The avoided climate change impacts on sustainable development, eradication of poverty and reducing inequalities would be greater if global warming were limited to 1.5ºC rather than 2ºC, if mitigation and adaptation synergies were maximised while trade-offs are minimised (high confidence).”

For the Morrison government, these words, admittedly technical and dry, are the stuff of another galaxy, pressed to the outer reaches of the cosmos.  The IPCC report did not, according to the prime minister, “provide recommendations to Australia”, leaving his government to pursue policies to “ensure electricity prices are lower”.

Fossil fuel lobbyists and advocates were comforted by this retreat from environmental reality.  “There is a role,” insisted former Coalition energy minister and Queensland Resources Council chief Ian Macfarlane, “for high-quality Australian coal and it’s compatible with meeting Paris emissions reduction targets.”  An interesting omission on emissions here is that the richer the quality of coal, the more concentrated the carbon.  Poorer quality brown coal, curiously enough, is less of a culprit.  But Macfarlane wants it both ways, if not all ways.  “Our economy depends on the coal industry, and we can have both a strong coal industry and reduce carbon emissions.”

Such dismissive, a deluding behaviour, has been seen to be nothing short of “contemptuous” by a group of Australian health experts, whose Thursday letter in The Lancet suggests a disregard for “any duty of care regarding the future wellbeing of Australians and our immediate neighbours”.

The signatories, including Nobel Laureates Peter Doherty and Tilman Ruff, suggested that, like “other established historical harms to human health [such as tobacco], narrow vested interests must be countered to bring about fundamental change in the consumption of coal and other fossil fuels.”  They urge the adoption of a “call to action”, including the phasing out of existing coal-fired power stations, a “commitment to no new or expanded coal mines and no new coal-fired power stations” and the removal of “all subsidies to fossil fuel industries”.

A damp lettuce response came from the near invisible federal environment minister, Melissa Price, who insists that the Morrison government remains aware of the IPCC findings.  This same minister, when asked about what she is doing in her portfolio, persists in praising the blessings of the good divinity that is coal, a spectacle as curious as a wolf at a sheep convention.  “We have consistently stated that the IPCC is a trusted source of scientific advice that we will continue to take into account on climate policy.”  To account, it would seem, is to ignore; to acknowledge is to dismiss.

We Can No Longer Afford A Fossil Fuel Economy

#WeRiseForClimate protest in San Francisco, September 8, 2018 from 350.org flickr

The Global #RiseForClimate actions are just one example of many that the climate justice movement is building the power needed to transform the economy and put in place policies to confront climate change.  The ingredients exist for the climate justice movement to rapidly succeed. A challenge is not knowing how much time we have. Scientists have been conservative in their estimates, and feedback loops could rapidly increase the impacts of climate change.

The costs of not acting are high. The benefits of investing in a clean energy economy would be widespread. We need to keep building the movement.

Source: New Climate Economy

The Climate Crisis Is Already Devastating

The urgency of the climate crisis is obvious and cannot be reasonably denied. ABC News reported about the horrific California wildfires, saying there is an “undeniable link to climate change.” They wrote, “Experts have said that rising temperatures linked to climate change are making the fires larger, more dangerous and more expensive to fight.” This year’s fires broke records set by last year’s fires, leading Governor Jerry Brown to describe them as the “new normal” caused by years of drought and rising temperatures.

Researchers at Columbia University and the University of Idaho reported in 2017 that human-caused warming was drying out forests, causing peak fire seasons across the West to expand every year by an average of nine days since 2000. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the 2017 fire season cost more than $2 billion, making it the most expensive fire season on record.

Extreme heat is becoming more common because of climate change. Since 2001, 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have occurred. Records were broken all over the world this year. Record heat is also contributing to more ferocious stormsStorms with heavy rain and high winds are increasing, as the Union of Concerned Scientists warns.

Michael Mann, an atmospheric science professor at Penn State University, clarifies the science:

What we can conclude with a great deal of confidence now is that climate change is making these events more extreme. And its not rocket science, you warm the atmosphere it’s going to hold more moisture, you get larger flooding events, you get more rainfall. You warm the planet, you’re going to get more frequent and intense heat waves. You warm the soils, you dry them out, you get worse drought. You bring all that together and those are all the ingredients for unprecedented wildfires.

Our Lives Matter from #RiseOnClimate Flickr

Economic Cost of Climate Impacts Is Rising

Global warming will hit the US economy hard, particularly in the South. The Richmond branch of the Federal Reserve Bank cites a study that finds refusing to combat climate change could utterly devastate the South’s entire economy. The Fed notes, “higher summer temperatures could reduce overall U.S. economic growth by as much as one-third over the next century, with Southern states accounting for a disproportionate share of that potential reduction.”

There is a correlation between higher temperatures and lower factory production, lower worker productivity and lower economic growth. An August 2018 report found:

The occurrence of six or more days with temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit reduces the weekly production of U.S. automobile manufacturing plants by an average of 8 percent.

Ironically, the oil and gas industry, which is accused of undermining climate science, is now asking government to protect it from the impacts of climate change. When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, swamping Houston, it caused an immediate 28 cents per gallon increase in the price of oil. After Harvey a Texas commission report sought $61 billion from Congress to protect Texas from future storms. Joel N. Myers, of AccuWeather, predicted in 2017 that the total losses from Harvey would reach “$190 billion or one percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.” The cost of a 60 mile seawall along the Texas coast is initially projected to be $12 billion.

Harvey broke the record set by Hurricane Katrina, which cost $160 billion.  The 10 most destructive hurricanes caused an estimated $442 billion in losses. Out of 27 extreme weather events in 2016, researchers for the American Meteorological Society have correlated 21 of them to human-caused climate change.

A 2018 Climate Change Assessment report for California estimated climate change:

could soon cost us $200 million a year in increased energy bills to keep homes air conditioned, $3 billion from the effects of a long drought and $18 billion to replace buildings inundated by rising seas, just to cite a few projections. Not to mention the loss of life from killer heat waves, which could add more than 11,000 heat-related deaths a year by 2050 in California, and carry an estimated $50 billion annual price tag.

Impacts are seen throughout the United States. A report found that “since 2005, Virginia has lost $280 million in home values because of sea-level rise.” A 2018 study found coastal properties in five Southeastern states have lost $7.4 billion in potential value since 2005. The 2017 Hawaii Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report estimates the lost value of flooded structures and land at over $19 billion. Additionally, Hawaii’s roadways, bridges and infrastructure will cost $15 billion to repair and replace. The National Flood Insurance Program is losing $1.4 billion annually largely due to claims in 284 coastal counties. The Congressional Budget Office finds the program is already $20.5 billion in the red even after the government forgave $16 billion in debt last fall.

These are just some of the many costs — food, agriculture, fishing, oceans, storms, fires, droughts, heat, flooding and more are going to worsen significantly.

Climate change could be the cause of the next economic collapse due to the cost of climate damage, an insurance industry crisis, or stranded assets, as over-investing in carbon energy has caused a fragile carbon bubble.

Equity, Justice, #WeRiseForClimate from Flickr

The US Can Transform To A Climate Justice Economy Now

While there has been progress on clean energy, it is inadequate and sporadic compared to the urgent needs. We need dramatic escalation with clear goals — keep fossil fue ls in the ground, use agriculture and wetlands to sequester carbon, deploy renewable energy, build climate justice infrastructure and transition to a new economy based on sustainability, democracy and equity.

This week, the world’s largest wind farm opened. It can power 590,000 homes in the UK. Another planned wind farm could provide the power for 2 million homes. The world is only scratching the surface of the potential of wind and solar.

We can no longer afford the old carbon energy economy. A new climate economy would add $26 trillion to the global economy by 2030, a conservative estimate. It will create 65 million new jobs and prevent 700,000 premature deaths. This transformation provides an opportunity to create the future we want based on economic, racial and environmental justice.

Just as we are underestimating the high costs of climate change, we have also “grossly underestimated the benefits and opportunities unlocked by smart, connected, distributed energy technologies,” David Roberts writes in Vox. We will look back after the transition and wonder why we waited as we will see “the benefit of quieter, safer, more livable cities and better respiratory health, we’ll wonder why we ever put up with anything else — why we nickel-and-dimed the transition to electric buses, long-haul trucks, and passenger vehicles; why we fought over every bike lane and rail line.” We can also implement Solutionary Rail – a network of electrified railroads that also serves as an energy grid serving rural areas and relieving roads of trucks.

The 2018 New Climate Economy Report reports time is running out; extreme damage from climate change is being locked in. We need a sustainable trajectory by 2030. The developing world needs infrastructure and much of the developed world’s infrastructure is failing. The report finds, “The world is expected to spend about US$90 trillion on infrastructure in the period up to 2030, more than the entire current stock today. Much of this investment will be programmed in the next few years.” We need to spend this on creating a new sustainable economy.

Adele Peters quotes Helen Mountford, lead author of the Global Commission project:

If we get that infrastructure right, we’re going to put ourselves on the right path. If we get it wrong, we’ll be very much stuck on that wrong pathway.

The report examined five areas: cities, energy, food and land use, water, and industry. Building sustainable, efficient, clean energy infrastructure will reduce health costs, and increase productivity and innovation. This requires policy based on equity, cutting fossil fuel subsidies while increasing the price of carbon, and investing in sustainable infrastructure.

The good news is we have the ability and technology to make the transition. We know what works. We lack the leadership, but this leadership void can be filled by the people. When we lead, the leaders will follow.

As the crisis hits and national consensus solidifies, people will need to demand a new economy based on equity, fairness, democratized energy and serving the necessities of the people and planet. This new democratized economy could include a federal buyout of the top US-based, publicly-traded fossil fuel companies. It could include the reversal of disastrous privatization with nationalization of key industries and public ownership of energy utilities to serve the public interest, rather than private interests.

Polling on risks of climate change. Yale Program on Climate Communication, 2018

National Consensus Is Solidifying For Climate Action

Despite mis-leadership by power holders and lack of commercial media coverage, people know climate change is having major negative impacts and want to action taken to confront it. Yale reports that polls show 83% want research funded on alternative energy, 77% want CO2 regulated as a pollutant, 70% want strict limits on CO2 from coal-fired power plants, and 68% even favor a carbon tax on polluters.

Obama’s policies on climate were inadequate, and he led massive building of oil and gas infrastructure. The current administration denies climate change exists, hides research on climateis reversing Obama’s positive steps and opposes the national consensus. This is going to lead to a climate justice boomerang. More storms and the cost of climate change will cause people to rebel and demand the transformation political elites have refused.

There is an impressive mobilized movement; not just the Global #RiseForClimate, but people putting their bodies on the line and risking arrest to stop carbon infrastructure. Activists are successfully delaying the approval of pipelines, often with Indigenous leadership as their rights are crucial for climate justice. Activists are arguing their resistance against polluters is being done out of climate necessity and are sometimes succeeding.

Oil companies are being sued for hiding the truth about climate change – former scientists are exposing them – and are now being forced to disclose climate change risks to shareholders.  Activists are confronting investors of carbon infrastructure and insurance companies on coal. Workers are confronting unions on the issue. Youth are suing for a livable climate future.

The movement is building power. The path needed is clear, but escalation is urgent.

Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops

What happened to Standing Rock water protector Red Fawn Fallis is what has happened to many women political dissenters who go up against Big Government/Corporate power.  After she was viciously tackled by several police officers (caught on video), she was brought up on serious charges of harming those who harmed her.  Fallis, after months of intense corporate/military surveillance and handy informant reports, was targeted as a coordinator and a leader, a symbol and an inspiration.  For daring to make a stand for her people against the encroaching poison and destruction brought by the Dakota Access gas pipeline, she became a political prisoner.

Native-American women suffering dire consequences because of the ever-expanding needs of capitalist/white rule is nothing new.  Native-Americans have endured environmental racism for a very long time—from New England merchants to men seeking gold and to “tame” the West.  Late 20th century technology brought uranium mining and nuclear testing to the Southwest, bringing new and far-reaching disaster.  The Dakota oil pipeline, carrying explosive crude Canadian oil, goes through tribal lands, without tribal consent, potentially poisoning their water and desecrating their sacred sites.  Women have been on the frontlines of DAPL resistance, with their traditional ties to “Mother Earth” and to ancient matriarchal spiritual leadership.  But Standing Rock women resister/water protectors, faced all-out war from government/corporate forces.

In a militarized police state, colonized Native-Americans taking a stand to protect their land and water from rapacious banks and oil companies can expect what was unleashed against them.  In one battle late in 2016, troopers from North Dakota and neighboring states launched an attack against hundreds of united, unarmed Native-American protesters and their allies.  Rubber bullets, icy water cannons, concussion grenades, mace and tear gas did enormous damage.  As head of the Medic and Healer Council Linda Black Elk put it, she was attacked as part of the “continued legacy of oppression by the United States government.”  Native-American women have felt this legacy of oppression in particular ways directed at “squaws.”  Natïve women were raped, imprisoned, tortured, mutilated and killed by white colonial settlers, and that tradition and mentality still lives on in the experience of Red Fawn Fallis and her fellow women water protectors.

White police forcibly assaulted, stripped and searched demonstrators.  In a very familiar pattern, Prairie McLaughlin, daughter of LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Lakota historian, was cited with “resisting arrest,” after objecting to being forcibly stripped.  An officer broke Apache-Navajo Laurie Howland’s wrist during her arrest.  Echoing Annie May Aquash, who was killed during the Wounded Knee uprising, Howland thought the white officers objected to her not being white and not praying to Jesus. Women dissidents against governmental authority, from Shaker Mother Ann Lee, to women militant suffragists, to black freedom riders, to revolutionary weatherwomen, have met male police violence, as “unnatural” noncompliant women.  For black and Native-American women, branded by a racist culture as even more beneath contempt, it is always worse.  So naturally, Red Fawn Fallis, singled out as a leader by the authorities, would be thrown down and arrested, and then brought up on serious charges which she would have no hope of beating.

It was October 2016, when 40-year-old Red Fawn Fallis was arrested after being tackled and pinned by several officers.  Fallis came from a family well used to resistance and its consequences.  Red Fawn is an Oglala Sioux from Pine Ridge.  Fallis’ mother Troylynn Yellow Wood was active in AIM (American Indian Movement) and was at the Wounded Knee protest in 1973.  She died shortly before the Standing Rock demonstrations.  She had taught her daughter to fight for “social and environmental justice” and to “stand up for her people.”  Red Fawn was serving as a medic at Standing Rock.  She was known as a “mother” to young activists, known to be “dedicated to peaceful tactics.”  When she was accused of shooting at a police officer, her supporters found it hard to believe.  Terrell Ironshell of the Indigenous Youth Council said that Fallis told them:  “You don’t have to be afraid of the government.  This is our land.”  Apparently the government has not yet been convinced of that.

On October 27, 2016, there was a 400-person rally near a DAPL construction site.  The police used the occasion to raid an “1851 treaty camp” and to take and destroy ceremonial and sacred items from a sweat lodge.  They dispersed the crowd with rubber bullets, tear gas and a “long-range acoustic device.”  There were 147 arrested that day and all were released except Red Fawn.  Deputy Thad Schmit said he spotted Fallis “being an instigator and disorderly” so he “took her to the ground.”  She allegedly fired a gun while down, and according to the arresting officers told them they were lucky she didn’t “shoot all you fuckers.”  [What military conference do they go to for this stuff?]  A video taken at the time clearly shows her being violently tackled by a dozen police, who then pinned her down, with a gun (according to witnesses) in her back.  The scene is horrific and typical of fascist militarized authorities quelling unarmed protesters.  It was the same response shown when black women protesters confronted Ferguson police and when Occupy demonstrators met up with the NYPD.

The initial (state) charge against Red Fawn Fallis was “attempted murder” of a police officer.  This was dropped in November in favor of federal charges of “civil disorder” and “possession of a firearm by a convicted felon” (a felon for allegedly driving the car while her male companion shot and wounded another man).  US authorities ordered her held without bail—standard for political prisoners, whether black Panther or Weatherwoman or water protector.  At a June 2017 hearing, she was denied bail, purportedly because the judge said Standing Rock protesters were “violent.”  In October she finally was released to a half-way house in Fargo, after being in North Dakota jails for months.

In January 2018, she had a trial, but, of course, the defense could not use the abrogation of treaty rights or the elaborate military-style surveillance and intelligence reports used to target her, reports which equated her with “jihadist fighters”; or the role of the swarmy FBI informant Heath Harmon, who insinuated himself into a relationship with Fallis, and said he provided her with the gun she allegedly fired.  With the defense hamstrung, as it always is when a woman political is a supposed terrorist, “eco-terrorist” in her case, she and her lawyer Bruce Ellison (Leonard Peltier’s attorney—hm), decided it’d be best to take a plea deal for civil disorder and possession of a firearm, with the dropping of the discharge of firearm (potentially a life sentence).  She also had to express remorse for causing any danger to the police [!].  After some delays, Red Fawn was finally sentenced on July 11, to 57 months in federal prison, with 18 months credit for prison time served.  She will serve about 39 months and three years probation.  She is appealing, but—vicious government prosecutors in North Dakota courts not known for Native-American sympathies–?  Not much chance.  Interestingly, Fallis said, before sentencing, she “wanted to move forward in a positive way away from Harmon and the things he tried to put on me while I was trying to push him away.”  Guess he got even.

When it comes to political dissent, the US government has a long history of violently suppressing it.  When it comes to women dissenters, US authorities have a long history of saving special kinds of punishments for them.  In 1973, black liberationist Assata Shakur was pulled over in a traffic stop, ended up being shot and then falsely accused of shooting her attacker.  Knowing she’d be killed in prison, her comrades helped her escape to Cuba.  In 1990, environmentalist Judi Bari was blown up with a car bomb in California, very likely by the FBI and the Pacific Lumber Company.  She was charged with “possession of an explosive device.”  She never recovered from her injuries.   Muslim- Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui, a Boston doctor, was caught up in the horror of false terrorism charges in the early 2000s.  After years of imprisonment, rape and torture, she was set up for a staged shooting of US army officers in Afghanistan, was herself grievously wounded in the stomach, and, as an accused “terrorist,” got 86 years in prison.  Occcupy’s Cecily McMillan was sexually accosted by an NYPD officer, tackled by a number of other officers, and was charged with attacking the police.  She served time in Rikers and was released.  Black Lives Matter activist Sandra Bland was pulled over in Texas for not signaling for a lane change, was tackled with her head hitting the ground, charged with the felony of attacking an officer, and was found hanged in her cell a few days later under suspicious circumstances.  In a police state, you can be a New Jersey mother on a beach and get accosted by cops, a black woman at a waffle house and be tackled by officers, a young woman jaywalking and get attacked by the police.  This is the mark of an authoritarian, patriarchal power structure.

Red Fawn Fallis will serve hard time in federal prison because she stood up to government/corporate power.  The Free Red Fawn facebook page says—on July 12, 2018—that she is a “political prisoner.  She stood up for justice against environmental genocide, encroachment of our land and water.”  Like other Native-American and Puerto Rican women politicals, Fallis sees her status as a war captive of the US government.  She knows she faces a long prison sentence, but has heard her supporters sing outside her window.  She says, “So I stand strong. . .  I grow stronger every passing hour.”  She was treated brutally and with a punishment far in excess of any possible crime.  Such treatment of women political prisoners is the mark of a state which has little patience for defiant women resisters:  a fascist state, a police state –not one beginning with Trump—Standing Rock and Ferguson happened under Obama. The repression against those women who have fought for freedom and justice began with the first settlers.