Category Archives: Paris 2015

The Net Zero Mirage

“Net Zero by 2050” is the rallying cry of scientists and policymakers throughout the world. However, that epithet echoes past decades of climate change/global warming mitigation plans, one after another, all failures.

The world’s continuing failure to come to grips with the dilemma led three notable climate scientists, deeply involved at the highest levels, to publicly ridicule past and future attempts to fix climate change in a blockbuster article entitled:1

That article is a must-read exposé of failed schemes that unintentionally hoodwink the general public, and scientists, and policymakers into believing in the merits of “feel-good proposals to save the planet.” But in reality, the scientists expose these projects as foolhardy, in part, based upon their own personal experience in actually helping to formulate some of the proposals in the first instance.

It is a thought-provoking article that cannot be dismissed, as it essentially implies we’re screwed unless global policymakers face up and react, immediately. They suggests foregoing the conceptual “Net Zero by 2050,” instead cut to the chase by cutting fossil fuels now!

As a follow up to the stirring article, Dr. Alison Green of ScientistsWarning interviewed the authors, May 8th, 2021:

The authors, not pulling any punches, take academia and international policymakers to the woodshed for decades of fairytale fixit schemes that always, always, always hold out hope, great promise to save civilization from burning up in a self-afflicted earthly hades, but never deliver, postage required.

The message behind the scathing article is simple, straightforward: Enough is enough, we’re fooling ourselves and getting nowhere fast, stop the madness, get real. Here’s how the authors see it:

Collectively we three authors of this article must have spent more than 80 years thinking about climate change. Why has it taken us so long to speak out about the obvious dangers of the concept of net zero? In our defence, the premise of net zero is deceptively simple – and we admit that it deceived us.2

A “Net Zero” search on Goggle brings up 1,630,000,000 hits within 0.89 seconds, and that’s just for starters. Deferring to the authors:

We have arrived at the painful realisation that the idea of net zero has licensed a recklessly cavalier ‘burn now, pay later’ approach which has seen carbon emissions continue to soar. It has also hastened the destruction of the natural world by increasing deforestation today, and greatly increases the risk of further devastation in the future.2

Their article goes on to describe “Steps towards Net Zero” starting with James Hansen, as administrator of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies June 1988 testimony to Congress, demonstrating how humans were warming Earth’s climate, famously stating, “The greenhouse (“GHG”) effect has been detected.” Then, four years later at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, all nations pledged to stabilize GHGs and the 1997 Kyoto Summit re-emphasized these goals, but at the time when something very constructive should have, could have been accomplished, the parties failed.  Subsequently fossil fuels never looked back, zooming ahead in the face of nations of the world agreeing to stabilize GHGs but continuing to fail.

As follows, the next approach was to link economic activity to climate change via “Integrated Assessment Models,” which became, and remain to this day, the principal guidance for climate policy, implicitly implying that “market-based” approaches work, thereby removing any requirement for “deep critical thinking.” This has been, and according to the authors, remains a huge mistake.

The next step to solving the problem was introduction of Carbon-Capture and Storage, a feel-good plan for policymakers but one that failed to address increasing levels of fossil fuel usage. By the Copenhagen 2009 summit it was clear that Carbon-Capture and Storage did not exist in the real world; it was another big bust.

Thereafter, a new magic bullet, Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage – BECCS, became the new savior technology, burning biomass instead of coal. However, BECCS, which is very much in favor today, carries manifold issues, including the insanity of burning trees that absorb & store CO2 if left alone.

According to the authors:

Alas, BECCS, just like all the previous solutions, was too good to be true.2

The following information about BECCS was not included in the relevant article but has been included herewith as BECCS has become the rage, especially in the EU, which generates more energy from burning wood than from wind and solar combined. Biomass is now a $50B global industry.

The title of a recent article tells the story of BECCS 3  For example:

Solar panels can produce 100 times as much power per acre as biomass.2

And here’s another snippet:

In February, more than 500 scientists and economists wrote to President Joe Biden and other leaders to warn that converting wood into power is a carbon disaster, a forest destroyer and an absurdly inefficient way to generate energy… Trees are more valuable alive than dead.2

According to Earth Institute, woody biomass power plants actually produce more “global warming CO2” than fossil fuel plants; i.e., 65% more CO2 per megawatt hour than modern coal plants and 285% more CO2 than natural gas. Meanwhile Canada and the U.S. deliver wood to Europe like there’s no tomorrow.

According to LSA – University of Colorado/Boulder: Wood accounts for 79% of biomass production and accounts for 3.2% of energy production. Wood dominates the worldwide biomass industry. Today 50% of EU renewable energy is based upon biomass, and it is on the rise.

For example, in the UK, the Drax Group converted 4 of 6 coal-generating units to biomass, powering 12% of UK electricity for 4 million households. The Drax biomass plant has an enormous appetite for wood; e.g., in less than two hours an entire freight train of wooden pellets goes up in smoke (easily qualifying for Ripley’s Believe It or Not).

According to Drax’s PR department, their operation has slashed CO2 by over 80% since 2012, claiming to be “the largest decarbonization project in Europe.”4 ; however, when scientists analyze Drax’s claims, they do not hold up.

When wood pellets burn, Drax assumes the released carbon is “recaptured instantly by new growth.” That is a fairy tale.

According to John Sherman, an expert on Complex Systems Analysis at MIT: The “carbon debt payback time” for forests in the eastern US, where Drax’s wood pellets originate, compared to burning coal, under the best-case scenario, when all harvested land regrows as a forest, the wood pellet “payback time is 44 to 104 years,” which is mindboggling, thus prompts a query: Whoever did the research on biomass? Fire them!

Study after study proves that “burning coal instead of woody biomass” reduces the impact of CO2 atmospheric emissions. Coal is the clear winner, but problematically coal has already been cast into no-man’s land as a horrific polluter. Therefore, a massive complexity is at work as countries commit to using trees to meet carbon neutral status, but the end results are appallingly diametrical to their own stated intentions, and flat-out wrong.

According to scientist Bill Moomaw, co-author of several IPCC reports and widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on “carbon sinks”:

If we let some of our forests grow, we could remove an additional 10 to 20 percent of what we emit every year. Instead, we’re paying subsidies to have people cut them down, burning them in place of coal, and counting it as zero carbon. 5

Dr. Moomaw led a group of 800 scientists that petitioned the EU parliament in January 2018 to: “End its support for biomass.” Nevertheless, in June 2018, the EU Commission voted to keep biomass listed as a renewable energy, joined in their position by the support of the U.S. and Britain. Is this conclusive proof that policymakers, at their peril, ignore science? Answer: Yes!

Back to the original article for this story, by 2015, with CO2 emissions still skyrocketing, Paris ’15 brought the world together to limit warming to 2°C, hopefully 1.5°C vs. pre-industrial levels. At the end of negotiations, predictably, worldwide media celebrated an alleged marvelous achievement by the nations of the world to limit global warming, actually implying a halt to global warming, full stop at 2°C. Oh, please!

Yet, the bitter truth about Paris ’15:

But dig a little deeper and you could find another emotion lurking within delegates on December 13. Doubt. We struggle to name any climate scientist who at that time thought the Paris Agreement was feasible. We have since been told by some scientists that the Paris Agreement was ‘of course, important for climate justice but unworkable’ and ‘a complete shock, no one thought limiting to 1.5°C was possible’. Rather than being able to limit warming to 1.5°C, a senior academic involved in the IPCC concluded we were heading beyond 3°C by the end of this century.2

But, at the conclusion of Paris ’15 policymakers and the world’s media focused on a celebration with bright colored streamers and champagne popping and lots of backslapping, continuing the false narrative that a fixit was orchestrated by the nations of the world by simply keeping temperatures below 2°C and maybe even 1.5°C. It’s that simple.

But, getting there may be very complex, accordingly, atmospheric CO2 emissions since 2015: 399.89 ppm January 2015 versus 419.05 ppm April 2021 and increasing at twice the rate of the last century, which makes Paris ’15 a laughing stock.

Furthermore, the three author/scientists discount all of the current proposals on the table like Direct Air Capture, BECCS, and Solar Radiation Management to control and reduce the impact of global warming: “The problems come when it is assumed that these can be deployed at vast scale. This effectively serves as a blank cheque for the continued burning of fossil fuels and the acceleration of habitat destruction.”2

Rather than acknowledge the seriousness of our situation, we instead continue to participate in the fantasy of net zero. What will we do when reality bites? The time has come to voice our fears and be honest with wider society. Current net zero policies will not keep warming to within 1.5°C because they were never intended to. They were and still are driven by a need to protect business as usual, not the climate. If we want to keep people safe then large and sustained cuts to carbon emissions need to happen now. That is the very simple acid test that must be applied to all climate policies. The time for wishful thinking is over.6

  1. “Climate Scientists: Concept of Net Zero is a Dangerous Trap”, The Conversation, April 22, 2021.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “The ‘Green Energy’ That Might Be Ruining the Planet,” Politico, March 26, 2021.
  4. Biomass Energy: Green or Dirty? Environment & Energy – Feature Article, January 8, 2020
  5. Europe’s Renewable Energy Policy is Built on Burning American Trees, Vox, March 4, 2019.
  6. Climate Scientists: “Concept of Net Zero is a Dangerous Trap”, written by: James Dyke/University of Exeter, Robert Watson/University of East Anglia, and Wolfgang Knorr/Lund University.
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Direct Air Capture and Big Oil

CNBC recently produced a 17-min video about direct air capture (DAC) and corporations, specifically big oil, funding R&D operations. The video discusses the basic technology, as well as some pitfalls. Direct air capture is in early stages of developing technology to remove atmospheric CO2.1

By implication, the oil giants are clearly aware of what’s at stake  (a) the planet is stressed almost beyond limits (b) there’s some money to be made trying to fix it (c) it’s a great PR gig. But, the problem is much bigger and more complex than oil and gas betting on early stage development of technology to capture the same emissions they created in the first instance. Direct air capture is complex and expensive with sizeable infrastructure requirements, explained in further detail hereinafter, a real eye-opener.

Ironically, expectantly, without doubt, big oil is bellying up to this task with eyes wide open. They have a lot to gain and very little to lose. In point of fact, it’s a win-win for these provocateurs of insane atmospheric levels of CO2 emissions, the highest of the Holocene Epoch, our unique Goldilocks Era, not too hot, not to cold suddenly coming to a crescendo of excessive exploitation within only a couple hundred years of the entire 12,000-year history.

It’s worth noting that ever since the Drake Well in 1859, the first commercial oil well in the United States, big oil’s interest in the planet has been adversarial, especially in actual practice. As a consequence, the planet’s atmosphere and ecosystems need a thorough overhaul: (1) remove CO2 via direct air capture (2) carbon capture and sequestration of CO2 at the point of production 3) construction of renewable energy facilities.

It’s a sizeable task that’s nearly impossible to fully comprehend and, in fact, impossible to wrap arms around because it’s the planet; it’s really big! The scale of infrastructure that’s required to make a significant difference is beyond a Marshall Plan prototype, which would be a blip on direct air capture’s radar.

It’s questionable that it can come together fast enough in the face of a very risky 1.5°C global overshoot. That probability increases, as the Paris ‘15 signatories have not met voluntary commitments to cut emissions. They’re mostly putting up zeros, so far. In addition to abject failure by the signatories, concerns about global warming ratcheted upwards subsequent to Paris ’15. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) drew a line in the sand at 1.5°C beyond which risk factors for planet viability turn a whole lot worse.

Exxon/Mobil and Microsoft are funding carbon air capture R&D projects. These entrepreneurial interests have likely been piqued by acceptance of the fact, finally, that exhaust fumes from industry and transport are a heavy burden on the planet. Already, major ecosystems are starting to collapse, for example, the Great Barrier Reef, the poster-child of global warming, has experienced unprecedented bleaching, three events in only five years, losing over one-half of its quintessence to global warming in only 25 years, categorized “in critical condition” by UNESCO.

Exxon Mobil and Global Thermostat have a joint development agreement for “breakthrough” technology that removes CO2 directly from the atmosphere via direct air capture (DAC). Currently, technical developments appear to be very costly, at least 50 times more per metric ton at $330-800 per ton of CO2 than natural climate solutions. However, as part of the process, captured/processed CO2 is a marketable byproduct and can be sold for numerous purposes; e.g., pumped into an operating oil well to enhance oil recovery, which, of course, is where CO2 initiated in the first instance. This is a preferred modus operandi for some oil operations, which unfortunately also leads to endless production of fossil fuels in a perpetual madness that enhances oil-driven vehicles, air pollution, and global warming, spewing more CO2 into the atmosphere, which allegedly is recaptured, but is it really? Oh, almost forgot, and lots more ocean absorbing of CO2. Along the way, oil PR departments claim, “green energy” with signage on full public display. Meanwhile, direct air capture or the impression of such opens a window to perpetual drilling, as big oil continues to spud 50,000 new wells every year.

There are currently 15 operational DAC plants in the world. Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company, has a plant under construction in the Permian Basin in partnership with Oxy Low Carbon, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum (Oxy’s PR department must be thrilled over its “Oxy Low Carbon” designation). The plant will open in 2024 at the rate of 1,000,000 metric tons of captured CO2 per year versus 4,200,000 metric tons of CO2 emitted worldwide per hour… yes, per hour. The Oxy Low Carbon facility is energy-intensive, powered by natural gas and renewables. The captured CO2 can be injected into the ground, sequestered or converted into a synthetic fuel and sold on the market.

Carbon Engineering’s investors include Bill Gates, BP, and Chevron. Their goal is to build plants around the world. As such, the company claims it needs the technological skill and experience of major oil, which has infrastructure and technology expertise.

Another up and coming player in carbon removal is Climeworks, operating 14 direct air capture plants across Europe and currently building its largest facility in Iceland. Current operations capture 2,000mt CO2/year. They have an Iceland plant named Orca under construction powered by geothermal energy that will capture 4,000mt CO2/year. The captured CO2 is permanently sequestered underground. Costs to operate the plant run $600-800/metric ton CO2, which hopefully drops to $100-200/mt within 10 years. In addition to sequestering CO2, Climeworks sells some of its captured product; e.g., a greenhouse in Switzerland is a customer, using it to grow vegetables. Climeworks hopes to capture 1% of global CO2 emissions by 2025.

For direct air capture to really truly work, to do the job, meaningfully saving the planet, it’ll need lots of support by the nations of the world. Commercial interests agree on that basic supposition. The job is too big, too important, and too urgent for piecemeal work by several individual upstart operations.

Direct air capture is not a magic bullet. According to Lucas Joppa, Chief Environmental Officer of Microsoft:

You have to deploy all carbon removal opportunities to their maximum capacity. That is the only way that we will reach our overall societal climate targets. DAC is going to be an important part of how we reach a net zero carbon economy, but there are a lot of engineering challenges ahead of it, and we need to be clear-eyed about that. Otherwise there’s going to be a lot of dashed hopes and missed targets as we go from 2020 to 2030 and 2040 and 2050. (CNBC)

Of course, corporate funding is an encouraging factor, but there is a darker side to this story. Since 1950 when worldwide CO2 emissions registered 5.99B tons, emissions have increased 5-fold within only 70 years, skyrocketing to 36.42B tons in 2019 versus 23B tons at the turn of the century, or up 58% in only 20 years. That’s serious acceleration, and it readily fulfills an extraordinarily sharp upward thrusting growth curve. It’s even more remarkable given the fact that 4,200,000 mt of CO2 is emitted per hour worldwide. That makes the Oxy Low Carbon plant at 1,000,000mt/year look awfully low.

In reality, direct air capture is enormously challenging (1) massive volumes of air have to be pulled to truly make it work (2) a chemical solution, like potassium hydroxide, is required to capture CO2 (3) more chemicals are added with a resulting solution heated to make white pellets of 50% CO2 (4) in turn, pellets are heated again to 900°C to concentrate CO2 into a gas that can be sequestered underground. Whew!

According to renowned physicist Klaus Lackner, director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, in order to stay abreast of current emissions: “If you built a hundred million trailer-size units you could actually keep up with current emissions.” 2

Here’s more of that New Yorker interview:

Lackner has calculated that an apparatus the size of a semi trailer could remove a ton of carbon dioxide per day, or three hundred and sixty-five tons a year. The world’s cars, planes, refineries, and power plants now produce about thirty-six billion tons of CO2 annually, so, he told me, ‘if you built a hundred million trailer-size units you could actually keep up with current emissions.’ He acknowledged that the figure sounded daunting. 3

Umm, in reference to Lackner’s hundred million units necessary to “keep up with current emissions,” what about the CO2 that’s already up there? Moreover, Lackner’s acknowledgement of “the figure sounds daunting” is quite true and quite intimidating, as one hundred million (100,000,000) 55-foot units end-to-end circumnavigate the planet 42 times. Do the math!

Ergo, direct air capture requires, desperately needs, frankly depends upon a coordinated herculean effort by every major nation of the planet. How’s that for scale? Hopefully, Paris ’15 is not a leading indicator of responsiveness by countries to a much bigger project than their failure to reduce emissions at the source.

In all, a cynic might suppose there’s something cagey going on with the world’s biggest corporations, over-weighted by oil producers, now feigning green. Yes, it seems too far out of character to be genuine. Is it possible that boards of directors of oil and gas operators believe they can keep on draining the world’s oil, unimpeded, as long as direct air capture is in the works or as long as the public deems it to be in the works, or is this an overly cynical viewpoint? Answer: Yes and no.

Postscript: The following message exposes dregs of society in acts of absurdity and folly: Under an obscure treaty, big polluters are suing governments for billions of dollars when they shut down coal plants and oil rigs ($50B so far of taxpayer’s money). You can help stop this insanity by going here.

  1. “Money is Pouring Into Carbon Capture Tec, But Challenges Remain”, CNBC, March 3, 2021.
  2. Elizabeth Kolbert, “Can Carbon-Dioxide Removal Save the World?” The New Yorker, November 20, 2017.
  3. Ibid.
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Approaching a Risky 1.5°C Global Overshoot 

A recent UN Assessment, as of February 26th, 2021, regarding progress or lack thereof by the 195 nations to the Paris 2015 climate agreement is starting to look like a big bust.

As described in the report, nations are not meeting their voluntary commitments to decrease carbon emissions, especially based upon the Paris ‘15 goals to decelerate CO2 emissions of cars, trains, planes, and collectively, the human-generated colossus.1

According to data provided by the 74 nations that have reported to the much-heralded Paris climate accord, collectively, their plans are to reduce emissions by 2030 to only 0.5% of 2010 levels, which is totally inadequate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) clearly stated that global emissions be reduced by 45%, otherwise, there’s no chance of staying below 1.5°C. 2

Whether by avoidance or ignorance, one-third of the nations to the Paris climate agreement are failing to meet goals. The plans of the remaining two-thirds are unknown at this time, but the trend doesn’t look very promising. Therefore, it’s probably a good idea to plan for a global temperature overshoot beyond +1.5°C (2.7F).

So then, what does +1.5°C above pre-industrial look like?

For starters, according to NASA, it’s important to note that +1.5°C has already been surpassed in many regions of the world, for example, Australia (massive fires) and the Arctic (open seas). The impact of climate change is not evenly spread around the planet. Nevertheless, according to the Global Warming Index, as of December 2020, global temperature has increased by 1.168°C over the past 170 years. But, of course, it’s noteworthy that the rate of emissions has doubled since the turn of the 21st century, as the Great Acceleration, post WWII, kicks into overdrive.

At 1.5°C above pre-industrial, NASA claims that roughly 15% of the world population will experience extreme heat waves that have the potential to threaten life. On the hottest days at mid-latitudes, temperatures will be up to 3°C (5.4°F) hotter. These extremes will hit central and eastern North America, central and southern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean and many Asian and African regions.

Kuwait is an ongoing example of the impact of extreme heat. An analysis of 15,000 deaths in Kuwait from 2010 to 2016, when extreme temperatures exceeded 109F, versus the daily average of 94.5F, found death rates by cardiovascular disease 3.5 times higher for men and 3.8 times higher for working-age people ages 15-64. According to that report: “The warming of our planet is not evenly distributed. Regions that are inherently hot, like Kuwait and the Arabian Peninsula, are witnessing soaring temperatures unlike ever before. We are sounding the alarm….” 3

The unevenness of a 1.5°C world simply implies: “The hottest of the hot temperatures will increase throughout the planet as some regions turn dangerously hot.” 4

Overshooting the 1.5°C threshold generates sufficient heat to push some ecosystems to the edge of tipping points, or even beyond. That’s when things get dicey with intermittent shortages of critical resources like food and water, already a huge problem in some regions of the planet. And it’s expected almost total wipe-out of some critical ecosystems, coral reefs, for example, especially considering the well publicized excessive bleaching events, three times successively in only five years, clobbering the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) of 1,400 miles, already in an extremely critical condition, as it resides in ocean temps too warm for coral reef survival. As of February 2020, ocean waters surrounding GBR were at the warmest/hottest since record keeping started in 1900.

The failure by countries to achieve results according to Paris ’15 is immoral at best, and at worse, a criminal activity against humanity. Seriously, it’s outlandish that 195 countries commit to hold down global emissions, yet flagrantly fail. The proof of failure is found in atmospheric chemistry: Monthly average CO2 levels measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii: March 1, 2020 @ 414.25 ppm versus March 1, 2021 @ 417.86 ppm. CO2 levels in the atmosphere increase by the year, every year, without fail. It’s the one event that does not fail. Curiously, the “400 ppm Crossover” occurred April 2012, the first monthly average >400 ppm in human history, and for even more history, count back in time to prior extinctions. There are five.

The rate of CO2 increase is the key determinate as to whether society should be concerned about global warming disrupting life, as we know it. Already, at all-time highs, historically, emissions are too rapid for comfort. The current rate is ~2.0 ppm/yr., whereas it was approximately one-half that rate throughout the 20th century. In academia that’s considered a significant CO2 rate of increase, especially in light of the telling fact that it is not only extraordinary by today’s standards, but it’s also a record-breaker on a millennial time scale. Throughout the Holocene Epoch, CO2 increased by ~0.003 ppm / year or +40 ppm over 12,000 years versus our current rate of ~2.0 ppm / year or +40 ppm in only 20 years. That illustrates the difference between nature’s CO2 influence of +0.003 ppm versus the human influence of +2.00 ppm, or 666 times more powerful than nature.

The Anthropocene Epoch, or the age of human climate disruption, is setting all-time records, by the year!  For example, on a long-term scale, atmospheric CO2 of the past 400,000 years has been as high as 280 ppm and as low as 180 ppm in contrast to >400 ppm over the past eight years.

Meanwhile, as disruption hits floral, biota, and fauna, ecosystems start collapsing or actually do collapse smack-dab in the face of a largely disinterested public, for example, two-thirds (66%) of wild vertebrates dead within only 50 years, which is clear evidence that something is horribly wrong.

The protagonist is most likely a robust cocktail of human impact, like destruction of rainforests, in concert with the consequences of global warming, for example, desertification. In fact, desertification crises have hit 168 countries, prompting a declaration of the UN Decade of Desertification for 2010-20.

Curiously, these disturbing, perplexing events as outlined heretofore are discussed in magazines, newspapers, scholarly articles, and throughout the Internet. So, society knows all about these challenges to life on Earth but nothing much gets done about it.

Unfortunately, there is a long list of international agreements or protocols designed to help the planet that fail, for example: (1) The Aichi Biodiversity Targets intended for 2020 set at the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010 have not been met, not even close (2) Most of the nature-related United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs 6, 13–15 are on track for failure (3) The Paris ’15 carbon emission deceleration plans are a basket case. The list could go on.

Clearly, sustainability of the planet stands on its own without help from inhabitants. Still, Earth has demonstrated exceptional recovery skills, surviving five major extinctions, most recently the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction Event 65MYA when 75% of plant and animal species went extinct. Hmm, the current wild vertebrate 66% extinction rate is closing in on that 75% rate, proving that the planet is already “in the thick of it.”

What will stop it from getting a whole lot worse?

  1. “We Are Nowhere Near Keeping Warming below 1.5°C Despite Climate Plans”, NewScientist, February 26, 2021.
  2. “Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C, Summary for Policymakers”, IPCC, 2018.
  3. “American Heart Association, Extreme, High Temperatures May Double or Triple Heart-related Deaths”, ScienceDaily, March 30, 2020.
  4. Ibid.
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The Rich The Poor and Climate Change

Only the most deluded denier can now question that the global climate is dramatically changing and that the chaos is man-made. Extreme weather events – wildfires, drought, intense heat, hurricanes – are becoming more frequent, the impact on ecosystems and biodiversity, populations and infrastructure devastating. Fueled by the industrialized nations and the lifestyles of the rich, it is developing nations in the global south that are most severely impacted by climate change, with the poorest communities, particularly women and children, hit hardest.

The disruption to weather cycles is caused by global warming (increases in average surface temperature) which results from a buildup of what are commonly called greenhouse gases (GHG). Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), trap heat which would otherwise pass out of Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in a rise in average ground temperature. Burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil) is the primary source of emissions, as well as industrial animal agriculture, which is not only a major source of greenhouse gases, but is having a disastrous impact on the environment more broadly, including deforestation, and air and water pollution.

With 28% of the total, China (population c.1.4 billion) is the world’s biggest producer of GHG emissions; however when measured per capita it ranks only 47th. China is also one of the world’s biggest investors in renewable energy, and plans to produce 35% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. It is the USA (population c.328 million) – the second largest overall polluter – that has the highest per capita emissions in the world, and by some margin. Collectively the top four emitters (China, USA, EU + UK and India) produced 55% of all GHG emissions in the last decade.

No matter where they are produced, GHG emissions effect everyone everywhere. Unsurprisingly the biggest single source, accounting for 73% of emissions is energy consumption from fossil fuels. A study by The Guardian in 2019, found that over a third of “all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane” emissions since 1965 have been produced by just 20 companies: Chevron, BP, Shell and Exxon top the carbon charts, producing over 10% of the world’s carbon emissions since 1965.

Everyone, particularly everyone in developed countries, contributes to the clogging fog of global emissions, but, in addition to the energy corporations, the group burning colossal pyres of fossil fuels and those who are therefore disproportionately responsible for climate change is the wealthy. Research by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), published in September 2020, shows that between 1990 and 2015 (a critical period in the evolution of climate change) when GHG emissions grew by 60%, and cumulative emissions doubled, the richest 10% on the planet (c. 630 million) were responsible for a staggering 52% of the total. As if this isn’t shocking enough, drilling down on the figures reveals that the “richest one percent (c.63 million people)…were responsible for 15% of global emissions during this time.”

This huge increase in emissions depleted “the global 1.5C carbon budget [amount of CO2 the world/country has agreed it can produce to meet warming targets in a particular time period] by nearly a third in those 25 years alone.” In contrast the poorest 50% on the planet (c.3.1 billion people), all of whom live in developing countries, used just 4% of the available carbon budget, producing a mere 7% of cumulative emissions.

From Growth to Social Justice

‘Carbon Inequality’ (differences in expenditure of the agreed carbon budget) reflects and amplifies the broader socio-economic imbalances in the world. In the 1990 – 2015 period global GDP doubled, wealth and income inequality grew, consumption levels increased, and although millions were raised out of the most dire levels of poverty ($1.90/day) the income of around half the world’s population remained at less than $5.50 a day.

Even when the poor see some paltry change in their lives, within the present paradigm the main beneficiaries of growth are always the rich; growth intensifies inequality, concentrating wealth, and with it political/corporate power, in the silk-lined pockets of a tiny percentage of the population: A diminishing few, mainly men, predominantly white, controlling more, consuming more, and greedily depleting the global ‘carbon budget’ at the expense of the rest of the population and future generations.

While the benefits of establishing a carbon budget are debatable, the fact that virtually all of it is eaten up by those responsible for the majority of GHG emissions is particularly unjust. Greenpeace relates that an average citizen (it’s much higher for the rich) in the USA, Canada and Australia emit 150 times the amount of carbon compared to someone in Malawi in Southeast Africa. Adding injury and destruction to insult is the fact that poorer countries and communities, who have done little or nothing to cause climate change, are being most severely impacted by its devastating effects.

The breeding ground for climate injustice and social inequality is the competitive ideology inherent within the global socio-economic order, the values it promotes, the behavior it encourages. Endless consumerism and perpetual economic growth are essential components, but for GHG emissions to stop – not reduce, but stop altogether – this crude idea of development, which is a cornerstone of government policies and business plans around the world, must be rejected, and priority given to creating environmental responsibility, social justice and unity.

The challenge of the age

In December 2015, 194 countries signed up to the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate change agreement, adopted at the Paris climate conference (COP21). The treatise sets out a framework to limit global warming to “well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.” To achieve this target countries have established nationally determined contributions (NDC), but even though some countries have announced headline-grabbing targets (EU to reduce GHG by 40% by 2030 e.g.), in its 2020 Emissions Gap Report, the UN states that not only are polices inconsistent with such figures, but that “countries must collectively increase their NDC ambitions threefold to get on track to a 2°C goal and more than fivefold to get on track to the 1.5°C goal.”

Currently, despite Covid-induced economic and trade restrictions in 2020, GHG emissions are climbing at an average rate of 1.3% per year. By the end of 2019, according to Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (NOAA), emissions had increased 41% since 1990. The resulting threat, to ecosystems, animal habitat and human communities, is huge; in a recent report in Frontiers in Conservation Science (FCS), an international group of scientists outline a “ghastly future of mass [animal] extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” because of collective ignorance and inaction, primarily by government and big business. “Future environmental conditions will be far more dangerous than currently believed,” they state, “the scale of the threats… is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts.”

Scientists have been making such warnings for years, but politicians, business leaders, the rich and complacent have routinely ignored them, unprepared to make the necessary sacrifices and changes in approach and behavior required in order to save the planet. FCS makes clear that dealing with the crisis requires fundamental changes to “global capitalism” as well as education and equality. Under the shadow of Covid-19 governments around the world acted, some more effectively than others, but all responded.

The environmental crisis is a great deal more serious. It is the challenge of the age and demands a (UN) coordinated global response. Radical action is needed and urgently, specifically action that brings about changes in behavior among the principle GHG emitters: The rich, the energy companies, big business and the consuming masses within developed nations. Environmentally responsible action by individuals, flying less, using less plastic, eating less animal produce, while important, will not deal with climate change. Systemic change is urgently needed, together with a shift in attitudes away from excess to sufficiency.

The post The Rich The Poor and Climate Change first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Religion Meets Climate Change

Global warming is the biggest challenge of all time. It impacts every living species. However, the inherent dangers are very difficult to comprehend.  As such, people brush it off as one more issue in life that will somehow be handled, fixed, no worries, human ingenuity will prevail.

But, what if it’s not that simple?

Stuart Scott, executive producer of Facing Future.TV, which is part of United Planet Faith & Science Initiative (UPFSI.org) founded by Stuart, knows better than almost anybody that it’s not that simple.  He is one of the few, the exceptional, to cast aside a comfortable lifestyle to take on the biggest issue of the 21st century.

Along the way, Scott has racked up impressive achievements, one after another after another, bringing the climate issue directly to the heart and soul of the world’s leading religious leaders, as well as directly influencing scientific and political luminaries across the globe.

Of special note, in 2018 he introduced Greta Thunberg (aged 15) to COP24 (Conference of the Parties) in Poland. An overnight sensation, she enlightened the world to the dangers of climate change, especially the youth via her movement called #Fridays For Future. His early imprimatur of her courageous efforts in Sweden to influence parliament to tackle global warming literally brought her onto the world stage.

Stuart and Greta at a Fridays For Future rally in Stockholm Sweden

Scott does not adhere to the norms of mainstream life and culture, though he’s well known and respected within the scientific community as an extraordinarily powerful force behind the scenes, single-handedly moving mountains by initiating and powering ahead his personal crusade to inspire religious leaders of all faiths to pay heed to the forces of nature trapped in the iron clutches of rapacious ‘infinite growth economics’ within the Anthropogenic era, a remarkable geological age of humongous human footprints now consuming one-and-one-half Earths, likely not sustainable for much longer.

Stuart’s motivation runs deep, ever since his original commitment to Al Gore’s Oscar-winning “Inconvenient Truth.” He attended Gore’s training courses in 2007. Subsequently, he delivered over 100 presentations in public forums during his first year. In a February 2009 letter the former VP wrote: “I commend you for your work, which has contributed to the great increase of awareness and understanding of the climate crisis.” To this day, Stuart remains connected to Al Gore’s team. However, his posturing on climate change has deviated considerably to a much greater sense of urgency than Gore is willing to accept.

All of which served as a backgrounder, inspiring him to attend the climate summit COP14 in Poland in 2008. That exposure launched his trademark Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change of 2009 (InterfaithDeclaration.org) established to inspire and motivate religious leaders, in concert with scientists, to open doors for a thorough examination of the planet’s dangerously changing climate system, whilst pushing policymakers to find solutions, quickly, without hesitation. After all, ecosystems, especially where nobody lives to see it happening, were already showing early signs of collapse.

His work was enthusiastically embraced by religious leaders Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who, after hearing about Scott’s grandiose plans for betterment of the world, remarked, “I am going to need a clone of myself,” with so many commitments.

Soon after start of Scott’s campaign to blend faith with science in the fight against global warming, accolades arrived. Following his attendance at an intercessional meeting in Bangkok in April 2011, as a lead to COP17 in Durban, an international press release said of Stuart: “Man of All Faiths Fights for Climate,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) d/d April 8, 2011, highlighting his herculean efforts to change the course of humanity: “Scott, a 62-year-old American, who regards himself a man of all faiths, believes the forces of religion can make a positive impact on the tortuous diplomatic efforts to resolve the global warming crisis.”

Scott carried onwards and upwards to COP17 Durban, December 2011 where UN Climate Chief, Chistiana Figueres spoke of the remarkable selflessness of all those who worked to bring the Interfaith Declaration uniting people of all faiths to fight against the forces of global warming.

The UN World Council of Religious Leaders, the World Council of Churches, the Central Council of the Baha’i Faith, as well as secular organizations Greenpeace, McKibben’s 350.org and The Center for Biological Diversity endorsed Scott’s Interfaith Declaration.

The Holy See and Stuart Scott

Spiritualism and clairvoyance have always been at Scott’s side. Prior to delivering a very special message to Pope Benedict, he prayed at the foot of the cross in the Basilica of St. Clare that St. Francis famously said had spoken to him saying, “repair my church, which is falling in ruins.” Scott is neither Catholic nor Christian, but he nonetheless experienced murmurings of a series of serene ethereal voices, whispering encouragement, words that resonated within Stuart’s mind.  He silently asked for guidance on how he might succeed in personally delivering the handwritten message from Yvo deBoer, then Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, inviting Pope Benedict to attend COP15 in Copenhagen. His prayer was answered by what Scott describes as ‘a clear but silent whisper’ of the words, “Do it the way I did it.”

He received a letter of introduction from a highly placed cleric as an invitation to a “Public Audience” with the Pope. Scott was able to pass along a cloth bag containing 300 personal messages by individuals from around the world, inviting the Pope to COP15 in Copenhagen, December 2009.

Thereafter, “pulpit power” became Scott’s motto. With determination and hope, he pressed the world’s religious leaders to intercede in the most pressing issue of all time, a dangerously accelerating climate system that society at large found difficult to fully understand.

Pope Benedict did not attend COP15 but did issue strong statements on the day preceding the conference. In December 2009, in celebration of the Roman Catholic Church’s “World Day of Peace,” the Pope, voicing Scott, said: “Mankind needs to rethink its way of life.” Called the “Green Pope,” he suggested “more sober lifestyles” with reduced energy consumption in favor of energy efficiency like solar and proper management of forests. Those closest to Stuart, and UN staffers, felt that he helped bring about the Pope’s words.

Stuart Scott, similar to heads of state, has influenced, and/or personally met dignitaries across the world, including Greta Thunberg, Al Gore, Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Peter Wadhams, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, Dr. E. O. Wilson, Ela Gandhi (granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi), Jane Goodall, Christiana Figueres, Amy Goodman, Naomi Klein, author and journalist Dahr Jamail, Noam Chomsky, Bill McKibben, President Barach Obama, the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rabbis Jonathan Sachs and David Rosen, H. H. Swami Chidanand Saraswati, Phra Bramhapundit (Thai Buddhism’s chief spiritual leader), Rev. Baron Rowan Williams (former Archbishop of Canterbury), Patriarch Bartholomew (spiritual head of the Eastern Orthodox Church), Cardinal Peter Turkson, Pope Benedict XIV, and Pope Francis.

He attended 10 of the last 13 Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocols (COPs), or world climate conferences, becoming a regular feature at the venues.  He conducted interviews and panel discussions for broadcasting purposes branded as ScientistsWarning.TV and ClimateMatters.TV under the banner of ScientistsWarning.org, which he founded in order to spread the word of an emerging climate emergency beyond anything humanity had ever encountered.

Early climate change warning signs clearly stood out when Stuart began his quest in 2008. Accordingly, to move the needle to fix the problem, especially amongst stubborn naïve nation/states, required divine intervention, in addition to science. Stuart Scott fit that bill as a scientifically trained accomplished public speaker.

In 2016 Stuart met Pope Francis in person, which was a year after the release of the Pope’s major encyclical – Laudato Si (released June 18, 2015) a strongly worded diatribe on Climate and Justice. “Caring for Creation” is one of the seven tenants of Catholic orthodoxy.

Pope Francis, a trained chemist, in concert with his team of scientists, distinctly stated: “Climate change is the greatest threat to life our Earth has ever seen… and it is caused by humans.” He described relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment, for which he blamed apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology and political shortsightedness.

Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years”1

On December 7, 2020 Scott received an email letter from Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, named by Pope Francis as the first prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development and widely regarded as “papabile,” meaning a candidate for election to the papacy. The cardinal’s letter to Scott stated: “I have read your mail and the urgent request to have the Pope participate in an interfaith event at Glasgow.”

On a personal note, the cardinal’s letter also referenced Scott’s battle with cancer: “…that it may help and contribute to healing.” Prayers for his recovery are ongoing at the Holy See.

The 2021 United Nation Climate Change Conference aka: COP26 is scheduled for November 1-12, 2021 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. At the meeting, Glasgow will likely be populated with 25,000–30,000 attendees from around the world.

Will Pope Francis attend COP26 at Stuart Scott’s urgent request?

Already, Cardinal Turkson has advised Scott that Pope Francis will likely send a pre-recorded message; hopefully, he can also attend.

Scott’s tireless efforts over twelve years of strategic work with the Holy See are coming to fruition more so than ever before via a request by Cardinal Turkson’s Dicastery for Mr. Scott to source an intern in Ecological Economics for the Holy See.

Ever faithful and deeply spiritual, Stuart Scott carries a small Saint Francis cross and regularly communicates via meditation and prayer with Archangels Michael and Raphael.

His widely endorsed Directive brings science and religious faith together, which propitiously led to an unexpected introduction to the dean of climate science, James Hansen, the world’s leading climate scientist and former director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Science, meeting together by happenstance at a restaurant close to the Columbia University campus.

Dr. Hansen avoided attendance to climate negotiations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for 20 years, until he met Stuart Scott, who convinced him that his criticism of the affairs would have more cache if, in fact, he attended the meetings, critiquing from one of the UNFCCC’s press conferences.

That chance meeting blossomed into their joining together for attendance at COP21 in Paris in 2015 at the landmark Paris climate accord agreed to by the nations of the world. At the end, Dr. Hansen dismissed the negotiations as “ineffective.” The conclusion was far too political, “a sham” in Hansen’s words. Nevertheless, Scott convinced him to attend future climate meetings in order to continue legitimately stating his position in opposition to politically motivated sham agreements.

Will Hansen appear at COP26? He has committed to attend if Stuart attends, which is uncertain because of Stuart’s cancer. At COP25 he had to be helped onto the stage in a wheelchair. The week prior he experienced chemotherapy treatment.

For the better part of two decades, Stuart Scott has interfaced with Buddhist monks, Catholic priests, bishops, cardinals, and Popes, Hindu Swamis, Sikh Granthi, Christian ministers and scientists to support efforts to save the world from humanity’s carelessness and ignorance, which, far and away, is the most potent adversary of the factual evidence as discovered by science.

Stuart has made the ultimate sacrifice. In that regard, he believes that the extreme levels of continuous stress associated with his work likely brought on his cancer. He has achieved major accomplishments all the while without outside financial support beyond his own dwindling lifetime savings.

Stuart Scott’s mission is an important one. It is serious work. It is tough work. It is thankless. Yet, he does it… the most challenging thankless work in the world.

Thanks, Stuart!

Postscript: FacingFuture.TV recently announced the launch of a special event, which Stuart helped organize, on January 9th, 2021 in which the Dalai Lama and Greta Thunberg will join together with leading scientists to discuss five short films entitled Climate Emergency: Feedback Loops narrated by Richard Gere.

Details here

  1. Encyclical Letter Laudato Si of the Holy Father . Francis.
The post Religion Meets Climate Change first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Dead And Those About To Die: Climate Protests And The Corporate Media

The Roman poet Horace famously declared:

Dulce et decorum est pro patrie mori.

It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. Wilfred Owen, the great English poet of the First World War, described this phrase as ‘the old Lie’ in his famous war poem, ‘Dulce et decorum est’. Patriotism so often means ‘honouring’ those who ‘fell in service to this country’, grand ceremonies at war memorials, feasts of royal pageantry. And then sending yet more generations of men and women to fight in yet more wars.

On Remembrance Day (11 November) last week, much of the ‘mainstream’ media queued up to condemn two Extinction Rebellion climate protesters who had ‘hijacked’ the Cenotaph, the famous war memorial in Whitehall, London. At 8am that day, after undertaking a two-minute silence, former soldier Donald Bell (64) and NHS nurse Anne White (53) hung a wreath on the Cenotaph with the inscription, ‘Climate change means war: Act now’. Together with two other unnamed climate protesters, they also unveiled a large black and white banner saying:

Honour Their Sacrifice, Climate Change Means War

Within half an hour, the Metropolitan Police had cleared away the protest.

The Daily Mail’s headline screamed, ‘Fury at climate fanatics’ hijacking of Cenotaph’ 1, while its columnist Robert Hardman declared that the climate action was ‘a monumentally inappropriate protest’. The Mail, Sun and other papers gave prominence to Boris Johnson’s condemnation of the ‘profoundly disrespectful’ protesters.

The Daily Express declared that the action was ‘a disgrace to the fallen’ 2 The editorial fulminated that the:

activists who staged a demonstration at the Cenotaph yesterday craved publicity but disgusted the country. Only extremists devoid of a scintilla of sensitivity would consider staging such a stunt on Armistice Day… The Cenotaph must be protected from the antics of cranks and those who would want to inflict damage at this sacred site.

Express columnist Paul Baldwin, likewise in full splenetic mode, opined that the Cenotaph had been ‘desecrated’ and ‘those virtue-signalling gutless wonders at Extinction Rebellion’ had ‘no shame’.

The Daily Star asserted in an editorial titled, ‘Eco demo a disgrace’ 3 :

These moronic crusties have continually shown a complete lack of respect for the general public. Whether it’s interfering with everyday lives or generally being a nuisance, they are not making their point in the right way. But these hippy-dippy, airy-fairy prats have really crossed a line now.

The editorial continued:

They marred yesterday’s Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph with some shameful antics. Eco-warriors – including a disgracefully disrespectful veteran – trampled over poppy wreaths.

In fact, footage published by newspapers themselves shows that former soldier Donald Bell carefully avoided stepping on wreaths.

The Daily Star continued:

Their behaviour was disgustingly beyond the pale. This vital annual moment of solemnness and reflection must never be disrupted to make political points. And it will only set them back in achieving their aims. Nothing should ever get in the way of honouring our fallen heroes.

For the Sun, the protest was ‘a new low’ and:

Extinction Rebellion should hang their heads in shame and disband after abusing the Cenotaph.

The i newspaper ran with the headline:

Climate protest at Cenotaph condemned for “bad taste”

and its report led with:

Climate change protest group Extinction Rebellion drew condemnation from across the political spectrum yesterday after it staged a demonstration at the Cenotaph on Armistice Day. 4

Note the emphasis throughout press coverage on ‘condemnation’. Was there no support to quote from anywhere ‘across the political spectrum’, or did the national press just ignore it? Either way, consider what that means about a supposed broad range of views in what passes for political debate in the British media.

The response from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer indicated, once again, that he is no threat to the established order:

No one can doubt how serious the climate emergency is, but the protests at the Cenotaph are wrong. They are in bad taste. We do not support them.

As one astute observer noted via Twitter:

Starmer wouldn’t have supported the Tolpuddle Martyrs, suffragette movement, the bus boycott & Stonewall et al except retrospectively when sanitised by history & his overleaping ambitions

BBC News gave a brief mention to the Extinction Rebellion protest towards the bottom of its online report on Remembrance Day commemorations. The Guardian went one step further by relegating its account of the protest to a single line, buried deep in its coverage of Remembrance Day.

More was to come. True to form, the Daily Mail followed up its initial coverage by dredging up dirt on former soldier Donald Bell. Its headline shouted:

EXCLUSIVE – Revealed: Ex-soldier who sparked fury with Cenotaph Extinction Rebellion protest is DRUG DEALER jailed for selling heroin – and was accused of abusing his disabled wife.

The article boasted:

MailOnline can reveal he was jailed for four years in 2007 after being caught pushing his wheelchair-bound wife around the streets of Cambridge – while peddling heroin at the same time.

Buried at the bottom of the Mail’s gutter ‘journalism’, was a short extract from a statement by Extinction Rebellion:

Donald Bell left the army with serious Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at a time when the illness was still not fully recognised.

Donald was one of those people who, like so many, made mistakes and then worked hard to turn his life around.

Extinction Rebellion stands by him and his right to speak out about the Government’s complicity in knowingly taking us into future wars and a 4 degree world.

In its full statement published on its website, Extinction Rebellion noted:

Right now, what we’re seeing is papers like the Daily Mail, The Sun and The Express encouraging vitriol and abuse towards a veteran, a man who served his country, when PTSD, homelessness, addiction and alcoholism are the reality for thousands of people who have left the armed forces.

If national newspapers were truly motivated to ‘honour the fallen’, they would be challenging the government repeatedly to uphold its supposed moral commitments to look after former armed forces personnel, many of whom suffer from physical injuries and mental health issues.

Indeed, if the major news media were the responsible fourth estate they claim to be, they would scrutinise government foreign policy, not least statements of benign intent about ‘defending’ freedom and democracy around the world. The media would hold politicians to account for the mass deaths of civilians in the wars and ‘humanitarian interventions’ in which the UK has participated. This would be a fitting memorial to peace, rather than the endless succession of annual ceremonies that politicians and media purport as ‘honouring’ the dead.

As Mail on Sunday journalist, Peter Hitchens, whose courageous work in exposing the official narrative on a supposed chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, commented recently:

In recent years a very strange thing has happened to my trade. More and more journalists seem happy to be the mouthpieces of government, or of political parties. Worse, they attack other journalists for refusing to fall into step with the official line.

Hitchens added:

If such ideas had been around in the days of Watergate, Richard Nixon would have served two full terms as President and retired with honour.

If it had been so in 2003, you wouldn’t know, even now, that Saddam Hussein did not have any weapons of mass destruction.

Moreover, a truly ‘mainstream’ media – pursuing genuine public-interest journalism – would be exposing the utter failure of successive governments to seriously address climate breakdown. The media would hail as heroes those climate activists who are protesting peacefully to draw attention to the very real risk of climate catastrophe, global mass loss of species and of human extinction itself.

Instead, the level of media debate is often shockingly poor. On ITV’s ‘This Morning’ last Thursday, the right-winger Andrew Neil, until recently masquerading as an ‘impartial’ BBC politics presenter, lambasted Extinction Rebellion, dismissing the warning that climate change will lead to wars. ‘There’s no evidence of that’, he declared.

This was an outrageous untruth. In fact, as Extinction Rebellion (XR) correctly point out, the UK Ministry of Defence itself warned in a June 2020 report of the:

growing recognition that climate change may aggravate existing threats to international peace and security’ and that society should prepare for between 2.3 – 3.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100. As XR said, this would bring ‘unimaginable suffering’.

In other words, the MoD has provided powerful evidence precisely justifying the kind of protest, the kind of expression of free speech, that is absolutely vital if we are to save millions, perhaps billions of lives. Is not the best way of honouring the dead to honour and protect the living, to do whatever we can to avoid yet more unnecessary war deaths in future?

And it’s not just the MoD pointing to the link between global warming and war. The US Pentagon has warned of this for at least two decades. As news agency Bloomberg noted in January 2019, the most comprehensive study to investigate the link between climate change, war and refugee flows concluded:

Pentagon Fears Confirmed: Climate Change Leads to More Wars and Refugees

Later the same year, a report prepared by officials from the US Army, Defense Intelligence Agency, NASA and other agencies, warned of a more dangerous world under global warming. The effects would include increased electricity blackouts, starvation, thirst, disease and war over the next two decades. The US military itself may even be at risk of collapse within two decades.

Michael Klare, author of a new book titled All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change, summed up in a recent interview:

What happens when you have states collapsing, multiple wars happening in the Middle East and Africa and South America, and many hurricanes and disasters in the United States all at the same time? The US military doesn’t have enough troops or resources to both defend the United States and to address all of these foreign catastrophes. That’s what I call an all-hell-breaking-loose scenario, and the Pentagon knows very well that US forces aren’t prepared or capable to deal with it.

Of course, from the selfish vantage point of imperial power, the US armed forces and the political and security establishment, are primarily motivated to maintain US hegemony in a warming world in which many of their military bases around the globe are threatened by rising sea levels and increased incidence and severity of storms; as well as the ‘threats’ that other countries or ‘terrorist’ groups may pose in trying to take advantage of climate change.

Indeed, the Pentagon has long viewed climate change as a ‘destabilising force‘ and a ‘threat multiplier‘ – increasing the risk of war in the Middle East, Africa and around the globe as food, water and other resources diminish. As long ago as 2004, a previously secret Pentagon report prepared by strategic planners warned of climate wars being waged around the world. There could even be conflict in new areas, notably in the melting Arctic with oil resources and trade routes being fought over in the region.

For Andrew Neil, a high-profile commentator who for 25 years has enjoyed a privileged BBC platform, to dismiss serious concerns about climate wars is yet another symptom of the abysmal state of climate debate in UK national media.

Climate Agreements Are ‘Greenwash’, ‘Fake’, ‘Fraud’

In previous media alerts on climate, we have elucidated the severe threats to climate stability, civilisation and even human existence posed by the madness of corporate-driven globalisation and the imperialistic grasping at diminishing resources. Rather than once again reprising a list of these threats, and the underlying destructive nature of capitalism that is fuelling these threats, consider a recent pledge demonstrating what should be the obvious, honest responsibility of scientists.

‘Science has no higher purpose than to understand and help maintain the conditions for life to thrive on Earth’, is a core statement in a recently published ‘science oath for climate’. Climate scientists Chris Rapley, Sarah Bracking, Bill McGuire, Simon Lewis and Jonathan Bamber have invited others in the scientific community to join their initiative to prevent catastrophic climate disruption. Among their stated pledges is a commitment not to be hindered or intimidated by any sense of:

what might seem politically or economically pragmatic when describing the scale and timeframe of action needed to deliver the 1.5C and 2C commitments, specified in the Paris climate agreement. And to speak out about what is not compatible with the commitments, or is likely to undermine them.

This is especially relevant right now when the ‘MSM’ is selling the idea of President-elect Joe Biden as a harbinger of hope for the climate. The Guardian wrote approvingly of his supposed ‘climate bet’, namely: ‘putting jobs first will bring historic change’. Biden has pledged:

to clean up electricity by 2035 and spend $2tn on clean energy as quickly as possible within four years.

While conceding a cautious note about Biden’s reluctance ‘to be tougher on the fossil fuel industry’, the Guardian declared that his plan was ‘significant and historic’ and it ‘would be just the beginning of a brutal slog to transform the way the nation operates’.

The paper even published a 16-page ‘souvenir supplement’, heralding Biden’s presidency as a ‘new start‘; in much the same way as the Guardian and the rest of the corporate media welcomed Barack Obama’s ascension to the White House in 2008. Obama, of course, then went on to bomb seven Muslim-majority countries, paid lip service to the reduction of nuclear weapons (after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009), shared complicity in Saudia Arabia’s terror campaign against Yemen, as well as in Israel’s crushing of Palestinian human rights, and continued to subsidise the planet-wrecking fossil fuel sector.

We were told back then that Obama would ‘wipe the slate clean’. A ‘new dawn’ was declared. We would ‘learn to love America’ again. In reality, it was all about relaunching ‘Brand America’, so that US imperialism could continue unimpeded. Why should it be any different today, given the way the US system selects for corporate-friendly candidates?

It certainly won’t be. As Kevin Gosztola explained in an article for The Grayzone website:

An eye-popping array of corporate consultants, war profiteers, and national security hawks have been appointed by President-elect Joe Biden to agency review teams that will set the agenda for his administration. A substantial percentage of them worked in the United States government when Barack Obama was president. The appointments should provide a rude awakening to anyone who believed a Biden administration could be pressured to move in a progressive direction…

Of the two presidential ‘choices’ delivered by a corrupt, corporate-financed US electoral system of ‘democracy’, Biden was the lesser evil compared to Trump, the latter described by Noam Chomsky as ‘the worst criminal in human history’ for the threat he represented to climate stability:

There is nothing like this in history. It’s not breaking with the American tradition. Can you think of anyone in human history who has dedicated his efforts to undermining the prospects for survival of organized human life on earth?

But be under no illusion that Biden, representing and backed by powerful corporate and financial elites, and with a sordid record of supporting US crimes around the world, represents any kind of significant departure from business-as-usual for US power.

This grim reality has been ignored or overlooked in the overwhelmingly meek, hopelessly Panglossian reactions of the ‘policy experts’ and climate scientists canvassed by website Carbon Brief in the wake of the US election. Understandable to some extent, there was widespread welcoming of the prospect of the US rejoining the Paris climate agreement which Trump had infamously rejected.

Dr Rachel Cleetus, of the US-based Union for Concerned Scientists, told Carbon Brief:

President-elect Joe Biden and vice-president elect Kamala Harris’ victory marks a new day in the fight for bold, just and equitable climate policy in the US.

Dr Maisa Rojas Corradi, Director of the Centre for Climate and Resilience Research, University of Chile, said:

Biden’s victory will give a tremendous momentum to climate action, a momentum that was building up after the giant Asian countries announced carbon-neutrality compromises recently. This means that in this crucial decade we will be able to tackle the climate crisis seriously.

Dr Niklas Höhne and Dr Bill Hare, who run the Climate Action Tracker initiative, declared:

If president-elect Joe Biden goes ahead with his net-zero emissions pledge by 2050 for the US, this could shave 0.1C off global warming by 2100.

The madness of having to be grateful for the feeble hope of ‘shaving off’ 0.1C of catastrophic heating needs no comment.

One climate expert conspicuously missing from the list of over twenty experts consulted was Dr James Hansen, the pioneering climate scientist who famously warned the US Congress in 1988 of the dangers of global warming. Hansen’s honesty about the politics of climate is legendary. In 2009, we asked him how much had been achieved in the decades since he and others scientists had raised the climate alarm. In particular, we asked him to estimate the percentage of required action to address the climate crisis had actually been implemented by governments. His blunt answer? Precisely zero per cent.5  Since then, carbon emissions, consumption and temperatures have continued to soar.

In 2015, Hansen was scathing about the Paris climate agreement:

It’s a fraud really, a fake. It’s just bullshit for them to say: “We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.” It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.

In 2017, during the climate talks in Bonn, Hansen described the supposed political ambition of world leaders on climate as a ‘hoax’. He said:

As yet, these politicians are working more for the fossil fuel industry than they are for the public, in my opinion.

These are the kind of direct, honest and accurate statements that climate scientists should be making. Politicians need to be confronted with their chronic lack of action to tackle today’s – not tomorrow’s – climate emergency. Scientists should be explicit in declaring that the fossil fuel era needs to end.

Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg is right to call political leaders ‘hypocrites’ and to denounce them for delivering no more than empty words and greenwash at international climate summits. She said that leaders were happy to set targets for carbon emissions decades into the future. But when immediate cuts were demanded, they flinched. When asked if there was any politician anywhere promising the climate action required, she said, ‘If only’.

She added:

As long as we don’t treat the climate crisis like a crisis, we can have as many conferences as we want, but it will just be negotiations, empty words, loopholes and greenwash.

Pledges by the UK, China, Japan and other nations – including the US under Biden – to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or 2060 are largely meaningless, she believes:

They mean something symbolically, but if you look at what they actually include, or more importantly exclude, there are so many loopholes. We shouldn’t be focusing on dates 10, 20 or even 30 years in the future. If we don’t reduce our emissions now, then those distant targets won’t mean anything because our carbon budgets will be long gone.

Thunberg says that there is not a single political leader on the world stage who ‘gets it’ on climate. When asked about what she has learned from meeting people in power, she has some interesting and astute observations:

I’ve spoken to many world leaders, and sometimes I wish I had a hidden camera. People wouldn’t believe what they say. It’s very funny. They say: “I can’t do anything because I don’t have the support. You need to help me.” They become desperate. It’s like they are begging for me to help them persuade the public that we need climate action. What that tells me is people are underestimating their power and the power of democracy and of putting pressure on people in power.

There is hope in that message. We, the public, have strength in numbers. Politicians are not necessarily forced to do the bidding of corporate, financial and military elites. They can be made to do the will of the people. Or, if not, they need to be replaced by politicians who do represent public interests and public power. When it comes to human civilisation – human survival even – it is imperative that we exert that power.

  1. Print Edition, 12 November, p. 13.
  2. Print Edition, 12 November, p. 11.
  3. Print Edition, 12 November, p. 6.
  4. Print Edition, 12 November, p. 5.
  5. Email, Hansen to Media Lens, June 18, 2009.

The post The Dead And Those About To Die: Climate Protests And The Corporate Media first appeared on Dissident Voice.

10C Above Baseline

Earth at 10°C above pre-industrial is unimaginable. It’s a deadly horrifying thought, but as shall be explained herein, it should not be dismissed out of hand.

The following story might be labeled as reckless, and it might be criticized as a fearmongering piece of journalism and probably will be. Nevertheless, “10C Above Baseline” explores a dystopian world envisioned by John Doyle, Sustainable Development Policy Coordinator of the European Commission in Brussels.

Doyle’s thesis of a 10C world, within current lifetimes, is based upon sober-minded analysis. Of course, it envisions a planet of few or maybe no humans. Granted, it is hard to believe, very hard to accept.

Whereas the Paris Agreement of 2015 officially set goals amongst the nations of the world to employ mitigation measures to hold global temperatures to 2C but preferably 1.5C above pre-industrial, which is mid 18th century (1750s), except for IPCC measurement purposes, which are markedly different from the 18th century pre-industrial baseline, to wit:

The baseline period from which climate change is expressed has also moved on (a common baseline period of 1986–2005 is used throughout, consistent with the 2006 start-point for the RCP scenario).1  Hmm!

Meanwhile, 1.5C has become a cause célèbre among climate activists.  But, there’s a rub: In order to stay below 1.5C, greenhouse gas emissions, like CO2, need to fall off a cliff, decreasing by 15% per year, starting in year 2020. (Doyle)

Categorically, that’s impossible to achieve for a host of reasons.

Not so long ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report about 2C versus 1.5C. Its findings were grim, namely: At 2˚C (3.6˚F) rather than at 1.5˚C (2.7˚F) the danger to ecosystems increases several fold.

As things stand, the world has a comfort zone of 1.5C to 2.0C with 1.5C the clear preference. But still, at 2.0C all kinds of bells and whistles go off; e.g., (1) severe heat events increase by 2.6xs (2) the Wet Bulb Temperature WBT-impact (3) 2xs vertebrate species loss and (4) 90% of coral reefs gone for good, etc., etc., etc. as key ecosystems that support and originate life suffer.

Keeping in mind (lest you forget) there is no Planet B.

So then, what of 10C?

John Doyle, a climate resilience analyst, has studied the climate system and discussed findings at a UN Aid Agencies meeting.2

Doyle is working on mainstreaming Sustainable Development in the Information Society Directorate General with special emphasis on business partnerships to address energy and climate security.

A synopsis of Doyle’s disturbing analysis and speech follows herein:

In brief, Doyle’s presentation consists of horrifying expectations. More to the point, Doyle’s presentation is a daunting wake-up call above and beyond all wake-up calls, as video recorded by ScientistsWarning.org, Stuart Scott, Executive Director:

One of the video power-point headlines boldly proclaims:

Science… We’re heading fast for 10C degrees, 4C is extinction.

Doyle:

Roughly speaking, you’ve been told that we may be heading for 1.5c or 2c degrees above pre-industrial temperature. That’s not true. That’s basically very old science, and it’s essentially inaccurate. There isn’t a single independent scientist of the world that would support that position now. We’re actually heading for 10 degrees warming that could happen within 20 to 30 years. And, on the way to 10 degrees, we pass 4 degrees. Now, four degrees is interesting because that’s extinction for our species. So keep that one in mind. I’m not just making this up.

All of which prompts a question: Along the way to 10C, when does 4C happen? If 10C is on the docket within 20-30 years, as explained by Doyle, then it’s probably safe to assume 4C within 8-15 years. Regrettably, that’s within the lifetimes of pretty much the entire world population now approaching 8B. Talk about impact!

Predicting a 10C uplift in global temperatures beyond pre-industrial is a stunning proposition, absolutely stunning! Indeed, his speech is a death-defying prognostication, but truth be told, nobody will believe it!

A review of literature of other climate scientists adds some dimension to Doyle’s work, to wit: In December 2019, the Potsdam Institute For Climate Research, one of the world’s premier climate research orgs, caused an international stir with a paper published in Nature: “Climate Tipping Points – Too Risky To Bet Against.”

A very interesting statement is found within the Potsdam paper, as follows:

The Earth system has been unstable across multiple timescales before, under relatively weak forcing caused by changes in Earth’s orbit. Now we are strongly forcing the system, with atmospheric CO2 concentration and global temperature increasing at rates that are an order of magnitude higher than those during the most recent de-glaciation… Atmospheric CO2 is already at levels last seen around four million years ago, in the Pliocene epoch. It is rapidly heading towards levels last seen some 50 million years ago — in the Eocene — when temperatures were up to 14 °C higher than they were in pre-industrial times.

Here’s more Doyle:

Since the last International Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report AR5 was published… All of this has come to light since then. We’ve realized that we have been living in a fool’s paradise, thinking that nice gentle reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and maybe changing to electric cars should see us over the bump. This is simply not the case.

Doyle’s outlook darkens, as he declares the geo-engineering concept of sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere is nowhere near ready for deployment and likely not possible because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which essentially says: “You cannot build a machine to clean up the mess you made making the machine.”

Heaven forbid! People are depending upon geo-engineering to bail us out. What if it doesn’t?

Here’s more Doyle:

In the last 30 years we’ve been able to measure that the total amount of vertebrate life on this planet has collapsed by 99%. And, what’s left, at least from the tiny human being up to the big elephant are found loads of cows, loads of humans, and virtually no wild animals. It’s way worse than that. There are no wild animals. There are no fish. There are no insects. Your microbiome inside your own body is collapsing, at least 20% to 30% down over the last 20 to 30 years… We are not on the verge of the sixth mass extinction; we’re in the middle of it. And very likely to be part of it.

Additionally, the Wet Bulb Temperature effect received mention:

This gives you the temperatures that living creatures can survive… on the left hand side you can see 42C (107.6F) degrees. Human beings can easily survive well over that. But there’s a catch… The fittest human being on the planet, if he is in a temperature of 36C degrees (96.8F) where there’s 100% relative humidity, he dies in six hours.

I (Doyle) was in a city (Brussels) in Europe in August. The temperature was 36C degrees and the relative humidity was 40. It only needed to be one and a half degrees higher and about 20% extra humidity for tens of thousands of people to be dying in the streets.

Doyle provided additional evidence of the ongoing extinction event. Flying insect populations have crashed by 80% in Europe over the past 40 years. We don’t survive without insects… no questions asked!

But, there is one question: What causes 80% of flying insects to drop dead within a half-lifespan of an average human? Something is horribly wrong!

Solutions? Eliminating fossil fuels in enough time to stem excessive warming will not work for numerous reasons. Not only that, fossil fuels account for approximately 80% of all energy production, and there’s no way that’ll change soon enough to help within the next 10 years.

As an aside to Doyle’s terrifying speech, according to the IEA (International Energy Agency) fossil fuel producers, like the U.S., Russia, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, plan on increasing oil and gas production by 120% by 2030, continuing to emit CO2 of ever-higher levels, bringing on more blanketed heat. China is embarking on mega-mega construction of new coal-burning power plants, and so is India, and Japan recently announced its intention to build 22 new coal-burning plants over the next 5 years, continuing to emit CO2 in ever-larger numbers, bringing on more blanketed heat. All of that in the face of irrefutable evidence of acceleration of climate change well beyond the influence of natural events. Maybe the world really is crazy after all.

According to Doyle: “The only option for “getting out of this mess is to stop pretending that we are going green.” To survive as a species, we must switch to local production and forget globalized growth. It’s over. The economic growth paradigm of neoliberal capitalism is incompatible with human survival, especially for life-supporting ecosystems.

It is worth noting that two respected French climate research organizations reached conclusions somewhat similar to Doyle’s but with much less gusto in their numbers.  National Centre for Meteorological Research (CNRM) and Institute Pierre Simon Laplace Climate Modelling Centre in Paris contend, if CO2 emissions continue  “business as usual,” then temperatures could increase by 7°C by 2100.

Still, it is incomprehensible, not impossible, that temperatures skyrocket 10C over the next 20-30 years. Is Doyle’s assessment realistic? What if it is?

Yet, Doyle’s thesis need not be 100% correct to disrupt and destroy ecosystems and cause panic amongst humankind. If he is 50% correct, large portions of the planet become uninhabitable. That’s just for starters.

And, if Doyle’s daunting analysis is only 25% correct, hard-charging 2C-plus circumstances will change life forever, less agricultural land, higher tidal flooding, and eco migrants by the hundreds of millions roaming countryside in massive waves of human flesh, searching for anything edible.

Indeed, it’s always instructive to look at other viewpoints, for example, the prestigious Met Office Hadley Centre/UK, assuming “business as usual” expects 4C by 2055. That’s more than enough to do the dirty work.

An International Panel on Climate Conference at Oxford University conducted a program entitled “4 Degrees and Beyond” that examined the likelihood of 4C, if “business as usual.” Their conclusion: Half of the planet turns uninhabitable.

All of which highlights a problem. “Business as usual” is thriving!

(… already looking past the speed bump COVID-19)

According to Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii, CO2 emissions for the month of April 2020 were 416.18 ppm versus 413.52 ppm for the month of April 2019. And, for added context, readings of 371.66 ppm were recorded for the month of April 2000.

“Business as usual” has not slowed down one iota in 62 years ever since Mauna Loa Observatory started collecting CO2 data in 1958. Noticeably, it has already accelerated+60% this century.

Maybe Doyle is on to something!

  1. AR5 Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  2. John Doyle, Sustainable Development Policy Coordinator of the European Commission, Information Society and Media Directorate-General.

Canada should Treat Climate Change With Same Urgency as COVID-19

While governments’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic proves significant resources can be marshalled quickly in a crisis, there is little evidence official Canada sees global warming as a comparable emergency.

Even though Justin Trudeau’s Liberals say they take climate change seriously, Canadian greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are actually increasing. According to the inventory report the government filed with the United Nations last week, Canada’s emissions grew to more than 729 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and its equivalents in 2018. This represents a 15 million tonne increase over 2017.

Incredibly, the editors at the Globe and Mail decided this information deserved a 75-word brief in the bottom corner of page 15. While Canada’s paper of record buried the story, it deserved front-page attention. The situation is dire. Temperatures are increasing steadily and so too the frequency/intensity of “natural” disasters. In 2019 there were 15 natural disasters linked to climate change that caused more than a billion dollars in damage. Seven of them destroyed more than $10 billion. Hundreds of thousands have already died as a result of anthropocentric climate disturbances and the numbers will grow exponentially.

At the 2015 Paris climate negotiation the Trudeau government committed Canada to reducing GHG emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 (a major step backwards from Canada’s commitment under the Kyoto Protocol and 2009 Copenhagen Accord). But, this target is unlikely to be achieved. In December Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, said Canada was expected to emit 603 million tonnes of GHG in 2030, far above the 511 million tonnes agreed to in Paris (to meet the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Canada would need to reduce its GHG emissions to 381 million tonnes by 2030).

A November Nature Communications study seeking to reconcile the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5-to-2 C concluded that if the rest of the world flouted its commitments in a similar way to Canada temperatures would increase between 3 C and 4 C by the end of the century. A Climate Transparency report card release that month found that Canada’s plan to meet its GHG targets was among the worst (along with Australia and South Korea) in the G20. The November study found that the emissions intensity of Canada’s buildings, transportation and agriculture were all above the G20 average and that Canadians produced nearly three times more GHG per capita than the G20 average.

Expansion of the tar sands guarantees that Canada will flout its international commitments to reduce GHG emissions. According to the Parkland Institute, “bitumen production grew 376% from 2000 through 2018” and is projected to grow by another 1.41 million barrels per day by 2040. To expand extraction of heavy carbon emitting Alberta oil, the Liberals are spending $9 billion on the Trans Mountain pipeline and related infrastructure. Last week the government announced $1.7 billion to clean up orphan wells in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. While energy workers should be offered work cleaning up environmental devastation, the initiative is, in effect, a subsidy to a historically profitable industry that should be covering the costs.

This was not the first time the Liberals broke their pre-election promise to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Ottawa continues to offer billions of dollars (as much as $46 billion, according to one IMF working paper) a year in assistance to oil, gas and other fossil fuel firms. While Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s 2015 mandate letter from the PM said he should “work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to fulfil our G20 commitment and phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the medium-term”, there was no mention of this objective in either Morneau’s or Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson’s 2019 mandate letters.

Despite claiming to take the climate crisis seriously, the Trudeau government has failed to put the country on track to meet even dangerously insufficient targets for reducing GHG emissions. This is largely because of the oil industry’s power. The profits from oil and natural gas flow to their producers and distributers, as well as the banks that finance them, and other investors whose portfolios include these stocks. These are the people who, under the current economic system, mostly determine government policy.

Will America’s Corruption End on a Ventilator or in a Mushroom Cloud?

Little by little, Americans are understanding just how badly our government has let us down by its belated and disastrous response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and how thousands more people are dying as a result. But there are two other crises we face that our government is totally unprepared for and incapable of dealing with: the climate crisis and the danger of nuclear war.

Since 1947, a group of scientists with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have warned us about the danger of nuclear war—using their Doomsday Clock to symbolize just how close we are to destroying human civilization on Earth. Over the years, the minute hand on the clock has gone back and forth, measuring the rising and falling risks.

Unbeknownst to most Americans, in January 2020, just before the Covid-19 crisis broke, the Atomic Scientists, who include 13 Nobel Prize winners and dozens of scientists and other experts, sounded the alarm that the double risks of nuclear war and climate change have now brought us closer to self-destruction than at the most dangerous moments of the Cold War. For the first time ever, they moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock beyond the 2-minute mark to 100 seconds to midnight.

“The world is sleepwalking its way through a newly unstable nuclear landscape,” they wrote, highlighting the New Cold War between the U.S. and Russia, plans to “modernize” their nuclear arsenals and “lowered barriers to nuclear war” as a result of new “low-yield” nuclear weapons. Arms control treaties between the U.S. and Russia that took decades to negotiate are being abandoned, removing restraints that were carefully calibrated to prevent either side from upsetting the balance of terror that made it suicidal to use nuclear weapons. What is now to prevent a conventional war from escalating to the use of “low-yield” nuclear weapons, or a low yield nuclear war in turn escalating to Armageddon?

On the climate crisis, the annual UN Conference of Parties (COP) in Madrid in December 2019 failed to agree on any new steps to cut carbon emissions, despite record heat, unprecedented wildfires, faster melting of glacial ice, and a scientific consensus that the commitments countries made in Paris in 2015 are not sufficient to avert catastrophe. Most countries are falling short of even those insufficient pledges, while U.S. CO2 emissions actually rose by 2.6% in 2018, after falling by only 11% under the Obama administration. Obama’s policy of using natural gas as a “bridge fuel” for U.S. power plants fueled a huge expansion in the fracking industry, and the U.S. is now producing more oil and more gas than ever before in our history.

Now the next COP in Glasgow has been postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the pandemic, further delaying any chance of decisive action. Covid-19 is temporarily restraining our destruction of our own life support system. But this will be only a temporary respite unless we pivot from lockdowns to a COP in Glasgow that launches a global program to very quickly convert our energy systems from fossil fuels to green energy.

The Atomic Scientists wrote that both these existential dangers are severely compounded by political leaders who “denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats – international agreements with strong verification regimes – in favor of their own narrow interest and domestic political gain… these leaders have helped to create a situation that will, if unaddressed, lead to catastrophe sooner rather than later.”

It is the political leaders of the United States, not Russia or China, who have withdrawn from nuclear arms agreements, undermined the Kyoto Protocol (the only binding treaty to reduce greenhouse gases), rejected the jurisdiction of international courts, failed to ratify 46 multilateral treaties and systematically violated the UN Charter‘s prohibition against the threat or use of force.

The Republicans have been more aggressive in many of these policies, but Democratic leaders have also gone along with them, consolidating U.S. imperialism and disdain for international law as bipartisan U.S. policy. When UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the BBC that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was illegal under the UN Charter, Senator Joe Biden, then Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, dismissed that out of hand. “Nobody in the Senate agrees with that,” Biden sneered. “There is nothing to debate. He is dead, flat, unequivocally wrong.”

The Democratic Party has now closed ranks behind Joe Biden as its presidential candidate, presenting Americans with a choice between two leaders from the two administrations that have governed the U.S. since 2009 and therefore bear the greatest responsibility for the current state of the nation. Biden has based his candidacy on the premise that everything was just fine in America until Trump came along, just as Trump based his 2016 candidacy on the idea that everything was great until Obama came on the scene.

Most Americans understand that our problems are more entrenched and systemic than that, but we remain trapped in a closed political system that presents us with limited choices between leaders who have already proved unable to solve our problems, even when the solutions are well-known or obvious and have broad public support, like Medicare For All.

When it comes to war and peace, the American public wants to keep the U.S. out of wars, but leaders of both parties keep fueling the war machine and stoking dangerous tensions with other countries. The Russiagate fiasco failed to bring down Trump, but it succeeded in unleashing a propaganda blitz to convince millions of Americans, from MSNBC viewers to Members of Congress, that Russia is once again an irreconcilable enemy of the United States and a threat to everything Americans believe in. In the hall of mirrors that is American politics, Democrats now hate Russia more than China, while Republicans hate China more than Russia—although the Biden campaign is now vying with Trump to see who can be more hostile to China.

Bipartisan hostility to Russia and China is only helping to justify the Pentagon’s pivot from “counterterrorism” to its New Cold War with our nuclear-armed neighbors and trillions of dollars in spending on new weapons that make the world more dangerous for all of us.

With almost no public debate, Members of Congress from both parties quietly rubber-stamp every record military budget placed in front of them. Only 8 Senators (4D, 4R) and 48 House Members (41D, 6R, 1I) dared to vote against final passage of the outrageous $712 billion 2020 Pentagon budget. The Trump administration is fully committed to Obama’s plan to spend at least a trillion dollars to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which the Atomic Scientists warn is taking us closer to nuclear catastrophe than ever. Of this year’s Democratic presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders is the only one who routinely votes against record military budgets, approving only 16% of military spending bills since 2013.

On this and many other issues, Sanders has dared to say what Americans know but no major party candidate would say before: that our neoliberal emperors sit stark naked on their thrones, tossing sacks of money to their friends as they rule over an obscene empire of corruption, inequality, war, poverty and racism.

In dogged defiance of American conventional wisdom, Sanders built a political movement based on real solutions to the structural problems of American society, directly challenging the powerful interests who control and profit from the corrupt status quo: the military-industrial complex; the prison-industrial complex; the medical-industrial complex; and the Wall Street financial complex at the heart of it all.

Sanders may have lost the Democratic nomination, but he successfully demonstrated that Americans don’t have to be passive in the face of a corrupt political system that is leading us down a path to self-destruction. We do not have to accept a dysfunctional for-profit healthcare system; ever-worsening inequality and poverty; structural racism and mass incarceration; an overheated, dying natural world; or a military-industrial complex that fears peace more than a nuclear apocalypse.

A political system that is structurally incapable of acting for the common good, even when millions of lives are at stake, is not just failing to solve our problems. It is the problem. Hopefully, as we struggle to emerge from today’s tragic pandemic, more and more Americans are understanding that healing our sick, corrupt political system is the vital key to a healthy and peaceful future.

Drilling for Oil:  A Global Problem on Our Doorstep

These days, local is global.  Dorset is a small rural county on England’s south coast.  That doesn’t mean that its inhabitants aren’t worried about climate change.  They are.  Very.  Unfortunately, Dorset Councillors are more concerned about following government policies, policies that back using public money to invest in climate-damaging projects.  ‘Global’ doesn’t do ‘local’.  Global makes money for corporations and their investors, not the people who have to live with the result.

Sometimes it takes a threat to our own neighbourhood, our own county or country, before we wake up to what is happening across the world.  It will take food shortages before we accept that industrial farming is gradually killing the soil that all life, bar marine life, depends on.  It will take repeated storms and flooding to get the message that weather patterns really are changing; that places are becoming too wet, too dry, too hot – but not too cold.  It will take the flooding of coastal cities before everyone acknowledges that the Arctic, Antarctic, the permafrost and glaciers have melted and the sea-level risen because humans have heated up the earth.

By then it will be too late.  The damage will have been done.  To be honest, we won’t experience the effects of the carbon emissions we are, right now, pumping up into the atmosphere for another 20 years.  Climate change is happening now and it will be bad.  We can’t go backwards.  All we can do is to make it not as bad as it could be (i.e. killing most of the life we know).  The floods, the melting of the ice, the wildfires – that all comes from what we did some years ago.

The conversation has gone on for far too long.  In 1972 the Stockholm Declaration first laid the foundations of contemporary environmental policy.  The first World Climate Conference was held in 1979.  Thirteen years later, the 1992 Earth Summit (dealing with the environment and sustainable development) was held in Rio de Janeiro.  Since then there has been a constant succession of conferences on development, climate and the environment, including the yearly Conferences of Parties (COP), the UN conferences on climate change.  The first COP conference was held in 1995.   1997 gave us the Kyoto Protocol, but it was another eight years before it came into force.

In 2015 Paris hosted COP21, ending with an agreement that the UK ratified in 2016.  In April 2018 it was announced that the UK would be the first major economy to examine how it would meet its commitments and review its long-term target to cut carbon emissions.

Later this year, Glasgow will host COP26.  Note the number: 26.  That’s how many times the ‘world’ (aka politicians and business leaders as well as environmentalists) have met to discuss the problem, and we are still nowhere near seriously addressing climate change.  The ideas are there. The proposals are there.  The ‘in-place-by’ dates are there.  Real actions are not so visible.

On May 1st 2019 the UK Parliament declared a climate change emergency.  Big deal?  No.  It simply demonstrated the will of the Commons on the issue, but it does not legally compel the government to act.  Environment Secretary Michael Gove acknowledged there was a climate “emergency” but did not back Labour’s demands to declare one.  In other words, we’ll make the right sounds but not implement the very necessary actions.

What about all the local authorities?  It seems they take things more seriously – or perhaps they are closer to the people.  According to a list dating from early February, 67 percent of District, County, Unitary and Metropolitan Councils have declared a Climate Emergency, plus 8 Combined Authorities/City Regions.  Many of those authorities have committed to target dates for net-zero emissions, ranging from 2030 to 2050.  This only applies to the authorities’ emissions, not the general public’s, but it does encourage us to follow their lead.

Among the declarations is Dorset Unitary Council.  However – and there is always an ‘however’, no target date for actions or results is given.  Seeing that the motion was backed by 69 councillors, with only two against and six abstentions, you would think they’d give a target date.  Again, right noises but little action.

Surely, politicians and global business should be taking note of what is already happening to the climate – while the UK was hit by weeks of storms and floods, Australia burned.  Yet Australia’s Prime Minister refused to accept those horrendous wildfires had anything to do with climate change.  For too many people, their lives were destroyed.  For the ‘climate deniers’ it is business as usual.  In the UK it means building more houses on flood plains and installing more of the same flood defences, despite the fact that they’re really not working any more.  And in case you didn’t know, in 2010 the Labour government’s plan for flood defences got cancelled by David Cameron’s austerity policy.  In Australia business as usual means carry on mining and exporting coal.

The Paris Agreement aimed at keeping the global warming to 1.5 degrees.  We can no longer achieve that.  Even keeping the warming to 2 degrees would require us to pretty well stop everything now.  The global refusal to actually act is putting us on course for 3-4 degrees warming; with sea levels rising and extreme weather events getting worse, we face chaos and disaster.  So – the target dates themselves are questionable.  For one thing, aiming to be ‘net-zero emissions’ by 2050 makes us think ‘we’ve got 30 years, no need to hurry.’  At least the EU is calling for a target date of 2030.

There’s every need to hurry.  Report after report is coming out from worried, despairing scientists, observing and recording how much more rapidly climate change is happening.  Everything is speeding up.  The latest news is that polar icecaps are melting 6 times faster than in the 1990s.  What climate action might have been expected to happen by 2040 could now happen by 2030 or 2025.   New models on climate sensitivity are showing big increases in global temperature.

Here and there authorities and courts are taking the right decisions, based on the rule that every decision, every development, must now take climate change into account.  Bristol Airport’s expansion plans were refused on ‘environmental grounds’ by local councillors.  A third runway for London Heathrow was ruled as illegal by the court of appeal, because ‘ministers did not adequately take into account the government’s commitments to tackle the climate crisis’.

Which puts Dorset Council in an awkward position.

They are being asked to approve a planning application  by South Western Energy Ltd. (SWEL) to ‘allow for the drilling of a single vertical well for the appraisal and production of oil, together with the establishment and construction of the site compound’  in the village of Puddletown.  If enough oil is found, they could be extracting it for the next 20-25 years.  That’s hardly going to help the UK’s ‘net zero emissions’ target of 2050.

With the climate emergency now being one of the main concerns of the public, it goes without saying that first in the queue of objectors were the parish council and residents of Puddletown.  It’s bad enough worrying about global climate change, but when one of the causes turns up on your doorstep that’s another matter entirely.  (It’s worth noting that fracking at various English sites, though given permission by the government, has so far failed to actually produce any gas, largely due to determined residents and their supporters getting in the way, plus some good science.)

SWEL’s justification is:

Oil is critical to transport requirements and will likely remain so in the near term as cars may be adapted to electrification and alternative fuels but aircraft, shipping, military vehicles and large goods vehicles are currently, due to their engine capacities, less adaptable to conversion.

Wrong.  Many manufacturers are already following that path.  DAF and Tesla are selling them, and as the Irish Baku transport team says:

The most exciting thing about the arrival of electric HGVs has to be the environmental benefit. Any truck that can produce zero carbon emissions over the course of its lifetime is a world-changing investment worth making.

It doesn’t mean electric HGVs will be here tomorrow, but they will be here and probably quicker than SWE would like to think.  As new cars are scheduled to be ‘all-electric’ by 2030 (and depending on climate events, that date might be sooner), then this well could prove to be ‘surplus to requirements’.

At a Council meeting on February 18th Kira Robinson, a member of XR, put a question to the councillors.  ‘This proposal,’ she said, ‘is obviously inconsistent with the Council’s efforts to move towards a more sustainable future for Dorset…. The Government’s own wildlife adviser, Natural England, Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency have all criticised the application’s flawed ecological assessments, especially regarding the threat of pollution to potable water supplies.

Apparently the drilling could go through one of the local aquifers, prompting people’s real concerns about potable water pollution.  SWEL promises to return the proposed site (currently part of an arable field) to its former state after drilling is finished – in two weeks, no less.  How will they repair the compacted soil that will have been contaminated and made inert by the surfacing materials?

Kira Robinson pointed out in her question to the Council that the Dorset Council’s draft 4-year plan had said “It is clear that the climate and ecological emergency must inform the council’s decisions and actions for the foreseeable future“.  Well, that didn’t last long.  The approved 4-year plan has watered that down to something meaningless.

In reply to her plea for the Council to show leadership in saying no to this proposal, the response from Cllr David Walsh leant heavily on ‘government policy’ on minerals and energy that, of course, the Council has to follow.  Not to do so would cost them money.  He said that ‘Dorset hosts nationally important energy minerals which society is still dependent upon until such times as human energy needs can be entirely decarbonised.’  The thing is, you encourage businesses to invest in renewables by not supporting new fossil fuel projects.  You can’t carry on as usual until energy is entirely decarbonised.  It doesn’t work that way.  But, claims Councillor Walsh:

Dorset Council is not in a position to refuse planning permission for oil and gas development on climate grounds. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Dorset Council would be able to change its local policies to resist hydrocarbon development on climate change grounds unless and until there is a change in national policy.

Poor powerless Council.  Not brave enough to do what the earth needs, not as brave as many authorities that are aiming to be net-zero by 2030, and certainly not as brave as Cheshire East Unitary authority that has a target date of 2025.

That all sounds terribly reasonable until one considers the facts that David (‘greenest government ever’ to ‘get rid of all the green crap’) Cameron’s government:

  • Cut down the feed-in tariffs for small solar panel installations in 2015, a real blow to people who wanted to go green but couldn’t afford the total cost.  Under Theresa May, tariffs were scrapped altogether in April 2019.
  • Also in 2015, the government introduced strict regulations which effectively banned onshore wind farms in England.  This year Boris Johnson has given the go-ahead for wind farms because the lower prices of wind farm energy makes it significantly cheaper than other forms of low-carbon electricity.  However, Scotland’s wind farms are way ahead, and are on track to supply 100 per cent of its needed electricity in 2020.

And, regardless of climate change, the Conservatives love fossil fuel (and, through their lobbyists, fossil fuel companies have a huge influence on their politics and policies) they:

  • Have consistently backed fracking and although that is confined to England and on hold, they would be quite happy to allow it in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty such as West Dorset.
  • Continue to subsidise fossil fuel companies at a bigger level than renewable energy, and spend more on fossil fuel than the rest of the EU.  Germany, for instance, provided the biggest energy subsidies, with €27bn for renewable energy, almost three times the €9.5bn given to fossil fuels.  And the UK’s nuclear energy has historically got more funding than renewables.
  • Give tax breaks to major oil companies.  According to DeSmog: ‘Since 2015, the Treasury has given the industry tax breaks worth £2.3 billion’.  DeSmog also reports that UK ‘is the worst of G7 countries for ‘hiding’ fossil fuel subsidies.
  • In 2018 a Platform report showed that, via the government’s Prosperity Fund, money earmarked to support overseas development had been spent on supporting China’s fracking industry, to the tune of £2 million.
  • The Prosperity Fund also financed oil and gas projects in India, Brazil and Mexico.  Twelve of the 16 fossil fuel projects funded by the Prosperity Fund reference the creation of “opportunities for international, including UK businesses”, or an “improved business environment” as an expected outcome.

And as Mike Small, editor of Bella Caledonia, wrote: In this week’s much celebrated budget we were told to expect a “Budget that put climate and environment first” but we got a fuel duty freeze and £27 billion more spent on roads”.  Roads mean vehicles, means petrol, means oil. 

Clearly, oil is there to be invested in, made money from by a chosen few.  The corporate world is not environment-friendly, nor apparently worried about the effects of climate change.  The environment-friendly Triodos Bank’s 2018 annual report. said that: ‘The world’s top banks have poured US$1.9 trillion into fossil fuels since the adoption of the Paris Agreement.’

And surely, if government bodies Natural England and the Environment Agency are strongly critical of the Puddletown proposal, one could and should claim they are also part of ‘government policy’.  They should be listened to.

Damien Carrington, writing in the Guardian, said that:

There is no deadline to save the world.  Everything we do now has to pass the climate test… Taken together, the justice and economic arguments make it imperative that every decision taken every day by governments, businesses and communities must pass the climate test: will it cut emissions? From power plants to buildings, transport to farming, projects commissioned today will be running well beyond 2030. (My emphasis)

But, while West Dorset people fight against the Puddletown oil well, others in Longburton in the northern part of West Dorset are fighting against a plan for a solar park. Puddletown wants to fight climate change, and protect its ecology and water.  Dorset is a good place for solar energy as it is, despite the endless rain over the winter, rated as the sunniest county in England, but Longburton doesn’t want its pretty rural views spoilt.  Climate change doesn’t come into it.  Hence Dorset Council’s dilemma.  If they back the solar park project and reject the oil well, they are recognising the climate emergency.  If they back the Puddletown oil well and reject the solar park, they are saying the climate emergency is unimportant.

And if they back both projects and reject both projects, the Council is suffering from a bad schizophrenic episode based solely on party ideology.