Category Archives: Fossil Fuel Emissions (FFE)

Dangerous Heat Across the Globe

The planet is heating up like never before, as “ground temperatures” hit all-time records in the Northern Hemisphere as well as the Southern Hemisphere, and ocean temperatures threaten the world’s major fisheries of the Far North, which are imperiled beyond any known historical precedent.1

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) July 2021 was the hottest month in recorded history for the world. The European Union (EU) satellite system also confirmed that the past seven years have been the hottest on record.

Too much heat brings unanticipated problems of unexpected scale, putting decades of legacy infrastructure at risk of malfunctioning and/or total collapse. Nobody expected so much trouble to start so soon. Nobody anticipated such massive record-breaking back-to-back heat, north and south, to hit so soon on the heels of only 1.2C above estimated baseline for global warming.

In that regard, and with deep concern, the Council on Foreign Relations (founded, 1921) stated: “More than one-fifth of the global population now lives in regions that have already experienced warming greater than 1.5°C (2.7°F), an increase that almost all nations have agreed should be avoided to significantly reduce the risk of harm from climate change.” 2

Moreover, as further stated by the Council: “Exposure to a sustained wet-bulb temperature of 35°C (95°F), a point of intense heat with extreme humidity (90+), has been identified as the limit for human survival. When wet-bulb conditions develop, sweat can no longer evaporate off a person’s skin and the body cannot cool down. Just a few hours of this kind of heat exposure can lead to death… Some regions, including southwestern North America, South Asia, and the Middle East have already endured conditions at or near this limit, and certain areas will experience the effects more intensely than others. One projection indicates that, by 2030, this type of heat wave could afflict over two hundred million people in India alone.”

Notably, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA): Only 8% of the 2.8 billion people living in the hottest parts of the world have air conditioners.

Furthermore, the Council claims: “The infrastructure of today was not built to withstand surging temperatures.” As follows, global heat is rapidly outpacing infrastructure capacities. This is a surefire pathway to disaster on a scale seldom, if ever, witnessed.

Over time, excessive heat impairs and/or destroys infrastructure. Hot weather, when too hot, causes power lines to sag. When water used to cool power plants becomes too hot, electricity production measurably decreases, and drought conditions lower water levels beyond effectiveness for hydropower plants. This is already threatening in Brazil where hydro amounts to 62% of its total installed electric generating capacity. 3

In America, the Hoover Dam, which serves electrical power to 8 million people, is at it lowest level since 1937 when its lake was still being filled.

And, too much heat causes steel-comprising damage to drawbridges. Train tracks can bend under intense heat, which actually caused train cancellations in Europe in 2019. 4  And, planes can struggle to fly in extreme heat conditions.

According to the EPA, when cities are exposed to extreme heat, it can magnify heat conditions by up to 15C above surrounding rural conditions, effectively turning major cities of the world into furnaces of trapped heat.

Already, South America’s summer of 2022 is hot as blazes: “Practically all of Argentina and also neighboring countries such as Uruguay, southern Brazil, and Paraguay are experiencing the hottest days in history.” This is according to Cindy Fernández, meteorologist at the official National Meteorological Service.5

Argentina, as of January 12, 2022 reported: 129°F ground temperatures that brought blackouts. “This is a heat wave of extraordinary characteristics, with extreme temperature values that will even be analyzed after its completion, and it may generate some historical records for Argentina temperatures and persistence of heat,” according to meteorologist Lucas Berengua.6

Thereafter, Argentina’s infrastructure sagged and 700,000 people were without power, and drinking water purification systems went on the blink. Argentina’s ground temperatures echoed readings from the Northern Hemisphere of only 6 months ago, which, in retrospect, served as a foreboding for the southern continent, as it now begins its summer.

The heat has been so bad in Argentina that it was briefly the hottest place in the world, surpassing parts of Australia that usually carry that dubious honor during austral summer.

According to BBC News, Australia equaled its hottest day on record at 50.7C or 123.26F in Onslow, Western Australia on January 13th, 2022. The normal average temperature for Onslow (a coastal town) this time of year is 36.5C, not 50C. Additionally, Mardie and Roebourne, two other towns in the area, reported temperatures over 50C. And, in South Australia Oodnadatta reported 50.7C on January 2, 2022.  7

The summer of 2021 up north found the Anthropocene, the geological period of human influence, turn into the Pyrocene, when a shocking number of wildfires consumed vast areas of the Northern Hemisphere. It was “the summer of hell.” Global warming dried out grasslands and forests turned to tinder. The chief of the US Forest Service declared a “National Wildfire Crisis.” 8

Oregon and California fires were powerful enough to create stand-alone weather systems. The town of Lytton, British Columbia burned to the ground like a smoldering matchstick. Ground temperatures in Washington State in June 2021 hit 145F (63C) during an unprecedented Pacific Northwest heat wave too hot to even walk near concrete or squishy asphalt.

In Canada’s northwest, Ontario and Manitoba experienced 157 severe wildfires intense enough to create stand-alone weather systems.

Siberia experienced Biblical-scale fires like nobody has ever seen. A study showed the extreme heat driving the fires to levels calculated as 600 times more likely to occur because of climate change. Siberia at its most northern reaches registered a shocking 118 degrees F (48C) in June.

In the Mediterranean region, the summer of 2021 experienced wildfires raging out of control in Turkey and Greece with ground temperatures of more than 127F degrees (53C).9

There is a point to be made about this disheartening litany of the world succumbing to heat since it’s happening with global warming at only 1.2C above pre-industrial. But, is pre-industrial (same as post-industrial) really since 1880 or 1950, or should it be 1750, or is the entire affair really worse than we’ve been told at any rate? Answer: Look at the evidence and make a judgment.

The aforementioned facts are about climate conditions over the past 12 months throughout the world, which are worse than anybody projected, especially at only 1.2C above the alleged pre-industrial level. Along those lines, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) established a red warning at 1.5C beyond which serious climate trouble will occur with 2C as an extreme limit not to be exceeded, but based upon the challenging climate conditions already evident at 1.2C, how challenging will things be at 1.5C?

The fact is at only 1.2C the world has got its hands full of infrastructure failures combined with an emergent Wet Bulb potentiality of people dropping dead in the streets.

All of which points to the upcoming significance of the US midterm elections this year. If Republicans, aka: Deniers, gain control, you might as well “pack it in.” In other words, global heat will celebrate!

On the other hand, if the Democrats gain enough control to actually do something constructive about greenhouse gases and provide global leadership towards net zero emissions within the decade, there’s a slim chance for survival, but the odds are rapidly diminishing.

So far, excessive levels of damaging global heat, in part, have been the result of the failure of political leadership of both major parties that have repeatedly been warned by scientists to minimize CO2 emissions. The warnings have been ongoing for decades, like a scratched record that replays the same song over and over again but to no avail.

America’s leaders have miserably failed to safeguard the American people from the most advertised, the most talked about, the most obvious existential threat the country has ever experienced!

Human-generated global heat is easy to describe: Whether it’s emissions via carbon dioxide (CO2) or methane (CH4) from cars, trains, planes, trucks, cows, power plants, oil and gas wells, or industry that blankets the atmosphere, thus trapping heat; i.e., “the greenhouse effect,” it predictably and relentlessly causes global temperatures to increase, which have now surpassed all-time highs going back to when humans first rubbed two sticks together.

  1. See: “The Oceans Are Overheating“, January 14, 2022.
  2. “A World Overheating”, Council on Foreign Relations, October 18, 2021.
  3. “Brazil Hydro Plants May Go Offline From Drought, Bolsonaro Warns”, Bloomberg News, August 27, 2021.
  4. “Sag, Buckle and Curve: Why Your Trains Get Cancelled in the Heat”, Wired, July 26, 2019.
  5. ‘Another Hellish Day’ ”South American Sizzles in Record Summer Temperatures”, The Guardian, January 14, 2022.
  6. Copernicus Sentinel 3 Satellite data discussion.
  7. “Australia Equals Hottest Day on Record at 50.7C”, BBC News, January 13, 2022.
  8. “Here are the 6 Major Regions Literally on Fire Right Now”, Gizmodo, July 20, 2021.
  9. EU Earth Observation Program, Copernicus Sentinel 3 Satellite.
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COP26: Greenwashing, Plutocratic Misadventures and the Possibilities of Radical Transformation

COP26 reaffirmed what has been obvious from the beginning: the Northern colonial and capitalist states most responsible for creating the climate crisis are unwilling to place people before profits in order to address the planet’s looming ecological collapse and humanitarian catastrophe.

We need justice. But that word — Justice! — despite all of the philosophical pontificating from John Locke to John Rawls, is a concept incompatible with the rapacious civilizational logic of a colonial/capitalist system based on self-interest, greed, and social Darwinism. Yet, without a firm commitment to the institutionalization of a just world order in which the gifts of mother-earth are equally shared along with respect for the earth and its natural order, the evidence is now irrefutable – human society will not survive.

The elementary logic of this observation suggests the necessity for a radical divergence from production processes, consumption patterns, destructive relationships to the natural world and degrading social relationships, is denied by powerful Northern capitalist countries.

What does this mean? It means that the appeals to reforms, finance and rationality coming out of the COP process are not enough to overcome the entrenched short-term interests of the international capitalist plutocrats.

It means recognizing that the fight for climate and environmental justice is, in fact, a revolutionary project, requiring mass-global resistance and the expropriation of economic and political power of finance and corporate capital. Without this recognition, the COP process will continue to be nothing more than a public relations stunt geared to convincing the public that green capitalism and saving the planet are compatible.

In his piece that appears in the Black Agenda Report’s special edition on COP26, Anthony Rogers-Wright points out that “the cataclysms of the interlinked crises of COVID and climate change were elucidated this past year in ways that cannot be repudiated.” That is true. But there were other connections that were made that are transforming the consciousness of peoples in the global South and the nationally oppressed and workers within the core capitalist nations that were exposed during the COVID crisis. The most immediate connection being that the lives of ordinary people mean nothing to the lords of capital.

At the height of the COVID outbreak nations in the global South experienced the consequence of disrupted global production and supply chains in ways even more severe than the economic disruptions that caused so much suffering among workers and the poor in the Northern nations.

With massive unemployment and stretched state budgets trying to provide minimum economic support to their populations and healthcare systems ravaged by structural adjustment policies imposed on them by the colonial powers, nations in the global South attempting to survive — but without the ability of the US to print money that is accepted as a global currency — asked the Northern nations to suspend, just postpone, not forgive their overwhelming debt payments during the covid crisis. They were rebuffed.

COVID revealed the hidden reality of the dictatorship of capital and the fact that no lives matter to capitalists beyond their ability to provide labor or buy capitalist products. Those revelations explain why the comforting rhetoric of liberal reformism that mollified some activists involved in the COP process in the past is no longer working.

COP26 might be a turning point. One of those inflection points in history where conditions force a transformation of consciousness and thus a new politics that can usher in epochal change.

In Glasgow, the people saw how the colonial gangsters lobbied to weaken proposals to phase out subsidies for coal, oil, and gas. The people understood clearly what was really being said and what kinds of interest were really important when the powerful tried to explain why the target of a measly 100 billion a year to assist the nations who were not even responsible for the climate crisis was not realized. Especially when the people were aware that these same G20 nations who could not meet their obligations had subsidized fossil fuel industries to the tune of 3 trillion dollars just since 2015.

Radicalization occurs when all of the liberal options are proven to be untenable and unsupportable by objective reality. A political crisis for the continued rule of capital is being produced by the imposition of debt, the subversion of democratic projects, the militarism and wars, the environmental destruction, and the exploitation of resources and labor by capitalist nations.

It is this realization that is reflected in new forms of resistance and a steeled opposition, especially among the young, from indigenous, nationally oppressed, and racialized colonized peoples that are inoculated against the liberal obscurantism that has dominated so many of these global gatherings and resulted in so many being funneled into liberal reformism.

Imperialism, in the historic form of the Pan-European colonial/capitalist white supremacist patriarchy is the enemy. This is a revelation and a position that the internationalist African revolutionary movement recognized some time ago. It is an affirmation of the correctness of that position that so many, while not yet using those terms, have, nevertheless, come to understand that unless we disarm the colonial/capitalist West, we are all doomed.

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Saving Capitalism or Saving the Planet? 

The UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team helped to push the public towards accepting the COVID narrative, restrictions and lockdowns. It is now working on ‘nudging’ people towards further possible restrictions or at least big changes in their behaviour in the name of ‘climate emergency’. From frequent news stories and advertisements to soap opera storylines and government announcements, the message about impending climate catastrophe is almost relentless.

Part of the messaging includes blaming the public’s consumption habits for a perceived ‘climate emergency’. At the same time, young people are being told that we only have a decade or so (depending on who is saying it) to ‘save the planet’.

Setting the agenda are powerful corporations that helped degrade much of the environment in the first place. But ordinary people, not the multi-billionaires pushing this agenda, will pay the price for this as living more frugally seems to be part of the programme (‘own nothing and be happy’). Could we at some future point see ‘climate emergency’ lockdowns, not to ‘save the NHS’ but to ‘save the planet’?

A tendency to focus on individual behaviour and not ‘the system’ exists.

But let us not forget this is a system that deliberately sought to eradicate a culture of self-reliance that prevailed among the working class in the 19th century (self-education, recycling products, a culture of thrift, etc) via advertising and a formal school education that ensured conformity and set in motion a lifetime of wage labour and dependency on the products manufactured by an environmentally destructive capitalism.

A system that has its roots in inflicting massive violence across the globe to exert control over land and resources elsewhere.

In his 2018 book The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequalities and its solutions, Jason Hickel describes the processes involved in Europe’s wealth accumulation over a 150-year period of colonialism that resulted in tens of millions of deaths.

By using other countries’ land, Britain effectively doubled the size of arable land in its control. This made it more practical to then reassign the rural population at home (by stripping people of their means of production) to industrial labour. This too was underpinned by massive violence (burning villages, destroying houses, razing crops).

Hickel argues that none of this was inevitable but was rooted in the fear of being left behind by other countries because of Europe’s relative lack of land resources to produce commodities.

This is worth bearing in mind as we currently witness a fundamental shift in our relationship to the state resulting from authoritarian COVID-related policies and the rapidly emerging corporate-led green agenda. We should never underestimate the ruthlessness involved in the quest for preserving wealth and power and the propensity for wrecking lives and nature to achieve this.

Commodification of nature

Current green agenda ‘solutions’ are based on a notion of ‘stakeholder’ capitalism or private-public partnerships whereby vested interests are accorded greater weight, with governments and public money merely facilitating the priorities of private capital.

A key component of this strategy involves the ‘financialisation of nature’ and the production of new ‘green’ markets to deal with capitalism’s crisis of over accumulation and weak consumer demand caused by decades of neoliberal policies and the declining purchasing power of working people. The banking sector is especially set to make a killing via ‘green profiling’ and ‘green bonds’.

According to Friends of the Earth (FoE), corporations and states will use the financialisation of nature discourse to weaken laws and regulations designed to protect the environment with the aim of facilitating the goals of extractive industries, while allowing mega-infrastructure projects in protected areas and other contested places.

Global corporations will be able to ‘offset’ (greenwash) their activities by, for example, protecting or planting a forest elsewhere (on indigenous people’s land) or perhaps even investing in (imposing) industrial agriculture which grows herbicide-resistant GMO commodity crop monocultures that are misleadingly portrayed as ‘climate friendly’.

FoE states:

Offsetting schemes allow companies to exceed legally defined limits of destruction at a particular location, or destroy protected habitat, on the promise of compensation elsewhere; and allow banks to finance such destruction on the same premise.

This agenda could result in the weakening of current environmental protection legislation or its eradication in some regions under the pretext of compensating for the effects elsewhere. How ecoservice ‘assets’ (for example, a forest that performs a service to the ecosystem by acting as a carbon sink) are to be evaluated in a monetary sense is very likely to be done on terms that are highly favourable to the corporations involved, meaning that environmental protection will play second fiddle to corporate and finance sector return-on-investment interests.

As FoE argues, business wants this system to be implemented on its terms, which means the bottom line will be more important than stringent rules that prohibit environmental destruction.

Saving capitalism

The envisaged commodification of nature will ensure massive profit-seeking opportunities through the opening up of new markets and the creation of fresh investment instruments.

Capitalism needs to keep expanding into or creating new markets to ensure the accumulation of capital to offset the tendency for the general rate of profit to fall (according to writer Ted Reese, it has trended downwards from an estimated 43% in the 1870s to 17% in the 2000s). The system suffers from a rising overaccumulation (surplus) of capital.

Reese notes that, although wages and corporate taxes have been slashed, the exploitability of labour continued to become increasingly insufficient to meet the demands of capital accumulation. By late 2019, the world economy was suffocating under a mountain of debt. Many companies could not generate enough profit and falling turnover, squeezed margins, limited cashflows and highly leveraged balance sheets were prevalent. In effect, economic growth was already grinding to a halt prior to the massive stock market crash in February 2020.

In the form of COVID ‘relief’, there has been a multi-trillion bailout for capitalism as well as the driving of smaller enterprises to bankruptcy. Or they have being swallowed up by global interests. Either way, the likes of Amazon and other predatory global corporations have been the winners.

New ‘green’ Ponzi trading schemes to offset carbon emissions and commodify ‘ecoservices’ along with electric vehicles and an ‘energy transition’ represent a further restructuring of the capitalist economy, resulting in a shift away from a consumer oriented demand-led system.

It essentially leaves those responsible for environmental degradation at the wheel, imposing their will and their narrative on the rest of us.

Global agribusiness

Between 2000 and 2009, Indonesia supplied more than half of the global palm oil market at an annual expense of some 340,000 hectares of Indonesian countryside. Consider too that Brazil and Indonesia have spent over 100 times more in subsidies to industries that cause deforestation than they received in international conservation aid from the UN to prevent it.

These two countries gave over $40bn in subsidies to the palm oil, timber, soy, beef and biofuels sectors between 2009 and 2012, some 126 times more than the $346m they received to preserve their rain forests.

India is the world’s leading importer of palm oil, accounting for around 15% of the global supply. It imports over two-­thirds of its palm oil from Indonesia.

Until the mid-1990s, India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils. Under pressure from the World Trade Organization (WTO), import tariffs were reduced, leading to an influx of cheap (subsidised) edible oil imports that domestic farmers could not compete with. This was a deliberate policy that effectively devastated the home-grown edible oils sector and served the interests of palm oil growers and US grain and agriculture commodity company Cargill, which helped write international trade rules to secure access to the Indian market on its terms.

Indonesia leads the world in global palm oil production, but palm oil plantations have too often replaced tropical forests, leading to the killing of endangered species and the uprooting of local communities as well as contributing to the release of potential environment-damaging gases. Indonesia emits more of these gases than any country besides China and the US, largely due to the production of palm oil.

The issue of palm oil is one example from the many that could be provided to highlight how the drive to facilitate corporate need and profit trumps any notion of environmental protection or addressing any ‘climate emergency’. Whether it is in Indonesia, Latin America or elsewhere, transnational agribusiness – and the system of globalised industrial commodity crop agriculture it promotes – fuels much of the destruction we see today.

Even if the mass production of lab-created food, under the guise of ‘saving the planet’ and ‘sustainability’, becomes logistically possible (which despite all the hype is not at this stage), it may still need biomass and huge amounts of energy. Whose land will be used to grow these biomass commodities and which food crops will they replace? And will it involve that now-famous Gates’ euphemism ‘land mobility’ (farmers losing their land)?

Microsoft is already mapping Indian farmers’ lands and capturing agriculture datasets such as crop yields, weather data, farmers’ personal details, profile of land held (cadastral maps, farm size, land titles, local climatic and geographical conditions), production details (crops grown, production history, input history, quality of output, machinery in possession) and financial details (input costs, average return, credit history).

Is this an example of stakeholder-partnership capitalism, whereby a government facilitates the gathering of such information by a private player which can then use the data for developing a land market (courtesy of land law changes that the government enacts) for institutional investors at the expense of smallholder farmers who find themselves ‘land mobile’? This is a major concern among farmers and civil society in India.

Back in 2017, agribusiness giant Monsanto was judged to have engaged in practices that impinged on the basic human right to a healthy environment, the right to food and the right to health. Judges at the ‘Monsanto Tribunal’, held in The Hague, concluded that if ecocide were to be formally recognised as a crime in international criminal law, Monsanto could be found guilty.

The tribunal called for the need to assert the primacy of international human and environmental rights law. However, it was also careful to note that an existing set of legal rules serves to protect investors’ rights in the framework of the WTO and in bilateral investment treaties and in clauses in free trade agreements. These investor trade rights provisions undermine the capacity of nations to maintain policies, laws and practices protecting human rights and the environment and represent a disturbing shift in power.

The tribunal denounced the severe disparity between the rights of multinational corporations and their obligations.

While the Monsanto Tribunal judged that company to be guilty of human rights violations, including crimes against the environment, in a sense we also witnessed global capitalism on trial.

Global conglomerates can only operate as they do because of a framework designed to allow them to capture or co-opt governments and regulatory bodies and to use the WTO and bilateral trade deals to lever influence. As Jason Hickel notes in his book (previously referred to), old-style colonialism may have gone but governments in the Global North and its corporations have found new ways to assert dominance via leveraging aid, market access and ‘philanthropic’ interventions to force lower income countries to do what they want.

The World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ and its ongoing commitment to an unjust model of globalisation is an example of this and a recipe for further plunder and the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few.

Brazil and Indonesia have subsidised private corporations to effectively destroy the environment through their practices. Canada and the UK are working with the GMO biotech sector to facilitate its needs. And India is facilitating the destruction of its agrarian base according to World Bank directives for the benefit of the likes of Corteva and Cargill.

The TRIPS Agreement, written by Monsanto, and the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, written by Cargill, was key to a new era of corporate imperialism. It came as little surprise that in 2013 India’s then Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar accused US companies of derailing the nation’s oil seeds production programme.

Powerful corporations continue to regard themselves as the owners of people, the planet and the environment and as having the right – enshrined in laws and agreements they wrote – to exploit and devastate for commercial gain.

Partnership or co-option?

It was noticeable during a debate on food and agriculture at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow that there was much talk about transforming the food system through partnerships and agreements. Fine-sounding stuff, especially when the role of agroecology and regenerative farming was mentioned.

However, if, for instance, the interests you hope to form partnerships with are coercing countries to eradicate their essential buffer food stocks then bid for such food on the global market with US dollars (as in India) or are lobbying for the enclosure of seeds through patents (as in Africa and elsewhere), then surely this deliberate deepening of dependency should be challenged; otherwise ‘partnership’ really means co-option.

Similarly, the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) that took place during September in New York was little more than an enabler of corporate needs. The UNFSS was founded on a partnership between the UN and the World Economic Forum and was disproportionately influenced by corporate actors.

Those granted a pivotal role at the UNFSS support industrial food systems that promote ultra-processed foods, deforestation, industrial livestock production, intensive pesticide use and commodity crop monocultures, all of which cause soil deterioration, water contamination and irreversible impacts on biodiversity and human health. And this will continue as long as the environmental effects can be ‘offset’ or these practices can be twisted on the basis of them somehow being ‘climate-friendly’.

Critics of the UNFSS offer genuine alternatives to the prevailing food system. In doing so, they also provide genuine solutions to climate-related issues and food injustice based on notions of food sovereignty, localisation and a system of food cultivation deriving from agroecological principles and practices. Something which people who organised the climate summit in Glasgow would do well to bear in mind.

Current greenwashed policies are being sold by tugging at the emotional heartstrings of the public. This green agenda, with its lexicon of ‘sustainability’, ‘carbon neutrality’, ‘net-zero’ and doom-laden forecasts, is part of a programme that seeks to restructure capitalism, to create new investment markets and instruments and to return the system to viable levels of profitability.

The post Saving Capitalism or Saving the Planet?  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Saving Our Planet Requires Systemic and Behavioural Change

The natural environment has been poisoned, vandalized and trashed in accordance with the demands and values of the all-pervasive socio-economic system, and as long as it persists it is impossible to imagine the steps required to save the natural world being taken. Economic considerations and short term self-interest will continue to be applied and the devastation will continue.

Neo-liberalism is an extreme form of capitalism, like its founding ideology but darker, even more unjust and brutal. It sees every aspect of life – waterways, forests, the air, people, you name it –  as a potential product to be exploited, profited from, drained of all value and discarded. The “free market” (does such a thing exist, anywhere?), and its power to regulate supply and demand, is a cornerstone, as is competition and private ownership of everything, including health care, education, even prisons. Whatever area, the aim is the same, maximize production, limit costs and generate wealth for the business, most importantly the shareholders, no matter the impact on the environment and society.

A value system and integrated way of life has evolved consistent with the ethos of this poisonous ideology: individual ambition – personal success over group well-being; greed or excess; sensory pleasure; materiality; tribal nationalism (strengthened by competition); distrust of others who are different, and a fabrication of individuality. True individuality is impossible within the constraints of the doctrine which demands conformity, assimilates and dilutes creative expression to the mechanics and trends of the machine, and like all ideologies, moves towards crystallisation, maintains itself supreme and claims there are no viable alternatives.

Societies have been fashioned around these ideals and values, as has individual and collective behavior; behavior resulting from conditioned ways of thinking about ourselves, of other people, of the environment and the purpose of life, which, whilst openly undeclared, is hinted at from the values promoted: Purpose it says is related to pleasure, sensory gratification and material success; all of which are sold as means to achieving self-happiness and self-fulfillment, without ever questioning what this “self” is.

Such self-centred happiness is derived from pleasure and the quelling of desire, which, as the architects of the system know well, is not possible, because desire is insatiable. This fact is instinctively known, but the messaging to the contrary is relentless and for many, most perhaps, the trials of daily living are so great, the separation from oneself and the natural world so acute, that relief is essential. The diverse and endlessly malleable World of Consumerism provides the means of momentary alleviation: Alcohol, drugs, (legal and illegal), sex, shopping, TV, sport, more shopping, holidays, organised religion, shopping and food. And to excess; greed, ownership of things (homes, cars, clothes etc.), and the general accumulation of stuff is insisted upon, for the simple reason that it is consumerism that feeds the monster. This very same consumerism, which is perpetuating unhappiness and fuelling ill health, is also the underlying cause of the environmental emergency.

It is the irresponsible consumption of animal-based foodstuffs and manufactured goods, many of which are made in the Asiatic world (where the West has outsourced its production-based greenhouse gas emissions), that is driving the crisis.

A massive “if”…

Complacency, ignorance and selfishness have been the principal weapons of environmental destruction wielded by western governments, big business and the rich for decades. Adopted now by nations in other parts of the world, the global environmental impact has been devastating, in many cases catastrophic: destroying ecosystems, massacring animal life, poisoning the air and water, draining the soil of all goodness and disrupting natural climate patterns.

In order to stop the carnage and begin to heal the planet, a radical change is needed, not just more pledges and corporate greenwashing; fundamental change in behavior and attitudes that will usher in a kinder, more considerate way of living. The needed values and actions, however, are incompatible with Neo-Liberal capitalism, or any form of capitalism, and the greedy, selfish behavior that it promotes: cruel modes of living fashioned in rich nations, where the most extreme levels of consumerism occur.

It is not after all the villagers in India, China or Sub-Saharan Africa where rabid consumption is taking place, it’s the rich that are overwhelmingly responsible – the obscenely rich in particular; the private jets, numerous homes, cars, constant travel and piles and piles and piles of things. A study by Oxfam, published in 2015, found that, “Fifty percent of the world’s carbon emissions are produced by the world’s richest 10%, while the poorest half – 3.5 billion people – are responsible for a mere 10%.” In the 25-year period studied (1990-2015), global carbon dioxide emissions rose by 60%, and “the increase in emissions from the richest 1% was three times greater than the increase in emissions from the poorest half” of the world’s population, that’s around 3.6 billion people.

Wrapped in selfishness and protected by governments, it is the really rich, and the corporations (which they own) that own everything and are consuming most of everything. This overindulged, hideously wealthy collective, have benefitted enormously from the socio-economic machine and are extremely resistant to the systemic change that is needed if, and at this stage it’s a massive “if”, the natural world and all that lives within it, is to be saved.

The structural limitations (financial, political, social) and behavioral expectations of the Ideology of Greed and Exploitation, prohibit the needed changes taking place within the time frame required, hence the perpetual procrastination, excuses and delays, even as the planet burns. The inherent constraints and relentless demands – to consume, to exploit, to compete, to divide –  run completely contrary to the needs of the environment, and indeed the health of humanity; sacrifice is required, it is not possible to have our materialistic consumer filled cake and eat it; sacrifice of a materialistic way of life that has resulted in divided societies of unhappy anxious people and the destruction of the natural world.

Last year, as with each year during the previous decade, global greenhouse gas emissions were the highest ever recorded; this, despite an economic quietening resulting from Covid restrictions and high levels of awareness of the environmental emergency throughout the world. As COP26 draws to an unimpressive close, governments haggle over emission targets, funding of fossil fuels and money for the global south, and a new poll reports that most people  (in the 10 countries polled, including UK, US, Germany, France) say they are unwilling to alter their way of life to save our planet. We must once again ask, what will it take for humanity to wake up and change?

For the environmental emergency to be faced with the intensity needed, and healing to occur, a dramatic shift is required. A systemic shift, together with a fundamental change in attitudes, values and behavior, particularly among those living in the rich nations. A shift away from complacency and selfishness towards responsibility, cooperation and simplicity of living; united action rooted in love, as Elizabeth Wathuti (youth climate activist,) from Kenya told COP26 in her wonderful speech,“please  open your hearts….care deeply and act collectively.”

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The Existential Threat of Global Heating

Once again, the hopes of billions have been raised, only to be dashed, this time by the cruel joke of COP26, the reality being that “By 2030, governments are planning to extract 110% more fossil fuels than their Paris Agreement pledge to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels would permit”.

Misrepresentations abound:

  • The United Nations upper global temperature target of 1.5°C takes no account of the fact that, without the transient short-lived aerosols effect of over 0.5 to 1.0 Watt/m⁻², the mean global heating is nearing ~2.0°C.
  • It is the cumulative concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which controls temperatures, triggering feedbacks from land and oceans, and which has reached a high level of combined CO₂+CH₄+N₂O of >500 ppm CO₂-equivalent. Only sequestration / drawdown from this level may be able to lower terrestrial temperatures.
  • Polar temperature changes are critical: The Arctic temperature anomaly reached 3°C above 1981-2010 in 2016 and the increasing similarity between polar and northern latitude temperatures leads to weakening of the jet stream boundary effect, allowing cold and warm air masses to cross the boundary.
  • The tropical climate zone is expanding and Mediterranean climate zone, where much of the world’s crops are grown, is shrinking and shifting toward the poles.
  • As the polar ice sheets are melting sea levels are rising, initially on the scale of inches and subsequently toward as equilibrium with Pliocene-like temperatures equivalent to a sea level rise of ~25 meters, flooding extensive coastal zones and delta where billions live and grow food.

The development of hydrocarbon reserves is proceeding unabated (Figures 1 and 2). Since the Paris agreement in 2015, the world’s 60 largest banks have poured $3.8 trillion into fossil fuel companies. In the US, auctioning has begun of drilling rights in Alaskan waters and the Gulf of Mexico. In the UK, whose PM is talking about one minute to midnight, 113 new licenses are offered to explore offshore reserves. Germany is developing new coal deposits. Australia, accounting for about 29% of traded coal globally in 2016, has become the world’s largest coal exporter and near-largest natural gas (LNG) exporter, currently representing around 3.6% of global emissions.

Huge LNG projects were planned in 2020 in Alaska ($43 billion), Mozambique ($33 billion), Kuwait ($16 billion), Nigeria ($11 billion), Australia ($11 billion), Russia ($10.8 billion, pipeline), Louisiana ($10.8 billion), Greece ($5.5 billion, pipeline) and elsewhere. According to NES FIRCROFT “In terms of new projects, however, the outlook is wide open. According to sector research firm Rystad Energy, around 250 new Oil & Gas projects are likely to be sanctioned for development in 2020 – up from 160 in 2016. The number of floating production, storage and offloading vessels (FPSOs) is due to increase with as many as 28 currently on order or under construction, while around 4,000 km of subsea oil and gas flowlines are due for installation this year.

In India forecasts for 2024-2025 include utilization of energy supplies of 50% coal, 25% oil, 20% gas, 3% nuclear and 2% hydro.

Figure 1. EIA projects nearly 50% increase in world energy use by 2050, with no decline in fossil fuel

2014 analysis by Katherine Keil concluded that fossil fuels like they exist in the Arctic are expected to continue supplying much of the energy used worldwide.

Given that future emissions and temperatures may exceed what current policies would lead to (Figure 2. below), growth in the use of fossil fuels combined with the lack of effective methods of reducing the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can only have catastrophic consequences. This means that unless civilization moves to a war-like footing, such as in pre-world war II, in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors and to sequester greenhouse gas levels, large parts of the Earth may become uninhabitable.

So much for the term “security” repeated through corporate reports.

Figure 2. Climate Action Tracker Thermometer (Nov. 2021 update)

It is the children, led by an 18 years-old girl, who appear to have the perspective on what will determine the future of humanity and nature.

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“A Crime Against Humanity”: The “Greenwash Festival” Of COP26

One of the most damning assessments of COP26, the UN climate conference being held in Glasgow, came from Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist:

‘#COP26  has been named the must excluding COP ever.
This is no longer a climate conference.
This is a Global North greenwash festival.
A two week celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah.’

And, indeed, if you scour news reports from COP26 they yield a familiar litany of political rhetoric and weasel words: vows, pledges, promises, commitments, sign up, phase out, green investment, innovation, transition, progress, scaling up, carbon credits, bending the emissions curve, net zero, 2050, 2070.

To quote from King Crimson’s  ‘Elephant Talk‘:

‘Arguments, agreements… articulate announcements…Brouhaha, balderdash, ballyhoo…It’s only talk…cheap talk…double talk.’

Juice Media, the campaign group who ‘make honest Government ads’, exposed the dangerous and misleading nonsense behind ‘Net Zero by 2050’:

‘There’s a huge gap between our promises and where we need to be. We don’t talk about that gap coz that would entail a complex process called “Being Honest”. Being Honest would mean admitting that we’re failing. And we can’t do that coz then we’d have to stop failing. That would mean ending fossil-fuel subsidies and banning all new gas, coal and oil projects.’

The satirical government ad continued:

‘So being honest isn’t an option for us. Which is why we’ve come up with the next best alternative: Net Zero by 2050…which risks setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond our control.’

Nature, the leading science journal, reported last week that top climate scientists – co-authors of a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – are sceptical that nations will rein in global warming. Moreover:

‘Six in ten of the respondents [climate scientists] said that they expect the world to warm by at least 3 °C by the end of the century, compared with what conditions were like before the Industrial Revolution. That is far beyond the Paris agreement’s goal to limit warming to 1.5-2 °C.’

The news report added:

‘Most of the survey’s respondents – 88% – said they think global warming constitutes a “crisis”, and nearly as many said they expect to see catastrophic impacts of climate change in their lifetimes. Just under half said that global warming has caused them to reconsider major life decisions, such as where to live and whether to have children. More than 60% said that they experience anxiety, grief or other distress because of concerns over climate change.’

‘An Orchestrated PR Scam’

A powerful thread on Twitter by conservationist Stephen Barlow echoed our own experiences and insights from observing climate conferences over three decades:

‘I’m starting to get the impression of COP26 as a contrived stitch up. Where world leaders get to present their inadequate action as fixing the problem. This really is dangerous stuff. You see I remember the 1992 Rio Earth Summit well.’

Barlow expanded:

‘After the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, political leaders, fossil fuel companies and general vested interest gave the impression the problem was fixed, that there was no need for people to turn to green politics, because mainstream politics had fixed the problem.

‘In the following years, in the 1990s, we had oil companies taking out big full page adverts in BBC Wildlife Magazine, National Geographic, etc, saying how they were switching their business model to renewables.

‘Politicians presented all these rosy views of green growth, all sorts of carbon trading schemes and generally giving off the impression that the problem was fixed, and the future was green.’

He rightly concluded:

‘The problem is, unlike the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, where it took nearly 30 years to find out everything we were promised was a scam and it just kept on getting worse – in 30 years time (in fact far less) we are going to be in serious trouble.

‘This is as evil as it gets. This is an orchestrated PR scam to carry on with business as usual. Where various elements like politicians, the mainstream media, billionaires, royalty and vested interests, combine to maintain business as usual, with fraudulent presentation.’

Investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed, who has repeatedly exposed the reality of UK foreign policy, recently reported that the British government is seeking trade deals with carbon-lobbying countries who have attempted to weaken a scientific assessment report being prepared by the IPCC. The countries include Saudi Arabia and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, along with Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Norway and India. Indeed, the UK is actively seeking to promote increased fossil fuel production in nearly all those countries, including Saudi Arabia – the world’s second largest oil producer.

Ahmed noted that last month, on the eve of COP26, foreign secretary Liz Truss flew to Saudi Arabia and Qatar to explore a potential trade deal with the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

He added:

According to the UK Department for International Trade’s Exporting Guide to Saudi Arabia, some of the biggest opportunities for UK investment are in expanding the kingdom’s fossil fuel sector.’

The export guide proudly states:

‘There are significant opportunities in Saudi Arabia’s energy market for UK businesses, especially in oil and natural gas.’

Ahmed continued:

‘Increasing the kingdom’s natural gas production is a particularly lucrative area for UK industry. The DIT notes that Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s giant oil producer, is exploiting natural gas reserves off the Red Sea coast to support increased domestic demand, which will involve using deep water technologies for drilling below 1,000 metres.’

He summed up:

‘Britain’s intent to ramp up fossil fuel production in partnership with some of the world’s biggest obstructers of climate action raises urgent questions about its role at COP26.’

That is an understatement. Then again, who believes that a corrupt Tory government – led by a shambling, elitist, racist, serial twister of the truth – would ever actually take the serious actions required to tackle the climate emergency?

‘Systematically Corrupted By Vested Interests’

The climate campaign group Insulate Britain, who have blockaded several roads in multiple actions in recent weeks, said:

‘As will become clear after COP26, our government has no intention of taking the necessary action to protect its people. It has broken the social contract – the unwritten agreement in which we agree to obey the government’s laws and in return it will protect us.’

In particular, Insulate Britain:

‘have exposed the government’s refusal to act on home insulation as cowardly and vindictive and their refusal to protect our country and our children from the climate crisis as genocidal and treasonous.’

Those are strong words. But climate campaigners from Extinction Rebellion (XR) also made clear that:

‘Nothing on the table in the run up to COP26 has resembled a compassionate and functional response to the crisis. The Climate and Ecological Emergency is a Crime Against Humanity perpetrated by the rich and powerful, and the COP process is systematically corrupted by vested interests – national, corporate and financial.’

The environmentalist group Global Witness assessed that there are more fossil fuel lobbyists present at COP26 than even the largest delegation from any country. They reported:

‘At least 503 fossil fuel lobbyists, affiliated with some of the world’s biggest polluting oil and gas giants, have been granted access to COP26, flooding the Glasgow conference with corporate influence.’

Moreover, reported Global Witness:

  • If the fossil fuel lobby were a country delegation at COP it would be the largest with 503 delegates – two dozen more than the largest country delegation [Brazil].
  • Over 100 fossil fuel companies are represented at COP with 30 trade associations and membership organisations also present.
  • Fossil fuel lobbyists dwarf the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s official indigenous constituency by around two to one.
  • The fossil fuel lobby at COP is larger than the combined total of the eight delegations from the countries worst affected by climate change in the last two decades – Puerto Rico, Myanmar, Haiti, Philippines, Mozambique, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Pakistan.
  • 27 official country delegations registered fossil fuel lobbyists, including Canada, Russia and Brazil.

On day 1 of the conference, XR had already declared that COP26 was a ‘failure’ and the conference itself ‘a crime against humanity’. XR spokesperson Jon Fuller pointed out the responsibility of the media to:

‘form an analysis of the situation, delving beyond presenting the views of different parties to the reality of what has been achieved and what the consequences are for ordinary people. If they fail to do so they continue to be guilty of the same crimes against humanity as the world leaders who have gathered at 25 previous COPs, claiming progress in spite of a complete failure to stop emissions rising.’

Of course, as Media Lens has demonstrated over the past two decades, the state-corporate media, including BBC News, are indeed complicit in crimes against humanity.

Last year, the BBC took £300,000 in advertising revenue from Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, Aramco. The BBC does not carry advertising in the UK, but it does so abroad where much of its output is supported by commercials.

Jim Waterson, the Guardian’s media editor, reported that:

‘Big fossil fuel companies have spent approximately $660,000 (£483,000) with the BBC on US-focused digital adverts since 2018, according to projections produced by the advertising data firm MediaRadar. Most of this came from the national Saudi oil company – although BP, Exelon and Phillips 66 are among the other fossil fuel business[es] estimated to have spent five-figure sums advertising on the BBC’s digital outlets.’

He added:

‘The real figure for how much the BBC is making from large fossil fuel companies could be much higher when other forms of advertising are taken into account.’

Meanwhile, BBC News programmes and high-profile BBC journalists continue to channel government propaganda on climate, with minimal scrutiny or genuinely countervailing voices. An extended appearance by Greta Thunberg on the Sunday morning Andrew Marr show on 31 October was a rare exception.

More typical was Laura Kuenssberg’s relentless tweeting of government talking points:

‘PM says score in the match btw humanity and climate change is now, 5-2, or 5-3, not 5-1 at half time, which was his assessment a few days ago – if you hate the metaphor, let’s say, progress, but not yet enough’

This tweet from the BBC political editor managed to capture both:

1. the pathetic state of the ‘democracy‘ that ‘elected’ Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

2. the crass, subservient nature of much of BBC News.

As US journalist Glenn Greenwald once observed:

‘The worst media in the democratic world is the British media, and it’s not even close.

‘I know it’s hard for people in other countries who hate their own media to believe, but whatever you hate about your country’s media, the UK media has in abundance and worse.’

The pathetic state of much of what passes for ‘journalism’ in the UK was summed up by investigative journalist Matt Kennard’s recent observation:

‘The British Journalism Awards [are] sponsored by Starling Bank, Gilead pharma, Google, Ovo Energy. The capture of our political, media and cultural systems by corporations is absolute and the root of problem. Rejecting + replacing corporate media is prerequisite to real democracy.’

And real democracy is a prerequisite for tackling the climate emergency before it threatens to engulf humanity, driving us towards extinction.

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COP 26: Can a Singing, Dancing Rebellion Save the World?

Greta Thunberg leads protests in Italy ahead of COP26. Credit: Radio Habana Cuba

COP Twenty-six! That is how many times the UN has assembled world leaders to try to tackle the climate crisis. But the United States is producing more oil and natural gas than ever; the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere and global temperatures are both still rising; and we are already experiencing the extreme weather and climate chaos that scientists have warned us about for forty years, and which will only get worse and worse without serious climate action.

And yet, the planet has so far only warmed 1.2° Celsius (2.2° F) since pre-industrial times. We already have the technology we need to convert our energy systems to clean, renewable energy, and doing so would create millions of good jobs for people all over the world. So, in practical terms, the steps we must take are clear, achievable and urgent.

The greatest obstacle to action that we face is our dysfunctional, neoliberal political and economic system and its control by plutocratic and corporate interests, who are determined to keep profiting from fossil fuels even at the cost of destroying the Earth’s uniquely livable climate. The climate crisis has exposed this system’s structural inability to act in the real interests of humanity, even when our very future hangs in the balance.

So what is the answer? Can COP26 in Glasgow be different? What could make the difference between more slick political PR and decisive action? Counting on the same politicians and fossil fuel interests (yes, they are there, too) to do something different this time seems suicidal, but what is the alternative?

Since Obama’s Pied Piper leadership in Copenhagen and Paris produced a system in which individual countries set their own targets and decided how to meet them, most countries have made little progress toward the targets they set in Paris in 2015.

Now they have come to Glasgow with predetermined and inadequate pledges that, even if fulfilled, would still lead to a much hotter world by 2100. A succession of UN and civil society reports in the lead-up to COP26 have been sounding the alarm with what UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called a “thundering wake-up call” and a “code red for humanity.” In Guterres’ opening speech at COP26 on November 1st, he said that “we are digging our own graves” by failing to solve this crisis.

Yet governments are still focusing on long-term goals like reaching “Net Zero” by 2050, 2060 or even 2070, so far in the future that they can keep postponing the radical steps needed to limit warming to 1.5° Celsius. Even if they somehow stopped pumping greenhouse gases into the air, the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere by 2050 would keep heating up the planet for generations. The more we load up the atmosphere with GHGs, the longer their effect will last and the hotter the Earth will keep growing.

The United States has set a shorter-term target of reducing its emissions by 50% from their peak 2005 level by 2030. But its present policies would only lead to a 17%-25% reduction by then.

The Clean Energy Performance Program (CEPP), which was part of the Build Back Better Act, could make up a lot of that gap by paying electric utilities to increase reliance on renewables by 4% year over year and penalizing utilities that don’t. But on the eve of COP 26, Biden dropped the CEPP from the bill under pressure from Senators Manchin and Sinema and their fossil fuel puppet-masters.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military, the largest institutional emitter of GHGs on Earth, was exempted from any constraints whatsoever under the Paris Agreement. Peace activists in Glasgow are demanding that COP26 must fix this huge black hole in global climate policy by including the U.S. war machine’s GHG emissions, and those of other militaries, in national emissions reporting and reductions.

At the same time, every penny that governments around the world have spent to address the climate crisis amounts to a small fraction of what the United States alone has spent on its nation-destroying war machine during the same period.

China now officially emits more CO2 than the United States. But a large part of China’s emissions are driven by the rest of the world’s consumption of Chinese products, and its largest customer is the United States. An MIT study in 2014 estimated that exports account for 22% of China’s carbon emissions. On a per capita consumption basis, Americans still account for three times the GHG emissions of our Chinese neighbors and double the emissions of Europeans.

Wealthy countries have also fallen short on the commitment they made in Copenhagen in 2009 to help poorer countries tackle climate change by providing financial aid that would grow to $100 billion per year by 2020. They have provided increasing amounts, reaching $79 billion in 2019, but the failure to deliver the full amount that was promised has eroded trust between rich and poor countries. A committee headed by Canada and Germany at COP26 is charged with resolving the shortfall and restoring trust.

When the world’s political leaders are failing so badly that they are destroying the natural world and the livable climate that sustains human civilization, it is urgent for people everywhere to get much more active, vocal and creative.

The appropriate public response to governments that are ready to squander the lives of millions of people, whether by war or by ecological mass suicide, is rebellion and revolution – and non-violent forms of revolution have generally proven more effective and beneficial than violent ones.

People are rising up against this corrupt neoliberal political and economic system in countries all over the world, as its savage impacts affect their lives in different ways. But the climate crisis is a universal danger to all of humanity that requires a universal, global response.

One inspiring civil society group on the streets in Glasgow during COP 26 is Extinction Rebellion, which proclaims, “We accuse world leaders of failure, and with a daring vision of hope, we demand the impossible…We will sing and dance and lock arms against despair and remind the world there is so much worth rebelling for.”

Extinction Rebellion and other climate groups at COP26 are calling for Net Zero by 2025, not 2050, as the only way to meet the 1.5° goal agreed to in Paris.

Greenpeace is calling for an immediate global moratorium on new fossil fuel projects and a quick phase-out of coal-burning power plants. Even the new coalition government in Germany, which includes the Green Party and has more ambitious goals than other large wealthy countries, has only moved up the final deadline on Germany’s coal phaseout from 2038 to 2030.

The Indigenous Environmental Network is bringing indigenous people from the Global South to Glasgow to tell their stories at the conference. They are calling on the Northern industrialized countries to declare a climate emergency, to keep fossil fuels in the ground and end subsidies of fossil fuels globally.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) has published a new report titled Nature-Based Solutions: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing as a focus for its work at COP26. It exposes a new trend in corporate greenwashing involving industrial-scale tree plantations in poor countries, which corporations plan to claim as “offsets” for continued fossil fuel production.

The U.K. government that is hosting the conference in Glasgow has endorsed these schemes as part of the program at COP26. FOE is highlighting the effect of these massive land-grabs on local and indigenous communities and calls them “a dangerous deception and distraction from the real solutions to the climate crisis.” If this is what governments mean by “Net Zero,” it would just be one more step in the financialization of the Earth and all its resources, not a real solution.

Because it is hard for activists from around the world to get to Glasgow for COP26 during a pandemic, activist groups are simultaneously organizing around the world to put pressure on governments in their own countries. Hundreds of climate activists and indigenous people have been arrested in protests at the White House in Washington, and five young Sunrise Movement activists began a hunger strike there on October 19th.

U.S. climate groups also support the “Green New Deal” bill, H.Res. 332, that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has introduced in Congress, which specifically calls for policies to keep global warming below 1.5° Celsius, and currently has 103 cosponsors. The bill sets ambitious targets for 2030, but only calls for Net Zero by 2050.

The environmental and climate groups converging on Glasgow agree that we need a real global program of energy conversion now, as a practical matter, not as the aspirational goal of an endlessly ineffective, hopelessly corrupt political process.

At COP25 in Madrid in 2019, Extinction Rebellion dumped a pile of horse manure outside the conference hall with the message, “The horse-shit stops here.” Of course, that didn’t stop it, but it made the point that empty talk must rapidly be eclipsed by real action. Greta Thunberg has hit the nail on the head, slamming world leaders for covering up their failures with “blah, blah, blah,” instead of taking real action.

Like Greta’s School Strike for the Climate, the climate movement in the streets of Glasgow is informed by the recognition that the science is clear and the solutions to the climate crisis are readily available. It is only political will that is lacking. This must be supplied by ordinary people, from all walks of life, through creative, dramatic action and mass mobilization, to demand the political and economic transformation we so desperately need.

The usually mild-mannered UN Secretary General Guterres made it clear that “street heat” will be key to saving humanity. “The climate action army – led by young people – is unstoppable,” he told world leaders in Glasgow. “They are larger. They are louder. And, I assure you, they are not going away.”

The post COP 26: Can a Singing, Dancing Rebellion Save the World? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Waking up to Climate Change Dinosaurs

Morning listening on October 13.  Australia’s Radio National.  Members of the Morrison government are doing their interview rounds with the host, Fran Kelly.  We enter a time warp, speeding away into another dimension where planet Earth, and Australia, look different.

The first interview, with Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, is filled with the sort of rejigged reality that is less mind expansion than contraction.   It is easy to forget that she is a member of the government.  She tells listeners that her constituents and the electorate she represented were not interested in climate change or its effects.  A bold, quixotic reading.  They were also the “most marginalised” and vulnerable in Australia.  This would be a fascinating take for those in the employ of Rio Tinto and other mining giants.

McKenzie (“Fran, Fran, Fran,” she implored with adolescent petulance) was all for those in rural areas, claiming that, “We have been able to avoid very bad outcomes for our country.”  Environmental catastrophe, imminent impoverishment of the farming sector due to climate change, are evidently palatable and digestible outcomes.  Interest, suggested McKenzie, should instead be shown for those workers who, in erecting solar panels, ended up mowing the grass underneath them.

Much of what the Senator said had already been given an airing in The Australian on October 10.  She lamented that the Business Council of Australia, National Farmers Federation and the Minerals of Council had wobbled on the issue of “net-zero emissions” and how embracing such a policy would “hit our regional export industries, and people living in the lowest socio-economic electorates in the country”.  She proudly admitted that her party had been “intransigent during this long debate”, making them unpopular as dinner-party guests.  “We have been doing our job for the people who sent us to Canberra.”

Praise was heaped upon the environmental vandal’s resume.  “We avoided a carbon tax; we have overseen record growth in mining and agricultural exports; and we have pushed for technology solutions, while remaining committed to being careful stewards of the Earth.”  With stewards like these, who needs genuine ecological criminals?

The second interview does little to steady listeners.  It is with a minister whose portfolio, at least in Australia, has been emptied of all meaning, let alone relevance.  A little time with Environment Minister Sussan Ley, and you can be reassured that the Great Barrier Reef is thriving, that the Morrison government is at the forefront of conservation efforts, and that Australia is the greenest of citizens.  Such views can be expressed alongside the fact that Australia has one of the highest extinction rates of species in the world.

These morning encounters with the climate change dinosaurs form the backdrop of whether Australia will even send its prime minister to COP26.  Going to Glasgow has become as fascinating for the press and pundits as the fact that a climate conference is taking place.  Morrison has even convinced the national broadcaster – he boastful of coal’s merits to the point of bringing in a lump to show fellow parliamentarians – that he has “signalled his own climate conversion”.  The evidence?  Remarks made in February 2020 at the National Press Club that “our goal is to reach net zero emissions as soon as possible, and preferably by 2050”.  Hardly a conversion.

A fairer portrayal of this is the fact that Morrison is finding himself being mugged by an increasingly unpleasant, even horrific reality.  He has tried to impress some of this upon his Coalition partners who function in the narrowest belt of reality but has found it mightily difficult.  The Nationals remain proud of their efforts in killing off prime ministers and their plans, be it the emissions trading scheme, the National Energy Guarantee, or the carbon tax.  Environmental ideas, it has been known for a long time, go to the Nationals party room to die, along with their defenders.

To be convinced about the merits of “net zero”, party members will have to be bribed by the deep purse commonly known as the Treasury.  The price for one of them, Keith Pitt, current Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, is a AU$250 billion publicly funded “loan facility” for the mining sector.  For McKenzie, it is an undertaking that targets be suspended in the event regional areas were harmed.

Pitt’s suggestion, given a nudge along by Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, is all the more remarkable for what it entails: a massive public subsidising of the fossil fuel sector to spite wicked banks who have withdrawn investment.  Senator Matt Canavan, has defended this version of fossil fuel socialism.  “Global banks that want to control who has a job in Australia should be locked out of our country.”  By all means, let Australians “pay higher interest rates but that would be worth it to protect our independence”.  This, despite his constant clamouring that “net zero means higher energy prices for all”.

There would also be a delicious irony to this, given that such a fund would benefit the business interests of Australia’s current bugbear of choice, the People’s Republic of China.  Even as the Australian government beds itself firmly down with the United States for any future conflict with Beijing, such a transfer of cash, as Michael West points out, would benefit gas pipelines operator Jemena and Alinta Energy, and Yancoal Australia and coal miner CITIC Australia.  And that’s just a small spread of potential beneficiaries.

As things stand, it is a wonder Prime Minister Scott Morrison is even bothering.  The Australian delegation in Glasgow is bound to be poorly briefed, confused and barely able.  The coalition government, still weighed down by fossil-fuel fantasists, will continue to be engaged in a battle of such stunning incoherence any undertakings on carbon neutrality and change can only be regarded as unreliable and disingenuous.  As McKenzie and a few of her lobotomised colleagues would have you believe, climate change is something that happens to other people.  In the meantime, fossil fuel socialists the world over, unite!

The post Waking up to Climate Change Dinosaurs first appeared on Dissident Voice.

U.S. Militarism’s Toxic Impact on Climate Policy

LONDON, ENGLAND: Protesters hold signs at the YouthStrike4Climate student march on April 12, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. Students are protesting across the UK due to the lack of government action to combat climate change. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

President Biden addressed the UN General Assembly on September 21 with a warning that the climate crisis is fast approaching a “point of no return,” and a promise that the United States would rally the world to action. “We will lead not just with the example of our power but, God willing, with the power of our example,” he said.

But the U.S. is not a leader when it comes to saving our planet. Yahoo News recently published a report titled “Why the U.S. Lags Behind Europe on Climate Goals by 10 or 15 years.”  The article was a rare acknowledgment in the U.S. corporate media that the United States has not only failed to lead the world on the climate crisis, but has actually been the main culprit blocking timely collective action to head off a global existential crisis.

The anniversary of September 11th and the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan should be ringing alarm bells inside the head of every American, warning us that we have allowed our government to spend trillions of dollars waging war, chasing shadows, selling arms and fueling conflict all over the world, while ignoring real existential dangers to our civilization and all of humanity.

The world’s youth are dismayed by their parents’ failures to tackle the climate crisis.  A new survey of 10,000 people between the ages of 16 and 25 in ten countries around the world found that many of them think humanity is doomed and that they have no future.

Three-quarters of the young people surveyed said they are afraid of what the future will bring, and 40% say the crisis makes them hesitant to have children. They are also frightened, confused and angered by the failure of governments to respond to the crisis. As the BBC reported, “They feel betrayed, ignored and abandoned by politicians and adults.”

Young people in the U.S. have even more reason to feel betrayed than their European counterparts. America lags far behind Europe on renewable energy. European countries started fulfilling their climate commitments under the Kyoto Protocol in the 1990s and now get 40% of their electricity from renewable sources, while renewables provide only 20% of electric power in America.

Since 1990, the baseline year for emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol, Europe has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 24%, while the United States has failed to cut them at all, spewing out 2% more than it did in 1990. In 2019, before the Covid pandemic, the United States produced more oil and more natural gas than ever before in its history.

NATO, our politicians and the corporate media on both sides of the Atlantic promote the idea that the United States and Europe share a common “Western” culture and values. But our very different lifestyles, priorities and responses to this climate crisis tell a tale of two very different, even divergent economic and political systems.

The idea that human activity is responsible for climate change was understood decades ago and is not controversial in Europe. But in America, politicians and news media have blindly or cynically parroted fraudulent, self-serving disinformation campaigns by ExxonMobil and other vested interests.

While the Democrats have been better at “listening to the scientists,” let’s not forget that, while Europe was replacing fossil fuels and nuclear plants with renewable energy, the Obama administration was unleashing a fracking boom to switch from coal-fired power plants to new plants running on fracked gas.

Why is the U.S. so far behind Europe when it comes to addressing global warming? Why do only 60% of Europeans own cars, compared with 90% of Americans? And why does each U.S. car owner clock double the mileage that European drivers do? Why does the United States not have modern, energy-efficient, widely-accessible public transportation, as Europe does?

We can ask similar questions about other stark differences between the United States and Europe. On poverty, inequality, healthcare, education and social insurance, why is the United States an outlier from what are considered societal norms in other wealthy countries?

One answer is the enormous amount of money the U.S spends on militarism. Since 2001, the United States has allocated $15 trillion (in FY2022 dollars) to its military budget, outspending its 20 closest military competitors combined.

The U.S. spends far more of its GDP (the total value of goods produced and services) on the military than any of the other 29 Nato countries—3.7% in 2020 compared to 1.77%. And while the U.S. has been putting intense pressure on NATO countries to spend at least 2% of their GDP on their militaries, only ten of them have done so. Unlike in the U.S., the military establishment in Europe has to contend with significant opposition from liberal politicians and a more educated and mobilized public.

From the lack of universal healthcare to levels of child poverty that would be unacceptable in other wealthy countries, our government’s under-investment in everything else is the inevitable result of these skewed priorities, which leave America struggling to get by on what is left over after the U.S. military bureaucracy has raked off the lion’s share – or should we say the “generals’ share”? – of the available resources.

Federal infrastructure and “social” spending in 2021 amount to only about 30% of the money spent on militarism. The infrastructure package that Congress is debating is desperately needed, but the $3.5 trillion is spread over 10 years and is not enough.

On climate change, the infrastructure bill includes only $10 billion per year for conversion to green energy, an important but small step that will not reverse our current course toward a catastrophic future. Investments in a Green New Deal must be bookended by corresponding reductions in the military budget if we are to correct our government’s perverted and destructive priorities in any lasting way. This means standing up to the weapons industry and military contractors, which the Biden administration has so far failed to do.

The reality of America’s 20-year arms race with itself makes complete nonsense of the administration’s claims that the recent arms build-up by China now requires the U.S. to spend even more. China spends only a third of what the U.S. spends, and what is driving China’s increased military spending is its need to defend itself against the ever-growing U.S. war machine that has been “pivoting” to the waters, skies and islands surrounding its shores since the Obama administration.

Biden told the UN General Assembly that “ we close this period of relentless war, we’re opening a new era of relentless diplomacy.” But his exclusive new military alliance with the U.K. and Australia, and his request for a further increase in military spending to escalate a dangerous arms race with China that the United States started in the first place, reveal just how far Biden has to go to live up to his own rhetoric, on diplomacy as well as on climate change.

The United States must go to the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow in November ready to sign on to the kind of radical steps that the UN and less developed countries are calling for. It must make a real commitment to leaving fossil fuels in the ground; quickly convert to a net-zero renewable energy economy; and help developing countries to do the same. As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says, the summit in Glasgow “must be the turning point” in the climate crisis.

That will require the United States to seriously reduce the military budget and commit to peaceful, practical diplomacy with China and Russia. Genuinely moving on from our self-inflicted military failures and the militarism that led to them would free up the U.S. to enact programs that address the real existential crisis our planet faces – a crisis against which warships, bombs and missiles are worse than useless.

The post U.S. Militarism’s Toxic Impact on Climate Policy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What’s Up With COP26?

The UK (in partnership with Italy) will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP26 in Glasgow on October 31- November 12, 2021.

COP26 will be one of the most significant meetings in modern human history, comparable to the meeting of the Big Three at the Tehran Conference November 28, 1943 when the Normandy invasion was agreed, codenamed Operation Overlord and launched in June 1944. Thenceforth, tyranny was stopped, an easily identified worldwide threat symbolized by a toothbrush mustache. Today’s tyranny is faceless but recklessly beyond the scope of that era because it’s already everywhere all at once! And, ten-times-plus as powerful as all of the munitions of WWII.

What’s at risk at COP26?

Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs answers that all-important query in a summary report intended for heads of governments, entitled: Climate Change Risk Assessment 2021.

The report introduces the subject with three key statements:

1) The World is dangerously off track to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

2) The risks are compounding.

3) Without immediate action the impacts will be devastating in the coming decades.

The report highlights current emissions status with resulting temperature pathways. Currently, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) indicate 1% reduction of emissions by 2030 as compared to 2010 levels. To that end, and somewhat shockingly, if emissions are not drastically curtailed by 2030, the report details a series of serious impacts to humanity locked in by 2040-50, which is the time-frame for item #3 to kick in, which states: “Impacts will be devastating.”

But, hark: Governments at COP26 will have an opportunity to accelerate emissions reductions by “ambitious revisions of their NDCs.” Whereas, if emissions follow the current NDCs, the chance of keeping temperatures below 2°C above pre-industrial levels (the upper limit imposed by Paris ’15) is less than 5%.

Not only that, but any relapse or stasis in emissions reduction policies could lead to a worst case 7°C, which the paper labels a 10% chance at the moment.

The paper lambastes the current fad of “net zero pledges” which “lack policy detail and delivery mechanisms.” Meanwhile, the deficit between the NDC targets and the carbon budget widens by the year. In essence, empty pledges don’t cut it, period!

Failure to slash emissions by 2030 will have several serious negative impacts by 2040:

  • 9B people will be hit by major heatwaves at various intervals of time.
  • 400 million people will be exposed to temperatures that exceed “the workability threshold.” Too hot to work!
  • Of more immediate and extremely shocking concern, if drastic reductions do not occur by 2030, the paper suggests “the number of people on the planet exposed to heat stress exceeding the survivability threshold is likely to surpass 10 million a year.” This can only refer to the infamous Wet Bulb Temperature, meaning:A threshold is reached when the air temperature climbs above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity is above 90 percent. The human body has limits. If “temperature plus humidity” is high enough, or +95/90, even a healthy person seated in the shade with plentiful water to drink will suffer severely or likely die. Climate models only a few years ago predicted widespread wet-bulb thresholds to hit late this century; however, global warming is not waiting around that long. Indeed, the Wet Bulb Temperature death count of 10 million per year nearly scales alongside WWII deaths of 75 million, both military and civilian, over six years or 12.5M per year.
  • Population demands will necessitate 50% more food by 2050, but without huge emissions reductions starting now, yields will decline by 2040 as croplands hit by severe drought rises to 32%/year. Fifty percent more food demand in the face of 32% rise in drought impact does not add up very well.
  • Wheat and rice account for 37% of calorific intake, but without drastic cuts, >35% of global cropland for these critical crops will be hit by damaging hot spells.
  • By 2040, without the big cuts in emissions, 700 million people per year will be exposed to droughts lasting at least 6 months duration at a time. “No region will be spared.”

Accordingly “Many of the impacts described are likely to be locked in by 2040, and become so severe they go beyond the limits of what many countries can adapt to… Climate change risks are increasing over time, and what might be a small risk in the near term could embody overwhelming impacts in the medium to long term.” (Pg. 5)

Chapter 4 of the paper covers Cascading Systemic Risks, which is an eye-opener. Systemic risks materialize as a chain, or cascade, impacting a whole system, inclusive of people, infrastructure, economy, societal systems and ecosystems. 70 experts analyzed cascading risks, as follows:  “The cascading risks over which the participating experts expressed greatest concern were the interconnections between shifting weather patterns, resulting in changes to ecosystems, and the rise of pests and diseases, which, combined with heatwaves and drought, will likely drive unprecedented crop failure, food insecurity and migration of people. Subsequently, these impacts will likely result in increased infectious diseases (greater prevalence of current infectious diseases, as well as novel variants), and a negative feedback loop compounding and amplifying each of these impacts.” (Pg. 38)

“Climate change contributes to the creation of conditions that are more susceptible to wildfires, principally via hotter and drier conditions. In the period 2015–18, measured against 2001–14, 77 per cent of countries saw an increase in daily population exposure to wildfires, with India and China witnessing 21 million and 12 million exposures respectively. California experienced a fivefold increase in annual burned area between 1972 and 2018. There, average daytime temperatures of warm-season days have increased by around 1.4°C since the early 1970s, increasing the conditions for fires, and consistent with trends simulated by climate models.” (Pg. 39)

And, the biggest shocking statistic of all pertains to the high risk red code danger region of the planet that is ripe for massive methane emissions: “In Siberia, a prolonged heatwave in the first half of 2020 caused wide-scale wildfires, loss of permafrost and an invasion of pests. It is estimated that climate change has already made such events more than 600 times more likely in this region.” (Pg. 40)

“600 times more likely” in the planet’s most methane-enriched permafrost region is reason enough to cut CO2 missions to the bone, no questions asked.

Several climate change issues dangerously reflect on fragility of the food system and a pronounced lack of adaptation measures as well as natural systems and ecosystems “at the edge of capacity.” Lack of social safety and social cohesion is found everywhere, all of which can erupt as a result of an unforgiving climate system that is overly stressed and broken.

Cascades will likely lead to breakdown of governance due to limited food supplies and lack of income bringing on increasingly violent extremists groups, paramilitary intervention, organized violence, and conflict between people and states, all of which has already commenced.

Already, migration pressures are a leading edge of climate-related breakdowns in society. Each year in 2008-20 an average of 21.8 million people have been displaced by weather-related disasters of extreme heat, floods, storms, and wildfires. In the most recent year, 30 million people in 143 countries worldwide were displaced by such climate disasters.

Without doubt, the eyes of the world will be focused on COP26 to judge commitments by governments.

There is no time left for failure because failure breeds even worse failure.

The post What’s Up With COP26? first appeared on Dissident Voice.