Category Archives: greenhouse gas emissions

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 “..as 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.

Complacency Rules: Consumerism and the Environment

The 16 Year Old, middle class, privileged, argues that meat and other animal produce are essential for his health, his ability to play sport, and the development of his adolescent brain; besides, one person becoming vegetarian/vegan, won’t make any difference to the environmental crisis.

The total failure to respond in any meaningful way to the environmental emergency rests firmly within the boundaries of such complacency. It can be found in all areas, from politicians and corporate board rooms to small businesses, NGO’s and community groups, education institutions, homes, and, apparently, some teenagers.

Complacency and the refusal to change individual behavior and collective ways of living are stoking the underlying cause of the crisis Consumerism. Irresponsible Compulsive Consumption, as habitually practiced by populations in the rich nations, principally and excessively by the wealthy, but to a lesser degree throughout all sections of society.

Consumerism is the bedrock of the prevailing socio-economic system and materialistic way of life. Sold duplicitously as the Path to Happiness and Contentment it has poisoned the planet and created unhealthy societies of divided, insecure individuals. Inherent within the Ideology of Division is a methodology and set of values that encourage selfishness, greed and complacency. Sufficiency, cooperation and social responsibility, all essential if the environmental crisis is to be met, whilst routinely spouted by politicians and the like are thin on the ground or, more often than not, totally absent.

The environment cannot wait

Governments and businesses are completely invested in maintaining high levels of consumption; their profitability and continued existence depend on it. Indeed, far from prioritizing the environment and working to change societal behavior and deter individuals from spending, huge resources are expended to persuade and encourage consumption; to expand market share, develop new products and increase profits for shareholders.

It is this poisonous Ideology of Profit, which, in direct contrast to the needs of the environment for simplicity of living, collectivity and sharing, perpetuates, not just rampant consumerism, but widespread apathy and inaction. Governments talk a concerned environmental talk, but policies are determined by economic growth and voters’ concerns rather than CO2 emissions, pollution, or bio-diversity. And most companies, particularly big ones, routinely demonstrate that they don’t give a damn about the environment, unless by doing so sales increase and their annual dividends rise.

The environment cannot wait until governments and business judge that going “green” is more profitable or popular than the destructive status quo, before they act in a responsible manner. It is their insatiable thirst for power and profit, and their deep attachment to the Ideology of Greed – because, while the majority suffer, it has served them very well, that allows collective complacency to persist, and complacency (not money) is the root of all evil.

The final leg in the trinity of environmental neglect is formed by Ignorance or Misinformation. Ignorance of how individual choices impact on the natural environment; Ignorance of the depth and scale of the crisis and Ignorance of the impact of diet on the planet. Such ignorance and lack of awareness exist due to decades of government negligence in countries everywhere (some more, some less). This could be changed with a UN coordinated public awareness campaign; a global project designed to make plain the relationship between consumer-based lifestyles (including animal agriculture) and environmental destruction/climate change.

Unmitigated mess

While it is true that only governments and business can make the needed large scale changes (fossil fuels to renewables, electrification of transportation networks,  green production methods etc), individuals can make a valuable impact, and when individuals act collectively large-scale change can be accomplished.

Ultimately ‘we’ are the problem. It is our obsessive ignorant behavior, our complacency, greed and selfishness that has poisoned the planet. And it is up to all of us to act in the most comprehensive way possible to begin to clean up the unmitigated mess we have caused. We are all only ‘one person’, but every day we have a choice, every time we eat, or shop, or travel: Are our actions, our choices and decisions responsible or harmful, is the way we individually live detrimental to the planet or not?

Diet is one area everyone can look at; reducing the intake of animal produce or, better still, moving to a plant-based diet is the single most important step most individuals can take. In some countries there are encouraging signs that people are waking up to this fact, and the number of vegetarians/vegans, particularly among young people, is growing. And according to the Vegetarian Resource Group (US), providing a varied diet is followed, all their nutritional needs can be adequately met. In fact, various detailed studies show that, vegetarians are at lower risk of a variety of diseases and conditions, including: heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, (conversely, The World Health Organization has classified red and processed meats as cancer-causing), and obesity. And according to Walter Willett at Harvard School of Public Health, “There is strong evidence that a plant based diet [vegan] is the optimal diet for living a long and healthy life.”

So, cutting out animal produce is not only good for the environment, it’s good for human health. Despite this, globally only some 8% of people identify as vegan, vegetarian, or something in between. Meaning 92% of the 7.8 billion world population consume meat, fish, poultry and all manner of dairy. The environmental result of this obsession is disastrous and multi-faceted.

Animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), which are the poisons disrupting natural climate rhythms. The  United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization’s (UNFAO) put the figure at 14.5% of total emissions, but estimates vary, some studies suggesting it’s a good deal higher: Greenpeace e.g. say that, “Livestock and animal feed is responsible for approximately 60% of direct global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

Whatever the precise number, animal agriculture is clearly a major source, if not the greatest source of emissions (surpassing the transportation industry); it’s also the biggest cause (80%) of deforestation, habitat destruction and species extinction, contributing to soil erosion and water contamination. And it’s driven by the incessant demand for meat, dairy and fish.

A revolution in behavior and values is needed, moving away from excess to sufficiency, from selfishness to group responsibility, from complacency to action. Education and awareness plus a sense of imperative are the keys to igniting such a shift and generating urgent action. Action by government and businesses and action by us, all of us, particularly those of us living in developed nations where the historic burden for the catastrophe rests; action rooted in love, demonstrated as social and environmental responsibility undertaken by each and every one of us.

The post Complacency Rules: Consumerism and the Environment first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Drought Clobbers the World

According to SPEI Global Drought Monitor, no continent is spared the ravages of severe drought, except for Antarctica. This is happening at a global temperature of 1.2°C above baseline, not 1.5°C above baseline which climate scientists agree is locked in. This article explores the countrywide impact of 1.2°C above baseline for the most vulnerable as well as the most privileged. The journey starts in Glasgow.

The world’s political leaders need to pay special attention to the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference scheduled for November 1st-12th in Glasgow as scientists of the world meet to present the latest info on climate change/global warming.

Those world leaders need to hone in on the most far-reaching most effective most promising ideas to fix the climate, tame global warming, and stop fossil fuels by doing whatever it takes to halt carbon emissions (Biden’s plan won’t do it).

Climatically, how much longer can the planet hang in there?

The world is coming apart at the seams as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from factories, utilities, cars, planes, trains, agriculture, and a horrifying meltdown of permafrost in the farthest northern latitudes, spiked by Biblical fires, and soon the rainforests will kick in as tipping points trigger, thus reversing the world’s greatest carbon sinks to carbon emission sources in competition with cars, trains, and planes. The entire planet is trapped in a drought that’s so severe that it’s difficult to quantify. It’s that pervasive.

By ignoring science for far too long, leaders of the world have failed their own people. To that end, if the world’s leaders cannot figure out what’s happening to the climate system as fire, drought, and floods strike like never before (explained in more detail herein) then they should be tossed out of office. Weak leaders beget feeble solutions.

After all, there is little room for error for society at large. Climate change has backed them into a corner from which they can barely escape, maybe not at all. Soon, there will be no choice other than outright revolution, forcing the world’s leaders out, similar to the French Revolution of the late 18th century when aristocracy and royalty, the one percent (1%) of the era, holding onto their heads for dear life, fled Paris by the thousands, many fleeing to England (See: Ninety-Three, by Victor Hugo, 1874 publication detailing The Great Terror)

Throughout history when the masses are harmed or abused beyond some undefined incongruous limit, but enough to seek recompense, they follow the money, similar to The Revolutions of 1848 and actually witnessed in person by aristocrats in the streets, holding their breath whilst horrified by the Storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789.

As it happens, ubiquitous drought conditions know no boundaries. A Middle East water crisis is threatening millions of people to the precipice of famine. According to a recent AP article, Aid Groups: Millions in Syria, Iraq Losing Access to Water d/d August 23, 2021, it is a dire situation that, by default, could lead to desperate open warfare and massive human tragedy.

In the face of extreme heat, millions of people in Syria and Iraq and Lebanon are at risk of losing access to essentials for life: (1) water (2) electricity (3) food. Similar to America’s West, water resources are at record lows due to little rainfall and drought conditions caused by global warming now widely recognized as an anthropogenic affair, meaning “human-caused” for the benefit of those who’ve missed class.

More than 12 million people in those countries are at risk, today, right now. And, making matters much worse, two dams in northern Syria that supply power to 3 million people face “imminent closure” because of low water levels (a new phenomena starting to appear throughout the world). Moreover, drought conditions are spreading water-borne diseases throughout displacement settlements. Alas, the Middle East crisis stands above all crises.

What will the people do? Will they fight for survival? Indeed, the situation is fraught with danger. It’s a time bomb that’s already ticking.

In Lebanon 4 million people face severe water shortage. Not only that but making matters equally bad, in addition to severe drought, the Litani River is overloaded with sewage and waste and polluted nearly beyond recognition. It is the country’s longest river and major source for water supply, irrigation, and hydropower.

The planet is aching, crying out for relief. It’s truly a worldwide crisis. Global warming is strutting its stuff whilst greenhouse gases increase beyond all-time record levels, never decreasing, heating up the planet more and more to the breaking point at the global temperature of 1.2°C above baseline, not 1.5°C above, not 2.0°C above.

What of 1.5°C (IPCC’s top end preference) or 2.0°C above baseline as discussed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, levels that should not be exceeded? Yet, uh-oh, the planet is already in trouble at 1.2°C above baseline. Indeed, it’s an open secret that the climate system is struggling; it’s in trouble.

“The climate in trouble” resonates far and wide; e.g., Fridays for Future, started in 2018 by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, which is a very popular org for young activists, is openly critical of the outright stupidity and blatant ignorance of adults. “How Dare You!” blurted Greta Thunberg age 16 at the UN Climate Summit in NY in 2019, as she addressed an imperial body of climate intellects.

Droughts take no prisoners, as the entire Mediterranean region has been hit hard. Turkey faces its most severe drought in a decade. Istanbul is dangerously close to losing its water supply. Dr. Akgun Ilhan, a Turkish water mgmt. expert told Euronews: “The natural water cycle is already interrupted by climate change,” but Dr. İlhan suggests it’s also affected by urban surfaces that are sealed with asphalt and concrete (the human footprint) “leaving very little green spaces where water can meet soil and fill groundwater resources.”

Worldwide, wetlands are down 87% over the past 200+ years, only 13% remains as they’re plowed under or covered over with no green spaces for water to meet soil or fill groundwater resources. It is significant that wetlands are the primary source for replenishment of aquifers.

Alas, with 87% of wetland hydrologic systems gone, massive destructive floods precede ironic losses of aquifer resources. With wetlands gone, water goes to where the people live (think Germany or China) and not through nature’s wetlands for distribution via the natural hydrology network. Meantime, according to NASA, one-third of the world’s largest aquifers are “stressed” because of the loss of wetland feeder systems. This is an invisible monumental festering problem.

In the United States, nearly one-half of the country is currently afflicted by drought. Worse yet, the West is experiencing ultra dire conditions, the worst in 1,200 years, with several small outlying communities suffering complete (100%) loss of water. Arizona is already calculating what industries will be forced to cut water in the near future as the Colorado River is already overly stressed and overly depleted, unable to meet heavy demand.

Brazil’s drought is the worst ever recorded. Hydroelectric plants can’t fully operate because of low reservoir levels. Chile has endured a mega drought for years. According to a recent Reuters report: 400,000 people who live in rural areas of Chile today receive water via tanker trucks. Chile’s spectacular “Mediterranean climate” in the central region, home to vineyards and farms, has taken a big hit. Scientists doubt it’ll ever recover its spectacular climate zone.

Even Israel, which invested $500 million in the world’s largest desalination plant, supplying 20% of its water needs, is warning citizens that the drought/water crisis is so severe that it will “struggle” to provide all residents with enough water to meet basic needs by next summer.

In Russia, some agricultural regions are at risk of losing up to one-half of their harvest because of punishing drought. Russia’s famous Black Earth Region, nicknamed as such because of its world famous high soil moisture content is now a bleak greyish color. Meanwhile, drought in Madagascar has pushed the country to the edge of famine.

A recent major research report claims that since 2014 Europe has experienced the most extreme series of droughts and heat waves in more than 2,000 years.  1

According to BBC News, in Taiwan, considered one of the “rainiest places in the world,” many reservoirs are at less than 20% of capacity and some below 10%. At the primary water source for Taiwan’s $100B semiconductor industry, the water at Baoshan No. 2 Reservoir is at 7%. This has serious international business ramifications.

The list of drought conditions hitting every continent, except Antarctica, is overwhelming. Indeed, the worldwide drought should be categorized as a triple-extra-alarm emergency with all hands on deck. Will it be?

Will world leaders convene to stop fossil fuel destruction of the planet?

Or, will a neglected broken climate system force people to fight for survival, and what does that imply?

  1. “Recent European Drought Extremes Beyond Common Era Background Variability”, Nature Geoscience, March 15, 2021.
The post Drought Clobbers the World first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Complacency and the Environmental Catastrophe

Ask any reasonably well-informed person what the cause of climate change is and the chances are they will say greenhouse gas emissions (GGE’s), but they would only be partially correct. While it is true that man-made GGE’s are clogging Earth’s lower atmosphere, trapping heat and resulting in widespread climate change, the underlying 21st century cause, in contrast to the 19th and early 20th century when information was scarce, is something much more personal and lethal: complacency. Widespread complacency among politicians, big business and to a lesser degree, the general public, is the reason why, despite the various cries for restraint, global GGE’s continue to increase.

Complacency is why air pollution is getting worse in cities and towns across the world, leading to a range of health problems and premature deaths; complacency has caused the destruction of the planet’s rain forests, 85% of which have been lost through human activity, and it’s why the oceans have been poisoned and robbed of fish. Complacency is fueling the greatest extinction of animal and plant species in our history, it’s setting forests alight, filling the oceans and rivers with plastics and other pollutants, and is the reason why the ice mass in the North Pole is melting at unprecedented rates, leading to rising sea levels, flooding and the erosion of land, destroying homes and natural habitats, taking lives, displacing people – potentially millions.

It is complacency, which a wise man once described as the root of all evil, that is causing all of this and more – the ‘I’m all right, Jack’ mentality’. And no matter how many reports are published and forecasts made, or how often someone speaks or writes about what is the greatest crisis in human history, few listen, even fewer act and nothing substantive changes, certainly nothing that matches the scale of the catastrophe. Do people even know there is a crisis, really? The level of apathy amongst governments and corporate power beggars belief, as does the lack of coverage in mainstream media, such as the BBC. Environmental issues should be headline news every single day, but scan the websites and publications of the mass media and the environment is barely mentioned.

Complacency is reinforced by greed and ignorance, greed for limitless profits, short-term gain and material comfort and ignorance of the scale, range and urgency of the crisis, and of the connection between lifestyle and environmental ruin. The fact that animal agriculture is responsible for more GGE’s than any other sector, for example, is not common knowledge, and when it is known, changes in behavior, where they occur at all, are slow. Cutting out meat, fish and dairy reduces a person’s individual GGE’s more than any other single factor. In a positive sign, and for a range of reasons, more people than ever are adopting a vegan diet, particularly in Europe and America. But globally 90% of the population continues to eat animal produce, and this needs to dramatically change. Dissipating ignorance and cultivating greater awareness is badly needed; to this end, a coordinated public information program is needed throughout the world; this is a worldwide crisis and, as all those working in the area know, it requires a unified ‘Environment First’ response.

S.O.P.: Save Our Planet

Restoring the planet to health is the major need of the time; together with a shift in lifestyles, this requires economic systemic change and a reorientation of political priorities. Knowing there is an environmental crisis, claiming to be concerned but doing little or nothing is pure hypocrisy; to their utter shame the vast majority of politicians are environmental hypocrites; weak and devoid of vision. T,hey constitute the very embodiment of complacency; they are indebted to big business and have repeatedly shown that they cannot be relied on to initiate the radical policies needed to keep fossil fuels in the ground and repair the environmental carnage mankind has caused.

The number one priority of governments around the world is ‘the economy’. This is the sacred cow around which they tiptoe and to whom they make their reverential offerings in the hope of being blessed by limitless economic growth, no matter the environmental cost. Where they exist at all, Government policies to reduce GGE’s are designed and limited by the impact they will have on economic development; as such they remain totally inadequate.

Development takes place within the constructs of an unjust system that is dependent on constant consumption, encourages greed, produces huge quantities of waste, and is maintained by the relentless agitation of desire. These thoroughly negative elements work to the detriment of human beings and are the driving impulses behind behavior that has led to, and is perpetuating, the environmental crisis. The system demands that irresponsible consumption not only continues, but deepens and expands into areas of the world hitherto relatively untouched by its poison; it obstructs environmentally responsible policies and lacks the flexibility required to face the challenges, certainly within the time-scale needed if the planet is to be restored to health. Given these facts, the only sane, rational solution is to change the system to one that allows for an urgent meaningful response: a sustainable and just system based on altogether different principles and reasons for being. Neo-liberalism is not a living organism without alternatives, as some devotees of mammon would have us believe: it is a man-made structure and can therefore be redesigned to meet the urgent social and environmental needs of the time.

Systemic change and shifts in government policy will not just happen by themselves, it is up to all of us to demand that the environment becomes the number one priority for governments across the world. At the same time, we all need to examine how we live and ensure that we do so in a way that is determined, first and foremost, by environmental considerations – not by pleasure, convenience and comfort, as is often the case, but by love, for living in an environmentally responsible way is an act of love.

The decisions we make today and in the coming years will affect life on Earth for thousands of years to come. Sacrifices and the breaking of habits are required and within the spirit of collective individual responsibility these should be gladly accepted. Every political, business and lifestyle decision needs to be taken with an understanding of how it affects the environment, and a simple question posed: ‘will this action add to or reduce GGE’s’? If it will increase them, then don’t do it.

Consider how you get around: do you really need that fossil-fueled car (private ownership of cars needs to be drastically reduced, particularly in cities)? What you buy and who you shop with, who supplies your energy and does it come from renewable sources? Where you go on holiday and can you avoid flying and go by train or bus? If not, go somewhere else. What do you eat? If your diet is based on animal produce then reduce your intake. Shop based on need, buy secondhand, limit how often you wash clothing, reduce waste, boycott environmentally abusive companies, write to your political representatives, call for a national public information program; live responsibly and encourage family and friends to do likewise.

Complacency, apathy and hypocrisy coalesce to form the most noxious causes of climate change and environmental vandalism, and until this Trinity of Destruction is overcome, and the crisis is taken seriously by the political class, corporations and the public at large, nothing substantive will take place; and unless fundamental change occurs, and urgently, life on Earth will become increasingly uncomfortable, ecosystems will continue to collapse, and one dark day, in the very near future, it will be too late. The Shroud of Complacency needs to be thrown off now, today, and widespread action rooted in environmental awareness initiated; where there is concerted, sustained action therein lies hope.

End Times, Dead Ahead

It is time we consider the implications of it being too late to avert a global environmental catastrophe in the lifetimes of people alive today.

— Jem Bendell, “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy”, July 27th, 2018

In other words, the world is coming to an end.

Of course it is… but when?

Professor Jem Bendell’s brilliant seminal work, “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy” d/d July 27th 2018, claims the time is now, within a decade, not sometime in the distant future. Not only that, he suggests embracing this transcendental experience that’s colloquially known as “End Times.”

Along those lines, a powerful intimately conceived film by ScientistsWarningTV.org produced by Stuart Scott captures Bendell’s inner thoughts about “what’s important” in the face of near extinction:

Bendell’s 15-minute video monologue should be viewed in the context of the current status of the world’s climate crisis, which is a mindboggling steroid-enhanced-CO2-laced trip to nowhere but trouble, and it’s smack dab on target (actually ahead of target) for a grim, bleak world that alters all life and contorts the socio-economic compact, meaning sudden death for the “neoliberal brand” of capitalism, which will not survive once the world comes to accept and recognize its inherent villainy, notably its massive extensive disruption of the earth system of life, or Gaia.

Even worse yet, total annihilation of almost all life is a probability, a scenario that a small minority of scientists embrace. Those scientists believe that an extinction event is baked-in-the-cake, inevitable, inescapable within current lifetimes because of excessive human-caused greenhouse gases such as CO2, which, in turn, disrupts James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis, meaning the biosphere has a self-regulatory effect on Earth that sustains life. Destroy one ecosystem and all others will fail in time and most of Earth becomes uninhabitable.

Decidedly, as well as factually, the planet has a long history of uninhabitable epochs known as extinction events (five times in the past), although the past occurrences were much slower than today’s zip zap exponential speedway to obliteration that literally takes one’s breath away! Never before has impending cataclysm been on such a rapid ascent as the 21st century.

On the other hand, who really believes it (“extinction”) will happen? Answer: Almost nobody believes it. As for the world at large, the “big it” isn’t remotely possible. All of which makes Bendell’s essay and monologue so intriguing and compelling as an alternative viewpoint. He embraces the “what if the worst-case scenario” really (surprise, surprise) happens?

Meantime, as things stand today, the world has come to its senses about the relentless severe dangers inherent within excessive CO2 emitted by power plants, cars, trucks, and planes. After all, greenhouse gases cumulate in the stratosphere, similar to layers of heavy woolen blankets, which, in turn, traps global heat which otherwise would escape into outer space, but no, it’s trapped.

Assuredly, excessive greenhouse gases with concomitant global warming compelled a gathering of nations at Paris 2015 in agreement to limit global warming to 1.5-2.0C?

But honestly, come on now! Are humans omnipotent enough to “control the climate” to +1.5-2.0C from baseline post industrial without unintended blowback and/or f/ups of major proportions? Is it really so simple? Answer: No.

Some knowledgeable sources claim it’ll be 10-20 years, or more, before technology is perfected and fully implemented to alter human-caused climate damage with any degree of proficiency, but that presumes an engineered concept sizeable enough in-scale to do the trick, which is the bane of on-going geoengineering efforts.

Although, eleventh-hour rescues seldom succeed within enough time.

Already, the Paris 2015 climate accord is poignant proof that the world recognizes the dangers of abrupt climate change and a lot of very smart people are scared as hell! Still, the problem remains: Nobody seems to know what to do other than theorize, experiment and talk, which is notoriously cheap.

As it happens, nothing of major consequence is being done to stop an extinction event. As of today, fossil fuels emitting CO2 remain at 80-85% of energy consumption1 the same as 50 years ago. Nothing positive has happened for decades!

Come to think of it, is it really too late?

Yes, according to Bendell, it is too late. He carefully reviewed the scientific literature as well as accessing research institutions to get to the bottom of the current status of climate change. What he discovered is basic to his conviction that society is headed for a train wreck of enormous proportions.

Deep Adaptation offers examples of likely outcomes, to wit: “With the power down, soon you wouldn’t have water coming out of your tap. You will depend upon your neighbors for food and some warmth. You will become malnourished. You won’t know whether to stay or go. You will fear being violently killed before starving to death.”

Professor Bendell concludes:

Disruptive impacts from climate change are now inevitable. Geoengineering is likely to be ineffective or counter-productive. Therefore, the mainstream climate policy community now recognizes the need to work much more on adaptation to the effects of climate change… Societies will experience disruptions to their basic functioning within less than ten years due to climate stress. Such disruptions include increased levels of malnutrition, starvation, disease, civil conflict and war – and will not avoid affluent nations.

It goes without saying Bendell’s contention may or may not play out accordingly. And in sharp contrast to his forlorn viewpoint, human ingenuity has been a powerful force over millennia and hopefully comes to the rescue. But then again, it’s human ingenuity that got us into this mess in the first place.

Is it too late?

Ecosystems are already starting to crumble where no people live so nobody sees it. Meanwhile, a lot of very smart well-informed people are scared as hell, but hush-hushed. Indeed, a few scientists, but very few public voices, believe society is fast approaching “lights out.” It’s why Jem Bendell wrote “Deep Adaptation”.

Postscript: The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said mid January 2019 marked the hottest days on record. Authorities are blaming the pounding heat wave for massive die-offs of bats on biblical scale and fish, as well as farms with “fruit still on the trees cooked from the inside out.” Ominous? Oh, Yes!

  1. Source: U.S. EIA, Washington, D.C

Democracy Or Extinction

What will it take for governments to take real action on climate? When will they declare an emergency and do what needs to be done? How much concerted, peaceful public action will be required to disrupt the current economic and political system that is driving humanity to the brink of extinction?

Meanwhile, climate records continue to tumble. 2018 was the hottest for the world’s oceans since records began in the 1950s, continuing a deeply worrying trend. Moreover, the last five years were the five hottest. The consequences are likely to be catastrophic. The oceans are crucial to the Earth’s climate; they absorb more than 90 per cent of the heating generated by greenhouse gases. Yet another sign of serious climate disruption is revealed with seemingly no impact on the juggernaut of economic ‘growth’ and government decision-making.

John Abraham, one of the authors of the new scientific study on this alarming rise in ocean temperatures, said:

We scientists sound like a broken record. Every year we present the science and plead for action. Not nearly enough is being done. We can still tackle climate change, but we must act immediately. We have the means to make a difference, we lack only the will.

It is, of course, heartening to see scientists finally being this outspoken. But it is not accurate to keep repeating the mantra, as many well-intentioned people do, that ‘we’ lack ‘the will’. Who is the ‘we’ here? Big business, powerful financial interests and corporate lobbies have fought tooth and nail to oppose any substantive action. They have battled hard over decades to obscure, rubbish and downplay the science – with huge sums devoted to disinformation campaigns – and to bend government policy in their favour.

US environmentalist Bill McKibben recently observed of the fossil fuel lobby that:

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

One could argue that there is a lack of public will to expose and counter corporate power in collusion with nation states; that there needs to be a grassroots revolution to overturn this destructive system of rampant global capitalism. Perhaps there needs to be a revolution in human consciousness; an increased awareness of what it is to be fully human that respects ourselves, other species and the planet itself. Most likely, all of the above. If so, it is vital to say and do much more than merely say, ‘we lack only the will’.

Take the ad-dependent, establishment-preserving, Corbyn-hating Guardian. It obfuscated along similar lines in an editorial sparked by the record-breaking ocean temperatures. Global warming, the editors said:

can still be tackled if we act immediately; this is a test of will, not ability.

But where is the Guardian‘s systemic analysis of root causes of climate chaos and what needs to be done about it? The Polish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, who was murdered by right-wing paramilitary forces one hundred years ago this month, warned that global capitalism would lead to environmental destruction. This is not a defect of capitalism, she argued, but an inherent feature of a system that is rooted in brutality, gaping inequality and the unsustainable extraction of natural resources.

In her discussion of Luxemburg’s legacy, Ana Cecilia Dinerstein, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Bath, noted:

This is evident in the recent decision of Brazil’s new far-right president, Bolsonaro, to “integrate the Amazon region into the Brazilian economy”. This would expand the authority and reach of powerful agribusiness corporations into the Amazon Rainforest – threatening the rights and livelihoods of indigenous people and the ecosystems their lives are entwined with.

This destruction of indigenous peoples and ecosystems has been inflicted on the continent since Columbus ‘discovered’ America in 1492. Globally, the process intensified during the Industrial Revolution and, in more recent decades, with the rise of destructive ‘neoliberal’ economic policies pursued with ideological fervour by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and later acolytes. No wonder that Luxemburg saw a stark choice between ‘socialism or barbarism’. Today, the choice is most likely ‘socialism or extinction‘.

To any reader unsettled by the scare word ‘socialism’, simply replace it with ‘democracy’: a genuinely inclusive system where the general population has proper input and control, and does not simply have its wishes overridden by a tiny elite that enriches itself at our, and the planet’s, expense.

Media Barbarism

As we have long pointed out, the corporate media are a crucial component of this barbaric and destructive system of global capitalism. Our previous media alert highlighted that even the very names of ‘our’ newspapers propagate a myth of neutral, reliable news (‘Express‘, ‘Telegraph‘, ‘The Times‘, ‘The Observer‘) or a stalwart defender of democracy (‘The Guardian‘). And, as we have also noted, BBC News promotes itself as a trusted global news brand because it supposedly ‘champions the truth’.

Propaganda is what Official Enemies – such as North Korea, Iran or Russia – pump out. But not ‘us’. Thus, BBC Newsnight will readily grant BBC correspondent John Sweeney the resources to compile a condescending report on Russia’s Sputnik News:

Sputnik UK is well-named – it’s a tin can that broadcasts its curious one-note message to the universe: Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.

Recall that Sweeney is a serial Western propagandist who welcomed, indeed pushed for, the invasion of Iraq. He wrote in the Observer in January 1999:

Life will only get better for ordinary Iraqis once the West finally stops dithering and commits to a clear, unambiguous policy of snuffing out Saddam. And when he falls the people of Iraq will say: ‘What kept you? Why did it take you so long?’

If, by contrast, a BBC correspondent had repeatedly called out the UK media’s ‘one-note message’ in boosting the war crimes of Bush and Blair – an extremely unlikely scenario – would they still have a major BBC platform? Of course not.

Or consider a recent BBC News article that proclaimed:

Facebook tackles Russians making fake news stories

That fake news is a systemic feature of BBC coverage, and the rest of Western ‘mainstream’ media, is virtually an unthinkable thought for corporate journalists. Try to imagine Facebook taking action against BBC News or the Guardian, or any other ‘mainstream’ outlet for their never-ending stream of power-friendly ‘journalism’.

Try to imagine BBC News critically examining Western propaganda, including its own output, in the same way that it treated Russian propaganda in this BBC News at Ten piece by Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford.

Try to imagine Guardian editor Katharine Viner being made accountable for the fake viral Guardian exclusive last month that Trump’s former campaigner manager Paul Manafort had held secret talks with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy. She has simply kept her head down and tried to stonewall any challenges.

Try to imagine BBC Question Time host Fiona Bruce being punished by her BBC bosses for brazenly misleading viewers about Labour being behind the Tories in the polls. Or for her poor treatment of Labour guest panellist Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, who described the BBC’s behaviour as a ‘disgrace’. Bruce is married to Nigel Sharrocks, Chairman of the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board which earns significant sums of money from the BBC. There is no mention of this on Fiona Bruce’s Wikipedia page; nor is there a Wikipedia page on Sharrocks himself.

Veteran journalist John Pilger, effectively barred from the Guardian since 2015, and largely shunned by the corporate media, is clear that:

Real journalists act as agents of people, not power.

Such a simple powerful truth shames all those editors and media ‘professionals’ masquerading as journalists on BBC News, ITV News, the Guardian and elsewhere. When was the last time you saw a BBC News political editor truly challenging any Prime Minister in the past few decades, rather than uncritically ‘reporting’ what the PM has said or even fulsomely praising them?

Pilger was asked how journalism has changed in recent years. He responded:

When I began as a journalist, especially as a foreign correspondent, the press in the UK was conservative and owned by powerful establishment forces, as it is now. But the difference compared to today is that there were spaces for independent journalism that dissented from the received wisdom of authority. That space has now all but closed and independent journalists have gone to the internet, or to a metaphoric underground.

He continued:

The single biggest challenge is rescuing journalism from its deferential role as the stenographer of great power. The United States has constitutionally the freest press on earth, yet in practice it has a media obsequious to the formulas and deceptions of power. That is why the US was effectively given media approval to invade Iraq, and Libya, and Syria and dozens of other countries.

Pilger added his strong support for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks:

The truth about Iraq and Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia and many other flashpoints was told when WikiLeaks published the revelations of whistle-blowers. […] Julian Assange is a political refugee in London for one reason only: WikiLeaks told the truth about the greatest crimes of the 21st century. He is not forgiven for that, and he should be supported by journalists and by people everywhere.

In reality, Assange has been ignored, traduced, ridiculed and smeared by corporate journalists; not least by the Guardian which capitalised on his and WikiLeaks’ work.

Living Through the Worst-Case Scenario

Returning to the pressing issue of climate catastrophe, we are currently living through the worst-case scenario considered by climate scientists. According to a recent study in Nature, global temperatures could rise by a massive 5C by the end of this century. To understand the appalling seriousness of this, Professor John Schellnhuber, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, warned several years ago that:

the difference between two degrees and four degrees [of global warming] is human civilisation.

In other words, we are talking about the end of human life as we know it; perhaps even human extinction.

Rob Jackson, an Earth scientist at Stanford University and the chair of the Global Carbon Project, which tracks worldwide emissions levels, warns of the huge risk of assuming that humanity will be able to develop technology to remove carbon directly from the atmosphere any time soon:

It’s a very dangerous game, I think. We’re assuming that this thing we can’t do today will somehow be possible and cheaper in the future. I believe in tech, but I don’t believe in magic.

And even the most magical high-tech fixes removing carbon or blocking sunlight will not be able to resurrect, for example, the 98 per cent and 75 per cent of insects already wiped out in Puerto Rican jungles and German nature reserves, respectively. These insects are the key to the survival of the entire food chain; when they are dead, they will remain dead, and we will die with them.

Instead of magic, scientists are increasingly calling for immediate radical action. But their urgent calls make, at best, a tiny splash for a day or two in the corporate news bubble; and then the ripples die away, leaving an eerie, deathly silence.

Almost in desperation, climate experts say that:

it may still technically be possible to limit warming to 1.5C if drastic action is taken now. [our emphasis]

Scientific research shows that the impacts of climate change could be mitigated if a phaseout of all fossil fuel infrastructure were to begin immediately. The internationally agreed goal of restricting global warming to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is still possible, say scientists. But it is:

the choices being made by global society, not physics, which is the obstacle to meeting the goal.

Worse still, the scientific analysis:

[does] not include the possibility of tipping points such as the sudden release of huge volumes of methane from permafrost, which could spark runaway global warming.

We have now had three decades of increasingly alarming reports from climate scientists since the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up in 1988. Last October, the IPCC warned that we only had 12 years left to turn things around, taking radical action now. But alarm bells from scientists have not, and will not, stop governments in their tracks. Only peaceful and massive concerted action from citizens around the world stands a chance of doing that at this desperately late stage.

Crimes against the Earth

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

— From Seneca’s last letter to Nero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942

• Revised from “Planet Eaters

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

Tampa Bay Rebellion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fracking Filthy Fuel

Burning fossil fuels is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), and, greenhouse gas emissions (water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O)) are the principle cause of man-made climate change. Given this fact, governments throughout the world should be moving away from fossil fuels and investing in, and designing policies that encourage development of, renewable sources of energy. But the British Conservative government, despite public opinion to the contrary, has all but banned the construction of onshore wind turbines and is encouraging fracking in England. The Tories are the only UK political party to offer support for this regressive form of energy production, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens having all promised fracking bans should they gain political office at the next general election.

Hydraulic fracking is the process of releasing gas and oil from shale rock: huge quantities of water, proppant (usually sand) and chemicals are injected at high-pressure into hydrocarbon-bearing rocks, rocks that can be up to a mile down and were once thought to be impermeable. This process of fracturing (or cracking) forces the rocks to crack open, and gas held inside is released and allowed to flow to the surface.

Shale gas is a fossil fuel, and when combusted produces GGE, albeit at around 50% less than coal or oil, but GGE nevertheless. The leading fracking company in Britain is the energy firm Cuadrilla. An organization that according to its website, aims “to be a model company for exploring and developing shale gas in the UK,” they state that they are “acutely aware of the responsibilities this brings, particularly with regard to safety, environmental protection and working with local communities.” Really?

After protests by the local community and various court cases (Lancashire County Council had refused drilling rights, but the Secretary of State ignored community voices and approved the company’s request on appeal), Cuadrilla recently commenced fracking at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire. However, as in 2011 when the company was forced to abandon drilling, work was suspended for two days out of four because of earthquakes. Tremors measured 0.5 on the Richter scale, which breached the seismic threshold established following the 2011 earth tremors. Instead of abandoning the project as the local community and environmental groups are demanding, the firm’s chief executive, Francis Egan, wants the Government to raise the threshold.

Another Regressive Step

America is home to hydraulic fracturing, where it’s been taking place for decades. Greenpeace states that as of 2012 the “fracking industry [in USA] has drilled around 1.2 million wells and is slated to add at least 35,000 new wells every year.” Fracking has led to US oil production increasing faster than anytime in its history, resulting in lower domestic gas prices. The US Energy Information Administration record that around two thirds of gas is now produced by fracking and almost half the countries crude oil.

Shale gas is spoken of as a positive alternative to coal, but it’s just another filthy fossil fuel that is adding to GGE, which in turn are driving climate change. Fracking has a substantive impact on the natural environment and the health of those living within the surrounding area. Earthquakes, air pollution, soil pollution, carcinogenic chemical leakage and contaminated groundwater are the primary risks.

An enormous amount of water, which needs to be transported to the site incurring significant environmental costs, is required in the fracking process. The amount of water used varies per well: between 1.5 and 10 million gallons is required every time a well is fractured. Greenpeace relates that, “in 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water were used to fracture just 35,000 wells in the United States.” The water is mixed with various chemicals to make fracking fluid, a toxic cocktail that can be further contaminated by “heavy metals and radioactive elements that exist naturally in the shale.” A significant portion of the frack fluid returns to the surface “where it can spill or be dumped into rivers and streams…fracking fluids and waste have made their way into our drinking water and aquifers. Groundwater can be contaminated through fracking fluid and methane leakage and the energy companies have “no idea what to do with the massive amount of contaminated water it’s creating,”

In addition to water and soil pollution, fracking adds to existing levels of air pollution as methane gas is released into the atmosphere through leaks and venting. A study conducted by Cornell University found that “over a well’s lifetime, 3.6 to 7.9 percent of methane gas escapes” in this way. Unlike CO2, which sits in the atmosphere for centuries or millennia, methane only lasts for decades, but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change asserts that it warms the planet by 86 times as much as CO2 before then degrading to become CO2.

Many countries recognize the retrogressive nature of fracking and have passed legislative bans or moratoriums; England is the only country within the UK where it is currently allowed. More than 100 fracking licenses have been awarded by the government, but in order to start fracking they need permission from the local council. Fracking is universally unpopular amongst the communities where sites are located or proposed; on 13th October the Gasdown-Frackdown action saw thousands of people from six continents take to the streets demanding an end to fracking and calling for long-term investment in renewable sources of energy. Fracking is not an environmentally sane way to meet the energy needs of a country. It is part of the problem not the solution and it should be rejected totally. What is required is a global energy strategy rooted in environmental sustainability. As Friends of the Earth rightly say, “a 21st Century energy revolution based on efficiency and renewables, not more fossil fuels that will add to climate change.”