6 September 2019   Leave a comment

Alan Weisman has written a book review for the New York Review of Books on the climate crisis which makes some very important points which are difficult to both accept and deny:

“Just before the 2016 elections, a respected biologist at an environmental NGO told me she actually considered voting for Trump. ‘The way I see it,’ she said, ‘it’s either four more years on life support with Hillary, or letting this maniac tear the house down. Maybe then we can pick up the pieces and finally start rebuilding.’ Like many other scientists Wallace-Wells cites, she has known for decades how bad things are, and seen how little the Clinton-Gore and Obama-Biden administrations did about it—even in consultation with Obama’s prescient science adviser, physicist John Holdren, who first wrote about rising atmospheric CO2 in 1969. For the politicians, it was always, foremost, about the economy.

“Unfortunately, as Wallace-Wells notes:

The entire history of swift economic growth, which began somewhat suddenly in the eighteenth century, is not the result of innovation or trade or the dynamics of free trade, but simply our discovery of fossil fuels and all their raw power.

“This is our daily denial, which now flies in our faces on hurricane winds, or drops as hot ashes from our immolated forests and homes: growth is how we measure economic health, and growth must be literally fueled. Other than nuclear energy, which has its own problems, no form of energy is so concentrated, and none so cheap or portable, as carbon. By exhuming hundreds of millions of years’ worth of buried organic matter and burning it in a couple of centuries, we built our dazzling modern civilization, not noticing that its wastes were amassing overhead. Now we’re finally paying attention, because hell is starting to rain down.”

Weisman goes on to review Bill McKibben’s new book which offers a devastating critique of the role of the fossil fuel industry in fostering doubts about the process of climate change:

“Even McKibben struggles for an adequate vocabulary to describe the duplicity of oil companies: ‘There should be a word for when you commit treason against an entire planet.’ As early as 1977, one of Exxon’s own scientists explained to the company’s executives that their products were causing a greenhouse effect, and that there would be only ‘five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.’ By 1982, McKibben writes, ‘the company’s scientists concluded that heading off global warming would ‘require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion’ or risk ‘potentially catastrophic events.’ Exxon used predictions of ice retreat to lengthen their drilling season in the Arctic, and raised drilling platforms to accommodate sea-level rise. He recounts the deliberate strategy of oil executives and their pet politicians to, as one Exxon official put it, ’emphasize the uncertainty’ of climate science. ‘I’ve lived the last thirty years inside that lie,’ McKibben realizes, ‘engaged in an endless debate over whether global warming was ‘real’—a debate in which both sides knew the answer from the beginning.‘”

I am not sure how the future will judge the greed, duplicity, and pure evil of those who chose to enrich themselves at the cost of a livable planet. The time for polite debate has long passed.

Bruce Gilley and David Kinsella have written a provocative essay for the International Institute for Strategic Studies which argues that international law offers justification for the use of coercive measures (including force) to force states that refuse to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Right now I find that proposition difficult to accept as a practical matter (the UN Security Council, which has absolute authority to take steps to preserve international peace and stability, gives three vetoes to the three largest polluters on the planet). At some point, however, it is not difficult for me to believe that some states will take action if the evidence of a looming catastrophe is clear. In either case–action or inaction–the prognosis is poor.

Posted September 6, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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