Bill McKibben explains the degree of the threat of fossil fuel in the April 25, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone. Here’s the opening paragraph:
It got so hot in Australia in January that the weather service had to add two new colors to its charts. A few weeks later, at the other end of the planet, new data from the CryoSat-2 satellite showed 80 percent of Arctic sea ice has disappeared. We’re not breaking records anymore; we’re breaking the planet. In 50 years, no one will care about the fiscal cliff or the Euro crisis. They’ll just ask, “So the Arctic melted, and then what did you do?”
And consider the opportunities being lost to a continued dependence on fossil fuels:
It’s an economic resistance movement, too, one that’s well aware renewable energy creates three times as many jobs as coal and gas and oil. Good jobs that can’t be outsourced because the sun and the wind are close to home. It creates a future, in other words.
On May 8, 2013, the Wall Street Journal trotted out former astronaut Harrison Schmitt and physics professor William Happer to proclaim that 400 ppm of CO2 is no big deal. In fact, they exclaim that this extra CO2 is good for us because it is good for plants.
Media Matters harpooned the WSJ article, citing scientific research indicating:
- That the increased CO2 puts 20-30% of plant and animal species at increased risk.
- That climate change is leading to more floods and droughts, hurting agriculture and severe crop reduction.
- That climate change is “driving a multitude of related and interacting changes in the Earth system, including decreases in the amounts of ice stored in mountain glaciers and polar regions, increases in sea level, changes in ocean chemistry, and changes in the frequency and intensity of heat waves, precipitation events, and droughts.”
- That the WSJ article is wrong to claim that current CO2 levels are historically low, because they’ve only been higher during periods of mass extinction. For the past 800,000 years prior to the industrial revolution, the rate of CO2 never exceeded 300 ppm. Further, the problem is not simply the rate, but the rate of increase of the rate.
- That most species alive today have “never existed in a world with CO2 levels substantially higher than today’s”.
- That the WSJ article is factually incorrect to claim that carbon dioxide levels have “little correlation” with temperatures.
Media Matters also points out that neither of the two authors of the WSJ article has ever written a peer-reviewed article on climate change. Happer is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the George C. Marshall Institute, which accepts funding from the Exxon Education Foundation and the Koch brothers. Schmitt was a director at the industry-funded Heartland Institute. Schmitt has been a member of the Heartland Institute’s board of directors, which received more than $600,000 from ExxonMobil between 1998 and 2006 and still receives funding from the Charles Koch Foundation.
Media Matters also points out that the WSJ has made a habit of publishing misleading and outright false information regarding climate change (see citations). In fact the Union of Concerned Scientists concluded that 81% of the information regarding climate change published by the WSJ during 2011-2012 is misleading.
Over the past week, I’ve watched about 20 episodes of Lee Camp’s Moment of Clarity. Camp has the technique down well. Be well informed, then let it fly with equal parts wit and sharp sword. His targets are those who hurt or disparage honorable ordinary people. His videos are well-planned and executed, with the timing of an experienced comedian. Take a look at any of the four posted episodes below, and I suspect that you will become a Lee Camp fan too.
For those who are courageous enough to trust their eyes, these images will shock.
What is sick about the fact that we are destroying our only planet is that there ARE alternatives–sustainable sources of energy and conservation. There’s not as much mega-corporate money to be made with these alternatives and many people (led by corporate mass-media spin) see conservation as weakness and lack of freedom when it is actually the opposite. While these money and culture wars rage, we continue to permanently destroy areas of Earth so large that these time-lapse satellite images serves as a shocking lie detector: It is a huge lie that our continued rate of extraction of fossil fuels is consistent with a high-quality future lifestyle.
At Common Dreams, David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz write that we are unwitting guinea pigs for chemical manufacturers. The worst part is that these untested (and sometimes demonstrably unsafe) substances can act synergistically. The whole danger might well be greater than the individual dangers.
Today, we are all unwitting subjects in the largest set of drug trials ever. Without our knowledge or consent, we are testing thousands of suspected toxic chemicals and compounds, as well as new substances whose safety is largely unproven and whose effects on human beings are all but unknown. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) itself has begun monitoring our bodies for 151 potentially dangerous chemicals, detailing the variety of pollutants we store in our bones, muscle, blood, and fat. None of the companies introducing these new chemicals has even bothered to tell us we’re part of their experiment. None of them has asked us to sign consent forms or explained that they have little idea what the long-term side effects of the chemicals they’ve put in our environment — and so our bodies — could be. Nor do they have any clue as to what the synergistic effects of combining so many novel chemicals inside a human body in unknown quantities might produce.
From Scientific American, we learn that huge amounts of precious water are being polluted to such an extent that it can never feasible be returned to the planet’s fresh water system. This is horrifying, especially since there are much safer alternatives, including conservation and sustainable energy supplies.
The nation’s oil and gas wells produce at least nine billion liters of contaminated water per day, according to an Argonne National Laboratory report. And that is an underestimate of the amount of brine, fracking fluid and other contaminated water that flows back up a well along with the natural gas or oil, because it is based on incomplete data from state governments gathered in 2007.
The volume will only get larger, too: oil and gas producers use at least 7.5 million liters of water per well to fracture subterranean formations and release entrapped hydrocarbon fuels, a practice that has grown in the U.S. by at least 48 percent per year in the last five years . . . The problem is that the large volumes of water that flow back to the surface along with the oil or gas are laced with everything from naturally radioactive minerals to proprietary chemicals. And there are not a lot of cost-effective options for treating it, other than dumping it down a deep well.
While we in the U.S. are barely moving forward on renewables, Germany is streaking into the future. Amory Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute explains:
While the examples of Japan, China, and India show the promise of rapidly emerging energy economies built on efficiency and renewables, Germany—the world’s number four economy and Europe’s number one—has lately provided an impressive model of what a well-organized industrial society can achieve. To be sure, it’s not yet the world champion among countries with limited hydroelectricity: Denmark passed 40% renewable electricity in 2011 en route to a target of 100% by 2050, and Portugal, albeit with more hydropower, raised its renewable electricity fraction from 17% to 45% just during 2005–10 (while the U.S., though backed by a legacy of big hydro, crawled from 9% to 10%), reaching 70% in the rainy and windy first quarter of 2013. But these economies are not industrial giants like Germany, which remains the best disproof of claims that highly industrialized countries, let alone cold and cloudy ones, can do little with renewables.
Here’s an example of how poorly some of us in the U.S. are postured for divesting ourselves of carbon. This is an example from my home state of Missouri, where the utilities and the coal industry apparently owns the place.
In Canada, big corporate money is funding the environmentally horrific tar sands project and the equally despicable effort to muzzle scientists who would otherwise be reporting on the environmental disaster. IO9 reports:
Big money muzzles truth-tellers. “The Canadian government is currently under investigation for its efforts to obstruct the right of the media and public to speak to government scientists. These policies are widely believed to be a part of the government’s unspoken campaign to ensure that oil keeps flowing from the Athabasca tar sands — even if it’s at the cost of free scientific inquiry, the environment, and by consequence, democracy itself.”