Category: Risks and Dangers
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.
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.
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.”
Go to 6:15 of this youtube clip and you’ll see Mitt Romney mocking Barack Obama on the issue of climate change at the Republican national convention. As Amy Goodman then points out, however, neither candidate (and none of the moderators) bothered to mention climate change at the debates. This is an incredibly sad state of affairs.
I couldn’t agree more with Bill McKibben. it’s time to get angry.
So far we’ve raised the temperature of the earth about one degree Celsius, and two decades ago it was hard to believe this would be enough to cause huge damage. But it was. We’ve clearly come out of the Holocene and into something else. Forty percent of the summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone; the ocean is 30 percent more acidic. There’s nothing theoretical about any of this any more. Since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere is about 4 percent wetter than it used to be, which has loaded the dice for drought and flood. In my home country, 2011 smashed the record for multibillion-dollar weather disasters—and we were hit nowhere near as badly as some. Thailand’s record flooding late in the year did damage equivalent to 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). That’s almost unbelievable. But it’s not just scientists who have been warning us. Insurance companies—the people in our economy who we ask to analyze risk—have been bellowing in their quiet, actuarial way for years. Here’s Munich Re, the world’s largest insurer, in their 2010 annual report: “The reinsurer has built up the world’s most comprehensive natural catastrophe database, which shows a marked increase in the number of weather-related events. For instance, globally, loss-related floods have more than tripled since 1980, and windstorm natural catastrophes more than doubled, with particularly heavy losses from Atlantic hurricanes. This rise cannot be explained without global warming.”
I’m getting really tired of hearing people talk the talk, without walking the walk. All of us do it, me included (what else can you say when I take a long airplane trip to vacation in San Francisco, despite the fact that I often ride a bicycle to work?). In the meantime, we are living in the only industrialized country that is still debating whether burning fossil fuels is heating up the planet. I’m tired of people driving to Earth Day in big SUVs. I’m tired of the fact that most of us who whine about sustainability (including me) live comparable lifestyles to those who downplay the importance of such issues.
And how is THIS for a sobering talk?
The speaker is Dr. Peter Raven who, in a gentle voice, is reading the riot act to the audience (his speech “Saving Ourselves” runs from 5:55 to 29:00). Raven is a courageous speaker who is not afraid to tie the exhaustion of natural resources to the exploding number of human beings on planet Earth. His facts and figures are not in dispute by any thinking person.
[At the 29:00 mark, Raven describes an attempt to reclaim a precious preserve of extremely bio-diverse land in Costa Rica--this video was created at a fundraiser for that effort, titled the "Children's Eternal Rainforest."]
As Bill McKibben says, it’s time to severely devalue mere talk and to start making things really happen. The path is going to require some conscious change at the highest levels, because we cannot depend on ourselves to keep making the right decisions–we don’t have that kind of willpower. We don’t yet know exactly where we are headed, but we do know that we need to steer sharply away from fossil fuels. We also have some reason to believe that this future devoid of fossil fuels could be an opportunity as much as it is a crisis–see this talk by Amory Lovins, who argues that it is time to “Reinvent Fire.”
At Huffpo, Ted Kaufman begs us to take the issue of climate change serious, pointing readers to the websites of serious science organizations and warning us of the horrific consequences of doing nothing.
Virtually every reputable organization of scientists in the world has reached the same basic conclusion. Climate change is real and poses a threat to every living thing on the earth. To not take climate change seriously, you must somehow believe there is a gigantic international conspiracy involving the world’s top scientists, all of whom have agreed to distort their data. Come on.
I highly respect Ted Kaufman for speaking up when we needed to hear him, both on this issue and with regard to banking reform. He often seemed to be the lone thoughtful voice among the clowns and chaos of Congress. He’s no longer in Congress, but I do think he’s spot on here. Unfortunately, it seems that the people (at least the people I know) have made the leap from climate change skepticism to climate change resignation.
I remember wincing when I heard Al Gore’s line at the end of Inconvenient Truth that we shouldn’t make this leap–it seemed even then that our economic incentives are all in the wrong places and that is exactly what we would do. I fear that is what we are now doing. Here’s what I’m sensing out there: “Yep. We’re destroying the Earth. We’re destroying it in a thousand ways, and climate change is but one of these ways. And we’re not willing to do much of anything about it. We don’t even like the low efficiency light bulbs, so please leave us alone about this issues of climate change.”
If the Fourth is such a happy time, shouldn’t we now be equally furious that the government has been rigged to ignore the needs and wants of the People? Over the past few years, I’ve heard dozens of educated middle class Americans admit that Congress has ben bought―federal corruption at the highest levels is now accepted as unquestionable truth.
More recently, I’ve run into more than a few people who have become frustrated with the Occupy movement. For instance, last week I heard this from an acquaintance, who was speaking of the protesters:
Acquaintance: “They should get a job. What the hell are they expecting to accomplish out there?”
Me: Isn’t it a huge problem that all three branches of our federal government make decisions to accommodate large corporations, often ignoring the needs of ordinary citizens? Isn’t that worth protesting.
Acquaintance: “Still, the protesters are stupid.”
Me: What is your solution? Ordinary people are barred from participating in a government that is supposedly to be run by ordinary people. Further, the news media is largely under the control of these same interests―they are too often serving as stenographers for the corporations that pull the strings of the federal Government.
[Fourth of July flag photo]
Along the same lines, here’s an excerpt from an email I recently received from a DI reader:
About your note regarding ways to support the Occupy movement… yes, you are right to encourage people to talk about what is going on, but don’t you think that it is time for those who are actually doing the “occupying” to go home and do their homework. It seems pretty apparent that it is mostly the late teen to early 20 year olds that are involved and that they don’t seem to have any really intelligent, well thought out ideas or goals. The media and general public are already bored with the story, and the whole thing will have been an exercise in futility unless they move on in a dignified way. Their goal should be to have an effect on the 2012 election which is a full year away. They should go home and get organized and become better informed in order to form a voting block that will further their agenda (that is if they can come to a consensus as to what that agenda is).
In short, this reader wants the Occupiers to return home to do the same thing that millions of people have been doing for the past decade, i.e., doing nothing likely to invoke change.
[More . . . ]