By: Alton C. Thompson
Bill McKibben’s recent Rolling Stone article, “Global Warming’s Terrible New Math,” should give anyone—whether an American or a citizen of any other country—pause. Among the many scary statements he makes are these:
- Most climate scientists believe that a 2° C. increase in the global mean is the upper limit of safety—i.e., that that is the likely “tipping point,” so that if that point is reached, further warming will occur at an increasing rate.
- Some scientists would place the “safe” temperature (of increase) at 1° C.
- The increase that has resulted from human activity so far has been about 0.8° C.
- Were humans to cease emitting “greenhouse gases” into the atmosphere tomorrow, because the gases already present would remain in the atmosphere for centuries to come (diminishing in concentration only gradually), those gases would continue to have an effect—and would, in fact, result in a further increase in the global mean temperature of 0.8° C., according to the best computer models in existence at present.
- Thus, even under this “best case” scenario, it is inevitable that we will cross the 1° C. threshold.
- If, rather, the 2° C. threshold is the relevant one, it is “merely” highly likely that we will cross it—highly likely because the prospect of a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the near future is extremely dim.
The reason we are likely to cross the 2° C. threshold is that the firms currently involved in producing energy from fossil fuels are displaying little interest in ceasing that production. McKibben, therefore, states this about the industry: “It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization.”
We are living during an extremely serious time in human history, and the prospect ahead is for serious problems to arise as global warming “picks up steam”—there even being the possibility that it will “wipe out” 90% of humans before the end of the century, perhaps even result in our demise as a species! Yet, despite the dim prospects ahead, fossil fuel firm executives and investors seem to think that they will be exempt from the chaos that lies in our future—and in doing so demonstrate that they care not a whit for us “ordinary” folk. Bill McKibben therefore had excellent reasons for declaring the industry “Public Enemy Number One.”
If we can’t look to the executives of fossil fuel firms for “salvation,” can we (we Americans, that is), then, look to Congress or the Executive branch for leadership? A recent report issued by the Sierra Club (founded in 1892 by Wisconsin-raised John Muir [1838 – 1914]) entitled “Clean Energy Under Siege” gives one little reason for hope.
In the report’s Executive Summary we find the following statements:
Clean energy is under siege at the congressional level:
- Political attacks continue to be waged through the Solyndra investigations.
- Hostile legislation such as the Pompeo bill (H.R.3308) continues to be introduced.
- Conservative think tanks publish “studies” attacking federal appliance efficiency standards.
- The Production Tax Credit (PTC) is stalled in Congress.
Clean energy is under siege at the state level:
- Oil, coal, and gas industry power concentrated in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is targeting state Renewable Portfolio Standards.
- Well-funded fossil-fuel advocacy groups masquerade as think tanks.
- Self-anointed experts like John Droz Jr.are committed to bringing down clean energy.
- Local groups receive outside funding to pursue an anti-wind agenda.
Clean energy is under siege by some of the most powerful, free-spending entities in the nation:
- According to the campaign finance tracking group Open Secrets, oil and gas was a “top-spending industry in 2011” in the policy arena, spending more than $146 million on lobbying costs.
- Campaign expenditures by Koch family entities Koch Industries and Oxbow Corporation place them in two of the top three campaign spending slots for 2011-2012.
- The oil and gas industries contributed to 387 — or 88 percent — of all members of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election cycle.The industry also contributed to 89 out of 100 senators.In both chambers of Congress combined, Republicans received 86 percent of all oil and gas donations.
- William Koch has bankrolled opposition to the Cape Wind offshore wind project for more than a decade.
- Exxon has contributed more than $600,000 since 1998 to the Manhattan Institute, and approximately $676,500 since 1998 to the Heartland Institute.
To summarize the situation briefly:
- The industry spends millions of dollars each year in promoting their products—on the basis that their development will create jobs and give our country energy self-sufficiency. People are willing to prostitute themselves—compromise whatever integrity they might have—advertising for the energy companies for the sake of making a living for themselves—with total disregard for the welfare of our species.
- It funds “think tanks” to produce literature to “disprove” global warming and promote the virtues of its products. Those “scientists” who work for such organizations are somehow able to justify being intellectual prostitutes. Some such “scientists” may be sincere skeptics—for there are such people, one would like to think (people who are sincere, that is)—but one would assume that virtually all of them are aware of the research of mainstream scientists, and recognize the merits of that research.
- It spends millions on lobbyists—and on politicians directly—in an effort to control how politicians vote. It is sickening to learn that the oil and gas industries contributed to 387—or 88 percent—of all members of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election cycle. The industry also contributed to 89 out of 100 senators. In both chambers of Congress combined, Republicans received 86 percent of all oil and gas donations.
Our Representatives in the House of Representatives and our Senators are supposed to represent the people in their districts, not moneyed interests. However, most of the individuals in those two chambers are willing to receive large sums from energy-producing firms, and in doing so prostitute themselves—and our political system as well. Given, then, that we can expect little if any action, relative to global warming, from our political leaders, what are we to do?
My answer is that, first, we need to recognize the extreme seriousness of our current situation—the strong possibility that we will soon cross a critical threshold, and perhaps have already done so, in fact. Whether we have or haven’t, we must, second, act as individuals—and perhaps also as private organizations (such as religious groups)—to begin adaptive measures, doing so as soon as possible. If we don’t at least try to save ourselves and others, we will reduce our chances of survival—for ourselves and our offspring. Unfortunately, however, even if we do our best to adapt, there are no guarantees that we won’t perish anyway.
I hate to be so pessimistic, but it’s the only stance that strikes me as reasonable at present.
About the author: Al Thompson works (data management) for an Engineering (Avionics) firm in Milwaukee. Click here to mail him.
- McKibben on Our Uncertain Future (bravenewworld.in)