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Climate Change News for January 2019


2018: the year that liberals woke, blinking, from hibernation


by Roger Goodman / 3 January 2018

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One of the bigger threats to decisive climate change action is not conservatives but liberals, globally. But isn’t it the conservatives who laugh off the severity of climate change? Yes and no.


Among liberals there has been a strong strand of thought that counsels to take it easy on doomsday climate scenarios, to discuss only the ‘moderate’ modeled outcomes, to be ‘positive’ about an imagined better world where ingenuity transforms the current clunky, resource extractive model of capitalism into a sleek, technology intensive equilibrium featuring lots of cool gadgets, near-endless reuse of materials, longer lasting equipment, a new and better career for lawyers and bankers (vegetable farming), and for the extreme technophiles the mandatory but ridiculous colony on Mars.


All of that is good (except the Mars thing) but such an idyll would be the net result of the wholesale overturning of the industrialized present, and that simply cannot happen in the time frame during which climate impacts will become uncontrollable. 


While ‘alarmist’ may be a favorite epithet of the hard right denialists, some on the green left have seen fit to disavow embracing the more concerned voices such as of arctic ice virtuoso Prof. Peter Wadhams of Cambridge, Dist. Prof.  Michael E. Mann of Penn State (he of hockey stick graph fame), and Prof. Katherine Hayhoe of Texas Tech, climate evangelist to the evangelicals.  For years they and many others have been pressing for urgent and monumental measures to slow an urgent and monumental problem.


Why the reticence among some? Why not publicize the issue with a full-throated roar? Here are some reasons:


Scientific conservatism. As useful as climatologists, physicists, chemists and ecologists are at identifying, quantifying and codifying issues, they do have reputations, careers and funding to maintain and that means that saying or writing things deemed ‘extreme’ is a threat to their livelihoods. Fact is though, all the greatest scientific discoveries were deemed extreme when first articulated. Think Galileo and the stars, Darwin/Wallace and evolution, Einstein and relativity. All really extreme stuff. All absolutely true.


We don’t want anything to change. Secretly we like the world we’ve created. We like the big houses, the sprawling suburbs, the highways, the awesome cars, the cheap jet travel. We love it that we can get any kind of food at any time of year and cheap toys, power tools and carpet from overseas, that we can run twenty electronic devices at once plus air conditioning in every room. We like it and we don’t want to part with it.


We need to acknowledge our collective human insincerity on this issue. No more waiting for the average of all scientists to reach point x, because by then the problem has magnified. In an issue this important, acceding to the Precautionary Principle is the only reasonable path.

‘People need hope’. Don’t tell the people how bad climate change actually is, some urge, because then folk will just despair. People would throw their hands up and say, well if climate change is now so severe that only massive government intervention can stop it, then I won’t bother and I will stick with the SUV. 


But we’re past all that now. Climate change is in acceleration mode and even the journal Nature says "Global warming will happen faster than we think". It may be that we will look back on 2018 as the year when the balance tipped, the year when humanity’s collective jaw dropped, when the conservative liberals looked at the ground, nodded slowly and said, “Yup, okay, it’s bad”.

Of the oil majors, you and me, and the Lake of Fire.         

by Roger Goodman / 31 December 2018

Imagine that a wandering goat-herd stumbled upon the gates of hell 300 years ago, opened them, disappeared, and no-one noticed.

And imagine that Lucifer and his minions sneaked out and launched a murderous, yet covert and limited rampage. People expired here and there but the bloated and entitled masses laughed it off to natural causes.

A few religious scholars became nervous and soon began warning of the imminent corporeal advent of Satan and the need for all to repent. But it was a time of abundance and the folk felt safe, entrusting to their leaders the task of repelling threats to body and soul.


The corpses began piling up and the pleading of the prophets reached fever pitch. By now though the great scourge had lasted so long that the people had become blind to the threat – they couldn’t see the bodies for the battlefield. Disaster had been normalized.

If only this were merely a particularly nasty offering from the Brothers Grimm. But no, the harnessing of coal in the eighteenth century opened a passageway to Hades. We have called up the black remnants of crushed forests from a time before the dinosaurs and burned it for the gods, and the gods are responding.

What happens when we light a match? The wood turns into a bit of ash and a lot of umm.... carbon dioxide. And how much wood do we burn? How much ancient forest do we consume every day in its gooey, black form? A hundred million barrels a day. Plus the coal and the natural gas. Now there's a science lesson.  

Much has been said of the culpability of Big Fossil – the industrial giants that have known for decades about the danger of their products but actively fought against efforts to reign them in. And certainly the likes of BP, Exxon Mobil, BHP Billiton and Glencore deserve eternal damnation along with the devil himself for their complicity in bringing civilization to the very edge of the Lake of Fire.

Lately in lawsuits brought by cities like New York and San Francisco, Big Fossil has begun to use the same defense that Big Tobacco used after decades of denying the danger of their product. With denial of human-induced climate change now manifestly undefendable they have begun admitting to their past knowledge. They do, of course,  intend passing the blame onto their end users - that's you and me.


But we are innocent, aren't we? 

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