Press**Watch: Corporate climate killers
The mean concentration of approximately CO2 was at 316 parts per million by volume (ppmv) in 1958, and rose to approximately 369 ppmv in 1998. (Climate Ark)
It's looking like it's going to be a beautiful day here in Greater Cascadia for destroying corporate rule. This people-owned, cooperatively and transparently run radio station is a n awesome place to start. Next week we'll smash expectations once again with direct fundraising from anyone who cares. You can start taking ownership by bookmarking kboo.fm right now. For those of you who listen to KBOO public affairs programming regularly, who follow the blogs on KBOO.FM and comment, my sincere thanks for not being corporate zombies, for being awake and aware humans ready for revolution. You choose the level of involvement, from responsible cash contributor right up to committee or Board member. Together we will not take one step back.
Global climate change is a result of the consumer choices we make. Right? That's one of those statements that you want to answer in the affirmative, while squirming a bit. Because there's something more to that, isn't there? Something that's being left out of the equation, something that acknowledges the whole picture rather than placing all the blame on you. And that something is the abject servitude we are forced to give to corporate rule.
Compare, then, the impact of the choices you make in food choice, land use and transportation, against the decisions of the grat corporate parasites. You will find, to no great surprise, that the range of options available to you is puny by comparison. Who decided, for example, that every morning and evening in the working week would be punctuated by a vast gout of greenhouse gases produced by a horde of commuters?
I'll give you a hint: it wasn't Rosa Parks.
No, it was the land developers who stripped the city centers of their viability by arranging transportation and development priorities and subsidies to go to the suburbs, the golden profit mountain of the real estate industry. One upon a time it was normal to walk out of your front door and join a daily commute of shoe leather and trolley tracks. Your workplace was near your home, naturally, but that did not provide sufficient centralization and expropriation of your wealth for the owning class. Instead, things were arranged so that you would now engage in a great unpaid task before you ever even arrived at the workplace, a task for which you would pay dearly in cash and blood to participate in—the daily car commute. The tip of the iceberg of evidence to this great climate- and-morale-destroying crime is still barely visible today, through a swirl of corporate-defending obfuscations—I am referring to the trial of corporate offenders in 1947, which revealed the great plan to destroy green commuting. Quoting Wikipedia:
The proceedings were against Firestone, Standard Oil of California, Phillips, General Motors, Federal Engineering, and Mack (the suppliers), and their subsidiary companies: National City Lines, Pacific City Lines, and American City Lines (the City Lines).
The Seventh Circuit Court summarized the history of the arrangement this way:
"On April 9, 1947, nine corporations and seven individuals, constituting officers and directors of certain of the corporate defendants, were indicted on two counts, the second of which charged them with conspiring to monopolize certain portions of interstate commerce, in violation of Section 2 of the Anti-trust Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 2. The American City Lines having been dismissed, the remaining corporate and individual defendants were found guilty upon this count."
So—would you like to make a personal choice that would greatly reduce global climate change from your daily commute? Acknowledge your subjugation by the corporations, then, and work to destroy their rule of tyranny. If I remember correctly, forty-five thousand US citizens die each year, sacrificed to the bloody mangling god of Car Commuting. All that to alienate, to impoverish, to exclude the non-car-owner, to divert a shocking proportion of our wealth as workers, and to pollute the planet.
Down with corporate land distribution! The planet's health, and our sanity, demand a new acknowledgement of land rights. Land and housing must be set aside for workers, and workplaces must move to their labor sources. One way to start this into motion would be to require capitalists to pay for excessive commuting times or else provide nearby housing. Of course, I don't see why, in the face of the most extreme wealth maldistribution ever, we should allow capitalist corporations to exist at all. Replace them with transparent worker-owned cooperatives, I say. No more buying and selling politicians, no more wealth expatriated to the Cayman Islands, no more bosses. Doesn't that sound grand? And May Day is coming up in a week or so....
Speaking of corporate parasites, the nuke industry is trying to make a comeback again, using greenwashing. They seem to be making an alarming amount of progress. Nuclear power is far from green, when you consider the gigantic amount of fossil fuel expended to mine, refine, re-refine, and bury radioactive materials, and of course there's the moral stain of the idea of leaving radioactive crap around for literally a thousand generations. And it's so dangerous that it can't be insured—it has to have a government subsidy, called the Price-Anderson Act, laying liability for cleanup of a meltdown on your shoulders as taxpayers. Capitalist insurers looked at the risk years ago, and wouldn't touch it. Funny that.
Harvey Wasserman has a great article on this radioactive zombie from the Seventies:
Our Big Challenge on Earth Day: Stop the Nuke Industry from Pretending It Can Prevent Climate Change
By Harvey Wasserman, AlterNet
Posted on April 20, 2010, Printed on April 22, 2010
The Climate Bill is due on Earth Day. By all accounts it will be a nuclear bomb.
It will be the ultimate challenge of the global grassroots green movement to transform it into something that can actually save the planet.
For the atomic power industry, the bill will cap a decade-long $640-million-plus virtual cleansing of its radioactive image.
It will have the Obama Administration and Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) embracing very substantial taxpayer subsidies for building new nuclear plants.
Ditto new offshore drilling and "clean coal." The markers have been laid for a greenwashed business-as-usual approach toward pretending to deal with global climate change and the life-threatening pollution in which our corporate power structure is drowning us. All without actually threatening certain corporate profits.
From "An Inconvenient Truth" to Obama's impending Earth Day address, the official emphasis is on each of us, as individuals. To be sure, we ALL must consume smarter, use less and recycle more. Since the first Earth Day, all these great green ideas have had an undeniable impact.
Some corporations have also learned that pollution is by definition a form of waste, and that to actually go green is to become more profitable.
But some technologies and fuel sources have proved simply unworkable on a survivable planet. Topping the list is atomic power.
Once sold as "too cheap to meter," atomic reactors are too expensive to matter---except for massive taxpayer subsidies.
The first commercial reactor opened at Shippingport, Pennsylvania, in 1957. Since then, the industry has failed to solve its radioactive waste problem, failed to find meaningful private liability insurance and failed to find unsubsidized private financing for new reactors.
The handouts in the Climate Bill are sorry testimony to all that. But there's more.
All reactors are indefensible targets for terror and error. As at Fermi, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the potential for disaster is apocalyptic.
All reactors kill nearby living things---human and otherwise---from "normal" radiation releases.
All reactors also emit substantial toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases in mining, milling, enrichment, fuel fabrication, transportation, waste storage and other related operations.
Reactors in France, Alabama and elsewhere which have been forced shut because they super-heat rivers and lakes---all in the name of "fighting global warming."
Selling the falsehoods that atomic energy is "carbon free," successful in France and can "fight climate change" has been dirty and expensive.
Along the way, the industry has hired a bevvy of flacks with marginal green credentials.
But on Earth Day we may see its crowning achievement.
Already the Administration has pledged $8.33 billion in loan guarantees to fund a double-reactor project in Georgia. The designs have not yet been certified, the price tag is soaring, there's bitter debate over where the cash will come from and what fees should be attached, and the state's ratepayers are on the hook even if the plant never generates electricity.
But the Administration wants more than $50 billion in loan guarantees to repeat the process elsewhere. Kerry-Lieberman-Graham have toyed with even bigger subsidies, in various forms, ranging to $100 billion and more.
Offshore drilling and "clean coal" also seem poised for new handouts.
It's not clear what the Earth gets in exchange. Cap and trade, once the centerpiece of the whole deal, is gone. A carbon tax does not seem to be on the table. There will certainly be subsidies for various Solartopian technologies, and a headline-grabbing "surprise" or two.
But exactly what the barons of fossil/nuke will offer to justify their massive cash infusions is not yet clear.
All that's certain is that this Earth Day, the Climate Bill will jack the debate to a whole new level.
Given soaring global carbon levels and a wasteful, obsolete economic infrastructure in serious decline, we are clearly at the precipice.
The Administration, the Congress and the country will have to decide: will we continue to subsidize failed atomic technologies and catastrophic fossil mining and drilling whose corporate backers have apparently unlimited funds for lobbying and PR?
Or do we finally turn to the truly green technologies and ways of living that can save both our planet and our economy?
The final battle starts Thursday. The outcome is up to us.
When we're talking about hman-induced global climate change, we're talking about species displacement and extinctions, loss of beaches, loss of coral reefs, inundation of coastal areas, changes in sea life, changes in weather moderated by the oceans and lakes, loss or displacement of water previously supplied by mountainous glacier systems, the size and health of forests, destruction of forests by devastating drought-induced fires, greater costs and difficulty in irrigating and growing food crops, migration of crop-eating insects, and loss of life directly due to increasingly severe weather. These effects are being felt now. Corporate rule is to blame.
Consider this excerpt from “Disaster Capitalism,” by Clive Johnston on Motherjones.com:
ANOTHER INDUSTRY THAT can't pretend climate change is a myth is insurance. Insurance firms have always carefully studied real-world data to figure out what, precisely, constitutes a risky activity. As a result, they were among the first to notice that weather was getting more violent, and more unpredictably so.
"It's just a logical consequence," says Peter Hoppe, head of the "Geo Risks Research" division of Munich Re, the multinational reinsurance firm. "Global warming affects our core business. We have seen changes already in some readings." Worldwide, Munich Re has found that "great catastrophes"—act-of-god weather events that cause more than a billion dollars of damage—have tripled since 1950. In 2008, even though there weren't any Katrina-level disasters, weather-related events were so severe that "catastrophic losses" to the world's economy were the third-highest in recorded history, topping $200 billion globally—including $40 billion in the United States. Hoppe doesn't think global warming is all to blame; some of these events are likely due to natural cycles like the 30-year "North Atlantic Oscillation" that is currently warming the Atlantic. But Munich Re's policy is that anthropogenic global warming is already making things worse, and that governments ought to act quickly while they still can.
At least some global politicians are aware of the name of the beast:
Save the Planet from Capitalism, Morales Says
By Franz Chávez
COCHABAMBA, Bolivia, Apr 21, 2010 (IPS) - Activists meeting at the people's conference on climate change in this Bolivian city booed a message from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon but cheered at host President Evo Morales's chant of "planet or death!"
A football stadium in Tiquipaya, in the suburbs of Cochabamba, was inflamed Tuesday with temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius and the fervor of around 20,000 environmental activists and delegates from 125 nations.
But although they were invited, presidents from the region failed to show up for the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which ends Thursday.
The stadium, ablaze with the multi-coloured traditional garments of different Andean and Amazonian native communities and the flags of people from different countries around the world that contrasted with the cold formality of presidential summits, served as the stage for Morales, of Aymara descent, to call for an "inter-continental movement" in defence of Mother Earth.
The U.N. secretary-general's message, read out by the head of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, on Tuesday, the first day of the people's conference, was interrupted by catcalls and whistles from activists in protest against the exclusion of grassroots groups from policy-making on climate change.
"We came with all respect to listen to the people, you invited us here. If you don't want us to be here we can leave," Bárcena said.
"For capitalism, we are merely consumers and a source of labour, and we have the right to say capitalism is the enemy of the planet," Morales said, buoyed up by the cheers of the thousands of participants who have flocked to the dusty streets of this outlying Cochabamba district that is home to around 3,000 people.
"Justice is only possible with solidarity, equality and respect for the rights of Mother Earth and for the atmosphere, water and the new model of development," he said.
"Capitalism is the chief enemy of humanity, synonymous with inequality and destruction of the planet," he said, calling on people to organise at the grassroots level to save the planet.
He suggested starting with simple steps like the use of biodegradable kitchen utensils like clay plates instead of disposable plastic. He also lashed out at transgenic crops and junk food.
Ecuadorean indigenous leader Franklin Columba concurred with Morales, saying that reaching a balance with nature was essential to saving Pachamama or Mother Earth.
"The Council of Wise Elders says that care and love are needed to keep nature clean. That is the true awareness that human beings must achieve," he told IPS as the delegates to the conference were enjoying Afro-Bolivian and traditional Andean music.
Had you noticed that Spring seems a little different this year? This Reuters article has the reason:
Spring comes about 10 days earlier in the United States than it did two decades ago, a consequence of climate change that favors invasive species over indigenous ones, scientists said on Tuesday.
The phenomenon known as "spring creep" has put various species of U.S. wildlife out of balance with their traditional habitats, from the rabbit-like American pika in the West to the roses and lilies in New England, the environmental experts said in a telephone news briefing.
"The losers tend to be our native plant species," said Charles Davis of Harvard University, who studied plant changes in Concord, Massachusetts, where American conservationist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau lived a century and a half ago.
"Climate change is not affecting species uniformly," Davis said. "Certain groups are hit harder than others, and those species that are not able to respond to climate change ... are being hit the hardest."
In Massachusetts, Davis said, those include some of the most charismatic species, such as lilies, orchids, roses and dogwoods.
Based on Thoreau's notes and research by botanists in the area, Davis and other scientists figure that about 30 percent of the plant species Thoreau saw are locally extinct and a further 30 percent are in scarce supply, crowded out by southern invaders that can now thrive in New England.
Invasive non-native plants can succeed in a changing climate because some of them are better able to adjust their development.
Ecological mismatches can be fatal when some species adapt to early warmth and others don't, according to Jake Weltzin of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Weltzin described a series of mysterious miscarriages by mares in the U.S. southeast that were caused by caterpillars that contained a chemical that made the pregnant horses miscarry.
Normally, the caterpillars would have been consumed by migrating birds, leaving none to fall from trees into the mares' grassy pastures. But the birds' migration was late, letting the caterpillars fall from trees and into the grass the mares were eating, Weltzin said.
In the mountainous West, the American pika could be an early warning sign of what could happen to other alpine species as the planet warms up, said wildlife biologist Erik Beever.
The pika's habitat, which stretches across 100 million acres (40.47 million hectares) between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, is shrinking as warmer weather begins earlier in the year.
Earlier springs in the West also make it more likely that wildfires will start because there will be more dry vegetation as fuel, the scientists said.
The regional differences and unique native wildlife around the United States could face pressure as invasive species push in, the scientists said in the call, which was arranged by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
(Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko, editing by Anthony Boadle)
The US government says it's official—we're warming the climate. Now watch the teabaggers explode.
............................ the 5th US Climate Action report has been drafted by the State Department, according to Reuters. And here are the wholly unsubtle opening lines: "Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced ... Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years. This observed increase is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases." Indeedily do.
And that's not all: "The effects of climate change are already evident, the draft said: warming air and oceans, vanishing mountain glaciers, thawing permafrost, signs of instability in the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica and rising sea levels." True, true, true, and, yup, true. We already know all of this of course, but it's good to see that the government is on the same page. It will send a draft of its report to the UN after it's been open for public comment for a week.
Reuters has more on why the report recommends legislative action:
Without action to stop them, climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions will rise over 8,000 megatonnes by mid-century, the draft said. By adopting measures detailed in a bill passed last year by the U.S. House of Representatives, these emissions will drop beneath 2,000 megatonnes. They're now about 6,500 megatonnes. The United Nations measures greenhouse gas emissions in megatonnes, or million metric tons.
Of course, there are a number of other reasons that it'd be a good idea to pass comprehensive energy reform--energy independence and job creation chief among them--but it is obviously of the utmost importance that we start reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Pronto.
What about just altering the climate on purpose? Here's a Mother Jones/Eli Kintish article on that subject, which says in part:
Nearly 200 scientists from 14 countries met last month at the famed Asilomar retreat center outside Monterey, California, in a very deliberate bid to make history. Their five-day meeting focused on setting up voluntary ground rules for research into giant algae blooms, cloud-brightening, and other massive-scale interventions to cool the planet. It's unclear how significant the meeting will turn out to be, but the intent of its organizers was unmistakable: By choosing Asilomar, they hoped to summon the spirit of a groundbreaking meeting of biologists that took place on the same site in 1975. Back then, scientists with bushy sideburns and split collars—the forefathers of the molecular revolution, it turned out—established principles for the safe and ethical study of deadly pathogens.
The planners of Asilomar II, as they called it, hoped to accomplish much the same for potentially dangerous experiments in geoengineering. Instead of devising new medical treatments for people, the scientists involved in planet-hacking research are after novel ways to treat the Earth. The analogy of global warming to a curable disease was central to the discussions at the meeting. Climate scientist Steve Schneider of Stanford talked about administering "planetary methadone to get over our carbon addiction." Others debated what "doses" of geoengineering would be necessary. Most crucially, the thinkers at Asilomar focused on the idea that medical ethics might provide a framework for balancing the risks and benefits of all this new research.
What would it mean to apply the established principles of biomedical research to the nascent field of geoengineering? The ethicists at Asilomar—particularly David Winickoff from Berkeley and David Morrow from the University of Chicago—began with three pillars laid out in the landmark 1979 Belmont Report. The first, respect for persons, says that biomedical scientists should obtain "informed consent" from their test subjects. The second, beneficence, requires that scientists assess the risks and benefits of a given test before they start. The third, justice, invokes the rights of research subjects to whatever medical advances result from the testing. (The people who are placed at risk should be the same ones who might benefit from a successful result.)
Then Winickoff and Morrow proposed applying the Belmont principles to the study of the most aggressive forms of geoengineering—the ones that would block the sun, like a volcanic eruption does, with a spray of sulfur or other particles into the stratosphere. Before we could embark on a radical intervention like that, we'd need to run smaller-scale tests that might themselves pose a risk to the environment. In much the way that a clinical drug trial might produce adverse reactions, so might a real-world trial of, say, the Pinatubo Option. Instead of causing organ failure or death in its subjects, a botched course of geoengineering might damage the ozone layer or reduce rainfall.
The problem, admitted the ethicists, is how to go about applying the Belmont rules outside of medicine. In clinical drug trials, researchers obtain consent from individuals, and they can precisely define the worse-case outcome (like death). But a trial run of hazing up the stratosphere wouldn't affect specific, identifiable people in any one town, city, or state. The climate is interconnected in many ways, some still mysterious to scientists, and so the risks of even a small-scale test in a particular location might apply across the globe. If everyone on Earth could be affected, how do you figure out whom to ask for informed consent?
One possibility would be to require that all nations of the world agree ahead of time on any tests of consequence. To many gathered at Asilomar, however, this seemed naive; speakers repeatedly invoked the failure of all-inclusive talks to cut global carbon emissions, and it would presumably be much tougher to secure an agreement on work that might damage crop yields or open a hole in the ozone. A more pragmatic approach would be to set up something like a United Nations Planet Hacking Security Council, comprising 15 or so powerful nations whose oversight of research tests would take into account the concerns of a broad swath of countries. But that undemocratic approach would surely face howls of protest.
The principle of beneficence may be just as difficult to follow. Under the Belmont guidelines, doctors must balance the particular risks of a clinical trial with the potential benefit to any individual who might participate. Since it would be impossible to make such a calculation for every person on Earth, planet hackers could at best choose the experiments that minimize harm to the most vulnerable communities—like people living on the coasts of Southeast Asia. But we may not know enough about the risks of geoengineering to make any such credible calculation when the time comes. Consider the Pinatubo Option, by which scientists would mimic the cooling effect of volcanoes. Putting particles in the stratosphere could reduce the total amount of energy that strikes the Earth. Some climate modelers say this would disrupt rainfall by reducing moisture in the atmosphere obtained by evaporation. Others say that geoengineering's droughts and famines would be less harmful than those caused by unchecked warming. Right now, no one can agree on the nature of the risks, let alone the degree to which they would apply to particular communities.
And what about justice? Among the disruptions that could result from testing the Pinatubo Option is a weakening of the Asian monsoon, a source of water for hundreds of millions of people in India. Those in developing countries will "eat the risk" of geoengineering trials, shouted one of the Asilomar speakers. If representatives from just a small set of countries were appointed as doctors to the planet, then the less powerful nations might end up as the world's guinea pigs. Of course, the citizens of those nations also would seem to have the most to lose from uninterrupted global warming. These two dangers would have to be measured one against the other—and compensation as part of the experimental program could be one way of making tests more fair.
If medical ethics aren't quite up to the task of guiding our forays into geoengineering, what other sort of principles should we keep in mind? One important danger to be aware of is the moral hazard that might come with successful trials. That's the idea that protective circumstances or actions can encourage people to take undue risks—government insurance of banks led to risky investments that caused the savings-and-loan crisis in the 1980s, for example. Moral hazard looms particularly large for geoengineering studies since medium-scale field tests could prematurely give us the sense that we have a low-cost technical fix for global warming, no emissions cuts needed. (Moral hazard isn't quite as potent in medical research. The availability of cholesterol-lowering drugs may well discourage people from maintaining healthy diets, but it's unlikely that mere clinical trials would have the same effect.)