CLIMATE POLITICS-Arctic temperatures are soaring to new records. . . and staying there, ever since May of this year.
Truth be known, the Arctic’s been heating up for years. Siberia recently hit 105°F. That’s not normal. It’s 30°F hotter than normal.
Farther south, the Amazon rainforest is hit with a drought every five years like clockwork, not regular run of the mill droughts but massive excessive devastating droughts. NASA’s GRACE satellite, measuring water levels stored deep beneath Earth’s surface showed Deep Red Zones beneath the Amazon rainforest, not watery blue.
Climate activists have been warning about overheating of the planet for decades, ever since Dr. James Hansen’s testimony before the Senate in 1987: “The greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.” (Hansen)
Fast forward to June 2020: Since Hansen’s testimony, thirty-three years of climate activists bitching, protesting, kicking and screaming and bellyaching about excessive human-generated CO2 has gone nowhere but backwards as a relentless rise in CO2 emissions trudges ahead measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii.
Post-Hansen’s testimony the annual rate of CO2 increase has more than doubled, not gone down but doubled. Up, up, and away, year-over-year, it never goes down. It’s the main culprit blanketing the atmosphere, retaining heat for hundreds of years and fast becoming the Big Oven in the Sky.
Clearly, too much heat has already overwhelmed the Arctic and Amazon rainforest ecosystems. Along the way, greenie frustration is finally coming to a head as environmentalists “cat fight” in open public.
For example, Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs’ controversial film Planet of the Humans (Rumble Media) serves as an opening salvo, exposing a green movement that has turned a light shade of brown. The film paints a painful picture of a movement that, in certain instances, has gone off the rails.
Both Moore and Gibbs are lifetime greenies born green. Their film has spooked the green movement into bouts of self-examination and ferocious anger directed right at them, bull’s-eye. After all, the film pulls no punches by highlighting several rash infections of hypocrisy in the uppermost ranks of environmental leadership, acceding to big corporate interests that frankly could care less about the health of ecosystems, other than purely for show.
Otherwise, if they -- meaning big corporate interests and billionaires -- really cared and were truly concerned, by now they would’ve thrown everything they’ve got, including the kitchen sink, at fixing the climate change conundrum. But they have not done that, have they?
Still and all, if the intention behind the making of Planet of the Humans was a “wake-up call” (Hey fellas and gals, this is not working) then it was enormously successful. After release of the film, green protestors protested the filmmakers like crazy, but not in the streets. Evidently, Moore and Gibbs struck a chord.
But still, what has 33 years of green advocacy wrought? Answer: Record high CO2 in the atmosphere and nearly 80% dependency upon fossil fuels, same as 50 years ago. Which advocacy group celebrates that?
Now, along comes another frustrated former greenie, Michael Shellenberger, an active environmentalist throughout his career, publishing a book that takes the green movement to the woodshed, as fully exposed in a recent Wall Street Journal review, d/d June 21st by John Tierney of Shellenberger’s book Apocalypse Never, Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All (Harper)
Based upon Tierney’s review, and assuming Tierney did not “cherry pick” and massage the facts to satisfy corporate interests, i.e. the WSJ, Shellenberger misses the target by a country mile. For example, Shellenberger’s “reach for credibility” includes claims such as: “No, climate change has not caused an increase in the frequency or intensity of floods, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes.” Really? Did Tierney get that right? (Maybe check in with Nebraska, Missouri, S. Dakota, Iowa, and Kansas re the Great Flood of 2019, the longest flood on record, just for starters)
Shellenberger, who evidently promotes industrialization as humanity’s savior, actually suggests, not facetiously, capitalist entrepreneurs saved whales by discovering cheap substitutes for whale oil, like petroleum. Ahem.
And, not to worry about plastics as sunlight and other forces break down the substances. . .not to worry. And solar and wind power are impractical and damage the environment requiring vast areas of land and harm flora and fauna. Oh, really! Did Tierney get that right. . .? (I know, I know! “Read the book,” but, based upon the review, no thanks.)
And, finally, according to Shellenberger: “While industrialization causes a short-term rise in carbon emissions, in the long term it’s beneficial to the environment as people move to cities, allowing farmland to revert to nature, and as prosperity enables them to switch to cleaner and more compact forms of energy.”
Hmm – Just wondering, thinking out loud, where does sophism come into play here?
As a final note about Shellenberger’s book, a positive review in the WSJ is nothing to be proud of if you are an eco warrior of any stripe. It’s the ultimate sell-out, although, it’s not Shellenberger’s fault that the WSJ picked up on his diatribe of the green movement.
Still, aren’t Wall Street and its kissing cousin the WSJ responsible for promoting the neoliberal leviathan that “sucks up” to fossil fuel interests and literally destroyed America’s middle class and unions and checks and balances on pollution by shipping U.S. manufacturing offshore to the lowest common denominator of wages and avoidance of environmental regulations? Answer: Yes!
Based upon Tierney’s review, Shellenberger is simply one more lifeline for the fossil fuel industry and Wall Street’s neoliberal dreamland advocacy. Although its constituency is quite narrow, the one percent plus a few lesser want-a-be millionaire/billionaire luminaries. So, who’s really left to buy the book?
When it comes to neoliberal advocacy, it’s certainly worth mentioning Ross Perot nailing it during the 1992 presidential debate (Bush, Clinton, Perot) when he warned the country about the devastation to follow in NAFTA’s footsteps: “If you are paying $12 per hour, $13 per hour for factory workers, and you can move your factory to south of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor, have no health care, have no environmental controls, no pollution controls, and no retirement plans and you don’t care about anything but making money, there will be giant sucking sound going south.”
Perot elaborated: “These kinds of deals will wreck the country.” P.S. His speech is pretty good fodder for an American revolution. (Source: Perot in 1992 Warned NAFTA Would Create ‘Giant Sucking Sound’ The Washington Post, July 9, 2019)
Perot’s statement speaks volumes as it illuminates why America’s middle class and its unions are broken. Neoliberal ideology, along with its kissing cousin globalization, shipped labor offshore, shipped environmental/pollution regulations offshore, decimated unions, and as much as possible, adopted the green movement with largess of their own making. Motto: Whatever it takes! Overtake and dilute and/or use to market products.
Meanwhile, the planet itself, speaking on its behalf, likely disagrees with Shellenberger. Ecosystems are coming apart at the seams, which Shellenberger ignores and refutes by advocating as core values industrialism and fossil fuels and nuclear over renewables and eco economics. He misses an important point as far as the biosphere is concerned. Salvation for humanity and for the planet is dependent upon tossing out the entire neoliberal experiment in favor of eco economics that favors natural systems and human values over profits and inane infinite growth schemes.
Meantime, throughout the biosphere, ecosystems are breaking down. It is palpable, and Shellenberger knows it. And Moore and Gibbs know it and expressed concern about it. Further to the point, how could anybody who’s knowledgeable about the climate system miss it?
Consider: It was a little over one year ago when tens of thousands of bats fell out of the sky in Australia because of excessive heat at 42C. According to Dr. Welbergen, president of the Australasian Bat Society: “This sort of event has not happened in Australia this far north since European settlement,”. (Source: How One Heatwave Killed ‘a third’ of a Bat Species in Australia, BBC News, Jan. 15, 2019)
In May 2020 bats dropped dead in the streets in India. “It appears the mass mortality of bats was caused due to brain hemorrhage, caused by excessive heat.” (Source: IVRI- Indian Veterinary Research Institute director R.K. Singh)
Not only that, this June 2020 scientists verified the hottest temperature ever recorded in the coldest place on Earth: “The World Meteorological Organization is investigating a record-high temperature for the Arctic after the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk registered a high of 38 degrees Celsius 100 degrees Fahrenheit.” (Source: Arctic Siberian Town Hit With Record Heatwave, Al Jazeera, June 25, 2020).
That’s Miami weather, and it’s not happening all of a sudden. The entire Arctic has turned into a heat machine that’s been coming on stream for years now.
Not only that, collapsing permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic is happening 70 years earlier than scientists expected, to wit: “Observed maximum thaw depths at our sites are already exceeding those projected to occur by 2090.” (Source: Louise M. Farquharson et al, Climate Change Drives Widespread and Rapid Thermokarst Development in Very Cold Permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic, Geophysical Research Letters, June 10, 2019).
In some locations of the Canadian High Arctic landscape collapsed by three feet, houses sunk into the earth, and roads slip slide in wavy curvatures.
Special Alert! Permafrost covers 25% of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s loaded with all kinds of greenhouse gas carbon frozen in place just waiting for release.
Not only that, the Wet Bulb Temperature (WBT) effect has already arrived 50 years earlier than expected in some regions of the planet as measured by a recent study. (Source: Colin Raymond, et al, The Emergence of Heat and Humidity Too Severe for Human Tolerance, Science Advances, Vol. 6, no. 19, May 8, 2020)
The human body has limits. If “temperature plus humidity” is high enough, even a healthy person seated in the shade with plentiful water to drink will suffer severely or likely die. A threshold is reached when the air temperature climbs above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity is above 90 percent. Death ensues.
“Previous studies projected that this (WBT) would happen several decades from now, but this shows it’s happening right now.” (Raymond)
Not only that, a major study by 89 climatologists in the journal Nature revealed unprecedented rates of ice melt at the planet’s two greatest ice masses. The combined rate of ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica averaged 89 billion tons per year in the 1990s. Yet, by the 2010s (if standing, please sit down) the average rate exploded to 523 billion tons per annum. (Source: Ice Loss in Antarctica and Greenland Increased Sixfold in the Last 30 Years, LiveScience, March 2020)
Not only that, throughout the world, mega droughts are hitting harder and more viciously than ever before. An Australian research paper identified the worst droughts in 800 years. (Source: Multi-century Cool-and Warm-Season rainfall Reconstructions for Australia’s Major Climatic Regions, European Geosciences Union, Vol. 13, Issue 12, Nov. 30, 2017 by Mandy Freund and Benjamin Henley)
Not only that, according to the UN World Food Program, as for Central America: “Five years of recurring droughts have destroyed maize and bean harvests, leaving poor subsistence farmers in the so-called Dry Corridor that runs through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua struggling to feed their families.” Solution: Pray for rain or migrate north.
And, central Chile is in the midst of what scientists have labeled a “Mega Drought,” an uninterrupted period of dry years since 2010. Half of the country has been designated “Emergency Status.” Farmers are going out of business. (Source: Chile Declares Agricultural Emergency as Extreme Drought Hits Santiago and Outskirts, Santiago Times, August 26, 2019)
And, in South America’s Brazil, “The SPI-12 time series showed that from 2011 to 2019, excluding the south region, the other Brazilian regions have been exposed to the most severe and intense drought events in almost the last 60 years.” (Source: Ana Paula M.S. Cunha, et al, Extreme Drought Events Over Brazil from 2011 to 2019, Atmosphere, October 24, 2019)
Not only that, according to NASA, the Middle East’s drought cycle from 1998-2012 was the most severe in 900 years. According to Ben Cook of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. It continues to this day as the eastern and southern Mediterranean coastlines are drying out faster than anywhere else on the planet. Eco migrants follow in kind.
Not only that, throughout much of Asia drought is becoming the norm rather than the exception. (China Daily News, August 12, 2019)
Remarkably, the impact of global warming is just now starting to strut its stuff so visibly and so perceptibly that average people are recognizing its threat. Fox News reported on the Arctic temps of recent. That’s as average as it gets. But is Fox really average, or is it something else altogether different?
Yet, according to Tierney’s review of Shellenberger’s book, “The trouble with the new environmental religion is that it has become increasingly apocalyptic, destructive, and self-defeating.”
And, of course, as stated previously, Shellenberger claims: “No, climate change has not caused an increase in the frequency or intensity of floods, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes.” Not to worry, apocalypse never.
The truth of the matter is environmentalists have not screamed loud enough to make a difference as greenhouse gases are presently at all-time highs after three decades of screaming but not loud enough! Should environmentalists scream ever louder or adopt neoliberalism’s laissez-faire approach to business? BTW - Look where that got us.
Ross Perot’s statement at the 1992 presidential debate (see above) is a full description of laissez-faire economics in one long sentence. How’s that working for working people in America and around the world? And, for the greater environment?
Here’s a big part of the problem in a nutshell: In many respects, the Amazon ecosystem and the Arctic are facsimiles of the larger biosphere but more sensitive to climate change. In other words, some ecosystems are ultra-sensitive to changes in the climate system and thus serve as proxies or early warning signals prior to recognition of a looming threat by civilization at large.
Meantime, whilst climate change disrupts ecosystems on the fringes of civilization, society comfortably exists in artificial complexities of cement, steel, glass, and wood within a vast chemically induced world that only recognizes the danger of collapsing ecosystems after it’s too late. Then, it is too late!
Because of fabricated/artificial lifestyles, as just described, humans are the last living organisms to see and feel, and indeed, truly comprehend the impact of climate change. Artificial lifestyles masquerade the bigger issues. Thus, artificiality breeds ignorance and stupidity, as reflected in political elections. It’s the “Cement, Steel, Glass, Wood, Chemically Induced Syndrome,” and it’s deadly by stealthily hiding the truth from society at large.
Yet, there are thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers that see the truth. Some of those papers are quoted in this article.
Postscript: A fact worth repeating, time and again because it’s not going away: According to NOAA Climate.gov: “In fact, the last time the atmospheric CO2 amounts were this high was more than 3 million years ago, when temperature was 2°–3°C (3.6°–5.4°F) higher than during the pre-industrial era, and sea level was 15–25 meters (50–80 feet) higher than today.” The lag effect is in-process.
(Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and is a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at email@example.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.