Is it wrong of me to frame climate-change deniers as genocidal?
I’m not even sure “genocide” is the right word to describe their project. Genocide probably has too narrow a definition to encapsulate actions and consequences that are so all-consuming and indiscriminate. I actually can’t think of anything to metre the level of destruction denial has caused, or will force us to endure in the future.
Existential? Apocalyptic? Exist-a-lyptic?
Whatever the word, there is one thing I know, the denials have to stop.
To those still claiming “it’s just weather”, you’ve had your fun, made your money, the damage is done! We have the proof, we know you lied, you’re lying. You invoke God then greed, hate then fear, denouncing all but the faithful. I’d say listen to reason, but we know you can’t hear, anything but the doctrines of greed.
You have faith.
We have science.
Is that how you justify your exist-a-lyptic urge to destroy? What would you have us do?
Jane Mayer in The New Yorker reviews Christopher Leonard’s book Kochland, a chronicle of “the extraordinary behind-the-scenes influence that Charles and David Koch have exerted to cripple government action on climate change” in the United States and around the world.
I can’t talk about the book, I haven’t read its seven hundred pages. What I can do is accept what Mayer is saying about Leonard’s findings, and form an opinion, pass judgment, on the brother’s Koch.
I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say, by actively funding climate-change denial, the brother’s Koch put their interests and the profits of their companies above the lives of almost every other person on the planet. It’s a position, an arrogance, as unsettling as the “smoking gun” revelation surrounding ExxonMobil, reported earlier in the month by Oliver Milman of The Guardian. The Texas oil giant made “‘breathtakingly’ accurate climate predictions in 1970s and 80s” then systematically denied the science.
The idea anyone could or would deliberately cause harm, actively destroying life on the planet, is so far beyond my comprehension it’s hard for me to fathom.
Actually that’s not true. History is awash with examples of the self-interested, and their abilities to divorce actions from consequences. It’s the logic of faith. I believe in God. I am devout. Therefore everything I do is God’s will.
It’s how everyone from kings to terrorists, moguls to dictators, rationalise their actions.
Two stories, from opposite ends of the climate crisis, caught my attention yesterday.
The first by Damian Carrington, details three “super-tipping points” for climate action, that could cascade through our economies, potentially reducing “70% of global greenhouse gas emissions”. The report, from consultancy Systemiq, partnering with the University of Exeter, advocates policy interventions on electric vehicles, plant-based meat alternatives, and green fertilisers, as “the fastest way to drive global action”. Basically, push growth in these three sectors, to get us away from high-carbon options as quickly as possible.
While I think the idea sounds plausible, I wonder if it’s enough? It doesn’t deal with the structural problems that got us here in the first place. The Systemiq strategy was launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It’s speaking business to business, which has me mulling, will another iteration of business really solve our problems?
More than a dozen America states have lawsuits against Exxon. Many believe Supran’s report strengthens their case against the Texas giant. It certainly establishes two key facts. Exxon “knew about the causes and consequences of climate change” and they “actively concealed and denied it”.
Exxon has consistently denied “they knew”. I call that a press-release denial, but they have deep pockets to defend against accusations of wrongdoing. Theoretically they could continue their denials well beyond the point of no return. I’d argue we’re already there. If, as Systemiq predicts, there’s a tipping point when detoxing our economies of carbon achieves critical mass, what’s the super-tipping point for Exxon?
When do they accept their part in all of our destruction, and do something to stop it?
My previous post was about the recent release of a shocking report by researchers from Harvard University and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, confirming Exxon has know for at least fifty years that their products were, are, and will continue causing planet wide warming.
I first saw the Exxon story late last night on Mastodon. This morning I checked Twitter, and was surprised-not-surprised to see no mention of it. It’s there if you search, but on the UK News feed and Trending there’s nothing.
It wasn’t so long ago Twitter was my first port of call for breaking stories. Now, the top thirty stories on the platform, go from Felix to Corbyn, with no mention of Exxon. That’s just wrong, and dangerous, and confirms the kind of dangerous bias, I for one, expected when Elon Musk took over Twitter.
Oliver Milmanin The Guardian reports that Exxon has know for at least fifty years that their products were, are, and will continue causing planet wide warming.
Back in the 1970s Exxon’s own scientists “correctly and skilfully” “predicted there would be global heating of about 0.2C a decade due to the emissions of planet-heating gases from the burning of oil, coal and other fossil fuels”.
What did Exxon do with this information? Did they tell everyone, try to reverse it, invest in solutions? No, they watched as their prediction came true, then attacked the science.
Geoffrey Supran led the team of researchers from Harvard University and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, that uncovered the “smoking gun” showing Exxon “accurately predicted warming years before they started attacking the science”.
And why would Exxon make such a despicable choice, take such callous actions, for decades? You guessed it, to protect company profits.
The company wants to disperse huge quantities of sulphur and particles into the atmosphere, mimicking a massive volcanic eruption, that’s supposed to reflect sunlight back into space, hopefully easing global warming. This kind of geoengineering is controversial, and Make Sunsets’ approach, to me at least, sounds way too casual. It’s almost as if no one has told them, they just haven’t bothered to find out, when you release toxic chemicals like sulphur into the atmosphere, they fall back to earth as acid rain.
Acid rain was the hot environmental topic of the seventies and eighties. The heavy industries of Britain and Northern Europe released tonnes of pollutants into the atmosphere, that fell as sulphur dioxide spiked rain across southern Scandinavia, causing all kinds of environmental damage, from deforestation to water pollution.
As neoliberalism stripped heavy industry out of Britain, turning the country into a service economy, acid rain became less of an issue, and receded from public view. But a couple of years ago Paul Brown in The Guardian, reported that one “previously underestimated cause of acid rain is nitrogen oxides, produced partly by farming and motor vehicles”. To counteract nitric acid in rainfall, Norway is forced to pour tonnes of lime into their waterways.
On a more hyperbolic tangent, deliberately releasing sulphur into the atmosphere sounds too much like the plot of a dystopian science fiction film. It makes me think of the “desert of the real” speech by Morpheus in The Matrix (1999). Humans, faced with an existential threat from machines, try to starve them of solar energy, by deliberately scorching the sky.
Machines may not be plotting our enslavement, not yet, but we are facing an existential threat from a man-made, machine-enhanced, climate catastrophe. What’s being proposed by Make Sunsets falls squarely into “desert of the real” territory. Morpheus’ speech is a warning about the unforeseen consequences of desperate actions. It’s telling us not to do anything that will have long reaching, unforeseen consequences. Like scorching the skies with sulphur.