Friday, 7 January 2011

Climate Change Problems

Misconceptions about the subject of climate change still abound, so frequently assisted by the corporate lobby denialists, the confused journalists, and also far too many evasive politicians. See further my Climate Change Complexities.

Several years ago, an acquaintance of mine encountered an American executive in the oil industry. When challenged on the subject of  global warming, this executive conceded that the climate was altering, but said he did not believe that human activity was the cause. Moreover, he could not see any reason for oil companies to change their policy, and instead investigate alternative energy sources, while such profits were to be made from oil production. When confronted about melting polar ice caps, the executive stated that oil companies were pleased about the Arctic ice cap receding; his own company could now drive drilling equipment straight into the rock without having to remove the ice layer. There was no expression of conscience about the repercussions of this exploitation.

Of course, warming in Greenland and adjacent regions can mean a reverse in weather conditions elsewhere, as weather experts have indicated. Then again, a very cold winter can be followed by a very hot summer, as was demonstrated by nature in 2010. The oil companies have inaugurated the climate of weather extremes, and nothing else matters to them but their accumulating wealth and sales drive.

The ever more costly fuel is purchased by compliant consumers who race at breakneck speeds in corroding metal frames poised on wearing rubber tyres. They can often be seen holding mobile phones close to their ear as they drive around in their technological chariots. Too many of them play extremely loud music on car radios that defy normal standards of public nuisance. The British police have given unheeded warnings that the combination of car radios and mobile phones is deadly, being the root cause of many accidents on congested roads where almost everyone drives too fast.

There is now a new industry for the consumer. Many writers on ecology are tending to favour various forms of “green” merchandise which supposedly create utopia. Like the “eco houses” of the Findhorn Foundation, everything has a price in the new age of eco-fantasy. The more affluent the client, the more he or she might have to pay the entrepreneurs. Furthermore, like other houses, the “eco” variety can be resold for a profit. I have critically referred to this scenario as ecobiz, dating back to my book Pointed Observations (2005); see the index p. 415. (The word Ecobiz has been used in a more glorifying sense by industry and business concerns.)

The current situation can be deceptive. George Monbiot has reminded that “a powerful counter-movement, led by corporate-funded thinktanks, has waged war on green policies.” Another impediment is the new wave of green business consultants, who have invented such beliefs as “we will save the biosphere by adopting nuclear energy, GM crops and geoengineering.” See Channel 4's convenient green fictions.

Other problems are comprised by misleading journalism, which has shown an alarming ability to misread and distort environmental issues. A British daily recently hosted a diversion which the more responsible George Monbiot has also duly addressed. The misinformation extends to the subject of water vapour, alleging that cyclical changes in vapour may account for much global warming in the twentieth century.

Scientific analysis has described this construction as a classic denialist argument created in the early 1990s, though one dispelled years ago by a NASA satellite measuring water vapour. The changes caused by accumulation of carbon dioxide are the root cause of water vapour feedback. Water vapour is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but does not increase or change unless carbon dioxide precipitates the damaging atmospheric processes. Warming from CO2 emissions causes more water to evaporate from the oceans and collect in the atmosphere, thus producing an even larger scale of warming.

The same erring media source asserted that the Met Office website showed how global temperatures have been flat for the past fifteen years. Monbiot observes in contradiction that “all the datasets, including the Met Office/CRU figures show that the current decade is the warmest in the instrumental record.”

It is evident that too many media reports about climate change cannot be trusted. The yardsticks employed are too often those of corporate business and complacent high salary politics. Not to mention sheer incompetence. In view of the extensive scale of the climate problems, the current civilisation can easily be regarded as the worst one in history; whatever the glaring flaws in former epochs and societies, none of them could achieve anywhere near the damage provided by contemporary feats of manic corporate capitalism and the “march of progress.”

On the controversial subject of nuclear power, Greenpeace states: “Despite what the nuclear industry tells us, building enough nuclear power stations to make a meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would cost trillions of dollars, create tens of thousands of tons of lethal high-level radioactive waste, contribute to further proliferation of nuclear weapons materials, and result in a Chernobyl-scale accident once every decade.”

In America, the current situation is gloomy for scientific findings. According to environmentalist Rick Piltz, “during the past two years the global warming denial machine has launched a nihilistic, take-no-prisoners war on climate science and climate scientists that makes Bush officials seem tactically subtle and rhetorically nuanced in comparison.”

Science journal reported the debacle (R.A. Kerr and E. Kintisch,“Climatologists Feel the Heat as Science Meets Politics,” 17/12/2010). In 2000, George W. Bush pledged to regulate CO2, but when he became President, he refused to sign the crucial Kyoto Protocol which 187 countries had ratified three years before. The Bush Administration became notorious for downplaying and evading the actual and potential effects of climate change, but did not mount overt attacks on climate scientists. The recent Republican revolt against climate science is far more extremist.

Rick Piltz adds, “what we face today also includes members of Congress and other politicians, plus an army of lobbyists and political and propaganda operatives, who are essentially acting as agents for corporate interests and right-wing anti-regulatory radicalism.”

There is the further warning from Piltz that “the [American] blogosphere is awash in science-ignorant attack dogs who appear to take lessons from thugs.”

It should be well known that America and China are not the only vandals in terms of carbon dioxide pollution. The new threat from Canada, formerly a minor factor, has created alarm. Some details are relevant to mention here.

Canada needed to cut CO2 emissions only 6% by 2012. Instead the Canadian emissions rose over 25% by 2010. This setback was caused by big business exploitation in Alberta. Mining the tar sands can politely be called an eco disaster. The tar sands have to be extensively refined to produce crude oil, and the general mess is one more major strike at nature and non-corporate humanity. The many adverse consequences include “mutated fish, poisoned food, and unusual diseases.” That does not mean anything to the relentless purses pocketing the profits. Several of the world’s biggest oil corporations are reported to be involved, including Shell, Exxon, Total, and BP.

British university students have conveyed due information online, as part of their very commendable project People and Planet. The future of their generation stands to suffer from the consequences of denialism and surfeit capitalism.

Ecological sanity is currently severely offset by corporate greed. By the time that due public education is created, it may be too late, if it is not already so even now, as some ecologists do strongly imply. Yet realism is not the stuff of the ailing international consumer society, which instead substitutes distractions at every turn.

Kevin R. D. Shepherd
January 7th 2011

ENTRY no. 36

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