“I feel great despair. My heart tells me to drop everything and run to the mountains, to try to find a place to take my family to ride out this great demise. Help!
Wednesday September 22, 2010 12:05″
“Hey, me too on occasion. What salves that despair is seeing how many people are coming together to do great organizing. check out the pictures from last year at 350.org. we may not win, but we’re going to give the bad guys a run for their (considerable) money. “
That exchange came early in a Grist.org online chat event with Bill McKibben. And that’s what I’m hearing. Shadows of doubt.
Early in this program, after a solid round of hate rant against the Greens by Texas Talk Show man Alex Jones – we look deeper into the engines of climate doubt.
Dr. Naomi Oreskes has a unique marriage of expertise, in both global warming AND the history of science.
She is a Professor at the University of California, San Diego. Her early books were on Geophysics, Plate Tectonics, and Continental Drift theory. But now Naomi Oreskes enters a more public battle, with her newest book “Merchants of Doubt, How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth, on Issues from Tobacco Smoke, to Global Warming.”
During my own research in the early 1900’s, I found a small group of scientists promoting dubious products, like tobacco and even asbestos. They were joined by other authority figures, like Dixie Lee Ray, a former Governor of Washington State, who never met a toxic chemical she didn’t like. Many of the press releases came from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
These front institutions, funded by billionaires and very wealthy industrialists, are the “think tanks” that bring out endless reports suggesting the poor should be dumped, the prisons privatized, and taxes must always fall. They don’t like environmentalism, because it costs them money for pollution equipment, or even stops a few big ventures – the ones that can’t pass any public smell test. Think the Coors family, and the Koch brothers for starters.
I suppose the surprise isn’t that big polluters hire spokespeople, even scientists. My question is: how did such a small number of people get so much media attention, to look like an equal half in the public debate? How did they do it?
Dr. Oreskes did the digging. She found a second thread to this story. Beyond the wealthy polluters, there also lurked a cadre of academics raised on fighting the Cold War, capitalism versus communism. When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, many of the same faces switched over to anti-environmentalism. Since big governments could legislate restrictive environmental protection laws – they must be socialist, if not Communist.
Under that theology, several top-rated scientists, including one former President of the National Academy of Sciences, began signing press releases saying the risk of tobacco, DDT, and other chemicals was over-rated. Perhaps they weren’t so dangerous. It was, and is, a strategy of casting doubt.
The fact that several well-known scientists went well beyond their fields of expertise to endorse media machines designed to protect chemical, oil and tobacco companies raises my suspicions. At least two were found to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from electric power and coal providers. Others may have acted out of idealism alone, who knows?
That anti-Green machine was established an well-oiled, as the carbon dioxide problem became more visible. Suddenly, some of the same scientists declared global warming to either not exist, or be a harmless natural change. The same think-tanks produced reports saying the same. Delay, delay, and cast doubt, as the tobacco lobby did so successfully for years (at a cost of millions of lives around the world….).
Naomi Oreskes shows the roots, the development and the present growth of this denial industry. Don’t miss this interview.
In the next segment, I was moved.
This very day, I went down to the Court House steps, to hear the words of a green grandmother threatened with life imprisonment, just for her activism to protect nature.
We all know Governments and big corporations make big mistakes. They blow up oil wells, reactors, banking systems and whole cities and nobody goes to jail. Nobody. But if you protest the destruction of Earth’s environment – watch out! The full force of the law comes down.
I’ve heard of harassment and dirty deals against the Greens. But I’ve never heard anything so disgusting as came out today.
In British Columbia, which claims to have a green conscience, the government of Gordon Campbell was determine to ram through new highways in time for the Olympics. Never mind the environment, or the people who objected, including some of the First Nations people, who have never given up claim to that land.
Betty Krawczyk is at least 81. Maybe more. She has a long history of standing up to logging in the woods, or massive construction through the last urban green. She has been arrested many times. Betty wrote a book in her last 10 month jail sentence.
Now in an Appeal Court action, the British Columbia prosecutor is asking for a life sentence!
Her protest was non-violent – she stood on public land, with a First Nations woman, in front of a construction bull-dozer.
Now, without any jury trial, and without a lawyer, Betty Krawczyk will make her Appeal in Vancouver, Canada. The government Prosecutor is calling for a life sentence, comparing Betty’s protests to cases of repeated rapes of children.
In Canada, a rapist might get 5 years or less. Murder has been punished with 7 years or less. But environmental protest – throw away the key!
We hear clips recorded from Betty on the Court House steps, plus famous civil rights lawyer Cameron Ward on the abuse of process. Rex Weyler also spoke, as well as a woman representing the First Nations people, who Betty helped many times.
It was a sad affair. If this speech doesn’t move you, nothing will.
Then we move on to the inevitable: rising seas.
All our lives, all our maps, our ports, and our commerce depend upon a steady sea level. All places around the world are marked so many feet or meters “above sea level”. That is history. Now the sea level will rise, just from the greenhouse gases we have already put in the air, and the heat we have already put into the sea.
I interview Dr. Peter Ward, a thought-leader in the field, and a leading scientist. He’s the author of the break-through book “Under A Green Sky”. That book explains how relatively sudden (in geological time) mass extinctions could occur – due to greenhouse heating. The very bacteria in the sea change, emitting hydrogen sulfide, which kills off many land animals and plants. This view is now widely held, due to further scientific studies which also lead in that direction.
In his new book “The Flooded Earth” – Peter Ward explains why, how, and how fast the seas will rise, due to global warming. Even this century, we are in for big changes, likely a meter or three feet by 2100. It could be slightly less, or a lot more, we don’t know for sure.
And it also looks like the massive process of de-icing the world has begun. If that tipping point has in fact been reached, as scientists like James Hansen fear might be the case even at our present carbon dioxide levels – then nothing can stop a thousand-year melt that will leave the world more or less ice-free.
That has huge ramifications for everything, including the movement of winds and ocean currents. As Hansen says, we may be heading “for a different planet”.
Even within the next 50 to a hundred years, Ward says, we could see significant damage to agriculture, just when we need food most for those extra three billion people. Even a small rise in sea levels can send salt into the water tables of low-lying deltas. Hundreds of millions of people depend upon delta food. Even California, in places like San Francisco, could lose a lot of productive land, this century, due to rising seas.
Not to mention the multi-trillion dollar cost of raising all those docks, and moving all those ocean-side homes – at a time when we expect to have less fossil fuels, at much higher prices.
In our interview, Peter Ward claims that the single biggest threat and impact of climate change will be rising seas, rather than hot weather, or even drought. We’ll see.
Find more at our You tube channel.
Sure enough, I have my first denialist heckler! Tom Harris from the “International Climate Science Coalition” says my “Russian Heat” video is “spam” because it depicts climate change as a real phenomenon, caused by humans! (When his 137 scientists say it’s not). Find the details about Tom Harris here at desmogblog.com
Kinda like Dr. Oreskes said. And it just keeps rolling on, even as we set record heat throughout the last decade. etc.
Next week, we’ll look into the psychology of climate change. No, no, not the gump fed to governments. Work by field psychologists into the way you and I handle the news. How we adapt – or fail to…