Today, Friday September 20th, is a global strike day to address global warming/climate change.
It’s hard to believe we need a teenager from another country, Greta Thunberg, to remind Congress and the American people to listen to scientists on the subject of climate change, but that’s the sad reality in the Land of Greedica. We all know the world is getting hotter, storms are getting more intense, birds and insects are dying in large numbers, coral reefs are dying off due to bleaching — the list goes on. And we also know human actions are contributing to global warming.
But we also know there are trillions of dollars of fossil fuels still in the ground, or under our oceans, or in rapidly melting arctic regions, and that fossil fuel companies want the profits from the extraction, production, and sale of the same. And those companies buy as many politicians as they can, they control as much of the media as they can, they even buy scientists to present “contrary” evidence about global warming, all in the cause of greed and power.
They get away with it in part because we’ve been trained to think in the short term. We keep daily and even hourly calendars. The business cycle is quarterly and yearly. Even those long Communist plans of the past dealt with five-year cycles. We humans simply aren’t used to thinking in terms of generations, nor are we encouraged to.
The process of global warming has been occurring slowly, gradually, over the last few generations, but it’s beginning to pick up speed, with major changes occurring faster than many scientists predicted.
Speaking of generational changes, it’s interesting that the Pentagon and its generals easily think in generational terms when it comes to America’s wars, and encourage Americans to do the same, but we’re not encouraged at all to work persistently and patiently to win the “war” on climate change. (As an aside, the fossil-fuel-driven U.S. military is obviously not helping the cause of ameliorating the impact of global warming, though the Pentagon is planning for global disruptions to be caused by climate change. With military budgets approaching a trillion a year, I’d say they’re winning, even as the planet loses.)
As Tom Engelhardt noted this week at TomDispatch.com, we humans need to stop empowering the pyromaniacs who’d prefer to see the earth burn as long as they’re making money off of it. We need to act globally to protect our planet from irreversible harm, or we’re pretty much screwed as a species.
18 thoughts on “Global Strikes, Global Warming, Global Change”
W. J. –
I noted with interest your comment:
“We all know the world is getting hotter, storms are getting more intense, birds and insects are dying in large numbers, coral reefs are dying off due to bleaching — the list goes on. And we also know human actions are contributing to global warming.”
Actually, we all do _not_ know this.
I certainly respect your views on matters which you have experience with, but it would be nice if you could conduct more of your effort into the matter of climate before you repeat what the climate extremists are shouting.
For starters, you may refer to the following quote from a NASA webpage, on the Greenland Ice Core project of a couple of decades ago:
“When scientists lower an ultra-precise thermometer into a hole in the ice, they can detect the temperature variations that have occurred since the Ice Age. The near-surface ice temperature, like the atmosphere today, is warm, and then the temperature drops in the layers formed roughly between AD 1450 and 1850, a period known as the Little Ice Age, one of several cold snaps that briefly interrupted the overall warming trend ongoing since the end of the Ice Age. As the thermometer goes deeper into the ice sheet, the temperature warms again, and then plummets to the temperatures indicative of the Ice Age.”
Comparing current temperatures to those which reflect the Little Ice Age is not an accurate way to assess human impact on the climate. Do yourself a favor, and look beyond the hysteria.
Thank you for your post.
St. Paul, Alberta, Canada
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi Jim: You’re right: there was a “little ice age.” I used to teach about this. But ever since c.1800, the earth has been warming. Some of this is “natural,” a swing from the preceding age. But some of this warming is unnatural, as humans pump CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Even fossil fuel giants like Exxon-Mobil recognize global warming.
Whether we agree or disagree, Mother Nature doesn’t care. The climate will continue to change; the question is how rapidly. Unless we take action, that change will be rapid indeed, and we as humans won’t have the time to adjust to it in a measured way.
W. J. –
Thank you for your response.
With all due respect: we are agreed that the climate will continue to change – as it always has. We are not agreed that humans have any impact on the climate, either warming or cooling.
What is known is that the measures which have been proposed for humans to control the climate will come at great cost to those who live in the Developed World, while those who live in the Third World will continue to increase their per capita energy use.
It is becoming apparent that the rebound in temperatures from the lows of the Little Ice Ages has ended. No one can explain the current “pause” in the temperature record. No one knows why the Little Ice Age occurred, although many suspect solar activity. No one knows why the temperature was warmer during Medieval times than at present, and no one knows why the temperature was warmer during Roman times than it was during Medieval times. What is known is that the Sun appears to be moving into another period with minimal activity – something which was noted during the Little Ice Age.
The current period is called an “Interglacial”, for the primary reason that the natural state of the planet at this time is in a deep Ice Age. ( https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/abrupt-climate-change/Glacial-Interglacial%20Cycles ) The temperatures – clearly apparent from charts using the Greenland Ice Sheet Core data – show that there has been a consistent trend cooler over the past 6,000 years. The Ice Sheet Core Data is clear, and it is available for anyone to confirm.
You can find the raw data, in text format, here:
You can find the data presented in chart form, Temperature on the Y axis, Years Before Present on the X axis, here:
Of course, this is your Blog, and this is a nominally free society, so you are free to delete my comments. As a student of history, I take great interest in primary data, and this carries over into my study of climate.
I would note that Dr. Michael Mann’s defamation lawsuit against Dr. Tim Ball was dismissed, with Dr. Ball being awarded costs. The following link presents Mann’s “hockey-stick” above Ball’s graph of temperatures over the past millenium.
St. Paul, Alberta, Canada
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi Jim: We agree that climate change exists. We disagree on the causes. I see human activity as a contributing cause; you reject that conclusion due to lack of evidence.
But consider the following report: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/03/climate/us-climate-report.html
“WASHINGTON — Directly contradicting much of the Trump administration’s position on climate change, 13 federal agencies unveiled an exhaustive scientific report on Friday that says humans are the dominant cause of the global temperature rise that has created the warmest period in the history of civilization.
Over the past 115 years global average temperatures have increased 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to record-breaking weather events and temperature extremes, the report says. The global, long-term warming trend is “unambiguous,” it says, and there is “no convincing alternative explanation” that anything other than humans — the cars we drive, the power plants we operate, the forests we destroy — are to blame.”
I could add many more links to scientific studies that show human activity is a contributing cause, but I trust you’ve already looked at them and find them unconvincing.
My questions to you are these: What if you’re wrong? And, if it takes years to discover you’re wrong, as climate change accelerates due to human action (and inaction), will it not be much too late to act?
There are ways to act that do not do great harm to industrialized economies in the developed world; not to act is already doing harm to all the world. Time to act!
W. J. –
Thank you for your response. I have no issue with the NYT reporting that the climate has warmed 1.8 degrees F over the past 115 years. But I do take issue with the following words,
“The global, long-term warming trend is “unambiguous,” it says, and there is “no convincing alternative explanation” that anything other than humans — the cars we drive, the power plants we operate, the forests we destroy — are to blame.”
You ask: “What if you’re wrong? And, if it takes years to discover you’re wrong, as climate change accelerates due to human action (and inaction), will it not be much too late to act?”
And therein lies the rub.
My response is: “And what if the “theory” of Anthropogenic Global Warming is wrong? What if Western civilization bankrupts itself over a fantasy theory, pushed by social activists, who refuse to accept data from beyond 115 years ago in their push to indoctrinate people into panic?
What if this link points to the real agenda?
The hysteria that is being whipped up by special interest groups, and the fanatical insistence that all must follow their path – or else – does not sit well with me.
Before we destroy our civilization with ill-thought-out actions which will devastate the economies of the Western World, let us consider the evidence – and not just the “evidence” that one side brings to the argument. The planet is a very large place, and it has been around for a long, long time. To suggest that it the planet has no coping mechanism to a marginal increase in the rise of the amount of a trace gas in the atmosphere, is to ignore the complex buffering effects of the multitude of mechanisms which affect the climate.
To suggest that a climate record of 115 years is an adequate length of time to understand what is occurring, on a planet which has experienced wide, unexplained swings of temperature before, is premature. Note that the last Ice Age, which ended more than 10,000 years ago, is still having an effect on rising – and falling – land.
“Even though the ice retreated long ago, North America is still rising where the massive layers of ice pushed it down. The U.S. East Coast and Great Lakes regions—once on the bulging edges, or forebulge, of those ancient ice layers—are still slowly sinking from forebulge collapse.”
I am conscious of two things, when I consider the “we’re all going to die” argument: the Catholic church burned Giordano Bruno at the stake in 1600 for daring to challenge the “orthodoxy” of the Church; and I remember the first two lines of Kipling’s poem “If”, which read, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.”
I am sure that you are familiar with George Birdsong’s refrain on the issue of “what if?”
Oh, my name is Colonel Wray,
And I’m the leader of the group,
So gather round me pilots,
And I’ll give you all the poop.
You wonder where the Luftwaffe is,
And all about the flak,
Well, I’m the last to take off,
And the first one to get back.
Early aborts, avoid the rush,
Early aborts, avoid the rush,
Well, I’m the last to take off,
And the first one to get back. –
-p. 42, “Stormy Weather, A B-17 and The Royal Air Force Affair; The Delta Rebel No. 2 – A Trilogy” George P. Birdsong, Jr., 1988.
Let’s not abandon our civilization and industrial society – which gave humanity the highest standard of living in the history of the species – without first confirming what is happening. The climate is not subject to human emotion, but human societies most assuredly are. Again, I recognize that this is your personal blog, and you are free to delete my comments.
St. Paul, Alberta, Canada.
Hi Jim: there’s no need to “abandon our civilization and industrial society” to address climate change as accelerated by human activities. Bernie Sanders has a reasonable plan that doesn’t forget workers in the fossil fuel industry, for example. Indeed, an Apollo-like program to develop cleaner sources of energy should help everyone. It will be a job-creator that helps, rather than hurts, our “developed” world.
I’m not a “social activist” seeking to “indoctrinate” people. I’m just a retired military officer with a Ph.D. in the history of science and technology. I try always to be skeptical and to weight the evidence, and this time I believe the evidence points to human-accelerated climate change.
At least the guy’s self-interest is pretty clear, given his location in Alberta, home of the tar sands – poor-quality oil requiring as much energy to refine into gasoline as you get out of it once combusted!
Aside from his classic denialist’s misrepresentation of the available science, and attempts to insinuate that you will censor him – both old-school techniques of this crowd – I’ll offer a point about greenhouse gas emissions entirely side-stepping the climate debate:
Carbon emissions into the atmosphere are primarily absorbed by the ocean – vegetation is the other major reservoir (plant more trees, people). But once in the ocean, CO2 alters its chemistry, and there is widespread global evidence that ocean ecosystems are collapsing.
More acidic oceans strike at a crucial point in the food chain. A substantial portion of the global food supply, especially in developing countries, relies on the oceans. Organisms can adapt with time, but this change is occurring so quickly on geologic timescales that it rivals the Permian extinctions which almost sterilized the global oceans.
This is guaranteed to have knock-on effects across the globe, independent of any changes in the climate for any reason whatsoever.
Carbon emissions are pollution. Just like sulphur dioxide (helps produce acid rain), ozone (unless you want to fry from UV light), or toxic industrial waste.
Fossil fuels have to be kept in the ground as much as possible, and tar sands extraction *especially* must be banned immediately on a global scale – either biofuels, electric engines, or more efficient extraction of remaining high-quality reserves must fill the gap.
Tar sands, shale oil (accessed by fracking across huge swaths of the US with groundwater contamination now inevitable) production are nothing more than giveaways to the fossil fuel industry. They are only profitable when massively subsidized, they cannibalize investment in alternatives, and the only reason they became a thing was the energy crisis preceding the Great Recession.
With the global economy so closely bound to the price of oil, politicians across the West are committed to keeping pump prices low. Oil shock = economic crisis. But the cheapest, cleanest crude oil comes from the Middle East and Venezuela.
Hence the US remaining so closely invested in the region, despite being nominally energy self-sufficient thanks to fracking/shale oil. Light, sweet crude remains the pivot around which the world turns.
Yet another reason to phase it out as quickly as possible.
Wow: your comment is a classic example of the old saying, “Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good argument.” I’m going to respond to two points – assuming that W.J. is not so tired of this discussion that he will kindly post my response.
“At least the guy’s self-interest is pretty clear, given his location in Alberta, home of the tar sands – poor-quality oil requiring as much energy to refine into gasoline as you get out of it once combusted!
“Aside from his classic denialist’s misrepresentation of the available science, and attempts to insinuate that you will censor him – both old-school techniques of this crowd – I’ll offer a point about greenhouse gas emissions entirely side-stepping the climate debate:
The first point: Alberta’s energy resources. You may – or may not – be aware that this oil is so “undesirable” to the United States that, for the week ending September 13, 2019, Americans imported 3,434,000 barrels a day. And there’s the rub: you betray your ignorance of the necessity of petroleum in a modern complex society, at a time that the United States is now committing military forces to protect facilities in Saudi Arabia. (You can find the import volumes here: https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_wimpc_s1_4.htm )
The second point – ignoring your slur on my depiction of the “available science” – is your running to the latest trope of climate activists: ocean acidification.
For all the rush to promote this excuse to halt the burning of fossil fuels, there is virtually nothing in the scientific literature which resembles sound science to demonstrate the existence of any such effect.
A paper, published in 2016, called attention to this distortion of the “scientific method”, stating the following:
“Many early studies on OA applied treatment levels that greatly exceeded even worst-case climate change scenarios and did not report water chemistry in sufficient detail to determine if the treatment mimicked future OA-driven seawater conditions. Although most recent work has improved with respect to treatment levels, mimicking future water chemistry remains tricky.
“A rationale commonly used to justify high CO2/low pH treatments is the need to identify at what levels organisms are affected. However, the limits to making inferences about how an organism or ecosystem will respond to a climate-change scale variable (i.e. one that changes over decades–centuries) from their response during a short-term challenge experiment (i.e. hours–days–weeks) has not been adequately addressed—or even mentioned—in most studies. This is reflected in a confusion of terms common in OA studies—when describing the outcome of a short-term CO2 challenge, authors often make the inferential leap and use “OA” when discussing their results, without any caveats. Oddly, incorporation of the extensive toxicology literature is almost entirely missing from OA studies, either when it comes to adopting established exposure protocols or to framing the inferences that can/cannot be drawn from short-term experiments. Also missing from most studies is anything more than a superficial statement about the possibility for acclimation, adaptation, or evolution, something that is necessary to extend the outcome of a short-term challenge experiment into an inference about the effect of a long-term driver.”
In other words: just as the supporters of Anthropogenic Global Warming require that their audience ignore all data prior to 115 years ago, the proponents of ocean acidification require that their audience do not question the methodology of a shaky experimental procedure.
One thing is sure: no complex society can exist without vast amounts of inexpensive energy. Pushing anti-fossil fuel policies will hasten the day that the United States will find itself challenged for control of the Western World. One can be confident that Russia and China have no intention of abandoning fossil fuels.
If this is what you are working toward, then, sir: you are no friend of the United States.
St. Paul, Alberta, Canada.
Bernie Sanders on how to address climate change
Everything that you say is right. But, your final paragraph reads:
‘As Tom Engelhardt noted this week at TomDispatch.com, we humans need to stop empowering the pyromaniacs who’d prefer to see the earth burn as long as they’re making money off of it. We need to act globally to protect our planet from irreversible harm, or we’re pretty much screwed as a species.’
I once had a board chairman whose favourite phrase, when a member made a recommendation that was accepted, was ‘What are we going to do on Tuesday morning?’ followed by ‘Who is going to do it?’
There is nothing very much in your recommendation that is actionable by me or by the other 15,000 readers of your message – or you.
In fact, the most important thing that anyone can do is behaviour change. We all have to start living an environmentally friendly life. What that means is almost unthinkable to 99.99% of the earth’s population – especially the western, ‘developed’ economy population – of today.
In the early 1990s I served on the board of Global Action Plan International, an organisation set up by Americans Robert Gilmore and David Gershon , with the radical objective of training every single householder in the actions of sustainable living, and to build upwards from there. I set up, and for five years chaired, the UK branch.
The idea was brilliant and timely.
But we never achieved critical mass, after which such social movements take off and become self-sustaining – though GAP is still operational in 16 countries, some 30 years later.
The huge problem that mankind has – even if only attempting to operate the precautionary principle – is that every single one of us needs to change. There is almost no leadership encouraging this, whilst the leaders and very many of the followers are feeling little or no pain.
Hi Mike: Yes. It has to be an effort at all levels: private, local, state, national, corporate, global. Because it’s a global problem, it needs a global effort.
I try to do my part, but the details are boring (better light bulbs, less driving, no AC, recycling, planting trees, and informing people with this blog).
As I mention in the article, the U.S. military is a major user of fossil fuels. This article at The Intercept documents this:
We may have disputes about natural climate variations vs man made variations. It does not have to be either or. What seems to be left out is the deliberate human ability to alter our environment with little to no consideration to the effects.
Back in 1880 there were no planes, trucks or automobiles. Today we have over 1,280,000,000 registered auto mobile and trucks world wide. The number of aircraft per airliners.net, places the number at 39,000 including commercial and military. According to FlightRadar24, who tracks aircraft around the world, there are over 16,000 planes in the air at any given time on peak traffic days.
Since 1880 imagine all the fossil fuels extracted and “burned” one way or another in mobile transportation powered by internal combustion engines. The coal industry in particular is destructive from extraction, combustion to disposal.
Lakes, rivers and and streams are polluted. Then add in corrupt politicians who can poison with impunity a city like Flint, Michigan or allow Corporate America a license to pollute and poison we Proles. We have states and cities that see any open green space, flood plains, as areas that need to be “developed”.
It is more than climate change.
Yet another excellent article, WJA! (This website has become one of my 4 regular-reads.)
I would just add that one of the key underlying/contributing factors in anthropogenic climate-change is the current global human population of approximately 7.7 BILLION, with each of those individuals requiring food, clothing, and shelter. Even if they all don’t get these basic needs fulfilled at the excessive level of we western industrialized nations, the ‘law of large numbers’ can quickly come up with some significantly large levels of CO2 output, as well as other greenhouse gases from human activity. And given that the vast majority of this population growth (ie; about 6 billion) has occurred since 1950*, it lends support to the reason why climate change has been accelerating this past century.
The vast majority of global population growth since 1950 has been in countries with the lowest per-capita emissions.
Simple fact of the matter is that North America – United States and Canada – are disproportionately responsible for high emissions. Europe is second.
And if you add up historical emissions going back a couple hundred years, it becomes absolutely clear who is responsible for the vast majority of carbon emissions.
It isn’t the folks in the developing world – yet.
On that, you are right. If they develop like Europeans did – doom. That’s why the rich world needs to fund clean development everywhere, and on massive scale.
Mitigate global poverty and the climate at the same time.
Cynicism & The Pope’s Divisions
It’s raining here in The Netherlands, but I don’t expect that has anything to do with climate change. However, as I haven’t been in a coma at any point during my time on the planet, I don’t require statistics from either side of the “argument” to verify or deny what my eyes and my memory tell me. One example: it’s only in recent years that New York and New England have had to worry about hurricanes. It’s possible this sort of thing went unreported for decades, but not probable.
It may well be true that “numbers don’t lie” in and of themselves, but the lie is in how the numbers are obtained and applied. “Human meddling” Dr. Strangelove would call it. Otherwise, the professed purity of numbers – “Do the math!” – would always align. There couldn’t be two sides to the “argument” because there would be no argument.
To borrow a line from Lenny Bruce, “I may not know how much a whole bunch of nines are,” but 1+1 always equals 2 (in any applicable day to day sense). And loath as I am to employ cliches or catch phrases, “Denial is not a river in Egypt.” Or, alternatively, as Charlie Brown used to tell Lucy as she rattled off the litany of his statistical failings as a baseball pitcher, “Tell your statistics to shut up!” They change nothing and of themselves are incapable of effecting change, though precious time and money will be spent debating their veracity (“How many Congressional committees does it take to change a light bulb?”).
Finally, I would be beyond surprised if young Greta Thunberg isn’t already penciled in as TIME’s Person of the Year. Yes, she appeared before Congress and and …
Look: the majority of Congress may not be quite as base and venal as I believe them to be, but they’re also not stupid. To allow Ms. Thunberg to speak to them on the matter of climate change was a simple PR move. It was Good Press. To have said, “Kid, we don’t even let Americans burn up our precious time, so go back to Lapland or wherever it is you’re from. We got bidness to tend to” would have been Bad Press. The “optics” would have been terrible: “Congress says ‘Beat it!’ to World’s Darling.”
It’s a noble cause and Ms. Thunberg deserves whatever accolades she can get for her part in this story. But as surely as The Pope had no divisions*, she can’t promise to deliver a single state, a single county, even a single vote come Election Day. So, y’know … later (“Call me when your supporters reach voting age, kid”).
Climate change is way, way down on the list of Congressional priorities, if it’s to be found at all. Congress cares little about what’s happening in America today. Does anyone really expect them to care about what may happen on a worldwide basis 25, 50 or 100 years from now?
* An Old Timer’s reference to an (apocryphal) utterance by Josef Stalin. Told the Pope would not approve of a proposed action, Stalin supposedly asked, “How many divisions does he have?”
She’s right. We’re failing her generation.
Ah, and that’s the thing, isn’t it? Politicians are quick to trot out as many family members as they can corral during campaign season, to show how “family-values” are a priority for them, and yet when the issue of climate change comes up, or air/water/soil pollution, the family members disappear like the great buffalo herds. Since Congress is no stranger to character assassination when it suits their purpose, perhaps a list of the names of the (younger) children and grandchildren of our duly elected officials could be compiled and read out so that it appears in the Congressional record – or in a full-page newspaper ad – followed by a question to the honorable members: have you thought about the world they will inherit?
I’m sure that would be “crossing” some line or other, breaking the unspoken gentleman’s agreement, trampling all over The Unwritten Law, but if they’ve got some special dispensation package that will protect them and theirs, I’d sure like to know about it. I’ve got a grandson due to arrive in January, and I’d kind of like to be able to leave him a note that says, “Don’t worry. You’re covered.”
But if Congress – and the military/industrial/corporate crowd – don’t care about what they’re leaving for their own families, I guess it’s unrealistic to think they’d give a damn about yours or mine.
Comments are closed.