Monday, April 14, 2014
MEREDITH TAX on climate change and false gods
The UN's IPCC report on climate change calls for immediate action to deal with a crisis which supersedes and includes all other questions. Meredith Tax says that international pressure on the US government to deal with the crisis is essential, for soon it will be too late.
In a report released Sunday, April 13, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which won the Nobel Prize in 2007, together with former US vice-president Al Gore, made it clear that, while the future will be sunny, it is anything but bright. The report, written by an expert committee of 1250, made recommendations for immediate actions to mitigate, if not prevent, climate change. The leading one is to stop using fossil fuels and divert energy investment into renewable sources like wind, water power and solar. The report says we must limit global warming to 2°C by the year 2050; this can be done without wrecking the world economy but we have to move fast—‘we cannot afford to lose another decade’, says Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the expert committee.
There is nothing new about this. As Elizabeth Kolbert notes in this week’s New Yorker, we have known since the seventies that carbon emissions are the cause of global warming. The signs of impending disaster are clear. The polar ice caps are melting; the coral reefs are dying; the oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb increased carbon emissions. Heat waves, heavy rains and floods are worse and more frequent. Species are becoming extinct; fresh water supplies are being used up; the world’s food supply is at risk. But we still keep burning carbon like there was no tomorrow; in fact 'atmospheric carbon dioxide levels [are] rising almost twice as fast in the first decade of this century as they did in the last decades of the 20th century’.
The US is not the only country putting the world at risk, but it is the one I know best, and it is an egregious offender which, instead of imposing a carbon tax, subsidizes fossil fuel production with tax incentives worth four billion dollars a year. As if things were not bad enough, now Congress has visions of checkmating Russia by supplying an endless supply of fracked natural gas to Europe, which will of course increase carbon emissions. Meanwhile the Obama administration is still dithering about whether to green light the Keystone pipelinewhich, if approved, will carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast refineries. Climate scientist James Hansen of NASA says that if the pipeline goes through, ‘it will be game over for the climate’.
In short, this is an emergency. Bishop Desmond Tutu has just issued a call to support the global campaign to divest from fossil fuels, and target the US over the pipeline, using similar tactics to the boycott of apartheid South Africa. As he sees it, ‘We live in a world dominated by greed. We have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our Earth’.
That is certainly true in American politics, where the power of money has reached an all time high; the disgraceful McCutcheon vs FEC Supreme Court decision will only increase the domination of millionaire donors. The Republicans, in particular, have long been ruled by an alliance between worshippers of Moloch and Bible-punchers. In the 2012 election, the infamous Koch brothers, whose wealth comes from oil, gave Republican candidates $3 million with another $36.6 million coming through their nonprofit foundation, Americans for Prosperity. The Koch Brothers, libertarian believers in free enterprise, are also major funders of climate change disinformation. No surprise that they have also expressed the desire to 'take the unions out at the knees', are major donors to groups attacking women's reproductive rights and gay rights, and of course oppose Obamacare and other efforts to help the poor or extend the social safety net.
One spokesman for the ‘free enterprise’ right is Joseph Bast, director of theHeartland Institute, a leading opponent of the scientific consensus on climate change, also known for combatting the idea that tobacco smoke had anything to do with cancer. Among the many funders of the Heartland Institute are Phillip Morris and Exxon Mobile, the Walton family of Walmart fame, and various rightwing foundations. Bast has already blasted the IPCC’s climate change report in Forbes magazine—whose motto is ‘a capitalist tool’—claiming that ‘No changes in precipitation patterns, snow, monsoons, or river flows that might be considered harmful to human well-being or plants or wildlife have been observed that could be attributed to rising CO2 levels’.
I ask myself, what kind of people are willing to risk destroying life on earth just to make money? Do they think they can survive in their gated communities if the rest of us perish? Do they plan to relocate to another planet? A prophet would say they worship false gods—in this case, Moloch, the money god of capitalism described long ago by Allen Ginsberg: ‘Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! ...Moloch whose smokestacks and antennae crown the cities! Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks!’
But US worshippers of Moloch are not the only obstruction to action on climate change; Christian fundamentalists are equally fierce in attacking the scientific consensus. Some of them believe that the degradation of the climate is God’spunishment for sin, which they may define as anything from short skirts to homosexuality. Others welcome global warming as a sign that the end of the world is coming and they will soon be raptured up to that gated community in the sky.
Only in this US is this level of unreason considered sane—in fact, according to the last Pew Research Center poll, one third of the US population believes the world was created exactly as described in Genesis. Among them is Rep. Paul Broun, a Tea Party Republican from Georgia, who recently said: ‘I've come to understand that all that stuff I was taught about evolution, and embryology, and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.... I don’t believe that the earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says’.
It is hard to know what to do about a political system held captive by an alliance of big money and Bible-punchers. .. Read more: