USA becomes a ‘rogue nation’?

Trump appears to be on the verge of pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, an act that this article condemns in no uncertain terms. The Truthout piece is entitled: Paris Accord Doesn’t Go Far Enough — but Trump’s Pullout Will Endanger Life on Earth and one quoted commentator labels the US a ‘rogue nation’ as a consequence of such a decision.

This discussion “On Tyranny” between Sam Harris and Timothy Snyder, Yale professor of history, draws from Snyder’s recent book and illustrates how the Trump rise to power reflects the processes that brought dictators to power in the past by successfuly attacking the rule of law, accusing the press of being the enemies of the people and above all, discrediting democratic institutions and evidence-based truths. The choice of favouring the profit of the fossil fuel industries over the future of the planet and its peoples fits into this analysis. Snyder observes that the normalisation of events and distorted ‘truths’ and language must be opposed especially in the early days on the road to tyranny before public resistance is weakened. He compares 2016 with 1933 in the democratically elected rise of the leader of Nazi tyranny.

As news of the likely Trump climate change ignoring decision emerged, the following report on the calving of a huge Antarctic Ice Shelf (Larsen C )was issued. A coincidence or somehow the heralding of a consequence of Trump’s preference for economic growth over ecological stability?

The Paris Accord is meant to limit the global rise in temperature attributed to emissions. Countries agreed to:

  • Keep global temperatures “well below” the level of 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times and “endeavour to limit” them even more, to 1.5C
  • Limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100
  • Review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge
  • Enable rich countries to help poorer nations by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy

To date, 147 out of the 197 countries have ratified the accord, including the US, where the accord entered into force last November.


Communicating Climate Change

Yale Climate Connections is a pressure group that tries to educate the public, particularly in the US currently led by a climate change denying President, about the latest science on climate disruptions and how to communicate it. This link reviews 12 books that offer advice on how to communicate ideas and facts about what is happening to to the global atmosphere.

Communicating climate change has been part of the core mission of Yale Climate Connections since its inception nearly a decade ago. But in the years since then, the particulars of the problem, and even some of the underlying assumptions, have changed. Especially in a year already marked by jaw-dropping denials of reality (political and historical and also climatic) and numerous acts of protest, it’s worth reviewing how the thinking about the challenge of communicating climate change has evolved.

Hence this review of key books and reports on communicating climate change – in two parts. The first part, available below, covers the years 2006 to 2014. The second part here covers 2015 to the present. It contains several free downloads.

Long-time environmental activist Paul Hawken, Executive Director of Project Drawdown, has edited a Penguin anthology entitled Drawdown­—The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. Made up of a series of essays, this book lays out 100 substantive solutions to climate change, based on peer-reviewed research and existing projects around the world. Here is a link to the blurb about the book and the Drawdown website.

Arctic Heatwaves

For 38 years satellite imaging has recorded the extent of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. This article describes how the 2016-17 winter saw the lowest extent of ice ever recorded in this manner as a result of exceptionally warm winter weather.  The artlcle ends as so many other articles (unfortunately not read by President Donald Trump or his fossil fuel corporate supporter) with the following plea :

Rod Downie, WWF’s polar programme manager, said: “The annual freeze and thaw of sea ice in the polar regions is like the beating heart of our planet, driving ocean circulation and regulating our climate. But sea ice is in decline in a warming world and the records have been shattered this year.

“We need to act now to lower our carbon emissions by improving energy efficiency, switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy and tackling climate change head on,” he said.

1981 “Warming Warning”

This article  from introduces a dcoumentary film made by ITV in the UK in 1981 – 36 years ago – more than a generation that sets out all the main issues and projections that now are more widely discussed but yet still denied by many corporate fossil fuel interests. one of the first treatments of the topic by the media.  “The clips provide a poignant, historical insight into what scientists knew about climate change almost four decades ago – and how the world was beginning to react in terms of the resulting geopolitical, technological and societal ramifications,” Carbon Brief’s Leo Hickman writes. “Many of themes still resonate strongly today.”

From the narration: “Uncertainty will permeate energy policy, if only because such a policy needs to be introduced before the irrefutable evidence that it is needed. They’ll be difficulties, too. The call for restraint in a society built on the exploitation of energy may meet irresistible forces. There is, for example, the vested interests that many of the world’s great corporations have in fossil fuels and the power they could wield on their behalf. International agreement will be needed to control the use of fossil fuels, but with the third world likely to benefit from climatic changes [one part of the film explores the idea of warming helping to grow crops in some famine-hit regions], and while China and Russia have vast reserves of coal, that seems unlikely.

 “Alternatives to fossil fuels, such as nuclear power, have their own dangers. Or, in the case of solar energy, present technical problems. Yet a serious policy of fuel conservation, which makes good sense for many other reasons, becomes imperative as a result of the CO2 problem.”

The narrator then ends the film with a concluding monologue:

“But to stop the easy flow of energy is difficult. We all enjoy it far too much…It is our wealth that has manufactured CO2. But, having created the problem, can we reasonably ask countries that have never enjoyed all this to exercise restraint?

“When economists argue that our industrial difficulties can only be relieved by promoting industry and creating growth, CO2 seems a remote problem. Yet more jobs, mean more power and increased CO2…Government today is not designed to deal with a problem of this dimension at such a timescale; a problem challenging the belief that more means better…

“The prospect of a warmer world may seem superficially attractive. Electorates are unlikely to be seduced by policies of restraint, constraint and self-denial…To apply the brake now, to introduce policies and avert the possibility of a crisis ahead, demands a vision across decades among politicians who rarely hold office for more than a few years. Economic imperatives, political realities and the very way our society is organised dictate that the power continue to flow. But now we know what this implies…

“Yet we’re mortgaging the world against the future to be paid by our descendents, our children. The carbon dioxide problem is a warning…

“Man has demonstrated he has the capacity to change one of the great natural systems of the world. The sheer weight of our presence is altering the planet. Our industry has now become part of the climate; a new intruder disturbing an old system. Most of the small group of scientists who really understand the interactions of the climate have now warned us in measured language of the prospects that we face.”

Crime against humanity?

In this Guardian opinion piece a moral philospher portrays as a crime against humanity the current failure by political and economic leaders to mount and implement a serious global effort in the face of human-made climate change. We are, of course, all complicit and leaders and their parties, at least in systems where they  can be voted out, require the consent of the people. But consent, if one follows Chomsky, can be manufactured by those holding power by means of the media that they support.

The Guardian is one of the few mainstream media that offers articles such as this, though in the independent press (Resilience Today; Common Dreams; Truthout; Truthdig; etc.) such critiques abound. Whether blogs such  add even an iota of purchase against this crime against humanity is hard to tell. But still, I keep on keeping on!