12. Fossil Fuel Industry Should be Charged Crime for Lying to the Public and Government About Growing Threat to Humankind of Global Warming
Revenues from coal, oil (oil from tar sands – above photo, or from wells) and natural gas sales have made millionaires a dime a dozen. But they know full well that they are selling a product to the public that is already ravaging our planet. Below is evidence that not only are they pulling the wool over the public’s eyes, they have also been trying to do the same to our state legislators.
COAL, OIL AND NATURAL GAS CEO’S OUGHT BE CHARGED WITH CRIMES
This is criminal, just like when the tobacco industry argued cigarettes weren’t harmful to anyone’s health even though they had studies that showed otherwise. The only difference this time is that the adverse effects from burning the fuels occur to essentially every living thing on the planet, plus to all those yet to be born. For example, the accumulations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the most abundant of the trace greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (aside from water vapor) has already reached a concentration level of 400 part per million (ppm) CO2 in the atmosphere. CO2 had not reached that high of level level iyn over three million years prior to today, a time when the ocean level was 60-80 feet higher on the shore than it is today a time that humans had not yet existed on Earth. The fossil industry are also aware that burning their product results in an increasing number of additional trace greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to a warmer, more volatile, planet.
So far the warming and catastrophic effects has not hit everyone equally on the planet. Living on the earth will, without a doubt, become a more dangerous and inhospitable place to live in the future.The faster our collective reduction in fossil and other fuel burning is, and the less the threat of rapid global warming will be.
By the way, just because we have had a spring so far that has been cooler than last year’s record warm sring in Wisconsin, it doesn’t mean it has also been cool in other spots around the planet. While Mother Nature was still giving the United States the cold shoulder during March, many other areas across the world experienced higher-than-average monthly temperatures according to the latest statistics from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. The average global temperature for March 2013 tied with 2006 as the 10th warmest March since record keeping began in 1880. It also marked the 37th consecutive March and 337th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average March temperature was March 1976, and the last below-average temperature for any month was February 1985.
Flattening The Hilltoppers? Frac Sand Mine is Proposed Near Wisconsin School. More than 100 frac sand mines and processing facilities, like this one outside of Bloomer, Wis., have cropped up across the state over the last few years.
Everyone who used natural gas (methane) to warm their home or place of business last year in the county should also read this excellent series on the wide-reaching impacts of the “fracking” (fracturing) industry in Wisconsin. The facts are clear: while the increasingly plentiful supplies natural gas and oil from newly fractured drilling well sites in North Dakota have been a boon of sorts especially to the nearby communities, the large quantities of sand excavated in Wisconsin and shipped to North Dakota for fracturing the drilling wells (sand is injected into the wells with mining fluids, adding pressure, resulting in fracturing the surrounding shale rock, which then frees up the methane from the surrounding shale) is creating havoc in many Western Wisconsin communities. The money that is ultimately made from selling the natural gas and oil produced by the North Dakota wells and sold throughout the U.S. often results in a windfall to the oil and natural gas industry and to the land owners. However, the operations from this industry also often result in the creation of many different kinds of effects, mainly negative, both to Western Wisconsin communities and the country and world as a whole.
The effects on the local communities and the environment in general come in the form of noise and air pollution at the drilling and sand mining sites, the permanent scarring and loss of habitat on the land, bluff, or mountain tops altered by the mining of the sand; and the air pollution emissions and noise created along the trucking routes, as well as the ground and surface water pollution at the drilling well sites, the sand mining sites, the sand processing sites, and the used frac sand disposal sites.
Of course there are also much broader negative effects of the continued growth of the fracing industry in the U.S. and elsewhere. The addition fuel mined and ultimately burned for heat or energy production is adding millions more tons of greenhouse gases to our atmosphere and oceans. Every cubit foot of natural gas that is burned releases .12 cubic tons carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, where it will remain upwards of one hundred years. This is adding to the mounting billions of tons more greenhouse (heat trapping) gases in that are present in our atmosphere, above and beyond the amounts that were present in the atmosphere when humans first began burning huge quantities of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) in a big way during the Industrial Revolution. The level of greenhouse gas concentrations in our atmosphere have presently reached historically high levels, which reputable global warming scientists the world over say poses a very real and dangerous threat to all of humanity.
For example, the most voluminous of the greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide – reached the milestone of 400 parts per million twice in the past three weeks. That level is already too high, say the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists, and the result has been grave consequences, including injury or death to millions of people, especially families and individuals living within the world’s coastal cities where strong hurricanes come ashore. They have been impacted as the result of increased storm activities associated with warming and rising seas (ocean levels are rising from the expanding warmer water in the ocean and from new sources of ocean water, such as the water originating on lands from previously year-round-frozen glaciers – for example ice packs in Greenland, high mountain tops, and melt waters from Antarctica. Moreover, the oceans are also 30% more acidic than pre-Industrial Revolution times, which has adversely impacted some ocean species with significant fishing losses, losses of marine life and coral reefing destruction. Scientists predict that, by the end of this century, this will have a devastating impact on our plant, with many more deadly heat waves, higher humidity, massive coastal as well as inland flooding, more powerful storms, everywhere, more rain in the off season but longer and more widespread drought during the growing season, and more widespread insect infestations, due to fewer cold snaps that formerly limited the poleward movement of such species.
These broader effects are the likely impacts of higher than natural emissions of greenhouse gases from human-caused activities, which are proven to be resulting from historically high burning of fossil fuels (most notably coal, oil and natural gas). In the frac sand mining processes, greenhouse gases are emitted in using energy to excavate and deliver large volumes of sand from Western Wisconsin to the North Dakota drilling well sites, delivering the gas and ultimately resulting from emissions from burning the final product in the form of carbon dioxide, the most abundant og the greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. The concentration level in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million twice in the last three weeks and is the highest concentration level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in over 2,5 million years, which occurred when the oceans were 60-80 feet higher than they are now.
Wisconsin State Journal Editorial
Published May 5, 2013
“Research to the rescue”
Federal investment in university research can help agriculture face the challenge of global warming.
On his trip to Wisconsin last week, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a prime example of the kind of smart investment the federal government should make to confront climate change and support the economy.
UW-Madison and six other universities are to share a $9.9 million grant for a five-year research project aimed at reducing the dairy industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. The project is especially important to Wisconsin, where the dairy industry contributes more than $26 billion a year to the state’s economy. Climate change is a threat to the industry and, consequently, a threat to Wisconsin’s economy.
In the long term, climate change puts Wisconsin at risk of becoming less desirable as a location for dairying. But of more immediate concern is the dairy industry’s contribution to climate change.
The industry produces 2 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which tend to keep more heat in the atmosphere. Customers, including Wal-Mart, are pressuring the industry to cut emissions. Furthermore, the prospect of federal regulation looms.
In response, the industry has pledged to cut emissions by 25 percent in the next seven years.
Just as climate change poses a threat, the response poses an opportunity. By finding ways to cut emissions, the industry can improve efficiency, which would boost profits.
University research on new technologies and strategies can play a central role in helping the industry meet its challenges and take advantage of its opportunities, as a look through history demonstrates.
Wisconsin was a wheat-growing state in the 1800s. But when wheat farming declined, University of Wisconsin research helped the state become “America’s Dairyland.” During the Dust Bowl on the Great Plains in the 1930s, university research found farming methods that cut down on wind erosion. After the Dust Bowl, university research helped produce higher-yielding hybrid crops.
No doubt, some wag will ridicule the USDA grant as a waste of taxpayer money on a study of manure, which indeed will be a part of the research. But while these are times to control government spending, these are also times to invest in the country’s future.
Investing in research to combat climate change and improve the dairy industry is the right priority.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published in Wisconsin State Journal on May 19, 2013
Question Asked: Is research key to helping Wisconsin farmers deal with climate change?
“Let fossil fuel industry fund research”
I have reservations about this federally funded university study on the dairy industry reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.
Industries knew the importance of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at the United Nations’ 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. President George H. W. Bush signed an agreement at the summit.
Besides being too little in the fight against global warming, UW-Madison’s research grant seems too late.
Unfortunately for us, few U.S. industries took the threat of climate change seriously enough to begin researching ways to reduce emissions 20 years ago.
Now that we are beginning to experience effects of the increasingly warmer atmosphere — rising sea levels, higher temperatures, melting polar ice caps — the Department of Agriculture finally decides it’s time to fund research into reducing dairy’s contribution to the “problem” (catastrophe) of global warming.
Who should fund the studies? Global warming scientists have pinpointed the majority of this problem to fossil fuel burning. That industry should be tapped to fund the lion’s share of funding, not the American taxpayers.
— Michael Neuman, Madison
“Let farmers lead the way”
Of course research is key to helping Wisconsin farmers deal with climate change. And not just farmers — research helps all of us.
When humanity began large-scale fossil fuel burning by industrializing, we unintentionally began a planetary experiment on the effects of adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
We didn’t realize then we might threaten our survival, but thanks to scientists we understand it now. The vast majority of climate scientists agree climate change is real, primarily human-induced and dangerous if unchecked.
So I’m delighted the university will be researching how to lower emissions in the dairy industry. But research is just the beginning. We must also act on what we learn. We need good federal climate policy.
The best idea I’ve seen, based on economic research, is a steadily-rising fee on carbon-based fuels so they reflect their true cost to society, with a return of the revenue to households to cushion the impact of rising prices.
Both liberal and conservative economists have concluded this is the most effective way to stimulate the change we need in our energy system. Many opportunities will arise as we make this change, and I would love to see our farmers lead the way.
— Madeleine Para, Madison
But scientists don’t have political pull, and too often are marginalized by the traditional media. We need political leaders leading on climate issues, and by sending this tweet to his 31,532,141 followers, President Obama is ensuring that this analysis will get the attention it deserves.
On May 9, the daily mean concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since measurements began in 1958. Independent measurements made by both NOAA and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have been approaching this level during the past week. It marks an important milestone because Mauna Loa, as the oldest continuous carbon dioxide (CO2) measurement station in the world, is the primary global benchmark site for monitoring the increase of this potent heat-trapping gas.
Carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by fossil fuel burning and other human activities is the most significant greenhouse gas (GHG) contributing to climate change. Its concentration has increased every year since scientists started making measurements on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano more than five decades ago. The rate of increase has accelerated since the measurements started, from about 0.7 ppm per year in the late 1950s to 2.1 ppm per year during the last 10 years.
“That increase is not a surprise to scientists,” said NOAA senior scientist Pieter Tans, with the Global Monitoring Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. “The evidence is conclusive that the strong growth of global CO2 emissions from the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas is driving the acceleration.”
Before the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, global average CO2 was about 280 ppm. During the last 800,000 years, CO2 fluctuated between about 180 ppm during ice ages and 280 ppm during interglacial warm periods. Today’s rate of increase is more than 100 times faster than the increase that occurred when the last ice age ended.
It was researcher Charles David Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, who began measuring carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa in 1958, initiating now what is known as the “Keeling Curve.” His son, Ralph Keeling, also a geochemist at Scripps, has continued the Scripps measurement record since his father’s death in 2005.
“There’s no stopping CO2 from reaching 400 ppm,” said Ralph Keeling. “That’s now a done deal. But what happens from here on still matters to climate, and it’s still under our control. It mainly comes down to how much we continue to rely on fossil fuels for energy.”
NOAA scientists with the Global Monitoring Division have made around-the-clock measurements there since 1974. Having two programs independently measure the greenhouse gas provides confidence that the measurements are correct.
Moreover, similar increases of CO2 are seen all over the world by many international scientists. NOAA, for example, which runs a global, cooperative air sampling network, reported last year that all Arctic sites in its network reached 400 ppm for the first time. These high values were a prelude to what is now being observed at http://http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/weekly.html”>Mauna Loa, a site in the subtropics, this year. Sites in the Southern Hemisphere will follow during the next few years. The increase in the Northern Hemisphere is always a little ahead of the Southern Hemisphere because most of the emissions driving the CO2 increase take place in the north.
Once emitted, CO2 added to the atmosphere and oceans remains for thousands of years. Thus, climate changes forced by CO2 depend primarily on cumulative emissions, making it progressively more and more difficult to avoid further substantial climate change.
The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee continues to vote on items in Governor Scott Walker’s $69 billion proposed budget. Here is a transcript of testimony I delivered on the Governor two-year plan for 20013 and 2014 at the Madison budget hearing held at Black Hawk Middle School in Madison on April 23, 2013. A number of Democratic State legislators were present, including Senators Miller, Larson, Risser; and Representatives Taylor, Sargent, Herbl and Kahl. About 50 members of the public were in the audience when I gave my remarks at approximately 6:30 PM. Other people were giving testimonies when I arrived. Everyone I heard either criticized the governor’s proposed K-12 school voucher plan or criticized the failure of the governor’s budget to ensure adequate health for all Wisconsin’s residents, especially its most vulnerable the low income residents.
Testimony of Michael T. Neuman, resident of Madison, Wisconsin, on Governor Walker’s Proposed 2013-14 State of Wisconsin Budget
Black Hawk Middle School, Madison
April 23, 2013
“The governors proposed budget for 2013 and 2014 fails to adequately fund 2 areas which I believe are critical for Wisconsin’s future. These are 1) education of the state’s children; and 2) Wisconsin’s contribution to global warming and responding to the global warming threat.
“To adequately address K-12 education, the budget should restore the $400 million in cuts made during the Governor Doyle administration, and the $750 million cuts made in the first year of
Governor Walker’s administration. Wisconsin’s public school programs should NOT be sacrificed fund a private school voucher program. The source of the money to restore and properly fund our public schools should not come from higher property taxes but rather from income taxes and the million of dollars that would unwisely expand the state’s highway system.
“This leads to my second major concern with the state budget, which is that it fails to address the growing threat of climate change in Wisconsin and our state’s continuing contribution to the rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in our Earth’s atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. To address this, the budget should fund a program that offers financial incentives to Wisconsinites for driving less (or not driving at all), flying less (or not flying at all), and who use less fossil fuel derived energy in the household per person, annually.
“Finally, the state should also fund a program for local governments to prepare and adapt to the changing climate caused by global warming.”
“In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are. You owe it to yourself to see this film.”
– Roger Ebert
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative … your mind will be changed in a nanosecond.”
– Roger Friedman, FOXNEWS.com
Here you can watch An Inconvenient Truth.
Here is a photo comic about global warming:
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has joined other mayors from around the country in advocating for the city of Madison to steer clear of investing any city funds in fossil fuel industries, and said he intends to introduce a resolution that encourages the Madison Metropolitan School District, Dane County, the University of Wisconsin, the State of Wisconsin, and other local governments to join the City in these efforts and divest their own holdings from fossil fuel companies.
In a news release posted on the city’s website last week “Mayor Soglin Urges Madison to Continue Divestment from Fossil Fuels”, the mayor says the fossil fuel divestment movement has already spread to 300 colleges and universities and is spreading to faith communities as well. Last November, Mayor Mike McGinn in Seattle became the first mayor in the country to commit to keep city funds out of the fossil fuel industry and look into ways to divest the city’s pension fund.
The divestment campaign is coordinated by a coalition of groups led by 350.org, an international climate campaign headed by author Bill McKibben who spoke in Madison last November. The effort is modeled on the 1980s divestment campaigns that targeted investments in apartheid South Africa.
On the 6-month anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the massive storm that hit the Eastern United States last fall and is now being blamed on global warming, U. S. lawmakers in the House of Representative and the Senate rushed a bill through the U.S. Congress last week that allowed the Federal Aviation Administration to withdraw its furloughing of many air traffic controllers and other airport workers around the country. This action removed a major bottleneck that was significantly delaying aviation travel in the U.S. last week.
The furloughs were fallout from the $85 billion in automatic-across-the-board spending cuts this spring. With passage of the bill, the FAA will move as much as $253 million within its budget to areas that will allow it to prevent the reduced operations and staffing. The spending cuts had forced the FAA to furlough 13,000 air traffic controllers beginning last week Sunday, among its total of 47,000 employees. About 40% of last week’s flight delays in the U.S. were a direct result of too few controllers in towers at airports around the country, said the FAA. The country’s commercial airlines reportedly resumed normal operations as of late Sunday night. I question whether this was really the right thing for the country to do.
Although White House press secretary Jay Carney said the President still intends to sign the bill, President Obama blasted lawmakers in his weekly address posted Saturday for insisting on spending cuts, and then maneuvering to redress the ones that applied to them: “Maybe because they fly home each weekend, the members of Congress who insisted on these cuts finally realized that they actually applied to them too,” said President Obama. “So Congress passed a temporary fix. A band aid. But these cuts are scheduled to keep falling across other parts of the government that provide vital services for the American people. And we can’t just keep putting band aids on every cut.” (huffingtonpost.com).
Meanwhile, also last week, officials from coastal communities along the Eastern seaboard sat down for the first time to discuss Hurricane Sandy consequences and how to best protect their residents from sea level rise. The meeting, which took place in New York City on Wednesday, was sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists (USC). The nonprofit science advocacy group released a report on sea level rise on Monday.
According to the USC report, rising sea level is what linked Sandy directly to global warming. “Coastal Cities Confront Global Warming-Induced Sea Level Rise” was also posted last Saturday. “Over the last century, the ocean off the New York coast rose 13 to 16 inches, making flooding from Sandy a lot worse”, said Elliot Negin, USC’s director of news and commentary. Hurricane Sandy triggered an estimated $60 billion in estimated losses in New York and New Jersey alone, according to the report.
“We got a glimpse of our collective future,” said Joe Vietri, director of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (COE) coastal and storm risk management program, during a press briefing. “Clearly we know climate change and sea level rise are right here. We are living it right now.”
For some participants, such as Stephen Marks, Hoboken, New Jersey’s assistant business administrator, Hurricane Sandy erased any doubts in his town about global warming. “The debate about climate change is essentially over,” said Marks, whose 2-square-mile municipality of 50,000 was overwhelmed by 500 million gallons of Hudson River water. “Hurricane Sandy settled that for, I would say, a majority of the residents of our city.”
For others, such as Broward County, Florida, Mayor Kristin Jacobs, Hurricane Sandy was just an extreme example of the same old same old. “We’ve been dealing with the effects of climate change for quite some time,” she said. Broward County, she pointed out, established a climate change “compact” with three other South Florida counties in 2009 to address chronic flooding and other global warming impacts. Based on local trends and global projections the USC says the compact — which collectively represents 5.5 million residents in three Florida counties — anticipates sea level along Florida’a coast will rise 3 to 7 inches by 2030, and 9 to 24 inches by 2060!
Vietri, who is overseeing the Army Corps of Engineers’ Hurricane Sandy study, bemoaned the fact that despite greater public awareness of climate change and sea level rise: “You still have people by the truckload moving into high hazard coastal areas”. It doesn’t make much sense, and ultimately all Americans will end up paying a good share of the total cost.
Greenhouse gas emissions from commercial airliners and other greenhouse gas sources in the U.S. are significantly adding to the warming atmosphere and seas (the latter which is also becoming more acidic due to warming), according to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. Yet people and businesses from all over the U.S. (as well as from most other developed countries) continue to travel using motorized fossil fuel burning technologies (planes, automobiles, trucks, trains, etc.), burn fossil fuels and electricity derived from burning fossil fuels (natural gas and coal), without paying serious attention to what the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists have been telling us for a number of years now: that global warming is now happening, that it has been going on for a number of years already, and that it is getting worse.
We are adding measurably to the growing stockpile of greenhouse gases now mounting in the earth’s atmosphere. For example, the concentration of the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide (CO2), has increased to 399 parts per million (ppm), as compared to the 350 ppm that existed in the atmosphere prior to the late 19th century, before people and industries began significantly burning fossil fuels for energy, heating, lighting, air conditioning, locomotion, air travel, shipping, auto/truck travel, etc.. Furthermore, scientists have also been saying the consequence of warming the atmosphere and oceans is more and more warming, increasing the likelyhood of more extreme weather events, potentially much worse than Hurricane Sandy and this spring’s flooding.
It should also be noted that carbon dioxide’s residence time in the atmosphere is long – roughly 100 years or more, on average, so the volume of it in the atmosphere continues to grow, even if what is emitted declines, so the less fossil fuels humans end up burning each year the better as far as reducing the global warming threat goes. Other greenhouse gas emissions from jet aircraft travel include HFCs, methane and nitrous oxide, which are all significantly more powerful warming gases than is carbon dioxide, and remain in the atmosphere for years and years. So the less flying that is done in the U.S. and elsewhere on the planet, the better we can avoid more and worsening effects such as those caused by Hurricane Sandy and the rising sea levels.