Selected Remarks by National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice on Climate Change and National Security at Stanford University, October 12, 2015: [Full Text of Speech]
… In 1985—fall quarter of my senior year—scientists from around the world met to express concern that a buildup of greenhouse gasses, and specifically carbon dioxide, would result in “a rise of global mean temperature…greater than any in man’s history.” By 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its first report, detailing how a warming climate would affect our ecosystem. There have since been four more reports, each with more sophisticated science to support ever more dire warnings.
So, it’s not that we didn’t see climate change coming. It’s that for the better part of three decades we failed, repeatedly, to treat this challenge with the seriousness and the urgency it deserves. As an international community, we succumbed to divisive global politics that set developing countries against industrialized nations and stymied international consensus on climate change.
At home, we succumbed to divisive domestic politics that allowed entrenched interests to push a calculated agenda of doubt, denial, and delay. And, we focused, quite understandably, on other critical national security priorities—from coming to grips with globalization, halting proliferation, and above all, keeping the American people safe in a post-9/11 world….
We are seizing opportunities and meeting challenges head on. And, today, we face no greater long-term challenge than climate change, an advancing menace that imperils so many of the other things we hope to achieve. That’s why, under President Obama, we have put combating climate change at the very center of our national security agenda….
In the past 15 years, we’ve had 14 of the hottest years on record—which is exactly the kind of change those climate scientists back in 1985 suggested we could be seeing by now. Last year, 2014, was the hottest. And, scientists say there’s a 97 percent chance that we’ll set a new record again this year. The seas have risen about eight inches over the past 100 years, and they’re now rising at roughly double the rate they did in the 20th century. Arctic sea ice is shrinking. Permafrost is thawing. The Antarctic ice shelf is breaking up faster than anticipated. Storms are getting stronger. Extreme precipitation events are becoming more frequent. Heat waves are growing more intense. The bottom line is this: we’re on a collision course with climate impacts that have inescapable implications for our national security. Let me sketch out a few of them.
First, climate change is a direct threat to the prosperity and safety of the American people. We’re losing billions of dollars in failed crops due to extreme drought. Millions of acres of forest have been lost to fire. In addition to longer fire seasons and drier summers here in the West, on the East Coast we’re seeing record rain events. Last week in the Carolinas, unprecedented amounts of rain fell—enough in just five days to put a serious dent in California’s multi-year drought. And, while we can’t say that climate change is the direct cause of any specific weather event, these are exactly the trends that we expect to see more of, if climate trends continue on their current trajectory.
Along our coasts, we’ve got thousands of miles of roads and railways, 100 energy facilities, communities of millions—all of which are vulnerable to sea-level rise. Remember Super Storm Sandy—how it hobbled America’s largest city and plunged everyone south of 34th Street into darkness for days? We saw a cascading failure of infrastructure. Water flooded an electrical substation, and backup power was either flooded or insufficient. Over 6,000 patients had to be evacuated from powerless hospitals down stairwells. Transportation broke down, because you can’t pump gas without electricity. Wastewater treatment plants shut down. One critical sector pulled down other vital systems. And, with warmer oceans and higher seas, New York City will have to be prepared for Sandy-level flooding to happen every 25 years.
When I visited Alaska with President Obama last month, we saw rapidly disappearing glaciers and a native community whose island home is already being washed away. The question for them is not if they will have to abandon their traditional homes and way of life, but when. These are real threats to our homeland security, and they’re happening now.
Second, climate change will impact our national defense. We’ve got military installations that are imperiled by the same rising seas as our civilian infrastructure. Here in the western United States, ranges where our troops train are jeopardized by heat and drought. In fact, this summer we had to cancel some training exercises, because it got too hot.
Climate change means operating in more severe weather conditions, increasing the wear on both service members and their equipment. There will also be new demands on our military. A thawing Arctic means 1,000 miles of Arctic coastline and new sea lanes to secure. Around the world, more intense storms—like the massive typhoon that decimated part of the Philippines two years ago—will mean more frequent humanitarian relief missions. And, our military will have to deal with increased instability and conflict around the world.
That’s a third major national security concern, because climate change is what the Department of Defense calls a “threat multiplier”—which means, even if climate change isn’t the spark that directly ignites conflict, it increases the size of the powder keg. A changing climate makes it harder for farmers to grow crops, fishermen to catch enough fish, herders to tend their livestock—it makes it harder for countries to feed their people. And humans, like every other species on this planet, scatter when their environment can no longer sustain them. As the Earth heats up, many countries will experience growing competition for reduced food and water resources. Rather than stay and starve, people will fight for their survival.
All of these consequences are exacerbated in fragile, developing states that are least equipped to handle strains on their resources. In Nigeria, prolonged drought contributed to the instability and dissatisfaction that Boko Haram exploits. The genocide in Darfur began, in part, as a drought-driven conflict. In the years prior to civil war breaking out in Syria, that country also experienced its worst drought on record. Farming families moved en masse into urban centers, increasing political unrest and further priming the country for conflict. In fact, last year, a Stanford research group determined that a rise in temperature is linked with a statistically significant increase in the frequency of conflict. There is already an unholy nexus between human insecurity, humanitarian crises, and state failure—climate change makes it that much worse.
Around the world, more than 100 million people now live less than one meter above sea level—including entire island countries in the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Consider the impacts—to the global economy and to our shared security—when rising seas begin to swallow nations whole.
Fourth, we face spreading diseases and mounting threats to global health. Already, more mosquito-borne diseases are spreading from the tropics to temperate zones as climates warm. Viruses like West Nile and Chikungunya are growing more prevalent in the United States. India is currently in the grip of the worst dengue fever outbreak in years. Livestock diseases are expanding northward into Europe. These advancing diseases cost billions of dollars a year to treat and contain, not to mention the immeasurable cost in human lives and suffering.
Finally, we cannot dismiss the worst-case predictions of catastrophic, irreparable damage to our environment. If the Greenland ice sheet melts, seas could rise not just the one to four feet many scientists predict, but eventually as much as 20 feet. If the oceans continue to acidify, it will devastate the marine coral reefs, compromising the food chain, and imperiling a major source of protein for 3 billion people worldwide.
These aren’t marginal threats. They put at risk the health and safety of people on every continent.
The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed the first federal regulations requiring the nation’s oil and gas industry to cut emissions of wasted methane gas as part of an expanding and increasingly aggressive effort to combat climate change.
In a conference call with reporters, Janet McCabe, the Environmental Protection Agency’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, said the rules were designed to ensure that oil and gas companies reduced waste and sold more natural gas that would otherwise be lost, while protecting the climate and the health of the public. Natural gas and methane are actually one and the same gas; methane is commonly called natural gas when it is captured and burned for energy, generating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as the primary byproduct. When the methane gas is allowed to escape into the atmosphere unburned, it has a much stronger potential to increase the greenhouse gas effect of the atmosphere than the release of an equal amount of CO2 gas.
Ms. McCabe estimated that the proposals — which would require drillers to stop leaks and capture lost gas even in wells intended to extract only oil — would cost the industry up to $420 million to carry out by 2025, but that there would be savings, including reduced waste, of as much as $550 million during that period, bringing a net benefit of as much as $150 million.
The new rules, which were widely expected, are part of a broad push by the Obama administration to cut emissions of planet-warming gases from different sectors of the economy. This month, Mr. Obama unveiled the centerpiece of that plan, a final regulation meant to cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and increase to 28 percent the proportion of the nation’s electricity generated by renewable sources like solar and wind.
The administration has proposed rules for methane emissions because methane emissions released to the atmosphere are 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat. The administration has set a goal of reducing methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.
The latest proposed regulations are expected to reduce methane emissions by 20 to 30 percent, Ms. McCabe said, getting the administration about halfway to its overall methane reduction target.
Oil and gas companies oppose the proposals, calling them unnecessary and costly, while environmental advocacy groups say they do not go far enough, because they apply mainly to new wells and not most existing ones that already leak methane gas.
Primary Source: The New York Times, August 18, 2015
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
Global warming is often wrongly said to be a political issue. In fact, global warming is no more of a political issue than a tornado is a political issue, or an erupting volcano, or an earthquake or tsunami. These are factual occurrences that occur for known scientific reasons. As there is no debate on the existence or occurrence of these physical happenings nor should there be a need to debate the occurrence of human-caused global warming and climate change as these changes are, too, scientifically based and measured. In fact, sea level has already begun to rise from global warming, measurably. Migratory bird species are changing their patterns and timing of flight; temperature gradients for gardening around the world have changed; heat wave death tolls have risen; extreme weather has become more extreme; average monthly air temperatures at the surface have been steadily rising; dewpoint temperatures in the Midwest have exceeded precedence. Time is running out run out for acting responsibly to avert the worst outcomes possible from global warming. Alarm bells have rung. Action must be taken now, and on a grand scale, to prevent what scientists have been predicting for decades now – the catastrophic consequences of human fed global warming.
Longtime and well respected University of Wisconsin-Madison Chemistry Professor Bassam Shakhashiri recently summarized on Wisconsin Public Radio his own perceptions of the seriousness of the global warming threat and our collective responsibilities as citizens to work towards mitigating and adapting to this monumental threat as follows:
“We should have high expectation of all our government agencies and we should have high expectations of our elected officials and we should have high expectations of everyone who cares about the quality of life of where we live. We face grand challenges. Global warming is unequivocal. It’s not a matter of voting whether we will have global warming or not. It’s a matter of who we elect in the next election cycle to take responsible action to address and to solve this very, very serious and highly consequential question of climate change.
“We have elected officials from our state of Wisconsin who engage in conversations that label other people as deniers of climate change. I think it behooves us as learned individuals, as people who care about the quality of life that we have, to elect individuals to the U.S. Senate to the presidency, to our local government, who can take responsible action to mitigate and to address in responsible ways, and “responsible” is crucial, global warming. It’s not just local here. You can look at different displays of information. In the past 25 years, the plant hardening zones have been changing. Just in the past 25 years, the zone that we are in Wisconsin, is what it was 25 years ago in Florida. We have issues that relate to water quality. We have issues that relate to wellness, to health care.
“We have fabulous opportunities to make great progress in our society, and that’s why I have high expectations – always have high expectations – but I also live in the real world. We must, in the upcoming election cycle, be truly faithful to our core beliefs and to our values, so that our elected officials can act and can respond, in most good ways, to this one issue of climate change. There are other issues, too, but this is really a critical one.” [The Larry Meiller Show,Thursday, August 6, 2015, 11:00 am]
Global warming has all the marking of becoming a worldwide economic, environmental and human disaster. It could be a disaster that has no precedent in nature, at least during the time humans have been inhabiting Earth. Scientific models have demonstrated the inevitably of global warming due to our relentless burning of fossil fuels, in almost every device possible, and our continued deforestation practices, particularly in the tropics. Should global warming be allowed to continue at the current rates, the death toll from global warming effects could ultimately exceed the number of human losses from all wars, human atrocities, motor vehicle crashes, airplane crashes and worldwide epidemics.
History is repleat with examples of being “too little, too late”. U.S. President Hoover’s attempts to end the Great Depression by funding the construction of the Hoover Dam were believed by the American public as being “too little” to save the U.S. economy and “too late”. He was soundly defeated in the U.S. presidential election by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In medicine, if someone is sick and they do not get to a doctor until their sickness becomes fatal any remedy will be “too little, too late”.
The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to reduce global warming is also both too little and too late to prevent what scientists call a “runaway greenhouse effect”, as what happen on the planet Venus eons ago, making the planet’s former oceans of water boil away, due to surface atmospheric temperatures that continued to climb, unabated.
While the U.S. electrical energy power production may be the top emitting sector of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the U.S. economy, timely and sufficiently large GHGs emissions reductions in the transportation and other GHG emitting sectors (construction industry sector, agriculture industry sector, consumer sector, export/import sectors, the military industrial complex) will nullify any gains made in the electricity production sector. This could leave the planet vulnerable for the positive GHG feedback mechanisms that contribute to more global warming to kick-in, which could cause a runaway greenhouse effect on Earth. Examples of positive feedback to more global warming of Earth include a reduced ability of the Arctic Ocean to reflect solar energy back into space (darker water absorbs more solar energy than snow and ice), causing additional heating of the oceans; melting of the permafrost region (1/5 of the earth’s surface) resulting in more methane gas (a much stronger GHG than carbon dioxide) production.
Albert Einstein once remarked: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Offering the public positive financial incentives to reduce actions that emit greenhouse gases, such as driving, flying and using fossil fuel created heat and electricity, could drastically reduce human caused climate change and as well as other problems created by our fossil fuel powered economy (such as oil spills, ground water pollution from petroleum waste, and natural gas explosions).
Following the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, a major conference on climate change was held at the Vatican. Speakers included our guest, Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.” We speak to Klein about her trip to the Vatican and the importance of the pope’s message – not only on climate change, but the global economy.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Naomi Klein, journalist, best-selling author. Her most recent book is This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, out today in paperback. A documentary film directed by Avi Lewis based on This Changes Everything will be released in the fall.
Naomi, you have recently returned from the Vatican. Can you describe that experience? What were you doing there?
NAOMI KLEIN: So I was there at a conference that was convened by Cardinal Peter Turkson. And Cardinal Peter Turkson is—has been doing a lot of the speaking on the encyclical. It wasn’t convened by Francis, just to set that record straight. It was convened by the Cardinal Turkson’s office and also by the organization representing Catholic development agencies. And it was part of the rollout for the climate change encyclical. The organizers described what they were doing as building a megaphone for the encyclical, because they understand that it’s words on a page unless there are groups of people around the world who are amplifying that message in various ways. So there were people from around the world.
There were people there, for instance, from Brazil, who were talking about how the movements there that have been fighting large dams, oil drilling, fighting for more just transit, are going to be putting huge resources behind popularizing the climate change encyclical, buying radio ads, producing videos, creating teaching materials for every chapter of the encyclical, and really using it as an organizing tool. That was one of the things I was really struck by while I was there, was just how ready particularly the movements in Latin America are to operationalize the encyclical, if you will.
And they also talked about not wanting it to be domesticated, was a phrase I heard a lot, domesticated by the church. You know, there’s a way in which you can just take this document that is, you know, almost 200 pages and just take out the safest parts of it—you know, “Oh, we’re against climate change, and we all need to kind of hold hands.” But, in fact, if you read the document, it’s very clear in calling for a different economic model, and it’s a challenge to what Pope Francis calls our throwaway culture. So they want to make sure that the parts of the encyclical that really do represent the deepest challenge to our current economic system and represent the most hope for the people who are excluded from the benefits of that economic system are really highlighted.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, last month, Pope Francis went on a tour of South America in his first foreign trip after unveiling the historic encyclical urging climate action. In Ecuador, he reiterated his call for social justice and environmental preservation.
POPE FRANCIS: [translated] The goods of the Earth are meant for everyone. And however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage. In this way, we move beyond purely economic justice, based on commerce, toward social justice, which upholds the fundamental human right to a dignified life. The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Pope Francis speaking in Ecuador. Naomi Klein, could you talk—you’ve mentioned in the past the significance of the pope’s origins in Argentina and the particular form that Catholicism took in Latin America. Could you talk about the significance of that and the kind of turn that you witnessed at the Vatican in the focus of this new pope and the church under his leadership?
NAOMI KLEIN: Sure, Nermeen. Yeah, it was definitely striking that a lot of the people who are real players in the Vatican right now come from the Global South. As you mentioned, Pope Francis is from Argentina, and he is the first pope from the Global South. And Cardinal Turkson is originally from Ghana and is talked about as potentially going to be the first African pope. And you see the influence. There are a lot of people who have a history with liberation theology around this pope. He doesn’t come from that particular tradition, but there’s clearly an influence, because before he became pope, he worked with the Latin American Council of Bishops, which—you know, the form of Catholicism in Latin America is one that is more influenced by indigenous cosmology than perhaps in North America, and definitely in Europe, precisely because the genocide of indigenous people in Latin America was far less complete.
So, the first phrase of the encyclical, the first paragraph of the encyclical quotes Francis of Assisi, referring to the Earth as “sister” and as “mother,” and then goes on to talk about Francis—Francis of Assisi, not Pope Francis—and it’s significant that Pope Francis chose the name Francis, the first pope in history to choose that as his name—how we ministered to plants and animals, and saw them as his brothers and sisters. And obviously, in there, you have echoes of indigenous cosmologies that see all of creation as our relations. And while I was at the Vatican, I did ask and, before and afterwards, talked to different theologians about whether there is any precedent for a pope talking—using this language of Mother Earth so prominently, and nobody could think of a single example of this. So, I think what is significant about it is that it is very much a rebuke to the worldview that humans have been put on Earth to dominate and subjugate nature. That is very clear in the encyclical. And the major theme of the encyclical is the theme of interdependence.
You also mentioned—or you played that clip where Francis talks about natural resources as being something that everybody has a right to. And this, of course, is a challenge to a pretty basic principle of private property under capitalism, that if you buy it, it’s yours to do with whatever you want. And that’s something else that’s very strong in the encyclical, is the idea of the commons, that the atmosphere is a commons, that water is a right. And I do think that you can see the influence of Pope Francis’s many years in Argentina. You know, he ministered in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, and that’s somewhere where I spent some time doing reporting and filmmaking. And the outskirts of Buenos Aires, they have had one of the most catastrophic experiences with water privatization, where a French water company came in and put in the pipes, but then refused to put in the sewers. So every time it rains, there are these huge floods, and there’s even cases of bodies being washed up in the streets and in people’s basements, so—which is simply to say he knows of which he speaks. I mean, he has seen a very brutal form of deregulated capitalism introduced in the Southern Cone of Latin America, and he also understands that this is a form of capitalism that, in that part of the world, was imposed with tremendous violence.
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, as we wrap up, very quickly, the pope is coming to the United States in September, but before that, he will go to Cuba first. Can you talk about the significance of the Cuba trip, and then, within the presidential race here, the pope landing in the United States?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think the timing of this trip is obviously going to be very awkward for several Republican candidates who are Catholic and understand that this is a very, very popular pope. He’s particularly popular among Latinos, and that’s a really coveted voting bloc. So, you know, picking a fight with this pope is not a very smart political move if you’re running for office right now.
And I met somebody while I was—I can’t use his name, because it was just—it wasn’t an interview situation. But I met a fairly prominent Catholic, while I was at the Vatican, from the United States, from a major U.S. organization, who said, “The holy father isn’t doing us any favors by going to Cuba first,” by which he meant that there are a lot of people talking about how this pope is sort of a closet socialist, and by going to Cuba first, he was reinforcing that narrative. So I think for conservative Republican Catholics, the fact that this pope is going to Cuba first, but also because he has said such critical things about deregulated capitalism and everything he’s saying about climate change, is putting them into, frankly, uncharted territories. They really don’t know how to navigate these waters.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s President Obama’s birthday today. Do you have any particular birthday wishes for him?
NAOMI KLEIN: Amy, I had no idea. Thanks for telling me. And I wish him a very happy birthday.
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, we want to thank you for being with us, journalist, best-selling author. Her most recent book is called This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. It’s out in paperback today. And she’s got a documentary film coming out. It’s directed by Avi Lewis, based on This Changes Everything. It’s out in the fall. She also, together with Avi Lewis, made The Take, about Argentina. Her past books, No Logo and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
Global Warming Deniers and All Fossil Fuel Users: You Are Collectively Putting Us All in Very Grave Danger!
2015 Still On Pace as Hottest Year On Record
The first five months of 2015 topped the warmest such period on record for the globe, according to a pair of recently released independent analyses from government scientists. Meanwhile, a third, separate analysis from the Japanese Meteorological Agency similarly found May 2015 to be the globe’s hottest May, topping May 2014 in records dating to 1891.
Global temperatures January-May 2015 exceeded 2010’s as the warmest first five months of any year, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Climatic Data Center noted that the first five months of 2015 nudged ahead of January-May 2010 by 0.09 degrees Celsius.
Record warm sea-surface temperatures in the northeast and equatorial Pacific Ocean, as well as areas of the western North Atlantic Ocean and Barents Sea north of Scandinavia contributed to the record warm January-May 2015, according to a recently released NOAA data set. The record global average warmth in the first five months of 2015 follows the record annual average global temperatures of all of 2014.
NASA’s analysis found the most pronounced warm anomalies in May 2015 were over the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere in two zones. One stretched from northern and central Russia into the Kara Sea, Barents Sea, northern Scandinavia westward toward northeast Greenland. Another was centered over northeast Alaska, and Canada’s Yukon and Northwest Territories stretching into the Beaufort Sea.
Record May warmth was also observed in parts of equatorial South America, southern Africa and The Middle East, according to NOAA. Spain tallied its second warmest May on record. Meanwhile, the heat wave death toll in India in the latter part of May topped 2,300, as was reported in a blog posting here last month that also reported on the death toll of Pakistan’s heat wave last month.
In fact, no U.S. corporation-funded major public media (T.V. or radio, including ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and NPR) devoted any of their prime time broadcasting in Madison, WI to this story. This is not surprising, of course, knowing that all the major media networks in the U.S., both public and private, as well as many U.S. politicians who claim they represent the public, depend heavily on monetary sources from the major automobile, trucking, airline and fossil fuel providers/refiners/distributors and fossil fuel related industries.
Nine of the ten warmest years in NASA’s 134-year database have occurred this century, with the exception of 1998, which featured the tail end of one of the strongest El Ninos on record.
The last year NASA’s data set of global average temperatures was cooler than average global was 1976.
- The last cooler-than-average month was over 21 years ago, February 1994. In the 449 months from January 1978 through May 2015, only 11 months have been cooler than average, according to the NASA data set.
NOAA says nine of 10 warmest 12-month periods have taken place over the past two years. This 12-month record for the globe has been either tied or broken each month from January to April 2015.
France to see worse heat wave than occurred in 2003 when thousands of people died. France’s southwestern Gironde region sweltered under 107-degree F. heat a day after Cordoba in Southern Spain recorded nearlt 111 degree temperatures.
“The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophe”.
Pope Francis, June 18, 2015
In his long-awaited encyclical on the environment and climate change publicly released last week, Pope Francis called for swift action to save the planet from environmental ruin, urging world leaders to hear “the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” He called for a change of lifestyle in rich countries steeped in a “throwaway” consumer culture, and an end to “obstructionist attitudes” that sometimes put profit before the common good. Pope Francis said protecting the planet is a moral and ethical “imperative” for believers and nonbelievers alike that should supersede political and economic interests.
A major theme of the encyclical is the disparity between rich and poor. “We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet,” he said.
“Our house is going to ruin, and that harms everyone, especially the poorest. Mine is therefore an appeal for responsibility, based on the task that God has given to man in creation: “till and keep the garden” in which he was placed. I invite everyone to accept with open hearts this document, which follows the church’s social doctrine”, the pope said.
In a transcript of the pope’s encyclical on the DemocracyNow.org website, Pope Francis said protecting the planet is a moral and ethical imperative, for believers and nonbelievers alike, that should supersede political and economic interests. He also dismissed those who argue that technology will solve all environmental problems and that global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth.
A major theme of the encyclical is the disparity between rich and poor. “We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, we destroy the planet.”
Climate change is already happening, and its effects have already been disastrous on the poorest countries and the poorest people, who don’t have the means to defend themselves from it. They are also part of the human population who have the least responsibility for what is happening, being that they consume less fossil fuels.
Author Naomi Klein said on Democracy Now Thursday that “this encyclical, we can’t overstate the importance of it, the impact that it will have. It’s hard to respond to a document that runs close to 200 pages, when it was just released in non-draft form a few hours ago. We’re all still digesting it, Amy. But it is very clear that a door has just been opened, and a gust of wind is blowing through, where it is now possible to say some very powerful truths about the real implications of climate change, really the root causes.”
“And I think a lot of the discussion about the encyclical in the U.S. media cycle has focused and will continue to focus on the impact on Republicans and on climate deniers, many of whom are Catholic. And it is certainly a challenge to that demographic in the United States, because the pope is coming out so clearly on the side of climate science in saying this is real and this is happening. But I think that it’s too easy to say that this is just a challenge to Rick Santorum and Jeb Bush. Frankly, it is also a challenge to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and to large parts of the green movement, because it is a rebuke of slow action. It very specifically says that climate denial is not just about denying the science, it’s also about denying the urgency of the science. The document is very strong in condemning delays, half-measures, so-called market solutions. It very specifically criticizes carbon markets, the carbon offsetting, as an inadequate measure that will encourage speculation and rampant consumption.
“And I think probably the most significant part of it, the big picture, is the foregrounding of the culture of frenetic consumption in the wealthy world and among the wealthy. And this is really significant, because I think large parts of the climate change discussion tries to have it all ways and say, “No, we’ll just have green growth. We’ll just have—we’ll consume green products.” And, you know, this goes a lot deeper than that and says, no, we need to get at the underlying values that are feeding this culture of frenetic consumption that is entirely unsustainable.”
In the encyclical, the pope states that: “In a corrupt culture, we can’t believe that laws will be enough to change behaviors that affect the environment.” Naomi Kline responds: Well, I think, when he’s referring to corruption, I believe he’s referring to the influence of polluting companies, of multinational corporations, which he also goes after in the encyclical. And I think this is one of the most significant things about the document. One might expect of a religious document about climate change to erase difference, right? to say, “Well, we’re all in this together,” and certainly it talks about the Earth as our common home. But it also recognizes explicitly the power dynamics in capitalism, which is to say that there are forces within the system that are actively working against change. And that is probably what he’s referring to when he’s talking about how there may be laws, but the laws aren’t enforced. And, you know, indeed the laws are also inadequate, which is also addressed in the document, and it has some very specific calls for another level of environmental law, which is a part of the document that I haven’t been able to look at, you know, closely enough.
And another thing I have to say is, you know, I am—I have accepted this invitation to speak at a conference which is about digging more deeply into the document, because there’s an understanding that it does take time to digest a document of this length, this multilayered, and it requires that kind of deeper analysis. And I think that this intervention, five months ahead of U.N. climate conference in Paris, is tremendously significant. It’s going to push political leaders to go further. It’s going to be a tool for social movements.
A lot of the language of the climate justice movement has just been adopted by the pope—I mean, even of phrases like “ecological debt.” The pope is talking about the debt that the wealthy world owes to the poor. I mean, this is a framing that comes originally from Ecuador, from the movement against drilling in the Amazon. And, you know, this is a phrase that was never heard in mainstream circles until just now, actually. I mean, I’ve never seen such a mainstream use of that term.
So, it is very important in that way. But, I mean, I have to say, on a personal level, that as thrilled as I am that the Vatican is leading in this way and that this pope is leading in this way and bringing together the fight against poverty with the fight to act on climate change, that doesn’t mean that there’s a complete merger between the climate justice movement and the Vatican here. I mean, obviously there are huge differences that remain over issues like marriage equality, reproductive rights and freedom, to name just a few.”
Nathan Schneider, columnist with the Catholic weekly, America, who has been covering Catholic engagement with climate change, talks about what the encyclical means for the Catholic community and the number of languages it’s been released in and how large the document is: “Well, this is really the first Third World encyclical. You know, this is coming from a pope who was shaped in really significant ways by economic crises during the Cold War in Argentina and being in the middle of a battleground between the First and Second World powers. It was drafted by a cardinal from Ghana. So this is coming from the side of the world that we don’t normally hear from. And it’s very much in line with things that popes have been saying for decades, you know, going back to Paul VI, then John Paul II, Benedict XVI. So, a lot of the content is actually not so new for Catholics, but the emphasis and that—the language of climate debt, the language—the recognition that there is a divide here between the rich countries and the poor. And this is a cry from the developing world, from what has been labeled the Third World, for change.”
“The pope is calling here for us to change how we live, how we—what we do with our resources. You know, this is not just moving from one kind of consumerism to another. This is a kind of spiritual renewal and also a material renewal, that—in which we turn ourselves toward an economy that’s sustainable, that’s life-giving, both for humanity and the rest of the world.”
The global warming genie has escaped his bottle! He has begun to show his wrath, which is only likely to worsen in the coming years, decades and centuries, and there is presently no end in sight!
He’s leaving plenty of evidence. The only way we can all help weaken him is by stopping our nonessential burning of fossil fuels, stopping deforestation especially of the tropics, and doing things which naturally result in more greenhouse gases being added into the earth’s atmosphere and oceans (such as overeating, wasting food, not recycling, not reusing things whenever possible, running our air conditioning and furnaces needlessly, using energy derived from tar sands industry, doing other things that frivolously burn fossil fuels such as going for joy rides, cruising, etc.. Because our atmosphere is where Global Warming lives and breathes (now that he’s escaped the bottle) and because he gets his tremendous strength to wreak havoc on the world by his breathing in greenhouse gases that have been accumulating to record high concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere (as a by-product of our burning carbon-based fuels in our cars, trucks, airplanes, power plants, ships, boats, trains, machinery, recreational products and the like) we need to all put him on a crash diet, NOW!
According to David Owen, author of Green Metropolis and The Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency, and Good Intentions Can Make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse, the proportional share of the fuel burned during a round trip from New York City to Melbourne, Australia, is greater than the total amount of energy that the average resident of the earth uses, for all purposes, in a year. Forestalling global calamity is a preemptively worthy, ethically justifiable and economically achievable goal for everyone on the planet, especially in this era of television, radio, computers, Skype, the iPhone and virtual reality. Climatologists, environmentalists, CEOs, religious leaders, students and tourists seeking entertainment or to broaden their horizons, and government officials ought use the least greenhouse gas emitting technologies available to them to accomplish their objectives; they should not have to cross the oceans and great land masses of world (requiring vast burning fossil fuels) just to be present in person. Likewise, our government leaders and business people ought minimize the amount of products traded with distant countries, so as to minimize the amount of fuel burning required in the shipment of goods by air, sea and over miles and miles of terrain. Transportation of billions of tons of goods along with extensive long distance vacationing and business trips by millions of people every year is simply no longer sustainable. Such activities are becoming ethically wrong because they are unquestionably harming the planet and all the living things it is home to, both now and in the future.
We cannot and must not wait for technology to bail us out. Scientists the world over say it is now paramount that all humans begin acting in significant ways to reduce their annual greenhouse gas emissions. Otherwise, we will never get Global Warming to go back into his bottle – where he belongs! Greenhouse gases accumulate atmospherically over time – they build up in the atmosphere and oceans from year to year. Their volume is accelerating in earth’s atmosphere and as well as in its oceans, and the total volume will likely keep accelerating for some time due to compounding factors (positive feedbacks) of the earth’s natural systems. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance – paramount – that everyone act in ways to reduce their annual carbon footprint, immediately, before Global Warming becomes all to powerful, uncontrollable and for generations, a tragedy for civilization.
Petition requesting the U.S. Congress members and President Barack Obama to adopt the proposal called “Conserve, NOW” which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the United States and create jobs in the areas of adding to and reconstructing infrastructure in cities and counties of the U.S. to accommodate and encourage less fossil fuel burning in transportation and fossil fuel derived energy presently used in homes.
Following are the comments I submitted by email on the governor’s proposed budget for July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2017.
Bad things can happen to good people. It happens all the time, and has occurred all throughout history. So when bad things, or threats, are predicted to occur or seem reasonably likely to occur, it’s best for one to take action, and involve others in removing the oncoming threat, before it gets realized and significant damage to life and our environment occurs.
Governor Walker’s biennial budget plan for Wisconsin for the next two years contains numerous threats to the people of Wisconsin and the state of Wisconsin’s natural resources. Some of those threats could have devastating and harmful impacts if they are allowed to occur without any attempts to prevent or ameliorate them.
Governor Walker’s budget plan as written will cause a great deal of harm for many thousands of Wisconsin’s people and their families. Some people who have worked their entire life at University of Wisconsin or UW-extension will likely lose their jobs, and the public who those people serve will lose out as well. Wisconsin’s elderly and disabled population, and families having children enrolled in Wisconsin’s excellent public school system will also suffer loses. Many hard working and dedicated school teachers and educational assistants serving special needs children will be without a job next fall if this budget is not revamped.
The governor’s budget also hurts those who watch over and protect our precious natural resources, both now and in the coming years, by cutting positions and land stewardship funds.
But really the worst thing about the governor’s budget is not what’s in it but rather what’s NOT IN IT BUT SHOULD IN IT. For example, despite Wisconsin’s aging population and increasing number of people who prefer not to drive, or who can’t drive because of the high cost of owning, maintaining and driving an automobile, the Walker budget proposes nothing new to help with mobility in the state, transit in particular. Rather, it borrows hundreds of millions of dollars to expand an already too large highway system at great environmental harm to the state, and for no good reason.
Numerous observations demonstrate that the climate of the Great Lakes Region, including Wisconsin’s climate, is changing. Average temperatures are getting warmer and extreme heat events are occurring more frequently. Total precipitation is increasing and heavy precipitation events are becoming more common. Winters are getting shorter and the duration of lake ice cover is decreasing over time. As a state, we should already be doing as much as we can to drastically cut back on our burning of fossil fuels but we seem to be doing almost the opposite. This tragedy grows in magnitude the longer it takes for our country and other countries to wean themselves off burning fossil fuels. There are many other unintended consequences of living in a fossil fuel burning dependent society.
But ironically, rather than then increasing substantially the funding of transit systems and the funding of positive financial incentive programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encourage walking and use of nonmotorized travel by state residents and businesses, the governor’s budget promotes more highway expansion. Instead, the state should reward those who drive less (miles), don’t fly, and minimizing their use of fossil fuel derived energy over the year. Use the money that Governor Walker’s budget borrows to fund a bigger highway system and a big new professional basketball arena instead – expenditures that not only subject state taxpayer to great financial risks but also promote adding millions more tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere including promoting jet airplanes flying of visiting teams and fans to the games.
Wisconsin Public Radio (part of state’s UW-extension) plans vacationing trips to Scotland and Australia, trips that not only release hundreds of millions of tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere but also give nothing back to the state’s own tourism businesses.
Governor Walker’s budgets include more trade promotions with foreign countries despite the fact that shipping products and working with foreign business interests similarly add millions and millions more tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
My plan would increase Wisconsin families’ and individuals’ annual income for polluting less and reducing the global warming threat, rather than adding to it. It would encourage Wisconsinites and Americans to buy from local entrepreneurs, whenever possible.
Governor Walker’s plan is to require a monthly drug test of food share (too low to begin with) recipients and proof of their having worked at least 80 hours at a place of employment before their receiving the meager food share benefits. It would do nothing to curb the rising income and employment inequalities and racial disparities in the state. The numbers of families and children living in poverty already will not be helped by Governor Walker’s budget. It is a fact that children of families living in poverty start their lives with a handicap because of many reason but the worst is that they do not receive adequate nutrition before and after they enter their school years. The governor’s budget insufficiently funds Wisconsin public schools and the families that live in poverty are disadvantaged in those schools from day one. Yet the governor’s budget does nothing to make up for previous cuts to public schools and add more financial stress for them by requiring them to pay vouchers for children attending private schools.
The budget should also refund the planned parenthood clinics the state had before Scott Walker took office. Certainly we ought not be adding to our human population pressures on the environment if we don’t have to.
Thank for the opportunity to submit my comments on the proposed state budget. For addition background on my concerns expressed here, please visit my blog at: http://www.allthingsenvironmental.com.
President Obama’s Executive Order Committing Federal Government to Cutting Its Greenhouse Gas Emissions
President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Thursday committing the federal government to cutting its own emissions 40 percent by 2025 and pledging to increase the amount of renewable energy used by federal agencies to 30 percent.
[This is a good addition but still not nearly enough. States and everyday Americans all have to greatly reduce the things they do that contribute to their daily and annual greenhouse gas emissions, as does the rest of the world. The U.S. still has the highest per capita GHG emissions. Forty percent of world travel by air (a large emitter of GHGs) is by American recreation and business travel pursuits. This has to change! Click on: “About this Blog” to read about how our government really could help make this happen – Power to the People]
The executive order builds on a previous administration directive to cut emissions from federal agencies 28 percent by 2020, compared with 2008 levels. “We are well on our way to meet that goal,” Brian Deese, senior adviser to the president, said in a call with reporters Thursday. “That’s what’s motivating us today to chart out a new and even more aggressive goal going forward.”
The administration is also setting a goal of cutting the per-mile emissions from the agencies’ vehicle fleet 30 percent, it said. It estimates the total commitment across the federal agencies will save taxpayers $18 billion — funds that won’t be spent on energy.
Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the Council on Environmental Quality, said that by the end of 2014, the federal government had cut emissions 17 percent since 2008, putting it well on the way to meeting Obama’s earlier goal. Much of that has come through energy efficiency improvements in federal buildings and with the installation of renewables.
As of the end of 2014, renewable energy accounted for 9 percent of the federal government’s energy use, and Thursday’s directive wants to increase that to 30 percent by 2025. The Department of Defense has set its own goal of deploying 3 gigawatts of solar energy on its installations around the world by 2025.
The federal government is the single largest energy user in the United States, Goldfuss said, with 360,000 buildings and 650,000 vehicles. “Not only is our footprint expansive, our impact is as well,” she said.
The administration also argued that the push to reduce emissions in the federal government has effects across the private sector as well. To that end, the administration also released a scorecard to track emissions from major federal contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Dynamics, which the administration is also calling on to make reductions.
The White House estimates that with reductions from the agency and those of private suppliers, the administration can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 million metric tons in the next 10 years.
“These goals will make sure the federal government is leading by example and pushing the envelope on cutting emissions,” said Deese, adding that it will “demonstrate that we are going to stay on offense in pushing our clean energy and climate change objectives.”