Below is the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Outdoor Report summary for March 10, 2016. However, conspicuous by absence is any mention that Wisconsin’s unusually warm weather this month is at all related to human activities that cause climate change. Some of the many sources of fossil and other fuel combustion that emit greenhouse gases to the atmosphere in Wisconsin include: fossil fuel burning in highway motor vehicles (gasoline and diesel oil); jet aircraft (refined oil/jet fuel); electric power producing plants (primarily coal, and natural gas – methane); natural gas burning for heating homes, buildings, churches and other buildings, recreational utility vehicles; road construction vehicles; in cement and asphalt manufacturing; in snowmobiles, boats, motor vehicles used in tractors and other agricultural machinery, in lawn mowing, in logging, and in other miscellaneous motorized products that burn fuel. Other greenhouse gas emissions may come from mining operations including sand and gravel mining and mining for metals, and from animal livestock propagation for food sales.
Despite the findings and recommendations from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which concludes the climate change problem is “urgent”, as does President Obama, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker and the state’s Republican lawmakers have refused to even hold a citizen hearing regarding the growing threat of climate change, not just to Wisconsin’s future economy, but also the quality of life future residents and visitor to Wisconsin will be provided, as well as the threats of a changing climate to animal and plant life in Wisconsin for generations to come.
Unseasonably warm weather melts snow cover, slows maple tapping efforts
Wisconsin has experienced some unseasonably warm weather in the last week with daytime temperatures in the 50s and 60s and even a low 70 reported in Milwaukee. The warm weather has melted most of the snow cover statewide, with just snow surviving in some forested areas of the Northwoods. Snowmobile and cross-country ski trails are now closed statewide and most will remain so even if the state does experience a late season snowfall.
State park and forest trails that were groomed for skiing are now open again to hiking, but most properties are reporting that rail-trail, mountain bike and horse trails are closed, as conditions are soft and muddy and use of trails in these conditions can cause significant damage to trail surfaces.
With the general inland game fish season now closed except on those waters open to game fishing year-round, only a few panfish anglers have been venturing out, but ice conditions are rapidly deteriorating and many shorelines in southern and central Wisconsin are opening up, making access difficult and dangerous.
Most anglers on Green Bay are removing fishing shelters prior to this Sunday’s deadline as waters are rapidly opening up. Anglers were out in high numbers around Sturgeon Bay last weekend with many limits for whitefish reported. Anglers were open water fishing the Fox River at Voyageur Park for walleye but success rates have been low, though with the warmer weather that is expect this to change.
Raccoon, skunk, muskrat, mink, and opossum activity has increased as temperatures have increased and snow has departed. Wild turkeys have been strutting and starting their spring courtship. Flocks are breaking up and the large groups of toms and jakes have already decreased in size as they establish their spring pecking order.
With the warm weather and south winds there has been a significant increase in spring migrants sighted this week, including red-winged blackbirds, killdeer, robins, song sparrows, swamp sparrows, bluebirds, turkey vultures and more. Other early migrants returning to breeding territories include American woodcock, great blue herons and eastern meadowlarks. There was a heavy waterfowl migration across the southern half of the state, including common goldeneyes, all three mergansers, green-winged teal, pintail, wood ducks, and many others. Greater white-fronted geese are moving through in numbers, as are large flocks of Canada geese and occasional cackling, snow, and Ross’s geese. Canada geese are staking out territory and will begin nesting soon. Sandhill cranes are courting and dancing. Bald eagles are incubating eggs and some great horned owls already have chicks.
Maple syrup season has gotten off to a very slow start due to mild temperatures, especially overnight lows staying above freezing. One producer placed out 670 taps late last week and harvested 370 gallons of sap on Monday. The 10-day forecast does not show any significant changes to overnight lows. The concern is that trees will bud out soon resulting in an early end of the season.
A number of observers reported seeing leopard frogs, spring peepers have been heard in the south and salamanders were active with the warm temperatures. Unfortunately the warm weather has also brought out reports from shed hunters and maple tappers finding the first ticks crawling around on them.
I could not allow this day – Feb. 29 – to pass without comment. Leap year – a year having an extra day in February – occurs only every four years.
So, is that good or bad?
It’s not good, in fact it’s DISASTROUS, because yet ANOTHER day, and year, and decade has gone by while our elected officials in the State of Wisconsin Legislature, and the U.S. Congress, and the population of our state and country, refuse to take the threat, and now reality, of global warming caused by too much fossil fuel burning – in cars, trucks, airplanes, electric power producing plants that burn fossil fuels, seriously, despite alarming increases in sea levels.
Too much fuel burning primarily coal, methane (natural gas), and oil products, have been burned by humans over the past decades and centuries for the energy that has been produced, resulting in the emission and accumulation of elevated concentrations of “greenhouse gases” in earth’s atmosphere, resulting in global warming, the rise in the elevation levels of earth’s oceans, due to the melting of the earth’s Arctic and Antarctic Circle’s land ice and snow, the shrinking of earth’s mountainous glaciers, a thawing of the earth’s permafrost region (one-fifth of the earth’s land surface), causing a warming, expansion, and acidification of earth’s oceans, leading to a dangerous rise in sea level.
The warming is already wreaking of havoc on earth’s biological systems, including humans, most notably in poorer, tropical countries, many of which are already experiencing grave losses due to extreme weather events, such as drought, heat waves and severe storms, along with unprecedented flooding, all of which had been scientifically predicted well over a century ago!
The warming has been compounded by the increasing loss of vegetation, particularly the loss of the tropical rainforests, which had been naturally sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but not anymore, by the ones which have been replaced by other forms of development or money producing mono-culture agriculture.
Global warming from human causes is not rocket science, despite what the flat earth believers may still be claiming. However, saying that human-caused global warming is not occurring, because it has not been “proven” to be happening – as of this February 29, 2016, is utterly preposterous, and those who claim human-caused global warming is not happening are either fools or worse yet – liars.
On December 8, 1941, the United States Congress declared war on the Empire of Japan in response to its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in the U.S. Territory (soon to become state) of Hawaii the morning of December 7, 1941.
The Declaration of War was formulated an hour after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous Infamy Speech at 12:30 pm on December 8, 1941. The declaration quickly passed the Senate and then the House at 1:10 p.m the same day. Roosevelt signed the declaration at 4:10 p.m., December 8, 1941. The power to declare war is assigned exclusively to Congress in the United States Constitution; however, the president’s signature was symbolically powerful and resolved any doubts.
In the Joint Resolutions declaring war against the Imperial Government of Japan, Germany and Italy, the Congress pledged “all the resources of the country of the United States” … “and the president is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the government to carry on war … to bring the conflict to a successful termination.”
The magnitude of the threat of accelerating global warming and a rapidly changing climate that would undeniably accompany the continued and increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as a direct consequence of human actions, mainly from too much fossil fuel burning and continuing and increased deforestation, especially in the tropics, upon the United States of America and the rest of the world, both now and into the future, easily dwarfs the loss of life, injury and misery to humans and animals wrought by all known wars, and therefore justifies a declaration of war by all countries of the world to slow and ultimately halt global warming and climate change, worldwide. Such declarations should be made now, without delay, to ensure an hospitable and safe world for all Earth’s current and future generations.
It is morally essential that Government, businesses, individuals and families begin to meet this challenge of increasing global warming and climate change that has already begun to cause loss of human lives, other species living in the world, and brought pain and misery to so many. To ignore and campaign against actions that reduce this growing threat, which will unquestionably hurt the people of the world’s poorer countries and Earth’s millions and millions of species, is utterly and morally reprehensible and is a practice that ought stop immediately because it needlessly delays progress in attacking this major problem of untold negative consequences for centuries to come.
Often in the shadows, 12 special interests wage aggressive anti-solar campaigns
By Environment America
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Phoenix, AZ –The Koch brothers, Duke Energy, and Arizona Public Service are among 12 special interest groups waging aggressive anti-solar campaigns across the country, often coordinated and behind the scenes, a new Environment America Research & Policy Center report said today.
While American solar power has increased four-fold since 2010, state by state, utilities and powerful industry front groups have begun chipping away at key policies that helped spur this solar boom, according to the analysis, Blocking the Sun: 12 Utilities and Fossil Fuel Interests That Are Undermining American Solar Power.
“Fossil-fuel interests and their allies have been using the same playbook to undermine solar power across the country,” said Bret Fanshaw, the solar program coordinator for Environment America. “And they’ve largely been operating in the shadows.”
The playbook: a national network of utility interest groups and fossil fuel industry-funded think tanks provides funding, model legislation and political cover for anti-solar campaigns. The report examines five of these major national players — Edison Electric Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council, the Koch brothers and their front group Americans for Prosperity, the Heartland Institute, and the Consumer Energy Alliance.
Then, in state after state, electric utilities use the support provided by these national anti-solar interests, supplemented by their own ample resources, to attack key solar energy policies. The report features seven utilities — Arizona Public Service, Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Berkshire Hathaway Industries, Salt River Project, FirstEnergy, and We Energies.
“We found that most attacks on solar energy happen behind closed doors in utility agencies, or in dense regulatory filings — away from public view,” said Gideon Weissman of the Frontier Group, co-author of the report. “That’s probably because they’re aimed at very popular policies that give regular consumers the chance to go solar.”
Charles and David Koch have an enormous financial stake in the fossil fuel industry through their company Koch Industries and its many subsidiaries. Koch Industries alone operates around 4,000 miles of pipeline, along with oil refineries in Alaska, Minnesota, and Texas.
Through its front group Americans for Prosperity and funding to other like-minded entities, the Koch brothers have attacked solar laws in several states including Florida, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington state.
Utilities like Arizona Public Service augment resources from interests like the Kochs to forward an anti-solar agenda. APS admitted to funding anti-solar ads by 60 plus, a national Koch-backed front group that purports to represent seniors, and it has been accused of improper influence with the Arizona Corporation Commission.
“I’ve seen first-hand how some energy monopolies have used money in campaigns to intimidate and manipulate policy makers and elected officials,” said Rep. Ken Clark, a state representative from Arizona who has pushed APS to disclose its political spending. “Aside from the question of renewable energy, this activity has become a threat to our electoral system.”
APS’s latest stealth move against solar has been to withdraw its request to raise fees on solar owners until the commission completes a study that would only examine costs, and not benefits, of the resource.
In Florida, where solar capacity is far beneath its potential, Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and Duke Energy, the largest utility in the U.S., have teamed up to block pro-solar policies. Duke Energy spent heavily to help re-elect Gov. Rick Scott, who campaigned against a state renewable electricity standard. AFP has mobilized its members and waged an aggressive ad campaign against a ballot initiative to expand rooftop solar by allowing third-party sales of panels. Duke Energy has also contributed to that effort.
The anti-solar coalition Consumers for Smart Solar, backed by AFP, Duke Energy, and others, has now put forward a competing ballot measure in Florida to undermine the rooftop solar amendment and is spreading misinformation about both measures.
“By wide margins, Americans support pro-solar policies,” said Fanshaw. “That’s why fossil fuel interests and their front groups have resorted to shady and deceptive tactics to undermine them. Ultimately it’s up to state leaders to reject these attacks and support a clean energy future.”
Announcing Creation of “Strawberry Fields Forever” Awards in Honor of John Lennon, Co-Founder of “The Beatles”
On the day of what would have been John Lennon’s 75th birthday (October 9th), I am announcing with this post the creation of “John Lennon Strawberry Fields Forever Awards” – to be given to individuals, political representatives, members of the mass media and government officials who best put John Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” song lyric “Living is easy with eyes closed…Misunderstanding all you see.” into practice.
2015 winners of the John Lennon Strawberry Fields Forever award are the following:
The Wisconsin Legislature, Governor Walker, and his administration – for again failing in 2015 to take up the threat of global warming and climate change on Wisconsin, its natural resources and Wisconsin’s current and future businesses, residents and visitors. While scientists with the state’s many colleges and universities, including the University of Wisconsin – Madison, all say there is ample evidence now that global warming and climate change are occurring, will be with us for the long term, and that the impacts on Wisconsin’s people, animals and businesses will be increasingly negative and irreversible, Wisconsin’s publicly elected officials in the legislative and executive branches of Wisconsin’s government have continued their practice of avoiding any discussion of climate change and what the state’s position ought be on it, despite ample evidence that changes to the climate now underway are human caused, linked to too much fossil fuel burning and deforestation (paving), which have led to unprecedented increases in the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Governor Walker and his security personnel have contributed hundreds of thousands of additional greenhouse gases to the atmosphere in their countless plane trips around the U.S. and to foreign countries in his failed campaign for the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency; and more hundreds of thousands of GHGs were undoubtedly emitted in his trade missions to Europe and China, to say nothing of the massive volumes of GHG emissions from trade with far away countries. (You may also want to read this that there is no mention of greenhouse gases in the trade pact President Obama is supporting (The TPP), that greenhouse gas emissions generated by international transportation are substantial yet widely overlooked by those pushing to “fast track” the 12 nation agreement by the Pacific Ocean boarding countries.)
The Legislature refused to take up the threat of global warming and climate change, despite numerous letters to newspaper editors from Wisconsin citizens and testimonies given at public hearings on the state budget on the importance of addressing climate change in Wisconsin. Instead, it has been advancing bills that provide: for more lenient campaign finance laws and a doubling of the amount of money that can be donated to political candidates; allowing blaze pink colors for deer hunters; overhauling Wisconsin’s Civil Service System.
The Legislature also failed at ensuring Wisconsin’s workforce is fairly paid for its labor, allowing countless residents to make no more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. New census data released in September show nearly a quarter of a million Wisconsin children lived below the poverty line in 2014; 738,000 people in the state were living in poverty in 2014, 150,000 more than in 2007.
The poverty rate for people who identified as black or African-American was 37.7 percent in 2014 compared to 9.6 percent among white non-Hispanic Wisconsinites. The poverty rate for black children was 49.4 percent, four times the rate of non-Hispanic Wisconsin children in 2014.
Gaylord Nelson said “Some people who talk about the environment talk about it as though it involved only a question of clean air and clean water. The environment involves THE WHOLE BROAD SPECTRUM of man’s relationship to ALL other living creatures, INCLUDING OTHER HUMAN BEINGS. It involves the environment in its broadest and deepest sense. It involves THE ENVIRONMENT OF THE GHETTO, which is the WORST environment, where the worst pollution, the worst noise, the worst housing, the worst situation in this country — THAT HAS TO BE A CRITICAL PART OF OUR CONCERN and consideration in talking and cleaning up the environment” [Emphasis added].
Every member of the U.S. Congressional Delegation in Washington DC is awarded the John Lennon Strawberry Fields Forever award for being missing in action in 2015; as were previous congressional delegations the last two decades who have exhibited callousness on a grand level about the greatest threat for all earthlings for far too many years already. The mass media ought have held the Congresses’s “feet to the fire” to get legislative action taken by our government but no doubt that would not go over well with the automobile industry, who pays TV networks for the countless number of automobile advertisements broadcast to American households every week during NFL football games.
Wisconsin Public Radio is awarded a Strawberry Field award for continuing to sponsor its exotic trips to far away lands that require long distance air travel, done for the purpose of fundraising. Flying airplanes has been labeled as the worst single activity an individual can do as far as adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, now linked with certainty to more rapid global warming and climate change. Public radio’s encouragement of atmosphere – damaging airline travel is the opposite of what it should be doing – encourage less fossil fuel burning by everyone.
The typical American consumer, who continues to burn excessive quantities of fossil fuels in transportation, heating, and using electricity derived from burning fossil fuels, and consumes far too many products requiring burning large quantities of fossil fuels, despite warnings of irreparable harm due to climate change from all credible scientists.
The failure of all media to issue needed public action alerts for the mounting accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as they do for other weather and climate threats to people, animals and property, is inexcusable.
The awards go to individuals or groups who close their eyes and minds to the fact that global warming caused climate change and sea level rise is now a reality and is a growing threat to the safety and well-being of all people and animals living on Earth today, and is a much greater threat for future humans and animal lives who have yet to be born.
Peter O’Neill, chair of the Rockefeller Family committee (C) sits with Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, economist, and great-granddaughter of John D Rockefeller and Stephen B Heintz, president, Rockefeller Brothers Fund during a news conference in which Rockefeller family members voiced concern about the direction of the oil company ExxonMobil in April 2008 in New York. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
By Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent for The Guardian, 7-8-2015
After the Garden [is gone] and other songs from Neil Young’s “Living with War” CD
A newly unearthed missive from Lenny Bernstein, a climate expert with the oil firm for 30 years, shows concerns over high presence of carbon dioxide in enormous gas field in south-east Asia factored into Exxon’s decision not to tap it.
ExxonMobil, the world’s biggest oil company, knew as early as 1981 of climate change – seven years before it became a public issue, according to a newly discovered email from one of the firm’s own scientists. Despite this the firm spent millions over the next 27 years to promote climate denial.
The email from Exxon’s in-house climate expert provides evidence the company was aware of the connection between fossil fuels and climate change, and the potential for carbon-cutting regulations that could hurt its bottom line, over a generation ago – factoring that knowledge into its decision about an enormous gas field in south-east Asia. The field, off the coast of Indonesia, would have been the single largest source of global warming pollution at the time.
“Exxon first got interested in climate change in 1981 because it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia,” Lenny Bernstein, a 30-year industry veteran and Exxon’s former in-house climate expert, wrote in the email. “This is an immense reserve of natural gas, but it is 70% CO2,” or carbon dioxide, the main driver of climate change.
However, Exxon’s public position was marked by continued refusal to acknowledge the dangers of climate change, even in response to appeals from the Rockefellers, its founding family, and its continued financial support for climate denial. Over the years, Exxon spent more than $30m on thinktanks and researchers that promoted climate denial, according to Greenpeace.
Exxon said on Wednesday that it now acknowledges the risk of climate change and does not fund climate change denial groups.
Some climate campaigners have likened the industry to the conduct of the tobacco industry which for decades resisted the evidence that smoking causes cancer.
In the email Bernstein, a chemical engineer and climate expert who spent 30 years at Exxon and Mobil and was a lead author on two of the United Nations’ blockbuster IPCC climate science reports, said climate change first emerged on the company’s radar in 1981, when the company was considering the development of south-east Asia’s biggest gas field, off Indonesia.
That was seven years ahead of other oil companies and the public, according to Bernstein’s account.
Climate change was largely confined to the realm of science until 1988, when the climate scientist James Hansen told Congress that global warming was caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due to the burning of fossil fuels.
By that time, it was clear that developing the Natuna site would set off a huge amount of climate change pollution – effectively a “carbon bomb”, according to Bernstein.
“When I first learned about the project in 1989, the projections were that if Natuna were developed and its CO2 vented to the atmosphere, it would be the largest point source of CO2 in the world and account for about 1% of projected global CO2 emissions. I’m sure that it would still be the largest point source of CO2, but since CO2 emissions have grown faster than projected in 1989, it would probably account for a smaller fraction of global CO2 emissions,” Bernstein wrote.
The email was written in response to an inquiry on business ethics from the Institute for Applied and Professional Ethics at Ohio University.
“What it shows is that Exxon knew years earlier than James Hansen’s testimony to Congress that climate change was a reality; that it accepted the reality, instead of denying the reality as they have done publicly, and to such an extent that it took it into account in their decision making, in making their economic calculation,” the director of the institute, Alyssa Bernstein (no relation), told the Guardian.
“One thing that occurs to me is the behavior of the tobacco companies denying the connection between smoking and lung cancer for the sake of profits, but this is an order of magnitude greater moral offence, in my opinion, because what is at stake is the fate of the planet, humanity, and the future of civilisation, not to be melodramatic.”
Bernstein’s response, first posted on the institute’s website last October, was released by the Union of Concerned Scientists on Wednesday as part of a report on climate disinformation promoted by companies such as ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and Peabody Energy, called the Climate Deception Dossiers.
Asked about Bernstein’s comments, Exxon said climate science in the early 1980s was at a preliminary stage, but the company now saw climate change as a risk.
“The science in 1981 on this subject was in the very, very early days and there was considerable division of opinion,” Richard Keil, an Exxon spokesman, said. “There was nobody you could have gone to in 1981 or 1984 who would have said whether it was real or not. Nobody could provide a definitive answer.”
He rejected the idea that Exxon had funded groups promoting climate denial. “I am here to talk to you about the present,” he said. “We have been factoring the likelihood of some kind of carbon tax into our business planning since 2007. We do not fund or support those who deny the reality of climate change.”
Exxon, unlike other companies and the public at large in the early 1980s, was already aware of climate change – and the prospect of regulations to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, according to Bernstein’s account.
“In the 1980s, Exxon needed to understand the potential for concerns about climate change to lead to regulation that would affect Natuna and other potential projects. They were well ahead of the rest of industry in this awareness. Other companies, such as Mobil, only became aware of the issue in 1988, when it first became a political issue,” he wrote.
“Natural resource companies – oil, coal, minerals – have to make investments that have lifetimes of 50-100 years. Whatever their public stance, internally they make very careful assessments of the potential for regulation, including the scientific basis for those regulations,” Bernstein wrote in the email.
Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard University professor who researches the history of climate science, said it was unsurprising Exxon would have factored climate change in its plans in the early 1980s – but she disputed Bernstein’s suggestion that other companies were not. She also took issue with Exxon’s assertion of uncertainty about the science in the 1980s, noting the National Academy of Science describing a consensus on climate change from the 1970s.
The White House and the National Academy of Sciences came out with reports on climate change in the 1970s, and government scientific agencies were studying climate change in the 1960s, she said. There were also a number of major scientific meetings on climate change in the 1970s.
“I find it difficult to believe that an industry whose business model depends on fossil fuels could have been completely ignoring major environmental reports, major environmental meetings taken place in which carbon dioxide and climate change were talked about,” she said in an interview with the Guardian.
The East Natuna gas field, about 140 miles north-east of the Natuna islands in the South China Sea and 700 miles north of Jakarta, is the biggest in south-east Asia, with about 46tn cubic ft (1.3tn cubic metres) of recoverable reserves.
However, Exxon did not go into production on the field.
Bernstein, who is now in his mid-70s, spent 20 years as a scientist at Exxon and 10 years at Mobil. During the 1990s he headed the science and technology advisory committee of the Global Climate Coalition, an industry group that lobbied aggressively against the scientific consensus around the causes of climate change.
However, GCC climate experts accepted the impact of human activity on climate change in their internal communications as early as 1995, according to a document filed in a 2009 lawsuit and included in the UCS dossier.
The document, a 17-page primer on climate science produced by Bernstein’s advisory committee, discounts the alternate theories about the causes of climate change promoted by climate contrarian researchers such as Willie Soon, who was partly funded by Exxon.
“The contrarian theories raise interesting questions about our total understanding of climate processes, but they do not offer convincing arguments against the conventional model of greenhouse gas emission-induced climate change,” the advisory committee said.
The 1995 primer was never released for publication. A subsequent version, which was publicly distributed in 1998, removed the reference to “contrarian theories”, and continued to dispute the science underlying climate change.
Kenneth Kimmel, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said ExxonMobil and the other companies profiled in its report had failed to take responsibility about the danger to the public of producing fossil fuels.
“Instead of taking responsibility, they have either directly – or indirectly through trade and industry groups – sown doubt about the science of climate change and fought efforts to cut emissions,” he wrote in a blogpost. “I believe that the conduct outlined in the UCS report puts the fossil fuel companies’ social license at risk. And once that social license is gone, it is very hard to get it back. Just look at what happened to tobacco companies after litigation finally pried open the documents that exposed decades of misinformation and deception.”
Keil, the ExxonMobil spokesman, confirmed that the company had decided not to develop Natuna, but would not comment on the reasons. “There could be a huge range of reasons why we don’t develop projects,” he said.
Below is the text of an email from Lenny Bernstein to the director of the Institute for Applied and Professional Ethics at Ohio University, Alyssa Bernstein (no relation), who had asked for ideas to stimulate students for an ethics day announced by the Carnegie Council.
Alyssa’s right. Feel free to share this e-mail with her. Corporations are interested in environmental impacts only to the extent that they affect profits, either current or future. They may take what appears to be altruistic positions to improve their public image, but the assumption underlying those actions is that they will increase future profits. ExxonMobil is an interesting case in point.
Exxon first got interested in climate change in 1981 because it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia. This is an immense reserve of natural gas, but it is 70% CO2. That CO2 would have to be separated to make the natural gas usable. Natural gas often contains CO2 and the technology for removing CO2 is well known. In 1981 (and now) the usual practice was to vent the CO2 to the atmosphere. When I first learned about the project in 1989, the projections were that if Natuna were developed and its CO2 vented to the atmosphere, it would be the largest point source of CO2 in the world and account for about 1% of projected global CO2 emissions. I’m sure that it would still be the largest point source of CO2, but since CO2 emissions have grown faster than projected in 1989, it would probably account for a smaller fraction of global CO2 emissions.
The alternative to venting CO2 to the atmosphere is to inject it into ground. This technology was also well known, since the oil industry had been injecting limited quantities of CO2 to enhance oil recovery. There were many questions about whether the CO2 would remain in the ground, some of which have been answered by Statoil’s now almost 20 years of experience injecting CO2 in the North Sea. Statoil did this because the Norwegian government placed a tax on vented CO2. It was cheaper for Statoil to inject CO2 than pay the tax. Of course, Statoil has touted how much CO2 it has prevented from being emitted.
In the 1980s, Exxon needed to understand the potential for concerns about climate change to lead to regulation that would affect Natuna and other potential projects. They were well ahead of the rest of industry in this awareness. Other companies, such as Mobil, only became aware of the issue in 1988, when it first became a political issue. Natural resource companies – oil, coal, minerals – have to make investments that have lifetimes of 50-100 years. Whatever their public stance, internally they make very careful assessments of the potential for regulation, including the scientific basis for those regulations. Exxon NEVER denied the potential for humans to impact the climate system. It did question – legitimately, in my opinion – the validity of some of the science.
Political battles need to personify the enemy. This is why liberals spend so much time vilifying the Koch brothers – who are hardly the only big money supporters of conservative ideas. In climate change, the first villain was a man named Donald Pearlman, who was a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. (In another life, he was instrumental in getting the US Holocaust Museum funded and built.) Pearlman’s usefulness as a villain ended when he died of lung cancer – he was a heavy smoker to the end.
Then the villain was the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a trade organization of energy producers and large energy users. I was involved in GCC for a while, unsuccessfully trying to get them to recognize scientific reality. (That effort got me on to the front page of the New York Times, but that’s another story.) Environmental group pressure was successful in putting GCC out of business, but they also lost their villain. They needed one which wouldn’t die and wouldn’t go out of business. Exxon, and after its merger with Mobil ExxonMobil, fit the bill, especially under its former CEO, Lee Raymond, who was vocally opposed to climate change regulation. ExxonMobil’s current CEO, Rex Tillerson, has taken a much softer line, but ExxonMobil has not lost its position as the personification of corporate, and especially climate change, evil. It is the only company mentioned in Alyssa’s e-mail, even though, in my opinion, it is far more ethical that many other large corporations.
Having spent twenty years working for Exxon and ten working for Mobil, I know that much of that ethical behavior comes from a business calculation that it is cheaper in the long run to be ethical than unethical. Safety is the clearest example of this. ExxonMobil knows all too well the cost of poor safety practices. The Exxon Valdez is the most public, but far from the only, example of the high cost of unsafe operations. The value of good environmental practices are more subtle, but a facility that does a good job of controlling emission and waste is a well run facility, that is probably maximizing profit. All major companies will tell you that they are trying to minimize their internal CO2 emissions. Mostly, they are doing this by improving energy efficiency and reducing cost. The same is true for internal recycling, again a practice most companies follow. Its [sic] just good engineering.
I could go on, but this e-mail is long enough.
Thanks to a Corporation-compliant Mass Media and Press in the United States: the American People, their Representatives in the Congress, and a Majority of State Legislatures and Governors in the U. S. Have Clearly Been Duped by the Many of the Fossil Fuel Dependent Industries and their Lobbyists into Not Taking Global Warming Seriously Enough
Hurricane Katrina, Late August, 2005
According to scientists who have studied and documented the causes and effects of changes in climates at various locations around the world, there has never been a time in Earth’s history during which climates around the world; ocean levels, temperatures, and chemistry; wildlife territorial changes and atmospheric properties have occurred so rapidly and so significantly as to create significant levels of concern to human the world over. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, made up of hundreds of the world’s most respected scientists predicts much more rapid global warming in the coming decades today if we humans collectively continue doing what we have done in the recent past – burning increased amounts of fossil fuels, destroying more and more forests in the name of economic “progress”, and we continue living “high on the hog” under the mantra of “business as usual”.
Volunteer host Esty Dinur of WORT-FM Community Radio Station in Madison, Wisconsin talked with climatologist Michael E. Mann and journalist John H. Richardson on the station’s “A Public Affair” Friday, August 21, 2015, from noon to 1:00 PM.
Dr. Michael E. Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, and is the director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center. He is also the author of more than 180 peer reviewed and edited publications, and has published two books including Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming and The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. He is also a co-founder of the award-winning science website RealClimate.org.
John H. Richardson is a writer and journalist for Esquire Magazine. He has also worked with The Albuquerque Tribune, The Los Angeles Daily News, Premiere Magazine, New York Magazine. He has taught at the Columbia University, the University of New Mexico, and Purchase College. He recently published an article in Esquire Magazine that looks into numerous climatologists’ research and the backlash that they received from various climate change “deniers”.
Today’s politicians in the U.S. Congress, State Legislators and governors’ offices who have continued to downplay the significance of global warming and excessive fossil fuel burning despite what has now become eminent, regrettably, deserve outright shaming, especially by children and those yet to be born into the world of global warming, climate havoc, disruption of plant and animal life, and global economic instability, overpopulation and extinction.
Among many climate scientists, gloom has set in. Things are worse than we think, but they can’t really talk about it.
Why Have Our Commercial and Public Media (TV, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, Online Sources) and Officials in Federal and State Government in the United States Not Sounded the ALARM Yet on Continued Global Warming and Climate Change?
The following is a summary of a 2008 international conference entitled: “ENVIRONMENT: FROM GLOBAL WARNINGS TO MEDIA ALERT” that was held October 10 and 11, 2008, in Venice, Italy. The purpose of the conference was to challenge the international media to improve public understanding of the impact of climate change. Journalists and news executives from 29 countries representing six continents attended the conference which was held by the international World Political Forum (WPF).
Unfortunately, now almost five years after this conference was held, commercial and corporation funded TV and radio media in these United States continue to purposefully ignore said challenge by not sounding the alarm on the global warming world catastrophe in the making, as do many U.S. publicly elected government officials in federal and state government, leaving the at large public in the U.S. as confused as ever over whether human activities such as fossil fuel burning: in power plants that produce electricity; in home and business heating (natural gas; oil; propane; electric baseboard); in motor vehicle travel and product shipping, via trucks, ships, pipelines (fueling lift stations), in airplanes and in trains; and in cement making and paving the landscape (fuel burning in earth moving equipment). Another significant contributor to the growing global warming crisis is continued deforestation, worldwide, and especially the deforestation of the tropics, where previously large reductions in of carbon dioxide (CO2) were being taken out of the air by the vegetation there – through the process of photosynthesis. Less green vegetation on Earth means increasing buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans, adding to warmer global temperatures. Methane gas (unburned natural gas) that is released from oil wells, livestock, and rotting biological matter (permafrost thawing) compound the problem that is resulting in what the scientific community has called “a potentially very dangerous situation for all humanity and life on Earth and lasting far into the future. Reason is that many positive (lead to more warming) feedbacks . One such warming feedback is the loss of Earth’s albedo, where a reduction in the area of snow-covered land, ice caps, glaciers or sea ice has a compounding effect on the initial warming. As the loss of “white” snow and ice cover (the albedo) continues, the amount of solar energy absorbed by the ocean increases, leading to more warming, which reduces the albedo on the planet even more, which causes more warming, and so on. A small amount of snow melt exposes darker ground which absorbs more radiation, leading to more snowmelt.
The effect is most vividly demonstrated by the decline in Arctic sea ice in recent decades.
As humans are continuing to do things that add more heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the Earth’s atmosphere, the result is that climates all around Earth have been measurably and significantly changing, mostly to the detriment of humans and animal life.
The global warming that has already taken place has caused Earth’s ocean levels to rise – due to thermal expansion from increasing water temperatures and from melting glaciers on Greenland, Antarctica, and Earth’s numerous mountain ranges.
Ocean water acidification has already taken place (a 33% increase) which has already lead to significant environmental, economic, and social cost. These effects of expected to continue unabated which is expected to worsen in time, with projected increases in monetary losses, damage, and loss of human and animal life due to worse and worse “natural” disasters.
As examples of recent catastrophes suspected to have been made worse as a likely direct consequence of rising average global temperatures (global warming): in 2015 heat waves in India and Pakistan killed 1,400 and 2,500 people; in 2013, the thirtieth named storm of the 2013 Pacific typhoon season, Typhoon Haiyan — known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines – with an estimated one-minute sustained winds of 315 km/h (196 mph; 170 kn), making the typhoon the strongest tropical cyclone ever observed based on one-minute sustained wind speed and the deadliest typhoon hitting the Philippines in recorded modern history, killing 6,300 people in that country alone (dozens of fatalities from the storm were also reported in Taiwan, China and Vietnam) and according to United Nation’s officials, about 11 million people were adversely impacted by the storm with many left homeless and an economic cost in the billions of dollars; in 2012, Hurricane Sandy, which remains the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (as measured by diameter, with winds spanning 1,100 miles (1,800 km)) is estimated to have caused monetary damages of over $68 billion and killed at least 233 people along its path on the eastern U S. seaboard including New Jersey and New York; and in 2005, Hurricane Katrina, the fifth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, was not only the costliest “natural” disaster in the history of the United States. Total property damage from Hurricane Katrina was estimated at $108 billion; the hurricane and subsequent flooding took 1,833 human lives and an undetermined number of domesticated and wild animal lives.
Yet today, incredibly – almost six years later – there remain deniers of human-caused global warming and climate change, including our State of Wisconsin’s own U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, as well as announced U.S. presidential candidate and our current governor, Scott Walker, who continue to spread the false message that Earth’s climates have not been shown to have changed as a result of human activities, to the delight of corporations that are financially benefiting from continued and more fossil fuel burning, which releases carbon dioxide gas, the most abundant of the greenhouse gases, which compounds from year to year in the atmosphere and Earth’s oceans, leading to monumental negative consequences for humanity and other life forms on Earth.
WPF’s President Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991 when the party was dissolved, chaired the conference at which participants reached a consensus that the problem of climate change is “URGENT”.
“Time is running out,” Mr. Gorbachev said in his closing remarks. “The most efficient way to tackle the urgent environmental problems facing our planet is transparency, in which the media have a vital role to play. This means global glasnost.”
Climate experts and media delegates approved a declaration calling for higher standards of reporting on strategic options to avert irreversible damage to the Earth’s eco-systems.
Stressing the importance of well-informed public opinion, the declaration set out the following main recommendations:
– The media have the central role in ensuring that politicians, corporations, non-governmental organisations and scientists keep the general public informed about the latest facts and policy options regarding climate change. Civil society formation and action are essential components in deliberation on this issue.
– Journalists have a responsibility to improve their knowledge and skills in order to be able effectively to question government policy-makers, to distinguish facts from opinion or advocacy, and to evaluate scientific arguments from an independent viewpoint.
– Journalists and civil society should redouble their efforts to combat restrictive measures by governments on journalists reporting on their deficiencies in fighting environmental degradation or in informing the public about the dangers of climate change.
– Journalists should avail themselves of existing international databanks of validated statistics and scientific research on climate change.
– Scientists need to acquire improved communications skills to explain their findings in accessible terms and to build relationships of trust with the media.
– Media proprietors should be prepared to invest more resources in investigative reporting to allow specialist journalists to carry out serious and objective coverage of complex issues, based on a thorough understanding of good science.
– Editors should provide more space for in-depth treatment of environmental issues, not just on-line but in print and on air, and encourage innovative approaches that will grab the attention of the audience in a responsible, independent and non-sensational manner.
– Journalism training organisations should develop ever more sophisticated exercises to improve reporters’ skills in explaining complex scientific arguments. An international network should be created to share information about the availability of training courses and the development of new training models.
The Conference concluded on a positive note, declaring: “There is, however, cause for optimism if we act now. Numerous positive solutions to the global environmental change proposed by science and made possible by innovations in technology, the potential inherent in global civil society organization and by citizens’ groups everywhere in the world; and contributions from socially responsible business leaders can make it possible for us to provide for a decent and full life for all, and for generations to come, within the limits of our planet’s resources.”
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.”