Reducing the Current Suicidal Rate of Global Warming and Planning for Adapting to Changing Climates Demands Review of Goals, Principles and Actions by World’s Past Leaders and the Movements and Demonstrations by the People Who Expressed their Demands for Change
Today’s Populations, Businesses and Governments Responsible for Ensuring and Prolonging Earth’s Beauty, Economic Potential, Safety, and Humane Conditions for All It’s People and Animals Ought Not Ignore Leadership, Inspirations, Dreams and Concerted Actions of Millions of People and Leaders Who Lived Before Us, or Are Still Amoung Us, for Help in Music Guidance, Leader
To be continued….
Climate Change and the 1,000-year Flood in Baton Rouge: When Will We Learn?
Climate Change and the 1,000-year Flood in Baton Rouge: When Will We Learn?
We’ve learned to quickly forget about this and other extreme weather linked to climate change because we love our cars and freedom to fly the globe on a moments notice. Our commercial and public media, educational institutions, professional sports, games and award shows all help us forget about reality and settle into John Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” mentality.
In Wake of Flint, Michigan’s Lead in Its Drinking Water, U.S. EPA Sends Letters to All State Governors to Ensure Protection of Public from Lead in Its Drinking Water
As with many environmental pollution and resource destruction activities, once the problem reaches a crisis stage, which might also be called “the tipping point”, the impacts or “unintended consequences become essentially “irreversible” — that is, the damage is done and there is no way to return things to the earlier preconditions.
The problem of excessive greenhouse gases in our atmosphere from too much fossil fuel burning by humans over the past 100+ years is a comparable situation, but is occurring on a much larger scale, of course. There will be essentially no going back to previous conditions that existed on earth before global warming from human activities began sticking up its ugly head.
To return to the lead in drinking water problem, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on February 29th sent letters to all state governors and water regulators across the U.S. promising greater enforcement of rules to protect citizens from lead in their drinking water, in the wake of the drinking water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, where many children tested extremely high concentrations of lead in their bodies, high enough to cause irreversible brain damage. The EPA is urging every state in the U.S. to locate all water lines in their jurisdiction that could potentially be distributing lead-contaminated drinking water to the public, which apparently was already required of every state in the U.S..
As reported in the Detroit Free Press Sunday, millions of lead service lines remain buried in cities across the nation, but in many cases water utilities are uncertain where those lines are, making it difficult for EPA to monitor many utilities’ compliance with the lead testing requirement, even at locations most likely suspected to have high concentrations of lead already in their public’s drinking water coming out of the tap.
The EPA, having already been criticized by some for not moving more quickly in Flint after learning of the elevated lead level in at least one home in February, 2015, and two months later, found to be not practicing corrosion control as was required, said it is now increasing its regulatory oversight over state programs – “to identify and address any deficiencies.”
The EPA outlined its plans in two letters sent Monday: One, from agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to governors in 49 states; and a second, with more detail, from Deputy Assistant Administrator Joel Beauvais in the EPA Office of Water, to state regulators. The state of Wyoming did not get letters because it has not taken primary responsibility for drinking water, so it remains with EPA.
In January, McCarthy issued an emergency order taking over testing and putting other requirements on Michigan and the city of Flint, saying they were delaying implementation of recommendations made by the federal agency. That came, however, some 20 months after Flint switched water sources and the state Department of Environmental Quality, with primary responsibility, failed to require corrosion control, which apparently allowed lead to leach from aging lines into residents’ taps.
While the state DEQ has borne most of the blame, the EPA has been criticized for not moving more decisively to restore corrosion control and react to fears of widespread lead contamination after the state acknowledged in April of last year that it did not believe it had to require corrosion control under the 25-year-old Lead and Copper Rule at that point. It has since acknowledged the mistake.
McCarthy said in her letter that her staff “will be meeting with every state drinking water program across the country to ensure that states are taking appropriate action to identify and address” any issues of lead levels being above acceptable levels.
She also called for states to do more to ensure that the public receives “better and quicker” information on lead risks, and said her agency will be working with states to make sure there is “adequate and sustained investment” in regulatory oversight of drinking water laws. She said EPA will be looking to help find financing for the “upgrading and replacement of aging infrastructure, especially for poor and overburdened communities.”
CBS News Special: “Earth Day – A Question of Survival”, with News Anchor Walter Cronkite
The first Earth Day in the United States was held on April 22, 1970. CBS-TV aired it as a 13-part CBS news special. It was a time when the vast majority of Americans generally counted on the major television network news anchors to accurately inform them of the important news of the day, and CBS’s Walter Cronkite was considered the most honest of them all. National news reporting was viewed as having no relationship whatsoever to money provided by networks’ sponsors, and instead was information that viewers could count on as being accurate and true concerning the national events and threats that were occurring in the country and what American viewers would want to know to keep themselves well informed of the country’s news. While Madison’s Gaylord Nelson Institute at the University of Wisconsin states that the CBS news report which aired that night didn’t do justice to much of the participation in the events that were held on the first Earth Day in 1970, the fact that it documented many of the other people concerns that Americans had about the state of the environment in 1970 is worth noting.
The first earth day came about because people were really fed-up with the undeniable pollution of the waters, air and land around them, some even getting sick, while others feared things were likely to get worse and worse because the pollution was getting worse and worse. The following ten years of federal and state law making and enforcement to prevent the continued degradation of U.S. drinking and surface waters, air in the U.S., wetlands and land protection, too, led many to later call the decade of the 1970s “the environmental decade”.
This was also a time of great concern because of the large amount of the country’s money was going for military purposes in fighting the Vietnam War, money which could have gone to keeping the county’s important natural resources clean and healthy, and improving living conditions in “the urban ghettos” including homes for the homeless. A “teach in” was being held across the United States by anti-war advocates at the same time when Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin came up with the idea of having a similar day set aside for a teach-in about the need for change to ensure a healthy future for the planet, including the nation’s people who were suffering in the ghettos. View all 13 parts of the CBS’s special news report, anchored by Walter Cronkite, of the first Earth Day here.
This CBS special news report for Earth Day is well worth the investment of everyone’s time viewing it, or reading the transcript of the report. A similar degree of response is what is needed now to prevent an even worse and tragic consequence of human and animal life lost and suffering as we continue to add more and more quantities of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by continuing to burn vast quantities of fossil fuel, for electric power generation, heating and long distance or daily travel requiring oil burning, and many countries continuing to pave over the landscape with concrete, and most every country suffers from a lack of an appropriate adaptation plan in the likely case now that the worse of the climate extremes will ultimately result, and that the inundation of the world’s currently most populous coastal cities will also result, and that many island nations will require resettlement, as the ones that are presently livable are predicted to become submerged completely if major and significant change is not made soon by the most highly developed countries. Our U.S. Congress continuing its refusal to enact laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, let alone refusing to alert the American people of the grave unfortunate results of ignoring all climate experts’ warnings means that it’s almost certain the worst predictions are ultimately likely to occur from our lawmakers’ inaction, and the similar expected inaction by many other countries that might otherwise follow our lead, and the paving of the remaining green space on the planet, is unconscionable. If our political office holders are not interested in doing this for us living here today, they should not leave the full burden of living on our likely inhospitable planet to fall on today’s and tomorrow’s children, including those who reside here, as well as elsewhere.
President Obama Should Request U.S. Congress to Issue Declaration of War to Fight Global Warming
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.
Two days later, a similar war declaration against Germany and Italy passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
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.
One-year Anniversary of “Planet Earth: It Needs Our Help Now More Than Ever”, Broadcast on WORT-FM’s Public Access Hour on Labor Day 2014
Last year on Labor Day WORT-FM in Madison, Wisconsin I had the privilege of recording an hour of music and commentary on a subject I have researched for going on 16 years now: the likely effects of rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, in the oceans, on the landscape; in other words, our planet earth. Since other than president Obama, Pope Francis, the environmental community and the state of California are about the only ones talking seriously about starting to do something to head off what is certain to be catastrophic effects upon our planet and all its livings things in decades and centuries to come, it only seem appropriate to remind folks who would like to listen to the show again. Here it is. Planet Earth – It Needs Our Help More than Ever!
Touring Alaska last month to shine a spotlight on global warming, President Obama warned that “climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here; it is happening now. Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety. Now. Today.”
This wasn’t supposed to happen. In 2009, 114 countries signed the Copenhagen Accord, agreeing “to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system;” “recognizing the scientific view” that the increase in global temperature should be held to no more than 2 degrees Celsius” (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial level; and promising greater “long-term cooperative action to combat climate change.”
Paradoxically, an accord that should have spurred the world to immediate action instead seemed to offer some breathing room. Two degrees was meant to be a ceiling, but repeated references to an internationally agreed-upon “threshold” led many people to believe that nothing really bad could happen below 2 degrees—or worse yet, that the number itself was negotiable. Perhaps the biggest failure of the Copenhagen Accord was its pact for “long-term” action. Forty years ago, climate change was a “long-term” problem. Today it’s an emergency.
As we’re coming ever so close to the dreaded 2-degree mark, which will have devastating effects especially on people and families less economically fortunate, everywhere, Pope Francis last week called upon the members of the U.S. Congress to find solutions to the problems of growing poverty, everywhere, and climate change, including warming and acidification of the oceans. As civilization’s industrial machinery marches on, we’re already at 400 ppm of carbon dioxide, and likely to go much higher and faster under current “business as usual” practices continue.
Such numbers may mean little to the general public, but they matter a lot to negotiators who will be at Paris climate change talks in December. Unfortunately, the numbers that these negotiators plan to propose will only be part of non-legally-binding pledges—and they represent only what is achievable without too much difficulty, rather than the drastic austerity measures needed to stabilize emissions. In fact, 2 degrees is not an upper limit that the nations of the world recognize and respect, only a target that negotiators know they will overshoot with their expected pledges. The very idea that the Paris conference is a negotiation is ridiculous. You can’t negotiate with the atmosphere.
What were they thinking? As Naomi Klein points out in her book This Changes Everything, the 2 degree goal “has always been a highly political choice that has more to do with minimizing economic disruption than with protecting the greatest number of people.” In theory, the Copenhagen Accord relied on the best available science of the time—an international scientific symposium held in 2005 and assessment reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 and earlier, which in turn were based on even older scientific studies. You can trace the 2 degrees notion all the way back to a 1977 paper by Yale economist William D. Nordhaus.
In hindsight, though, the idea that even 2 degrees of warming would be tolerable is baffling. Homo sapiens have never lived in a world that hot. In an excellent series of special reports for CNN on what 2 degrees of global warming would mean, John D. Sutter lists some of the expected impacts: a melting Arctic, enormous wildfires, more intense hurricanes, water shortages, reduced crop yields, and animals and plants at risk of extinction. Even if warming can be held to 2 degrees, scientists predict that global sea level will rise by at least 20 feet as a result.
The Climate Vulnerable Forum, a coalition of 20 nations that expect severe global-warming effects, has called the 2-degree goal “inadequate” to protect fundamental human rights. “How can we possibly subscribe to more than double the current warming?” asked Mary Ann Lucille L. Sering, secretary of the Philippines Climate Change Commission.
Although the 2-degree target was endorsed in Copenhagen in 2009, and again in Cancún the following year, the parties also agreed to periodically review the adequacy of the target and to consider strengthening it. The majority of countries that have signed and ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change now support a lower target of 1.5 degrees, and a review process reported that the lower limit would be “preferable” but that the science supporting it is “less robust.”
What is feasible? The World Bank has warned that a 1.5-degree rise is “locked in,” and that we’re headed toward a warming of 4 degrees by the end of the century. “Scientists, policy-makers and the public already accept that progress will not be enough to keep global average temperature rise within the 2°C limit,” wrote Oliver Geden, head of the EU Research Division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, in a recent Nature commentary. “The negotiations’ goal has become what is politically possible, not what is environmentally desirable.”
If you add up the pledges that have been made so far, and nations keep their promises, the world is in for about 3 degrees of warming by 2100. Limiting the warming to 2 degrees would require rapid emissions reductions over the next few decades, declining to zero net emissions shortly after 2050.
It is still possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2100 (after a temporary overshoot), according to a paper published in Nature Climate Change a few months ago. But it would mean becoming carbon neutral even earlier than required for a 2-degree scenario.
A national security approach. President Obama made headlines in Alaska—and before that, New Orleans—with fervent talk about the urgency of the climate problem, the need to make communities more resilient, and the “failure of government to look out for its own citizens.” Can this be the same president who, a few months earlier, gave Royal Dutch Shell permission to begin drilling for oil off the coast of Alaska? Developing fossil fuel resources in the Arctic is “incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2°C,” according to a study by scientists at University College London.
There is an alternative to meaningless numbers and endless negotiations: going to war against climate change. If the United States can spend nearly $1.7 trillion on the “war on terror,”surely we can spend at least that much to keep our planet from overheating.
The 2-degree goal was chosen based on what was considered to be a scientific consensus about the most likely scenario for climate change. That is not how national security risks are evaluated. “When we think about keeping our country safe, we always consider the worst case scenarios,” said British Foreign Office Minister Baroness Joyce Anelay in a statement introducing a new climate risk assessment commissioned by her office. “That is what guides our policies on nuclear non-proliferation, counter-terrorism, and conflict prevention. We have to think about climate change the same way.”
In a foreword to the report, Anelay writes: “We must remember that in one way, climate change differs from any other subject of diplomatic negotiation: It is governed by a physical process. A process where the risk increases over time, and will continue to do so until we have entirely dealt with its cause.”
Increased risk is not an abstraction. It is record-setting heat, year after year. It is coastal erosion washing away villages in Alaska. It is massive wildfires raging in the American West. “We have to attack these at the source, which is carbon pollution,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told the Northwest News Network after flying over the worst fires in his state’s history. “It is difficult to comprehend a central fact of these fires,” Inslee said, “which is nature bats last.” Unfortunately, there won’t be any extra innings.
By Dawn Stover, from Bulleten of Atomic Scientists
Stover is a science writer based in the Pacific Northwest and is a contributing editor at the Bulletin. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Conservation, Popular Science, New Scientist, The New York Times, and other publications. One of her articles is included in the 2010 Best American Science and Nature Writing, and another article was awarded a special citation by the Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism.
Can A Global Warming Calamity Be Averted?
“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).
Pope Urging the U.N. Take Very Strong Stand on Climate Change in Paris in December
In front of a Vatican-hosted conference of mayors from major world cities and governors, Pope Francis on Jul 21, 2015 urged the United Nations to take a “very strong stand” on climate change at a landmark summit this year in Paris on global warming.
The pope spoke at a Vatican-hosted conference of mayors and governors from major world cities who signed a declaration urging global leaders to take bold action at the U.N. summit, saying it may be the last chance to tackle human-induced global warming.
“I have a great hopes in the Paris summit,” he said. “I have great hopes that a fundamental agreement is reached. The United Nations needs to take a very strong stand on this.”
Last month, the pope issued an encyclical on climate change, the first ever dedicated to the environment. The call to his church’s 1.2 billion members could spur the world’s Catholics to lobby policymakers on ecology issues and climate change.
The Vatican conference linked climate change and modern slavery because, according to an introductory paper, “global warming is one of the causes of poverty and forced migration”.
Francis, speaking in unprepared comments in Spanish to the group at the end of the first day, said he hoped the Paris summit would address “particularly how it (climate change) affects the trafficking of people.”
The conference is the Vatican’s latest attempt to influence the Paris summit in December, the purpose of which is to reach a global agreement to combat climate change after past failures.
Mayors from South America, Africa, the United States, Europe and Asia signed a declaration stating that the Paris summit “may be the last effective opportunity to negotiate arrangements that keep human-induced warming below 2 degrees centigrade.”
Leaders should come to a “bold agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity while protecting the poor and the vulnerable…,” the declaration, which the pope also signed, reads.
High-income countries should help finance the cost of climate-change mitigation in low-income countries, it says.
In a rejection of so-called climate-change deniers, the declaration says: “Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity.”
On Tuesday morning, California Governor Edmund “Jerry” Brown, whose state is suffering a severe drought, urged mayors to “fight the propaganda” of big business interests that deny that climate change is human induced.
“We have fierce opposition and blind inertia and that opposition is well-financed,” Brown said.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called Pope Francis “the most powerful voice on this earth for those whose voice is not being heard,” and added: “He did not convene us here to accept the status quo but to indict it”.
De Blasio announced that New York City would commit to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 on top of a previous commitment to reduced them by 80 percent by 2050.
Tony Chammany, the mayor of Kochi, India, said coastal areas were already feeling the effects of rising sea levels. “It is now or never, there may never be a replay,” he said.
Original by Philip Pullella
Vatican Conference Linked Climate Change and Modern Slavery
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.
Democracy Now Interviews Naomi Klein Re: EPA’s (Obama’s) Power Plan CO2 Emissions Regulations
As scientists warn 2015 is on pace to become the Earth’s hottest year on record, President Obama has unveiled his long-awaited plan to slash carbon emissions from U.S. power plants. Under new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, U.S. power plants will be required to cut emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. In addition, new power plants will be required to be far cleaner, which could effectively prevent any new coal plants from opening. But does the plan go far enough? We speak to Naomi Klein, author of the best-selling book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” which is out in paperback today.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: As scientists warn 2015 is on pace to become the Earth’s hottest year on record, President Obama has unveiled his long-awaited plan to slash carbon emissions from U.S. power plants. During a speech at the White House, Obama said no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than a changing climate.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Climate change is no longer just about the future that we’re predicting for our children or our grandchildren; it’s about the reality that we’re living with every day, right now. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. While we can’t say any single weather event is entirely caused by climate change, we’ve seen stronger storms, deeper droughts, longer wildfire seasons. Charleston and Miami now flood at high tide. Shrinking ice caps forced National Geographic to make the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart. Over the past three decades, nationwide asthma rates have more than doubled, and climate change puts those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. As one of America’s governors has said, we’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it. And that’s why I committed the United States to leading the world on this challenge, because I believe there is such a thing as being too late.
AMY GOODMAN: Under new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, U.S. power plants will be required to cut emissions by 32 percent from the 2005 levels by 2030. In addition, new power plants will be required to be far cleaner, which could effectively prevent any new coal plants from opening. President Obama defended the regulations, which are expected to be challenged in court.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right now our power plants are the source of about a third of America’s carbon pollution. That’s more pollution than our cars, our airplanes and our homes generate combined. That pollution contributes to climate change, which degrades the air our kids breathe. But there have never been federal limits on the amount of carbon that power plants can dump into the air. Think about that. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, and we’re better off for it. But existing power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of harmful carbon pollution into the air. For the sake of our kids and the health and safety of all Americans, that has to change. For the sake of the planet, that has to change.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: As President Obama spoke, the impacts of extreme weather could be seen across the globe. In California, more than 9,000 firefighters are battling more than 21 active wildfires. In Japan, temperatures topped 95 degrees on Monday for a record fourth day in a row. Heat records are also being broken across the Middle East. In one Iranian city, the heat index reached 164 degrees last week. Temperatures have been regularly topping 120 degrees in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
Meanwhile, a group of scientists, including former NASA scientist James Hansen, have warned that sea levels could rise as much as 10 feet before the end of the century unless greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced. The rise would make cities such as London, New York and Shanghai uninhabitable.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about climate change and President Obama’s plan to cut emissions, we’re joined by Naomi Klein, author of the best-selling book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, which is out in paperback today. She recently spoke at a Vatican climate change summit organized by Pope Francis. Naomi Klein joins us from Washington, D.C.
Naomi, welcome. Your assessment first of President Obama’s plan that he unveiled yesterday at the White House?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, good morning, Amy. It’s great to be with you, and Nermeen.
So I think that what we’re seeing from Obama is a really good example of what a climate leader sounds like. You know, everything he’s saying is absolutely true about the level of threat, about the fact that this is not a threat for future generations, it is a threat unfolding right now around the world, including in the United States. It’s a threat that is about people’s daily health, with asthma levels, and also about the safety of entire cities, huge coastal cities. So he’s doing a very good job of showing us what a climate leader sounds like. But I’m afraid we’ve got a long way to go before we see what a climate leader acts like, because there is a huge gap between what Obama is saying about this threat, about it being the greatest threat of our time, and indeed this being our last window in which we can take action to prevent truly catastrophic climate change, but the measures that have been unveiled are simply inadequate.
I mean, if we look at what kind of emission reductions this is going to deliver, we’re—you know, when you talk about emission reductions, we don’t look at just one sector, just at electricity generation; you have to look at the economy as a whole. And what climate scientists are telling us is that relatively wealthy countries, like the United States, if we are going to stay within our carbon budget and give ourselves a chance of keeping warming below two degrees Celsius, which is already very dangerous but is what the United States negotiated, under Obama—when they went to Copenhagen in 2009, they agreed to keep temperatures below two degrees warming, and, in fact, we’re still on track for more like four degrees warming—if we were to stay below two degrees, we would need to be cutting emissions by around 8 to 10 percent a year. Those are numbers from the Tyndall Centre on Climate Research in Manchester. And this plan would lower emissions in the United States by around 6 percent overall—I’m not just talking about the power sector, but overall emissions by 6 percent by 2030. So compare what we should be doing—8 to 10 percent a year—with 6 percent by 2030. That’s the carbon gap, and it’s huge.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And so, Naomi Klein, in your view, why did President Obama choose to focus so much on the power sector and not on other equally important sectors?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, look, it is an incredibly important sector, as he says. It’s just that we have to do it all. And I think that this should be seen as a victory for the grassroots social movements that have been fighting dirty coal plants in their backyards, and the clean coal—the campaign that the Sierra Club has led over years now to shut down hundreds of coal plants. So this should be claimed, I think, as a grassroots victory. This phase of the plan is better than the last draft, in some ways, in that it’s less of a gift to the natural gas sector and has more supports for renewables. It also has more supports for low-income communities for energy efficiency. It’s inadequate, but it’s still better than the last draft. There are parts of the plan that are worse than the last draft, because of pressure from industry and from states that are very reliant on coal.
But that’s at—you know, the problem is not that this plan itself is bad. If this was announced in Obama’s first year in office, I would be the first to celebrate this and say, “OK, great. So now let’s bring on a carbon tax. Let’s prevent leasing of new oil and gas and coal on public lands. You know, let’s do the rest of the package. Let’s have huge investments in public transit, and we’ll really be on our way.” But at the end of his two terms in office, or coming near the end, you know, frankly, this does not buy a climate legacy. It’s not enough, because it isn’t in line with science, and it also isn’t in line with technology. I mean, the team at Stanford University under Mark Jacobson is telling us that we could get to 100 percent renewables, powering our entire economy with renewables, in two decades. So, if the scientists are telling us we need to do it, and the engineers are telling us we can do it, then all that’s missing are the politicians willing to introduce the bold policies that will make it happen. And that’s what we’re missing still.
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, during his speech Monday, President Obama also talked about his visit to the Arctic at the end of the month.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’ll also be the first American president to visit the Alaskan Arctic, where our fellow Americans have already seen their communities devastated by melting ice and rising oceans, the impact on marine life. We’re going to talk about what the world needs to do together to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it’s too late.
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s President Obama. Can you talk about what’s happening in the Arctic and the activism that’s going on, from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, to prevent what President Obama has allowed—drilling in the Arctic?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, it’s extraordinary, actually, that he would be announcing this now, because what the world needs to do to save the Arctic, for starters, is to declare a moratorium on Arctic drilling. And the U.S. could be leading that effort, bringing together all Arctic nations to agree that this is untouchable, this is a no-go zone. And because that leadership is not there, and because indeed Obama has—is opening up the Arctic to drilling for the first time—we know that Shell has drilling rigs there right now, that they began the very preliminary stages of drilling on Thursday—and because his administration has failed to provide leadership on such a basic issue, I mean, Amy, it is the definition of insanity, it would seem to me, to be drilling in the Arctic for oil that is only available because Arctic ice is melting and it’s now passable and ships are able to go there and do this.
The CEO of Shell, a few days ago, talked about how they are expecting to find oil underneath that melting ice that is an even bigger deposit than there is off the Gulf of Mexico. He described it as a huge play, but more significantly, he described it as a long-term play. It’s unfortunate that the oil and gas industry describes all of this, you know, in the language of games, because obviously it’s not a game, but they call it a play. And he says that they don’t expect this to be in production until 2030. I mean, that is really striking, because by 2030 we should be really winding down our reliance on existing oil and gas infrastructure, not ramping up and opening up whole new fossil fuel frontiers.
And so this is what I mean about how Obama does not deserve to be called a climate leader simply because he has introduced what is a pretty good plan for cutting emissions from coal-fired power plants. I’m not saying that’s not important. It’s a step in the right direction. But simultaneously, he’s taking some significant steps in the wrong direction with Arctic drilling, with—you know, he’s overseen an explosion of fracking for gas. He’s still waffling on the Keystone XL pipeline. You know, he’s opened up new offshore oil and gas leases. So, you know, when you take one step in the right direction and five steps in the wrong direction, you’re going in the wrong direction. You’re not going in the right direction. And we have to be honest about this, despite the fact that he’s under huge fire from the coal lobby right now.
AMY GOODMAN: This issue of the activists who have been trying to stop the drilling—
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —that the Obama administration has provided license for—I mean, what was it? Forty people—
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, in Portland.
AMY GOODMAN: Forty people were—40 people were hanging from the bridge. You had all these kayaktivists outside. Can you talk about how it is he can announce—as they are all being taken away, as activists are charged for doing the activism they do, he’s announcing he’s going to the Arctic.
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, you know, frankly, if we want to look for climate leaders, climate leaders are the people who rappelled down from that bridge in Portland. Climate leaders are the people who have been taking to their kayaks in Portland, in Seattle, you know, 21-year-olds who have been trying to stop Arctic drilling with their bodies, they feel so passionately about this. People stayed on that bridge, hanging from that bridge, in order to block Shell’s icebreaker, for 40 hours, and they did so despite the fact that Shell had gone to the courts and got an injunction and they were being threatened with huge fines. That is real leadership. That is real, moral action, standing up in the face of huge amounts of money and power and might-makes-right logic.
And we’ve seen this all over the Pacific Northwest. It’s one of the ironies of the extreme energy era that we’ve been living in this past decade or so, where North America has been in the midst of this extreme energy frenzy, with fracking, mountaintop removal and tar sands oil. In order to get this stuff out, it’s required that the oil and gas and coal companies build all kinds of new infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest, which is the part of the United States that is probably most environmentally aware, even militant. It’s where a lot of the tree sits began. You know, you think about Portland and the history of anti-logging activism, tree sits. In that part of the world, there are a lot of people with deep history in this kind of activism. And Shell, I think, you know, just in order—just logistically, in order to get to the Arctic, they needed to use various ports in the Pacific Northwest as a parking lot for their machinery and also to get repairs done. And, you know, the Pacific Northwest has given them a very, very, very hostile welcome and made it clear that they don’t want to be a gateway to this, frankly, suicidal action of drilling in the Arctic.
AMY GOODMAN: Just to be clear, to clarify this point, explaining what the activists were doing, the Greenpeace activists spending 40 hours suspending from a bridge in order to block the icebreaking ship commissioned by Shell from leaving for the Arctic, hundreds of activists gathering on the bridge in kayaks in efforts to stop Shell’s plans to drill in the remote Chukchi Sea. They did temporarily stop the ship—
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —but then, ultimately, the ship made its way and is now making its way to the Arctic.
NAOMI KLEIN: They stopped the ship for 40 hours. And, you know, I think sometimes this can be seen as a sort of a stunt or a token action, but it really isn’t. You know, I was speaking with Annie Leonard, the executive director of Greenpeace, yesterday, and the really significant part of this is that there is a very small window when it is possible to do this drilling for Shell, because the period where the Arctic is sufficiently ice-free is just a few months. They have until late September to do this. So every day that they’re delayed is one less day when they’re able to look for this deposit that they claim is going to be a game-changing play. So this is more than token activism. Anything that slows them down is really significant. And these really are heroes.
AMY GOODMAN: And Hillary Clinton and President Obama’s position on Keystone XL?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, Hillary, first of all, she was asked about drilling in the Arctic, and she said she was skeptical of it, which some people claimed as, you know, it was Hillary coming out against Arctic drilling. I think it’s Hillary understanding that this is a very unpopular position. But just saying that you’re skeptical or have doubts, which is another phrase she used, is not anything that she can be held accountable to. That’s language that is slippery enough to get a glacier through, Amy. It’s not a straight-up “no.” She’s also refused to comment, as you mentioned, on the Keystone XL pipeline.
And let me say, you know, Hillary Clinton’s plan, green energy plan, that she unveiled a few days ago—we’re going to get more details soon—is surprisingly bold. There’s parts of this that the plan really gets right, in terms of the speed with which she’s promising to roll out renewable energy. She’s getting the yes part of this equation pretty close to right, in the sense that we need supports for renewable energy. But it’s not enough, because if you look at a country like Germany, they have introduced a bold plan to support renewable energy, and in fact Germany now has what Hillary Clinton is promising she would do in the U.S., which is it has 30 percent of its electricity coming from renewables, but Germany’s emissions are not going down fast enough, and in some years they’ve even gone up. And that’s because in Germany that yes to renewable energy hasn’t been accompanied by a no to fossil fuels. They’ve allowed a continued mining at very high rates of dirty coal, of lignite coal, the dirtiest coal on the market, and they just export it, if they don’t have a market for it in the U.S.
And, you know, this is the problem with Hillary. She is willing to say yes to green technology, green jobs, but she is showing no signs of being willing to say no to the oil and gas lobby, which we know is funding her campaign significantly. So, as secretary of state, we know that there was quite a revolving door between the oil and gas lobby and her people at State and on her previous campaign staff. And I think there’s real reason for concern about whether or not she would be willing to stand up to the oil and gas lobby on Keystone, on Arctic drilling, on any of these other issues.