Tar Sands, Political Impotence, and Voodoo Science – Is Civil Unrest The Only Way Out?
Is the climate crisis is getting so severe that civil disobedience is justified to compel the federal government to confront the fossil fuel lobby? This is the question that was raised at a recent panel discussion “Blessed 350″ at the Commonwealth Club. The panel was moderated by Greg Dalton. The full audio is available at climate-one.org.
My name is Gary Latshaw, PhD and I wanted to share my notes from this event with as many people as possible; I believe you will find the thoughts expressed by the authors very interesting. My notes are presented to you here in the form of bullet points. Please chime in with your views and feelings about these issues in the comments and let’s have a discussion.
Guests: Paul Hawken, Author, Blessed Unrest and Bill McKibben, Founder, 350.org. Both these authors are well-established environmental activists. The presentation was conducted as a panel discussion with the moderator posing questions to the two. At the end there was audience participation. I thought it was a very interesting discussion on climate issues – both the politics and the science. Here is what I captured. In parenthesis I have introduced some of my own thinking:
- “Problem is that government policy has artificially increased consumption. There have been tax incentives for home ownership and government subsidies for freeways to get to all the homes. Thus, we have created a housing/work transportation design, which is very carbon-intensive (driving long distances) and now that carbon based fuels are expensive, it is an expensive design. Nevertheless, studies show people in cities have twice as many close friends as those in suburbia.
- Financial meltdown will take 10-12 years. (I have heard this before. It is not clear to me that without substantial changes to our economy that simply waiting will relieve our problems. The Great Depression was not relieved for 12 years until massive government spending for World War II.)
- Nation is at risk.
- Better future is in more local transactions. Closer factories and farms to consumers. Farmer’s markets are actually growing. The number of farms has increased. Good trend.
- Correct phrase for “climate change” or “global warming” is “climate volatility”. “Change” is not descriptive of what is happening. Record rains in Vermont due to Hurricane Irene, which became storms in Vermont has destroyed the farms for this year’s crop. Extreme heat wave in Texas is another example.
- Climate change is happening much faster than any of the climate scientists expected. An example is the heat waves in Texas that are threatening the viability of the cattle industry. (I am not surprised as I have watched this for a couple of decades; the scientists have consistently underestimated the changes. This is not an unexpected result of trying to model complex phenomenon.)
- Public water departments are believers in climate change as they have to increase the size of culverts. Original culverts were designed for 100-year rain events, but those events are happening with an increased rate.
- Adaptation has two tasks: (1) building a non-fossil fuel economy and (2) making our society more resilient to the violent weather that is inevitable for the next several centuries. 350.org, an environmental activist organization, has engaged in all countries on these efforts except North Korea.
- Recent protests at the Whitehouse asking that the pipeline for the delivering Tar-sands chemical slurry be cancelled have created the most civil-disobedience arrests since the civil rights movement.
- Exxon has made more money last year than any company ever. With this money comes political power. Although the population actually accepts most of what climate scientists are saying, the political power of the fossil fuel industry is formidable and so far has won on most issues.
- The US Chamber of commerce spends 94% of its campaign contributions on climate deniers.
- Need conviction from Obama. He has the power to do much more than he has. For example, overruling the EPA on ozone levels.
- Solar panels made in China are responsible for much ghg emissions. The energy involved in processing comes from coal and then the chemical processes release gases that are very powerful ghg. Unclear whether the panels are really benefiting ghg emissions when their lifecycle impact is calculated.
- At one time, the weather channel had a rule that severe storms could not be linked to climate change because the linkage was unpopular with some of their advertisers.”
I asked at the Q and A about the lack of media coverage of the protests at the Whitehouse where world famous scientists were getting arrested. McKibben answered that there was some coverage. His arrest was in the NY Times editorial so that made him feel good. He pointed out that the major civil rights protests by Martin Luther King that got a lot of media attention had been proceeded by much less coverage of other events.
Regarding these particular notes, I hope people will recognize the threat of climate change and take political action to stop mankind’s destruction of the global ecology. In particular, there are large reservoirs of carbon trapped in what are called Tar Sands. The process of extracting, transporting, and processing this type of carbon is particularly carbon intensive – that is for every unit of energy more dangerous carbon dioxide is emitting into the atmosphere. If we build the pipeline that is proposed from the Canadian border to New Orleans, we will be on our way to using this very dangerous type of carbon. I would ask people to write to the President Obama and ask him to turn down the permits.
Now that Obama is politically weakened and the leading Republican candidates favor voodoo instead of science, major changes in green house gas emissions will require civil disobedience and court actions. Similar to the Civil Rights movement of the 60s.
AUTHOR: Gary Latshaw, PhD. “I am a retired physicist who has worked in many Silicon Valley companies and has taken training with Al Gore’s group on climate change. I give lectures on climate change to various groups and have watched the progression of the science on climate change for several decades. I am convinced that man’s emissions will produce a much more difficult if not catastrophic environment for future generations.”