The Politics of Climate Change
Climate Scientist Dr. James Hansen, Director of NASA's Institute of Space Studies more
"Hockey Stick" Graph showing increase in CO2 emissions directly matching planetary heating. more
Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) Appointed to head the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, also the biggest climate change denier in Congress. more
In June 1988, Dr. James Hansen, then director of NASA's Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. His testimony was clear: climate change caused by fossil fuels combustion was a real threat to the future, and that the time to address it was here. Even further back, in 1965 President Johnson said, ” This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through… a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.”
Yet, in the sixty years since Hansen's testimony, more than half of all industrial emissions of carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution have been released. Between 1988 and the end of 2014, we've zoomed past 350 part per million ratio of atmospheric CO2 and are now in the 400 ppm range. 350 ppm is the carbon concentration generally understood to keep the planet below the 2 degree temperature increase generally deemed by scientists and world leaders as “survivable” for humanity. "Survivable" means just that - we'd survive, but experience significant difficulty adapting to a new hotter world.
As massive emissions continue, so does the warming. By this year or next, we could see a completely ice free Arctic Ocean. With less sea ice to reflect heat back to the atmosphere, concerns are increasing about the melting of permafrost and methane hydrates, releasing vast amounts of methane into the already heated atmosphere. Methane is some 20 times more potent than CO2, speeding the Oil companies are taking advantage of the ice melt to explore for even more deep sea oil, creating even more feedback loops which cause even more warming -- well, you get the picture.
Climate change became a bi-partisan issue almost immediately, in the early 90s. Prominent Republicans --including President GHW Bush, Newt Gingrich, John McCain, and more recently John Boehner -- all said fossil fuels were the problem and climate changed posed a serious threat. Read More Then, it looked like we could indeed rally the forces necessary to effectively deal with the threats to our future, to our children, grandchildren and thousand of countless plant and animal species. But then things changed.
Now, Republicans routinely say that they aren’t scientists and shouldn’t speculate about climate change, OR it’s happening but is caused by natural forces OR that it’s too expensive to address OR that it’s a hoax. Of the current Republican candidates for the Presidential nomination, only Jeb Bush has admitted that it’s a problem. But he has also said that it’s not certain how much we are to blame for the problem.
Well, simply put, the fossil fuel companies, lobbyists, interest groups invested heavily in a counter campaign to create doubt about the science. They did this despite the fact that more than 97% of scientists writing in peer-reviewed journals agree that climate change is real, and, based on the best available data, is caused by combustion of fossil fuels. From the early 2000s, oil, gas and coal groups have spent billions on misinformation campaigns: they tout their own “scientists” and focus groups, and fund a level of propaganda bordering on psy-ops.
Specifically, the fossil fuel industry spent more than $600 million during the 2014 elections. With Congress largely deadlocked, fossil fuel companies have funded and won industry-friendly politicians in both chambers. They've built the groundwork for Congress to advance special-interest priorities like the Keystone Pipeline and increased export of American oil to foreign buyers. This money has been spread around Congress disproportionally with much more going to Republican politicians. The Koch brothers alone have spent more than $100 million to advance their fossil fuel agenda. With Congress in Republican control, they are trying to roll back environmental and climate regulations to further advance the interests of their sponsors.
But how did all the doubt and denial that enabled the fossil fuel industry to put their politicians in power come to be, especially when just ten years ago both sides were in agreement on the dangers of climate change?
In her eye-opening book Merchants of Doubt (How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming), Harvard Science History Professor Naomi Oreskes explores how tobacco companies used their own scientists to create doubt about the dangers of smoking and second hand smoke. They did so simply by claiming that there was no direct link between smoking and cancer. Similar denials accompanied efforts to address the ozone hole and acid rain -- both issues were met with huge resistance by paid industry scientists who claimed the dangers were minimal and the costs to fix the problem were too enormous to justify the expense. They also used the now-standard claims that taking action would ruin the economy and destroy jobs.
Luckily, we had the wisdom and political will to act on both the ozone layer and acid rain, largely correcting the problems without any of the dire consequences predicted. Thanks to the comprehensive research of talented writers like Oreskes and her co-author Erik M. Conway, there is no excuse for the thoughtful public to be mislead by these blatant industry- funded efforts to perpetuate their profit at the expense of our kids and grandkids.
"There are also those who have bought into the watermelon argument—that environmentalists are green on the outside, red on the inside—and that climate change is just an excuse to bring in socialism by another name.
Then there are also many people who I think believe, or have persuaded themselves, that climate change is just another fad, exaggerated by scientists who just want more money for their research, or environmentalists who over-react to small threats or are unrealistic about where their bread is buttered.
Finally there is the power of rationalization—people whose bread really is buttered by the fossil fuel industry, or people who are heavily invested in the industry in one way or another, and just don’t want to accept that there is a fundamental problem." - Naomi Oreskes
With the recent increases in renewable energy from solar to wind, and the advent of energy storage with inexpensive batteries we have a change to turn off the fossil fuel spigot and turn on the green revolution - the biggest jobs opportunity in history. Be part of that transformation and do all you can to support Clean Community Energy.