9 Stories That Will Change Your World in 2013

by Sarah van Gelder January 3, 2013 by YES! Magazine

2012 was a year of superstorms, mass shootings, debt strikes, and the most spendy election ever. Here’s how last year’s most important stories will shape 2013.

While the Earth didn’t end on December 21, 2012, the year’s end was marked by a new awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis. Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the preciousness and fragility of life on Earth. That and other cultural shifts are setting the stage for significant change in the year ahead.

Nine key trends tell the story:

1. Climate Crisis: Alarm Translates Into Action

The climate crisis is the top story of 2012, with record-breaking heat, severe drought that led to the declaration of more than half of U.S. counties as disaster zones, wildfires that burned more than 9 million acres, and superstorm Sandy, with costs reaching into the billions. Four out of five Americans now believe that the climate problem is serious, according to an AP-Gfk poll.

The Obama administration has done little to address this problem—in part because of congressional resistance—but did set higher fuel emissions standards for automobiles, an important step in curtailing greenhouse gases.

The real action, though, is at the grassroots. Bill McKibben and 350.org launched a national movement in the fall of 2012 to press colleges and universities to divest their holdings in big energy companies. Texas and Nebraska landowners, Canadian tribes, and environmentalists everywhere are taking action to block the construction of a tar sands pipeline to ocean ports. Thousands turned out at hearings in Washington state to oppose the transport of millions of tons of Powder Basin coal through the region for export to China. And resistance to natural gas fracking is spreading throughout the Northeast.

Meanwhile, coal plants across the U.S. are closing, and a West Virginia coal company is giving up mountaintop removal as a result of pressure from environmental groups and falling demand in the wake of low prices for natural gas.

With widespread alarm at the extreme weather events, conditions are now ripe for a strong popular movement to take on the fossil fuel industry and its threat to human civilization.

2. U.S. Politics Get More Colorful

2012 saw the number of babies born to families of color exceed the number for white families. But the clout of non-whites is growing for other reasons. African Americans, Asians, and Latinos, along with women of all races, overcame discriminatory voter suppression tactics to hand President Obama the majority he needed to win a second term. The growing clout of communities of color has consequences, putting immigration reform firmly on the national agenda.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party’s radical platform has alienated large majorities of women and people of color, and more than half of Americans call Republican policies “extreme.”

The failure of policies unfriendly to women, people of color, and many others in the 99 percent has the Republican Party in disarray. There is now space for a progressive and inclusive agenda to emerge aimed at raising everyone up (including white men, but not privileging them).

3. Tolerance for Gun Violence Runs Thin

The school shooting in Newtown, Conn., may be the event that finally turns public opinion firmly against tolerance of gun violence. The Sandy Hook tragedy came on top of mass shootings in an Aurora, Col., movie theater, in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisc., in a shopping mall in Clackamas, Ore., and elsewhere, for a total of 151 killed and injured, according to Mother Jones. This continues a trend of more than 2,000 children and teens killed by guns each year, according to a 2012 study by the Children’s Defense Fund.

The good news is that a majority of Americans now supports bans on assault weapons, and, in spite of spikes in gun sales, the number of American households that own guns is actually down from the last few decades. Research shows that having a gun in the house increases the risk of homicide and suicide in that household.

4. U.S. Global Military Posture in Question

Pursuing the most globally aggressive military posture on the planet is causing a level of blowback little discussed in mainstream media. U.S. drone attacks are killing and terrorizing civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It remains unclear how the United States will extract itself from Afghanistan and wrap up the longest war in U.S. history. And American men and women in the armed services are now killing themselves at a higher rate than they are dying from any other cause, including combat. The year ended with the apparent suicide of Job W. Price, a Navy Seal.

The long-term costs to service members and their families coupled with the financial costs of carrying out wars, responding to the inevitable blowback, preparing for hypothetical wars, maintaining hundreds of foreign military bases, and paying top dollar to military contractors may be doing to the U.S. what Al Qaeda couldn’t do. Other empires fell after exhausting their people’s morale and treasure through protracted warfare. The United States is in danger of falling into a similar trap, while neglecting to invest in sources of real security, like the well-being and productive employment of citizens, and the abundance and resilience of the natural systems that supply food, water, livelihoods, and a stable climate.

In 2013, look for a reassessment of our policies of international violence. We will see efforts to rebuild our national self-worth, not based on our capacity to project death and mayhem, but on our contributions to health and well-being, climate stability, and life-enhancing technology.

5. The 99 Percent Got Inventive (and Got Some Respect)

By early 2012, as the Occupy camps were disbanded, many thought the Occupy Movement had died out. But this fall, Strike Debt arose and the Rolling Jubilee raised thousands of dollars to dissolve millions of dollars of medical debt of individuals. Both actions raised questions about why we allow the banking system to transfer so much wealth from the 99 percent to the 1 percent.

Then, when Superstorm Sandy hit, a movement that had become expert at leaderless mobilization rose up to help those harmed by the storm. Occupy volunteers hiked up stairwells to supply elderly tenants of high-rise housing projects with food and water. Distribution centers were set up throughout neighborhoods that had been flooded and lost power. Police, who had once arrested occupiers, were themselves aided by Occupy Sandy volunteers when their neighborhoods were flooded. Even the big disaster relief agencies began referring volunteers and those in need to Occupy Sandy.

The Occupy movement is inventing new forms of action and grassroots power, reinventing social movements, and building the solidarity and ethics of a new society. Watch for more powerful and creative interventions ahead in 2013.

6. Low-wage Workers Stood Up

This was a year of new labor militancy, with Walmart workers picketing for basic rights, Hot and Crusty bakery workers winning a union contract, and the original Republic Windows and Doors workers founding a worker-owned enterprise in Chicago. Still, there remains powerful pushback against labor rights. A so-called right to work bill passed in Michigan—one of many similar bills promoted by the corporate lobby group, ALEC. And the new “free trade” deal, the TransPacific Partnership, looks likely to prevail and to further benefit large transnational corporations at the expense of workers.

Look for labor organizing to continue taking creative and original forms in 2013, mobilizing unorganized workers, confronting low-wage poverty, drawing in formerly middle-class workers who are now confronting the reality of surviving in a low-wage economy, and challenging the power of the 1 percent.

7. Election 2012 Spending Spurs Backlash

What does it mean to hold an election costing nearly $6 billion? Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, 2012 was the year we learned just how many annoying advertisements billions of dollars can buy. The fundraising arms race boosted the power of those in the 1%, since their contributions became more essential than ever to both parties’ victory strategies.

Eleven states have now passed resolutions recommending a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling. More than 300 town councils have done likewise, and  President Obama has endorsed the movement. The election of Elizabeth Warren to the U.S. Senate showed you can take on Wall Street and win. Look for more efforts to confront the power of corporations in 2013.

8. Love Won

In an otherwise bitter political sphere, love showed up. The image of Michelle and Barack Obama embracing became the most tweeted and Facebook “liked” image of all time. Our hearts broke when we learned of the loss of the children and the brave teachers and staff who gave their own lives to protect their students in Newtown, Conn. The president encouraged a response to the Sandy Hook shootings built on the love of our children rather than on vengeance, on the complexity of the issue rather than on simplistic solutions. He led the national mourning with his tears.

An archetypically feminine approach (to respond to a crisis with “tend and befriend” responses that look out for the best interests of all) could come to balance out the “fight or flight” responses that frequently dominate political discourse. Having record numbers of women elected to Congress in 2012 can’t hurt.

9. More Love: An Outbreak of Marriage

Here’s another place love stepped in. In an election that saw the defeat of candidates promoting an anti-gay/anti-women platform, gay marriage initiatives passed in Maine, Maryland, and Washington. The Seattle City Hall opened at midnight on the first day such marriages were legal to accommodate the flood of weddings; judges and city staff volunteered their time, and well-wishers, both straight and gay, lined the entrance to throw petals and rice, and to cheer on the newlyweds. The festivities were an eruption of unexpected joy on a cold December day.

2012 was the year when the word “love” made a comeback. This valuing of each and every life could undercut partisan bickering, a culture of violence, and political attacks, and set the tone for a new radically inclusive agenda for change.

2013’s Big Story?

The year 2013 may offer our last chance to take on the climate crisis. If we fail to take action that is up to the challenge, we may be like the passengers of the Titanic, arguing over entertainment choices while the real threat looms. With climate disasters mounting, 2013 must be the year we commit ourselves to action at the scale needed to—literally—save our world.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Sarah van Gelder is co-founder and executive editor of YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. She is also editor of the new book: “This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement.”

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/01/03-2

Stand Still For the Apocalypse

by Chris Hedges, November 26, 2012 by TruthDig.com

Humans must immediately implement a series of radical measures to halt carbon emissions or prepare for the collapse of entire ecosystems and the displacement, suffering and death of hundreds of millions of the globe’s inhabitants, according to a report commissioned by the World Bank. The continued failure to respond aggressively to climate change, the report warns, will mean that the planet will inevitably warm by at least 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, ushering in an apocalypse.

The 84-page document,“Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided,” was written for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics and published last week. The picture it paints of a world convulsed by rising temperatures is a mixture of mass chaos, systems collapse and medical suffering like that of the worst of the Black Plague, which in the 14th century killed 30 to 60 percent of Europe’s population.

A planetwide temperature rise of 4 degrees C—and the report notes that the tepidness of the emission pledges and commitments of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will make such an increase almost inevitable—will cause a precipitous drop in crop yields, along with the loss of many fish species, resulting in widespread hunger and starvation. Hundreds of millions of people will be forced to abandon their homes in coastal areas and on islands that will be submerged as the sea rises. There will be an explosion in diseases such as malaria, cholera and dengue fever. Devastating heat waves and droughts, as well as floods, especially in the tropics, will render parts of the Earth uninhabitable. The rain forest covering the Amazon basin will disappear. Coral reefs will vanish. Numerous animal and plant species, many of which are vital to sustaining human populations, will become extinct. Monstrous storms will eradicate biodiversity, along with whole cities and communities. And as these extreme events begin to occur simultaneously in different regions of the world, the report finds, there will be “unprecedented stresses on human systems.” Global agricultural production will eventually not be able to compensate. Health and emergency systems, as well as institutions designed to maintain social cohesion and law and order, will crumble. The world’s poor, at first, will suffer the most. But we all will succumb in the end to the folly and hubris of the Industrial Age. And yet, we do nothing.
“It is useful to recall that a global mean temperature increase of 4°C approaches the difference between temperatures today and those of the last ice age, when much of central Europe and the northern United States were covered with kilometers of ice and global mean temperatures were about 4.5°C to 7°C lower,” the report reads. “And this magnitude of climate change—human induced—is occurring over a century, not millennia.”
The political and corporate elites in the industrialized world continue, in spite of overwhelming scientific data, to place short-term corporate profit and expediency before the protection of human life and the ecosystem. The fossil fuel industry is permitted to determine our relationship to the natural world, dooming future generations. Carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, increased from its pre-industrial concentration of about 278 parts per million (ppm) to more than 391 ppm in September 2012, with the rate of rise now at 1.8 ppm per year. We have already passed the tipping point of 350 ppm; above that level, life as we have known it cannot be sustained. The CO2 concentration is higher now than at any time in the last 15 million years. The emissions of CO2, currently about 35 billion metric tons per year, are projected to climb to 41 billion metric tons per year by 2020.
Because about 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by the greenhouse effect since 1955 is momentarily in the oceans, we have begun a process that, even if we halted all carbon emissions today, will ensure rising sea levels and major climate disruptions, including the continued melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets as well as the acidification of the oceans. The report estimates that if warming accelerates toward 4 degrees Celsius, sea levels will rise 0.5 to 1 meter, possibly more, by 2100. Sea levels will increase several meters more in the coming centuries. If warming can be keep to 2 degrees or below, sea levels will still rise, by about 20 centimeters by 2100, and probably will continue to rise between 1.5 and 4 meters above present-day levels by the year 2300. Sea-level rise, the report concludes, is likely to be below 2 meters only if warming is kept to well below 1.5 degrees. The rise in sea levels will not be uniform. Coastal areas in tropical regions will be inundated by sea-level rises that are up to 20 percent higher than those in higher latitudes.
“In particular, the melting of the ice sheets will reduce the gravitational pull on the ocean toward the ice sheets and, as a consequence, ocean water will tend to gravitate toward the Equator,” the report reads. “Changes in wind and ocean currents due to global warming and other factors will also affect regional sea-level rise, as will patterns of ocean heat uptake and warming. Sea-level rise impacts are projected to be asymmetrical even within regions and countries. Of the impacts projected for 31 developing countries, only 10 cities account for two-thirds of the total exposure to extreme floods. Highly vulnerable cities are to be found in Mozambique, Madagascar, Mexico, Venezuela, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. For small island states and river delta regions, rising sea levels are likely to have far ranging adverse consequences, especially when combined with the projected increased intensity of tropical cyclones in many tropical regions, other extreme weather events, and climate change-induced effects on oceanic ecosystems (for example, loss of protective reefs due to temperature increases and ocean acidification).”
“By the time the concentration reaches around 550 ppm (corresponding to a warming of about 2.4°C in the 2060s), it is likely that coral reefs in many areas would start to dissolve,” the report reads. “The combination of thermally induced bleaching events, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise threatens large fractions of coral reefs even at 1.5°C global warming. The regional extinction of entire coral reef eco-systems, which could occur well before 4°C is reached, would have profound consequences for their dependent species and for the people who depend on them for food, income, tourism, and shoreline protection.” The report projects that the rates of change in ocean acidity over the next century will be “unparalleled in Earth’s history.”
The global production of maize and wheat has, because of rising temperatures, been in steady decline since the 1980s. But these crop declines will be vastly accelerated in the coming years, with rising temperatures resulting in widespread malnutrition and starvation. It will mean that the poor, and especially children, will endure chronic hunger and malnutrition. There will be an increase in a variety of deadly epidemic diseases. Persistent flooding will contaminate drinking water, spreading diarrheal and respiratory illnesses. The 2012 drought, which affected 80 percent of the agricultural land in the United States, will become the norm. Tropical South America, Central Africa and all tropical islands in the Pacific are, the report says, likely to regularly experience heat waves of unprecedented magnitude, making human life in these areas difficult if not impossible to sustain.
“In this new high-temperature climate regime, the coolest months are likely to be substantially warmer than the warmest months at the end of the 20th century,” the report reads. “In regions such as the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Tibetan plateau, almost all summer months are likely to be warmer than the most extreme heat waves presently experienced. For example, the warmest July in the Mediterranean region could be 9°C warmer than today’s warmest July.” It notes that these changes “potentially exceed the adaptive capacities of many societies and natural systems.”
The stress and insecurity caused by the breakdown in the climate will, the report says, “have negative effects on psychological and mental health.” It will lead to an increase in “levels of conflict and violence.” These changes “will have ramifications for national identification and alter the dynamics of traditional cultures.”
The report calls on the leaders of the industrial world to immediately institute radical steps—including a halt to the dependence on fossil fuels—to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees C, although the report concedes that even an increase of less than 2 degrees would result in serious damage to the environment and human populations. Without a massive investment in green infrastructure that can adapt to the heat and other new extreme weather, and in the building of efficient public transportation networks and renewable energy systems to minimize carbon emissions, we will succumb to our own stupidity.
A failure to respond will assure an ecological nightmare that will most probably be accompanied by an economic, social and political breakdown. The human species, the report says, will cross “critical social system thresholds,” and “existing institutions that would have supported adaptation actions would likely become much less effective or even collapse.” The “stresses on human health, such as heat waves, malnutrition, and decreasing quality of drinking water due to seawater intrusion, have the potential to overburden health-care systems to a point where adaptation is no longer possible, and dislocation is forced.”
“There is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible,” it goes on. “A 4°C world is likely to be one in which communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruptions, damage, and dislocation, with many of these risks spread unequally. It is likely that the poor will suffer most and the global community could become more fractured, and unequal than today. The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur—the heat must be turned down.”

Copyright © 2012 Truthdig, L.L.C.
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.
Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org
Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/11/26-0

Conservatives’ Reality Problem

by Timothy B. Lee, Contributor, Forbes, November 9, 2012

Excerpt

…two decades ago, conservatives liked to argue that the ivory tower had put academics out of touch with reality, and that conservatism had reason and science on its side. The recent collapse of communism seemed to confirm this view. Today the tables have turned. While academia certainly still has pockets of out-of-touch leftists, there has been a much more dramatic decline in intellectual standards on the political right…years of conservatives demonizing pointy-headed academics, including scientists. On subjects like evolution, global warming, the biology of human conception, and even macroeconomics, conservatives have been increasingly bold about rejecting the consensus of scientific experts in favor of ideologically self-serving pronouncements.

George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was a good example of the kind of damage that can be done when elected officials choose ideology over expertise. Bush didn’t just ignore the many experts who warned that invading Iraq was a bad idea. The ideologues were so convinced the war would go well that they massively underestimated the amount of preparation that would be required for the occupation to go reasonably smoothly. As a result, the aftermath of the war was much more chaotic than it would have been if experienced experts had been more involved in the planning process. Many more people died and much more property was destroyed than would have occurred with proper planning.

I think global warming is a more complex issue than some people on the left acknowledge. But rather than accepting the basic scientific reality of climate change and making the case that the costs of action outweigh the benefits, many conservatives have taken the cruder tack of simply attacking the entire enterprise of mainstream climate science as a hoax.

….Economists across the political spectrum agree that the government ought to take action counteract major aggregate demand shortfalls…But rather than engaging this debate, a growing number of conservatives have rejected the mainstream economic framework altogether…

The world is messy and complicated, and understanding it often requires years of study and a willingness to consider evidence objectively regardless of where it comes from. Yet the conservative movement has increasingly become a hostile place for people who think for themselves, no matter how deeply they understand their subjects.

While many aspects of public policy are the subject of genuine ideological disagreements, there are also many issues where experts really do know things the rest of the public does not. A party that systematically favors ideologically convenient arguments and marginalizes dissenting voices will inevitably make costly mistakes…We should all hope the conservative movement develops a greater respect for expertise in the meantime.

Full Text

In 1996, the physicist Alan Sokal wrote a nonsensical article called “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” and submitted it to the academic journal Social Text. To Sokal’s amusement, his satirical argument was accepted. Sokal’s goal, he wrote later, was to illustrate “an apparent decline in the standards of intellectual rigor in certain precincts of the American academic humanities.” Sokal, a self-described leftist, expressed concern that the politicization of science by left-wing academics was undermining the left’s ability to make convincing, scientifically-grounded arguments for progressive policies.

I thought of the Sokal incident yesterday when I read this article about the Mitt Romney campaign being blindsided by Tuesday’s election results. Obviously, a bit of wishful thinking is inevitable in a losing presidential campaign. But the degree of cocooning portrayed in that article is surprising. You’d expect at least some of Romney’s highly-paid advisors to be competent at their jobs.

Two decades ago, conservatives liked to argue that the ivory tower had put academics out of touch with reality, and that conservatism had reason and science on its side. The recent collapse of communism seemed to confirm this view. Today the tables have turned. While academia certainly still has pockets of out-of-touch leftists, there has been a much more dramatic decline in intellectual standards on the political right.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Team Romney’s polling cluelessness comes after years of conservatives demonizing pointy-headed academics, including scientists. On subjects like evolution, global warming, the biology of human conception, and even macroeconomics, conservatives have been increasingly bold about rejecting the consensus of scientific experts in favor of ideologically self-serving pronouncements. That attitude may have contributed to their loss of the White House in 2012. It will be much more costly for the country as a whole if it doesn’t change before the GOP next captures the White House.

George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was a good example of the kind of damage that can be done when elected officials choose ideology over expertise. Bush didn’t just ignore the many experts who warned that invading Iraq was a bad idea. The ideologues were so convinced the war would go well that they massively underestimated the amount of preparation that would be required for the occupation to go reasonably smoothly. As a result, the aftermath of the war was much more chaotic than it would have been if experienced experts had been more involved in the planning process. Many more people died and much more property was destroyed than would have occurred with proper planning.

I think global warming is a more complex issue than some people on the left acknowledge. But rather than accepting the basic scientific reality of climate change and making the case that the costs of action outweigh the benefits, many conservatives have taken the cruder tack of simply attacking the entire enterprise of mainstream climate science as a hoax.

On macroeconomics, a broad spectrum of economists, ranging from John Maynard Keynes to Milton Friedman, supports the basic premise that recessions are caused by shortfalls in aggregate demand. Economists across the political spectrum agree that the government ought to take action counteract major aggregate demand shortfalls. There is, of course, a lot of disagreement about the details. Friedman argued that the Fed should be responsible for macroeconomic stabilization, while Keynes emphasized deficit spending.

But rather than engaging this debate, a growing number of conservatives have rejected the mainstream economic framework altogether, arguing—against the views of libertarian economists like Friedman and F.A. Hayek—that neither Congress nor the Fed has a responsibility to counteract sharp falls in nominal incomes.

The conservative movement seems to have adopted the same attitude toward Nate Silver. The world is messy and complicated, and understanding it often requires years of study and a willingness to consider evidence objectively regardless of where it comes from. Yet the conservative movement has increasingly become a hostile place for people who think for themselves, no matter how deeply they understand their subjects.

While many aspects of public policy are the subject of genuine ideological disagreements, there are also many issues where experts really do know things the rest of the public does not. A party that systematically favors ideologically convenient arguments and marginalizes dissenting voices will inevitably make costly mistakes. Thankfully, in 2012 those mistakes merely helped Mitt Romney lose the White House. But sooner or later, a Republican is going to get elected president. We should all hope the conservative movement develops a greater respect for expertise in the meantime.

Timothy B. Lee writes about how technology shapes society

This article is available online at:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/timothylee/2012/11/09/conservatives-reality-problem/

5 Crucial New Findings About Climate Change

AlterNet [1] / By Tara Lohan [2] November 21, 2012

This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org [3].

This just in: The planet is screwed. Well, if you ask Bill McKibben [4] (and you should) we still have a fighting chance. But that’s only if we actually start fighting. This week proved a holiday downer with multiple reports coming in about how quickly we’re losing the battle to stave off the effects of catastrophic climate change. Here’s a quick recap:

1. UN Report: We’re Really Bad at Cutting Global Warming Emissions

It would be one things to say that we are working hard, but not quite hard enough to curb greenhouse gas emissions. But the sad fact is, we’re not really working on it at all in any meaningful way. Fiona Harvey reports [5] at the Guardian:

The world is straying further away from commitments to combat climate change, bringing the prospect of catastrophic global warming a step closer, a UN report said on Wednesday. …

The gap between what world governments have committed to by way of cuts in greenhouse gases and the cuts that scientists say are necessary has widened, but in order to stave off dangerous levels of global warming, it should have narrowed. There is now one-fifth more carbon in the atmosphere than there was in 2000, and there are few signs of global emissions falling, according to the new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

This is incredibly troubling news and means our hope of staying near or below a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius — which scientists have deemed the upper level of preserving life as we know it on this planet — is quickly slipping out of reach.

2. World Meteorological Organization: Here’s How Bad We Are at Cutting Emissions

Just a day before the UN report, the World Meteorological Organization calculated [6] just how much greenhouse gases are actually in the atmosphere right now. Here’s what they found:

The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2011, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Between 1990 and 2011 there was a 30% increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping long-lived gases.

This doesn’t measure greenhouse gas emissions — like how much CO2 is released from things like burning fossil fuels — but indicates how much is left in the atmosphere after greenhouse gases are absorbed by sinks such as oceans and trees. Going forward, this is even more troubling as WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud explains [6]:

Until now, carbon sinks have absorbed nearly half of the carbon dioxide humans emitted in the atmosphere, but this will not necessarily continue in the future. We have already seen that the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide uptake, with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs.

3. World Bank: We’re Headed to a Really Bad Place

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics did a report on behalf of the World Bank and it concluded [7] that if we hit 4 degree Celsius warming things are going to get really bad: “extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.” They also found that we are headed there if we don’t drastically change course.

According [7] to the World Bank, “The report says today’s climate could warm from the current global mean temperature of 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels, to as high as 4°C by 2100, even if countries fulfill current emissions-reduction pledges.”

As you remember from above, countries aren’t even hitting those pledges, so we’re woefully off-base.

4. Center for American Progress: We’re Especially Screwing Over the Poor and Middle-Class

The U.S. is getting hammered by extreme weather events. “Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance firm, found that North America is experiencing a tremendous rise in extreme weather disasters — a nearly fivefold increase over the past three decades,” reported [8] the Center for American Progress. And this is thanks to climate change.

Knowing this, CAP took a look at how climate-related disasters such as drought, wildfires, winter storms and tropical storms affected people living in the U.S. What they found [8] was, “Most of these extreme weather events typically harmed counties with household incomes below the U.S. median annual household income of $51,914”:

  • Floods damaged households in affected counties with average household incomes of $44,547 annually — 14 percent less than the U.S. median income
  • Drought and heat waves affected counties with households that earned an average of $49,340 annually — roughly 5 percent less than the U.S. median income
  • Wildfires, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms devastated areas with households that earned an average of $50,352 annually — 3 percent less than the U.S. median income

As we know from Superstorm Sandy, the starkest contrasts between economic classes are often revealed in the aftereffects of disasters; those with fewer resources are often unable to flee areas ahead of coming disasters and poorer neighborhoods, including public housing complexes (as Steven Wishnia wrote for AlterNet [9]), are among the last to have services restored. Nowhere is this disparity more clear than the story of Anthony Narh [10], a parking attendent at a posh TriBeCa building in New York City (in the evacuation zone), who was called to work during the storm and drowned when the garage filled with water.

5. World Resources Institute: Blame King Coal (and Ourselves)

Here’s a basic fact: the biggest contributors to climate change are coal-fired power plants. So if we’re staring down the barrel of the climate change gun, what makes the most sense? Cut down on our coal burning, of course. But what are we planning to do? According to a new report [11]from the World Resources Institute, 1,199 new coal-burning power plants have been proposed across the world.

China ranks first in the world in coal production and consumption — by a great margin. The U.S. and India are second and third respectively, in both categories as well. When it comes to new capacity, India has the most number of proposed new projects at 455, while China is second in the number of projects (363) but tops the list in what the installed capacity would be. The U.S. is seventh in installed capacity with 36 new coal-burning power plants proposed.

Stephen Lacey writes for Climate Progress [12]:

The report outlines virtually every coal plant announced around the world. That does not necessarily mean that every one will get built. In the U.S., for example, it is highly unlikely that many — if any — new coal plants will move forward as cheap natural gas, growing renewables, and legal pressure from environmental groups trips up the pipeline. (Also, as Justin Guay of the Sierra Club points out in a piece today, local resistance in communities around the world is also hindering many of these projects).

But the tally is still staggering. If all these plants were built, they would amount to generation capacity four times greater than the entire U.S. coal fleet.

Time to get our heads out of the sand and get to work.

Editor’s Note: If you’re depressed by the conclusions from these new reports, read AlterNet’s interview with Osha Gray Davidson, author of a new book on Germany’s renewable energy revolution and what the U.S. can learn from it.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/environment/5-crucial-new-findings-about-climate-change

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/tara-lohan
[3] http://globalpossibilities.org/
[4] http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/11/ask-mckibben-anything-is-it-too-late-to-stop-climate-change.html
[5] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/21/slow-carbon-cuts-climate-change-un
[6] http://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/pr_965_en.html
[7] http://climatechange.worldbank.org/content/climate-change-report-warns-dramatically-warmer-world-century
[8] http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/report/2012/11/16/45135/heavy-weather-how-climate-destruction-harms-middle-and-lower-income-americans/
[9] http://www.alternet.org/environment/new-york-post-sandy-lesson-how-social-injustice-will-amplify-ravages-global-warming
[10] http://www.thenation.com/article/171228/called-work-during-superstorm-sandy-tribeca-parking-attendant-drowned
[11] http://pdf.wri.org/global_coal_risk_assessment.pdf
[12] http://thinkprogress.org/climate/issue/
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/climate-change
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/global-warming
[15] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

How the Religious Right Is Fueling Climate Change Denial

The Guardian [1] / By Katherine Stewart [2] posted on Alternet, November 5, 2012

Excerpt

why do so many people in America refuse to take climate science seriously?… how is it possible for anyone to think that thousands of scientists around the world are engaged in an elaborate hoax?

Climate science denial needs disinformation to survive, but it has its feet firmly planted in a part of American culture. That culture draws on lots of different sources. But if you want to understand it, you need to understand something about America’s religious landscape.

Take a look at some of the most recent initiatives in the climate science denial wars… the ultimate purpose is to produce a young generation of “skeptics” whose views on climate science will happily coincide with those of the fossil fuel industry.

Who is behind these programs of de-education?

The group writing much of the legislation is the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) [6], a “nonpartisan” consortium of state legislators and business interests that gets plenty of money from the usual suspects. But the legislation has also received vital support from groups associated with the religious right….

What does religion [9] have to do with climate science? Radical religious activists promote the anti-science bills, in part, because they also seek to undermine the teaching of evolution [10] – another issue that supposedly has “two sides”, so schools should “teach the controversy”.…It also tells us – on the firm foundation of Holy Scriptures – that policies intended to slow the pace of climate change represent a “dangerous expansion of government control over private life”. It also alerts us that the environmental movement is “un-Biblical” – indeed, a new and false religion…

Now, this isn’t the theology of every religion in America, or of every strain of Christianity [13]; not by a long stretch. Most Christians accept climate science and believe in protecting the environment, and many of them do so for religious as well as scientific reasons. But theirs is not the theology that holds sway in the upper reaches of the Republican party,…Why does this theology of science denial have such power? For one thing, it gives its adherents something to throw back in the face of all those obnoxious “elites”, which they think are telling them what to do with their lives. There’s no need to master the facts if all you need is to learn a few words of scripture.…  to disguise the extraordinary selfishness of his position in a cloak of sanctimony.

There is a choice. And even if you don’t think it matters, your grandkids will.

Full text

Now that Sandy has exacted a steep toll in lives and property, the question is unavoidable: why do so many people in America refuse to take climate science seriously?

I am not assuming that Sandy was the direct consequence of human-caused climate change [3]. But with this fresh evidence of the impact of climate issues on real people, how is it possible for anyone to think that thousands of scientists around the world are engaged in an elaborate hoax?

The standard reply is that some powerful organizations – above all, in the fossil fuel industry – think that they can benefit from misleading the public, and have funded a successful disinformation campaign. There is a lot of truth to this answer, but it isn’t the whole truth.

For the average climate science denier in the street (and there are a lot of them on some streets), there is often little correlation between the vehemence of their denials and the so-called “facts” at their disposal. The average Chuck is like Chuck Norris, who has claimed that climate science is a “trick” [4]. Not an innocent mistake, not a systemic bias, but a premeditated fraud.

Climate science denial needs disinformation to survive, but it has its feet firmly planted in a part of American culture. That culture draws on lots of different sources. But if you want to understand it, you need to understand something about America’s religious landscape.

Take a look at some of the most recent initiatives in the climate science denial wars. In Louisiana, Tennessee, New Hampshire and other states, legislatures have either passed or put forward bills intended to disinform secondary-school students about climate science. Sure, they paper over the assault on education with claims that they only want to teach “both sides” of the issue and encourage “critical thinking”. But, as leaked documents made clear in at least one instance [5], the ultimate purpose is to produce a young generation of “skeptics” whose views on climate science will happily coincide with those of the fossil fuel industry.

Who is behind these programs of de-education?

The group writing much of the legislation is the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) [6], a “nonpartisan” consortium of state legislators and business interests that gets plenty of money from the usual suspects. But the legislation has also received vital support from groups associated with the religious right. For example, the perversely named Louisiana Science Education Act, which opens the door to climate science denial in the classroom, was co-authored by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based creationist thinktank. That act also received crucial support from the Alliance Defending Freedom [7], the well-funded Christian legal advocacy group that has described itself as “a servant organization that provides the resources that will keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel”, and which promotes a radical religious agenda in public schools [8].

What does religion [9] have to do with climate science? Radical religious activists promote the anti-science bills, in part, because they also seek to undermine the teaching of evolution [10] – another issue that supposedly has “two sides”, so schools should “teach the controversy”. Now, you don’t have to believe that Earth was created in six hectic days in order to be skeptical about climate science, but a large number of climate science deniers also happen to be evolution deniers.

What exactly is the theology of climate science denial? The Cornwall Alliance [11] – a coalition whose list of signatories could double as a directory of major players in the religious right – has a produced a declaration asserting [12], as a matter of theology, that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.”

It also tells us – on the firm foundation of Holy Scriptures – that policies intended to slow the pace of climate change represent a “dangerous expansion of government control over private life”. It also alerts us that the environmental movement is “un-Biblical” – indeed, a new and false religion. If the Cornwall Declaration seems like a tough read, you can get what you need from the organization’s DVD series: “Resisting the Green Dragon: A Biblical Response to one of the Greatest Deceptions of our Day.”

Now, this isn’t the theology of every religion in America, or of every strain of Christianity [13]; not by a long stretch. Most Christians accept climate science and believe in protecting the environment, and many of them do so for religious as well as scientific reasons. But theirs is not the theology that holds sway in the upper reaches of the Republican party, or moves your average climate science denier Chuck. As Rick Santorum explained at an energy summit in Colorado [14]:

“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth … for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit.”

Why does this theology of science denial have such power? For one thing, it gives its adherents something to throw back in the face of all those obnoxious “elites”, which they think are telling them what to do with their lives. There’s no need to master the facts if all you need is to learn a few words of scripture.

But, perhaps, more to the point is that this kind of religion works for Chuck because it allows him to disguise the extraordinary selfishness of his position in a cloak of sanctimony. Translated into the kind of language that you can take to the shopping mall, it says that God wants you to squeeze whatever you can out of the earth – and to hell with the grandkids.

I hear plenty of cynicism about the choice facing people this Tuesday, 6 November. Some say that it really doesn’t matter who gets elected. It is true that Obama has largely kept climate change out of the campaign. But it is delusional to imagine that Obama is just the same as Romney and the Republican party on this issue. Paul Ryan [15] is on record as a world-class climate science denier [16]. Mitt Romney’s press secretary [17] has been a shill for oil companies.

Romney’s proposals on energy policy and climate issues, so far as they can be discerned, are indistinguishable from those of the fossil fuel industry. And anyone who thinks that Republican party policies won’t be informed by some of that old-time religion simply hasn’t been listening to what its candidates have to say about women, reproductive rights, and what they speciously call “religious liberty”.

There is a choice. And even if you don’t think it matters, your grandkids will.


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/environment/how-religious-right-fueling-climate-change-denial

Links:
[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/katherine-stewart
[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/climate-change
[4] http://townhall.com/columnists/chucknorris/2009/12/08/chestnuts_roasting_on_a_copenhagen_fire/page/full/
[5] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2012/feb/15/leaked-heartland-institute-documents-climate-scepticism
[6] http://www.alec.org/
[7] http://lasciencecoalition.org/2012/01/05/gutting-bese-policy-untold-story/
[8] http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/schools
[9] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/religion
[10] http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/evolution
[11] http://www.cornwallalliance.org/
[12] http://www.cornwallalliance.org/articles/read/an-evangelical-declaration-on-global-warming/
[13] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/christianity
[14] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/07/rick-santorum-global-warming-hoax_n_1260168.html
[15] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/paul-ryan
[16] http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/08/11/677051/meet-paul-ryan-climate-denier-conspiracy-theorist-koch-acolyte/
[17] http://www.desmogblog.com/2012/10/31/romney-aide-andrea-saul-denies-climate-connection-hurricane-katrina-sandy-next
[18] http://www.alternet.org/tags/climate-change
[19] http://www.alternet.org/tags/religion-0
[20] http://www.alternet.org/tags/science-0
[21] http://www.alternet.org/tags/education-0
[22] http://www.alternet.org/tags/evolution
[23] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Global Warming Systemically Caused Hurricane Sandy

AlterNet [1] / By George Lakoff [2]  October 30, 2012

Yes, global warming systemically caused Hurricane Sandy — and the Midwest droughts and the fires in Colorado and Texas, as well as other extreme weather disasters around the world. Let’s say it out loud, it was causation, systemic causation.

Systemic causation is familiar. Smoking is a systemic cause of lung cancer. HIV is a systemic cause of AIDS. Working in coal mines is a systemic cause of black lung disease. Driving while drunk is a systemic cause of auto accidents. Sex without contraception is a systemic cause of unwanted pregnancies.

There is a difference between systemic and direct causation. Punching someone in the nose is direct causation. Throwing a rock through a window is direct causation. Picking up a glass of water and taking a drink is direct causation. Slicing bread is direct causation. Stealing your wallet is direct causation. Any application of force to something or someone that always produces an immediate change to that thing or person is direct causation. When causation is direct, the word cause is unproblematic.

Systemic causation, because it is less obvious, is more important to understand. A systemic cause may be one of a number of multiple causes. It may require some special conditions. It may be indirect, working through a network of more direct causes. It may be probabilistic, occurring with a significantly high probability. It may require a feedback mechanism. In general, causation in ecosystems, biological systems, economic systems, and social systems tends not to be direct, but is no less causal. And because it is not direct causation, it requires all the greater attention if it is to be understood and its negative effects controlled.

Above all, it requires a name: systemic causation.

Global warming systemically caused the huge and ferocious Hurricane Sandy. And consequently, it systemically caused all the loss of life, material damage, and economic loss of Hurricane Sandy. Global warming heated the water of the Gulf andMexicoand theAtlantic Ocean, resulting in greatly increased energy and water vapor in the air above the water. When that happens, extremely energetic and wet storms occur more frequently and ferociously. These systemic effects of global warming came together to produce the ferocity and magnitude of Hurricane Sandy.

The precise details of Hurricane Sandy cannot be predicted in advance, any more than when, or whether, a smoker develops lung cancer, or sex without contraception yields an unwanted pregnancy, or a drunk driver has an accident. But systemic causation is nonetheless causal.

Semantics matters. Because the word cause is commonly taken to mean direct cause, climate scientists, trying to be precise, have too often shied away from attributing causation of a particular hurricane, drought, or fire to global warming. Lacking a concept and language for systemic causation, climate scientists have made the dreadful communicative mistake of retreating to weasel words. Consider this quote from “Perception of climate change,” by James Hansen, Makiko Sato, and Reto Ruedy, Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

…we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies such as those inTexas and Oklahomain 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small.

The crucial words here are high degree of confidence, anomalies, consequence, likelihood, absence, and exceedingly small. Scientific weasel words! The power of the bald truth, namely causation, is lost.

This no small matter because the fate of the earth is at stake. The science is excellent. The scientists’ ability to communicate is lacking. Without the words, the idea cannot even be expressed. And without an understanding of systemic causation, we cannot understand what is hitting us.

Global warming is real, and it is here. It is causing — yes, causing — death, destruction, and vast economic loss. And the causal effects are getting greater with time. We cannot merely adapt to it. The costs are incalculable. What we are facing is huge. Each day, the amount of extra energy accumulating via the heating of the earth is the equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs [3]. Each day!

Because the earth itself is so huge, this energy is distributed over the earth in a way that is not immediately perceptible by our bodies — only a fraction of a degree each day. But the accumulation of total heat energy over the earth is increasing at an astronomical rate, even though the temperature numbers look small locally — 0.8 degrees Celsius so far. If we hit 2.0 degrees Celsius, as we may before long, the earth — and the living things on it — will not recover. Because of ice melt, the level of the oceans will rise 45 feet, while huge storms, fires, and droughts get worse each year.

The international consensus is that by 2.0 degrees Celsius, all civilization would be threatened if not destroyed.

What would it take to reach a 2.0 degrees Celsius increase over the whole earth? Much less than you might think. Consider the amount of oil already drilled and stored by Exxon Mobil alone. If that oil were burned, the temperature of the earth would pass 2.0 degree Celsius, and those horrific disasters would come to pass.

The value of Exxon Mobil — its stock price — resides in its major asset, its stored oil. Because the weather disasters arising from burning that oil would be so great that we would have to stop burning. That’s just Exxon Mobil’s oil. The oil stored by all the oil companies everywhere would, if burned, destroy civilization many times over.

Another way to comprehend this, as Bill McKibben [4] has observed, is that most of the oil stored all over the earth is worthless. The value of oil company stock, ifWall   St. were rational, would drop precipitously. Moreover, there is no point in drilling for more oil. Most of what we have already stored cannot be burned. More drilling is pointless.

Are Bill McKibben’s and James Hansen’s numbers right [5]? We had better have the science community double-check the numbers, and fast.

Where do we start? With language. Add systemic causation to your vocabulary. Communicate the concept. Explain to others why global warming systemically caused the enormous energy and size of Hurricane Sandy, as well as the major droughts and fires. Email your media whenever you see reporting on extreme weather that doesn’t ask scientists if it was systemically caused by global warming.

Next, enact fee and dividend, originally proposed by Peter Barnes at Sky Trust and introduced as Senate legislation as the KLEAR Act by Maria Cantwell and Susan Collins. More recently, legislation called fee and dividend has been proposed by James Hansen and introduced in the House by representatives John B, Larson and Bob Inglis.

Next. Do all we can to move to alternative energy worldwide as soon as possible.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/environment/global-warming-systemically-caused-hurricane-sandy

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/george-lakoff
[3] http://www.ted.com/talks/james_hansen_why_i_must_speak_out_about_climate_change.html
[4] http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719
[5] http://math.350.org/
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/hurricane
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/sandy
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/climate-change
[9] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

The Fate of Humanity Is at Stake — Why Are Romney and Obama Too Cowardly to Talk About What Really Matters?

AlterNet [1] / By Noam Chomsky [2] October 5, 2012 |

…There are two issues of overwhelming significance, because the fate of the species is at stake: environmental disaster, and nuclear war..governments have not responded to the change with any…urgency…This reaction demonstrates an extraordinary willingness to sacrifice the lives of our children and grandchildren for short-term gain. Or, perhaps, an equally remarkable willingness to shut our eyes so as not to see the impending peril…We could be moving toward a devastating war, possibly even nuclear. Straightforward ways exist to overcome this threat, but they will not be taken unless there is large-scale public activism demanding that the opportunity be pursuedElections are run by the public relations industry. Its primary task is commercial advertising, which is designed to undermine markets by creating uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices – the exact opposite of how markets are supposed to work..The victims, however, do not have to obey, in either case. Passivity may be the easy course, but it is hardly the honorable one.

Full text

With the quadrennial presidential election extravaganza reaching its peak, it’s useful to ask how the political campaigns are dealing with the most crucial issues we face. The simple answer is: badly, or not at all. If so, some important questions arise: why, and what can we do about it?

There are two issues of overwhelming significance, because the fate of the species is at stake: environmental disaster, and nuclear war. The former is regularly on the front pages. On Sept. 19, for example, Justin Gillis reported in The New York Times that the melting of Arctic sea ice had ended for the year, “but not before demolishing the previous record – and setting off new warnings about the rapid pace of change in the region.” The melting is much faster than predicted by sophisticated computer models and the most recent U.N. report on global warming. New data indicate that summer ice might be gone by 2020, with severe consequences. Previous estimates had summer ice disappearing by 2050. “But governments have not responded to the change with any greater urgency about limiting greenhouse emissions,” Gillis writes. “To the contrary, their main response has been to plan for exploitation of newly accessible minerals in the Arctic, including drilling for more oil” – that is, to accelerate the catastrophe. This reaction demonstrates an extraordinary willingness to sacrifice the lives of our children and grandchildren for short-term gain. Or, perhaps, an equally remarkable willingness to shut our eyes so as not to see the impending peril. That’s hardly all. A new study from the Climate Vulnerability Monitor has found that “climate change caused by global warming is slowing down world economic output by 1.6 percent a year and will lead to a doubling of costs in the next two decades.” The study was widely reported elsewhere but Americans have been spared the disturbing news. The official Democratic and Republican platforms on climate matters are reviewed in Science magazine’s Sept. 14 issue. In a rare instance of bipartisanship, both parties demand that we make the problem worse. In 2008, both party platforms had devoted some attention to how the government should address climate change. Today, the issue has almost disappeared from the Republican platform – which does, however, demand that Congress “take quick action” to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency, established by former Republican President Richard Nixon in saner days, from regulating greenhouse gases. And we must open Alaska’s Arctic refuge to drilling to take “advantage of all our American God-given resources.”

We cannot disobey the Lord, after all. The platform also states that “We must restore scientific integrity to our public research institutions and remove political incentives from publicly funded research” – code words for climate science. The Republican candidate Mitt Romney, seeking to escape from the stigma of what he understood a few years ago about climate change, has declared that there is no scientific consensus, so we should support more debate and investigation – but not action, except to make the problems more serious. The Democrats mention in their platform that there is a problem, and recommend that we should work “toward an agreement to set emissions limits in unison with other emerging powers.” But that’s about it. President Barack Obama has emphasized that we must gain 100 years of energy independence by exploiting fracking and other new technologies – without asking what the world would look like after a century of such practices. So there are differences between the parties: about how enthusiastically the lemmings should march toward the cliff.

The second major issue, nuclear war, is also on the front pages every day, but in a way that would astound a Martian observing the strange doings on Earth. The current threat is again in the Middle East, specifically Iran– at least according to the West, that is. In the Middle East, theU.S.andIsraelare considered much greater threats.

Unlike Iran, Israel refuses to allow inspections or to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has hundreds of nuclear weapons and advanced delivery systems, and a long record of violence, aggression and lawlessness, thanks to unremitting American support. Whether Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons,U.S.intelligence doesn’t know. In its latest report, the International Atomic Energy Agency says that it cannot demonstrate “the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran” – a roundabout way of condemning Iran, as the U.S. demands, while conceding that the agency can add nothing to the conclusions of U.S. intelligence. Therefore Iran must be denied the right to enrich uranium that is guaranteed by the NPT, and endorsed by most of the world, including the nonaligned countries that have just met in Tehran. The possibility that Iran might develop nuclear weapons arises in the electoral campaign. (The fact tha tIsrael already has them does not.) Two positions are counterposed: Should theU.S.declare that it will attack if Iran reaches the capability to develop nuclear weapons, which dozens of countries enjoy? Or shouldWashingtonkeep the “red line” more indefinite? The latter position is that of the White House; the former is demanded by Israeli hawks – and accepted by the U.S. Congress. The Senate just voted 90-1 to support the Israeli position. Missing from the debate is the obvious way to mitigate or end whatever threatIranmight be believed to pose: Establish a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region. The opportunity is readily available: An international conference is to convene in a few months to pursue this objective, supported by almost the entire world, including a majority of Israelis. The government of Israel, however, has announced that it will not participate until there is a general peace agreement in the region, which is unattainable as long as Israel persists in its illegal activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. Washington keeps to  same position, and insists that Israel must be excluded from any such regional agreement.

We could be moving toward a devastating war, possibly even nuclear. Straightforward ways exist to overcome this threat, but they will not be taken unless there is large-scale public activism demanding that the opportunity be pursued. This in turn is highly unlikely as long as these matters remain off the agenda, not just in the electoral circus, but in the media and larger national debate. Elections are run by the public relations industry. Its primary task is commercial advertising, which is designed to undermine markets by creating uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices – the exact opposite of how markets are supposed to work, but certainly familiar to anyone who has watched television.It’s only natural that when enlisted to run elections, the industry would adopt the same procedures in the interests of the paymasters, who certainly don’t want to see informed citizens making rational choices. The victims, however, do not have to obey, in either case. Passivity may be the easy course, but it is hardly the honorable one.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/election-2012/noam-chomsky-fate-humanity-stake-why-are-romney-and-obama-too-cowardly-talk-about-what

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/noam-chomsky
[3] http://www.alternet.org/tags/chomsky
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/nuclear-war
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/environment-0
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/election-2012
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/presidential-race
[8] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

“Climate Skeptics” More Likely to Embrace “Free Market” Ideology, Conspiracy Theories

Common Dreams Survey by Common Dreams staff, CommonDreams.org, July 27, 2012

New study shows correlation between so-called “skeptics” and tendency towards “conspiracist ideation”

A new survey of so-called “climate skeptics” — those who reject the global scientific community’s broad consensus that global warming and climate change are being driven by modern society’s emission of greenhouse gasses — concludes that individuals who hold such views are also much more likely to believe in outlandish conspiracy theories and hold favorable views of the “free market” theory of the economy.

 Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and ‘Buzz’ Aldrin. (Photograph: NASA/AP) The new research, which The Guardian reports will be published in the forthcoming issue of Psychological Science, surveyed more than 1,000 readers of websites related to climate change and found that people who agreed with free market economic principles and endorsed conspiracy theories were more likely to dispute that human-caused climate change was a reality.

In addition to rejecting the findings of climate science, the survey found that “endorsement of the free market [...] predicted the rejection of other established scientific findings, such as the facts that HIV causes AIDS and that smoking causes lung cancer.”

The findings also showed that endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that 9/11 was an “inside job” or that NASA faked the moon landing) predicts rejection of climate science as well as the rejection of other scientific findings, above and beyond endorsement of laissez-faire free markets. According to the researchers, “this provides empirical confirmation of previous suggestions that conspiracist ideation contributes to the rejection of science.”

According to the methodology of the survey, the researchers focused on “climate skeptic” blogs, both because of the inherent target group found there and to highlight the enormous power that the culture of “climate change denial” has been able to wield in the internet age.  Researchers surveyed over 1,000 users of these blogs on (a) their views on climate science and a range of other scientific propositions; (b) two constructs that the researchers hypothesized to be associated with rejection of science (free-market ideology and a range of conspiracy theories); (c) a construct targeting people’s sensitivity to environmental problems (e.g., whether previous concerns about acid rain have been addressed); (d) and the perceived consensus among scientists, which has been repeatedly linked to acceptance of science.

The researchers found that those with a “libertarian streak” are more likely to dabble in conspiracies and to deny widely accepted scientific findings.

“The link between endorsing conspiracy theories and rejecting climate science facts suggests that it is the libertarian instinct to stick two fingers up at the mainstream – whatever the issue – that is important,” writes The Guardian’s James Corner. “Because a radical libertarian streak is the hallmark of free-market economics, and because free market views are popular on the political right, this is where climate change skepticism is most likely to be found.”

And Corner concludes: “All of this suggests that the battle to overcome climate scepticism – if that is even a useful way of thinking about it – will not be won by simply restating the scientific facts. The problem is that “the facts” are not “the facts” for a small proportion of people – and the noise made by this minority group dilutes the otherwise clear signal about climate change received by the wider population.”

The researchers offered no simple solution on how to counter the trend of climate change denial. “Conspiracist ideation is, by definition,” they write, “difficult to correct because any evidence contrary to the conspiracy is itself considered evidence of its existence.”
Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/07/27

The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic by Richard A. Muller

New York Times, July 28, 2012
 
Berkeley, Calif.

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming. In its 2007 report, the I.P.C.C. concluded only that most of the warming of the prior 50 years could be attributed to humans. It was possible, according to the I.P.C.C. consensus statement, that the warming before 1956 could be because of changes in solar activity, and that even a substantial part of the more recent warming could be natural.

Our Berkeley Earth approach used sophisticated statistical methods developed largely by our lead scientist, Robert Rohde, which allowed us to determine earth land temperature much further back in time. We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), from data selection (prior groups selected fewer than 20 percent of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100 percent), from poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones) and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off). In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects unduly biased our conclusions.

The historic temperature pattern we observed has abrupt dips that match the emissions of known explosive volcanic eruptions; the particulates from such events reflect sunlight, make for beautiful sunsets and cool the earth’s surface for a few years. There are small, rapid variations attributable to El Niño and other ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream; because of such oscillations, the “flattening” of the recent temperature rise that some people claim is not, in our view, statistically significant. What has caused the gradual but systematic rise of two and a half degrees? We tried fitting the shape to simple math functions (exponentials, polynomials), to solar activity and even to rising functions like world population. By far the best match was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, measured from atmospheric samples and air trapped in polar ice.

Just as important, our record is long enough that we could search for the fingerprint of solar variability, based on the historical record of sunspots. That fingerprint is absent. Although the I.P.C.C. allowed for the possibility that variations in sunlight could have ended the “Little Ice Age,” a period of cooling from the 14th century to about 1850, our data argues strongly that the temperature rise of the past 250 years cannot be attributed to solar changes. This conclusion is, in retrospect, not too surprising; we’ve learned from satellite measurements that solar activity changes the brightness of the sun very little.

How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does. Adding methane, a second greenhouse gas, to our analysis doesn’t change the results. Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase.

It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.

Hurricane Katrina cannot be attributed to global warming. The number of hurricanes hitting the United States has been going down, not up; likewise for intense tornadoes. Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035. And it’s possible that we are currently no warmer than we were a thousand years ago, during the “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum,” an interval of warm conditions known from historical records and indirect evidence like tree rings. And the recent warm spell in the United States happens to be more than offset by cooling elsewhere in the world, so its link to “global” warming is weaker than tenuous.

The careful analysis by our team is laid out in five scientific papers now online at BerkeleyEarth.org. That site also shows our chart of temperature from 1753 to the present, with its clear fingerprint of volcanoes and carbon dioxide, but containing no component that matches solar activity. Four of our papers have undergone extensive scrutiny by the scientific community, and the newest, a paper with the analysis of the human component, is now posted, along with the data and computer programs used. Such transparency is the heart of the scientific method; if you find our conclusions implausible, tell us of any errors of data or analysis.

What about the future? As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise. I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about one and a half degrees over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included. But if China continues its rapid economic growth (it has averaged 10 percent per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (it typically adds one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years.

Science is that narrow realm of knowledge that, in principle, is universally accepted. I embarked on this analysis to answer questions that, to my mind, had not been answered. I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes. Then comes the difficult part: agreeing across the political and diplomatic spectrum about what can and should be done.

Richard A. Muller, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former MacArthur Foundation fellow, is the author, most recently, of “Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/the-conversion-of-a-climate-change-skeptic.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all

Moral Politics

“All politics is moral.” George Lakoff

“All of the various fields of human inquiry — theology and philosophy and morality and psychology meet rather beautifully in politics. And sometimes I wonder if politics isn’t exactly that, it’s the taking of all the sort of great ineffable and trying to make them have some meaning in the actually historical moment on earth in which we live.” Tony Kushner – writer of “Lincoln” interview with Bill Moyers

We live in an anti-political moment, when many people — young people especially — think politics is a low, nasty, corrupt and usually fruitless business. It’s much nobler to do community service or just avoid all that putrid noise…. you can do more good in politics than in any other sphere…Politics is noble because it involves personal compromise for the public good…politics is the best place to develop the highest virtuesWhy We Love Politics By DAVID BROOKS, New York Times, November 22, 2012

The Spiritual Crisis Underlying American Politics By John Amodeo, PsychCentral.com, October 14, 2013

The Bible Paradox by Big Think Editors, October 20, 2013 – Excerpt – Nearly 80 percent of all Americans think the Bible is either literally true or is the inspired word of God. And yet, most Americans have no idea what is actually in the Bible…so we have the paradoxical situation in which we as a culture “have invested the words of this book with amazing authority even when we don’t know what these words are and what they mean.” So says Joel Baden, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Yale Divinity School…“The Bible has effectively ceased to become a text,” Baden argues, but instead has become a symbol of power and authority “that is undergirded by the relatively uninformed faith commitments of the majority of the American public. To speak in the name of the Bible is to claim a piece of that authority.” And this is a power that can be abused, and often is…Our religious traditions have taught us to read the Bible this way. Since we are conditioned to search the Bible for one meaning, we have lost the ability to be careful readers…if we are to continue to invest as much authority in the Bible as we do, Baden says, we — as serious readers of the text — cannot pretend that the Bible is a single, clear statement of belief. Rather, “it is a jumble of beliefs…This text that our culture holds most sacred is a living reminder that human interaction is founded on dialogue and not monologue — the inclusion of differences, not their exclusion.

Why the Government Shutdown Is Unbiblical by Jim Wallis, Sojourners, posted on Huffingtonpost.com, Oct 3, 2013 — the poorest and most vulnerable who are always hurt the most in a crisis like this…that is our job in politics — to talk about what happens to themThe biblical purpose of government is to protect from evil and to promote the good.That vision of “common good” is what we have lost, and there is nothing more important in our public life than to find it again…To be opposed to government per se, especially when that opposition serves the ultimate power of other wealthy and powerful interests, is simply not a biblical position. Transparency, accountability, and service are the ethics of good government. “Of the people, by the people, and for the people” is still a good measure and goal of civil authority…

America Is Not a Christian Nation and Never Has Been: Why Is the Right Obsessed With Pushing a Revisionist History? By Amanda Marcotte, AlterNet, October 16, 2013 

A Religious Legacy, With Its Leftward Tilt, Is Reconsidered By JENNIFER SCHUESSLER, New York Times, July 23, 2013

Religion challenges left and right By E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, August 4 

Religious progressives hold stronger appeal among Millennials By Robby Jones, Washington Post, July 18, 2013 The Washington Post Company

Six challenges for organizing a progressive religious movement By Robert P. Jones, Washington Post, August 2, 2013

Why Progressives Can’t Ignore Religion by Mike Lux, Alter­Net, Febru­ary 27, 2012  ..Wall or no wall, politics and religion have always been inextricably intertwined, and we won’t win until we recognize and deal with that fact…

LGBT Advocates Need Public Progressive Faith

Why Few Americans View Climate Change as a Moral Problemby Ezra Markowitz, BigThink.com, June 15, 2012 – . The moral judgment system—the set of cognitive, emotional, social and motivational mechanisms responsible for producing our perceptions of right and wrong—has been receiving a lot of attention recently, only some of it good. A slew of best-selling books, dozens of exciting new research findings, and a host of current events have converged to produce a rapidly growing interest in the role that moral judgment and intuition play in shaping everything from the effects of “green” products on ethical decision-making to growing political polarization…If climate advocates and communicators want people to perceive climate change as a moral imperative—and they should given that our moral intuitions are powerful motivators of action—then they’ll need to develop creative, evidence-based ways of confronting the challenges discussed above.…

Another Word on “God and the Twenty-First Century” by Michael Benedikt, Tikkun, March 5, 2011 – It is no longer necessary to invoke the name of God to explain or promote compassionate action. Today we understand we have evolved that capacity…what are commandments? Ways of bringing goodness to life through actions, through deeds…These are the words of three champions of monotheism [Judaism, Christianity, Islam]…But what should followers of these theist traditions think of the good practiced by nonbelievers — people who would say it’s quite unnecessary, and even counterproductive, to bring “God” into ordinary morality, who would offer that morality can and should be understood from an entirely scientific, evolutionary, and historical point of view thus: the capacity for empathy, fairness, and altruism is wired into human beings and even other higher mammals from birth, thanks to millions of generations of reproduction-with-variation under the constraints of natural selection. Similarly, the laws of civility — from the Eightfold Way and the Ten Commandments to the Magna Carta, the Geneva Convention, and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights — are the culturally transmitted legacy of thousands of years of human social evolution overlaid upon older, natural reproductive-selective processes. Whereas laws of civility may once have needed the rhetorical force of God-talk to establish themselves, today they can be embraced rationally in the service of peace and prosperity.

The Faithful Budget 

Why the Great Religious Realignment is a Great Secular Opportunity 

Seven Deadly American Sins

The Cry for Democratic Moral Leadership and Effective Communication by George Lakoff, Truthout.org, September 2, 2010  - ..Morality is behind everything in politics – and progressives and conservatives have different moral systems….America is, and has always been, fundamentally about Americans caring about each other and acting responsibly on that care. Empathy…is the basis of our form of government. Responsibility is both personal and social…Argue for your values. Frame all issues in terms of your value…

Obama’s ‘God talk’ was highlight of his convention acceptance speech

Do We Need Faith to Believe in Progress? by Andrew Cohen, 21st Century Living, April 20, 2012

Prophetic Politics: Charting A Healthy Role For Religion In Public Life By Robert Jensen, Countercurrents.org, February 3, 2012 – A review of Walter Brueggemann, The Practice of Prophetic Imagination: Preaching an Emancipatory Word (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012).

We need a new Social Gospel: the moral imperative of collective bargaining by Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite Washington Post – On Faith, February 23, 2011

What Does the Morality of Americans Have to Do With Immigration in America? by Katherine Fennelly, Professor, University of Minnesota. HuffingtonPost.com, July 9, 2010

Philosophy of Religion by Richard Taylor, Philosophy Now, 2004