Trump and the Criminality of Climate Change

neighborhood-fire

If someone threw buckets of gasoline on the front and back doors and the windows of a home and lit it on fire in the early morning, those sleeping inside would likely perish, their escape routes blocked by the inferno. The arsonist would be hunted, hopefully caught, and face a long prison sentence if not the death penalty.  Consciously trapping people in life-threatening environments, taking their lives, these are the most serious crimes.

Those who deny the link between global warming and the burning of fossil fuels are lying. This link is not a matter of opinion; there are no legitimate opposing arguments because the science is overwhelming. The entire scientific community, people educated at the same top flight universities that teach us how to explore the planets and create cures for deadly diseases, these climate scientists are warning us that humankind’s ancient obsession with fire is the undeniable cause of global warming.

Due to human activity beginning with the start of the industrial revolution, atmospheric CO2 has climbed from 275 parts per million, a number largely unchanged for 800,000 years, to a dangerous 403 ppm today.  The last time that CO2 levels were this high, humans did not exist. And just as predicted by scientists over 50 years ago, Earth is warming dramatically.  The month of August, 2016, set the 16th straight monthly record for global average high temperatures and 2016 will have been the hottest year ever, again. In February of 2016, parts of the Arctic were more than 29 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than “normal” for February, bringing them on par with typical June temperatures. This train of back-to-back records stretching over 16 months is unprecedented in recorded history and signals a long-term, dangerous transition.

Now, every year shatters the previous year’s record for global average temperature, and each decade is hotter than the previous, with no end in sight. This is the “new normal”.  And this a disaster.  Among many, the results have been increased droughts, increased coastal flooding, record heatwaves, fastest-ever rates of glacier loss, record global loss of polar sea ice, and worldwide crop losses from drought and flooding.

Global warming has only just begun and left  unaddressed, will continue for centuries. We may in fact have entered a runaway state, where more warming melts more sea ice, causing the dark seas to absorb more heat and warming the planet further.  Warming is thawing the Earth’s arctic tundra regions, releasing more methane gas. Methane is roughly 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, and will contribute to still more warming.  Extend this ramp largely unbroken for 25, 50, 100 years, and the result will be clear disaster.  Ongoing widespread loss of human life will be a certainty, due to unbearable heatwaves, crop losses, food shortages, sea level rise, and loss of fresh water.  And this disaster won’t be temporary. We are changing Earth’s climate fundamentally, creating a dangerous new Earth that is not remotely as hospitable as the one we’ve leaving behind.

President Obama has been the first president to take this threat seriously, but Trump has promised to demolish Obama’s energy policy. Trump plans to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, open more federal lands to oil and gas drilling and coal mining, slash existing regulations on fossil fuels, scrap proposed regulations on domestic drillers or “frackers”, kill the Clean Power Plan (which is President Obama’s plan to transition the nation to coal-free power plants), and eliminate or fatally hobble the Evironmental Protection Agency.  Trump has no environmental plan, other than to set the clock back to 1950 and give the fossil fuel industry free reign.

The deniers of human-caused climate change are engaged in a deeply cynical strategy to claim ignorance and state that more study needs to be done, all the while raking in billions in fossil fuels industry profits at the expense of humanity. The tobacco industry used this exact strategy to evade legal liability for decades, killing nearly half a million Americans every year, and that industry still kills millions worldwide while pocketing hefty profits. Big tobacco eventually paid out hundreds of billions of dollars to US states for their fraud, but with fossil fuels and global warming, the stakes are infinitely higher because we’re talking about the planet. People can chose to quit cigarettes or never smoke at all.  We can’t quit the planet.  There is no escape.

Like most Republican politicians, Trump says he doesn’t believe in human caused climate change.  He says it’s all a Chinese conspiracy to make the US less competitive.  As absurd as this sounds, for Republican deniers, believing or not believing is not even relevant to them because their only motivator is greed. It’s the “I want mine” mentality.  The point is, they don’t actually care. And because we all know what is at stake – the viability of Earth, the lives of many millions of people, the survival of countless plant and animal species –  the actions of the deniers are in fact, profoundly criminal.

Just like professional arsonists motivated only by money, the deniers –  the fossil fuel companies and their political conspirators including Trump, Trump’s likely new EPA director Myron Ebell, James Inhofe, and others – have soaked the windows and doors of this home we call Earth with gasoline, and they have lit the match. Humanity is trapped in their fire because we can’t quit the planet.  There is no escape.

Reports: Big Oil, Big Coal have known and lied about global warming for decades

Hundreds of pages of recovered documents suggest that even with detailed knowledge of the link between carbon emissions and climate change, the fossil fuels industry has lied for decades and spent hundreds of millions to deceive and defraud the public.

Detailed reports released by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Greenpeace, and Inside Climate News claim that fossil fuel companies have lied continuously about climate science, paid phony scientists, created phony front organizations, forged phony documents, and recruited the Bush Administration and members of Congress, all in efforts to mislead the public and halt progress toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This article is a compression of the research and reporting performed by those named organizations.

What they knew and when they knew it

According to the reports, fossil fuel companies have known for nearly 40 years that CO2 emissions are harming the Earth. In 1977, representatives from BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and Peabody Energy attended dozens of congressional hearings that discussed the effects of CO2 on climate. In the late 1970s and early 80s, Exxon’s own senior scientist, James F. Black warned Exxon’s senior management that the burning of fossil fuels was influencing global climate, that increases in CO2 would cause global warming, that rainfall might increase in some areas while other areas turn to desert. He warned that the human race had only five to ten years before the need to make “hard decisions” about CO2 emissions might become “critical” (emphasis added).

By 1988 the then CEO of Mobil Oil, Richard Tucker stated in a speech to the American Institute of Chemical Engineers that the growing greenhouse effect might require a “dramatic reduction in our dependence on fossil fuels.” That year, Jim Hansen of NASA testified before Congress that the burning of fossil fuels was harming the climate. Also in 1988, the UN formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the US Congress introduced the National Energy Policy Act of 1988, all in efforts to begin to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The scientific community was fully aware that CO2 was causing global warming. One of Exxon’s staff scientists even served as an expert reviewer to the IPCC’s first report on climate change. Industry scientists were secretly warning each other of the risks of CO2 emissions on the climate.

In 1995, a secret report titled Predicting the Future of Climate Change: A Primer was released by a team of scientists at Mobil Oil and distributed to the Global Climate Coalition, an industry group whose members included most of the largest fossil fuel companies. This “primer” from Mobil made several warnings over human-caused climate change, including this statement: “The scientific basis for the greenhouse effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.” This document was revealed in 2009 after surfacing during a lawsuit filed by the auto industry against California. A preliminary version of this document addressed and dismissed the most common arguments denying human-caused climate change, arguments that are still being promoted by the fossil fuel industry today.

By 1988, with obviously abundant knowledge of the growing harm their products are causing to the climate, what did the fossil fuels companies do? They produced much more product and CO2 emissions skyrocketed. The industrial revolution began over 200 years ago, but half of all industrial carbon emissions have occurred since 1988. And according to documents, they embarked on an all-out campaign to deceive that continues to this day.

The Coal Industry and ICE

In 1991, major players in the coal industry, including the National Coal Association, Edison Electric, and others formed a group called the Information Council on the Environment. Internal documents show that ICE’s strategy was to “reposition global warming as a theory (not fact)” and to “use a spokesman from the scientific community” since “technical sources have the highest credibility ratings.” This, in spite of the fact that ICE was fully aware of the science showing a long-term warming trend was (and is) underway.

ICE’s approach, supported by a $500,000 campaign budget and revealed by internal documents, showed that the group planned to target “older, less-educated males from larger households who are not typically active information seekers” and “lower-income women… who are more likely to soften their support for federal legislation…” Propaganda typical of ICE included this advertisement aired during a Rush Limbaugh program, spoken by Mr. Limbaugh: “Stop panicking! I’m here to tell you that the facts simply don’t jibe with the theory that catastrophic global warming is taking place! Try this fact on for size: Minneapolis has actually gotten colder! So has Albany, New York!”

ICE was disbanded in 1991 when the press learned that ICE’s “science advisory panel” consisted principally of three people who were well-known climate science contrarians with no legitimate experience in the field, and that their primary message, that global warming could not be occurring because a few named cities had recently recorded warmer temperatures, was junk science.

The fossil fuels industry builds a disinformation machine

In their initial report in 2007, the Union of Concerned Scientists reported that, in spite of extensive warnings within the industry regarding the danger of carbon emissions, ExxonMobil secretly spent $16 million from 1998 to 2005 on 43 separate “grass roots” organizations with the explicit purpose of spreading lies about the causes of global warming. ExxonMobil also used its access to a fully-complicit Bush administration, which itself had strong ties to the oil industry, to block federal policies and to shape the administration’s position on global warming. And a withering Greenpeace report reveals that from 1997 to 2010, the Koch brothers spent over $61 million on the same front groups, with the same purpose of using bogus “science” on climate change to deceive and create confusion.

From there, the industry’s deception has only grown. The biggest carbon polluters, BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, Peabody Energy and Koch Industries and others have worked for decades spending hundreds of millions of dollars to spread falsehoods and deceive the public regarding carbon emissions and global warming.

The American Petroleum Institute’s plan to kill Kyoto

In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute created a detailed strategy and planning document titled the Global Climate Science Communications Plan. The API is the most powerful US trade association for the oil and gas industry, representing all of the big players, including ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhilips, etc. The API’s 1998 communications plan is essentially a propaganda manifesto that is still in use. It spells out a diverse misinformation strategy to be carried out by fossil fuel companies, their PR firms, and phony front organizations to reach the public, the US Senate, and policy makers with messaging attacking the links between greenhouse gases and climate change. This plan was initially created for the purpose of derailing the US Senate’s approval of the Kyoto Protocol Agreement. It specifically instructs that “victory” would be achieved when “average citizens” believed there were too many “uncertainties” in climate science to attribute the cause of climate change to CO2, and that promoting the Kyoto treaty “would appear to be out of touch with reality.” This, despite nearly unanimous agreement by the worldwide scientific community even then, that CO2 emissions are causing global warming.

The API’s plan recognizes that independent scientists have the public’s trust, and so the API sought to recruit and train a team of five “independent scientists” as propaganda mouthpieces to generate “peer-reviewed papers” to undercut the “conventional wisdom on climate science.” These phony papers would be “peer-reviewed” −by their own scientists. The API plan even warns that the fact that these chosen scientists will be employed by the fossil fuels industry, paid for their “independent analysis,” can never be revealed.

Executing to the API’s propaganda plan

The API’s propaganda plan was concerned about future “Kyoto-like” efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. To manipulate the thinking of today’s students (tomorrow’s voters), it called for targeting the National Science Teachers Association and individual elementary school teachers with bogus study materials to directly counter the pervasive scientific evidence regarding CO2 and climate change. The propaganda plan states that emphasizing “uncertainties in climate science will begin to erect a barrier against efforts to impose Kyoto-like measures in the future”. This reveals the far-reaching planning of fossil fuel companies to lie to the public for as long as they can get away with it. By the way, the original API propaganda plan assumed that Kyoto Protocol, signed by President Clinton, would be killed in the US Senate, and it ultimately was.

In 2009, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 was approved by the US House of Representatives. This bill would have established a carbon emissions trading plan, in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. In response, the API staged rallies in 20 states that were designed to appear as spontaneous public opposition to the act. An API memo leaked to Greenpeace reveals that the API urged executives of all the major fossil fuel companies to send their employees to those staged rallies. Ultimately, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 was passed by the House, but never taken up by the US Senate.

Documents released in 2015 resulting from FOIA requests by Greenpeace show that ExxonMobil, Southern Company (the top carbon emitter among all US utility companies), and other major players in the industry, secretly employed an aerospace engineer named Wei-Hock Soon (among others) from 2001 to 2012. Mr. Soon’s job was to masquerade as a climate scientist and fabricate numerous misleading and baseless claims and theories about the causes of global warming. Mr. Soon had connections to the Smithsonian Institution, which routinely published his propaganda and agreed to not reveal the source of his funding. Soon’s work was presented as independent research and has been often quoted by Republican politicians who receive generous campaign contributions from the fossil fuels industry. However, Soon’s work was also repeatedly challenged by actual climate scientists.

Senator Inhofe invites a phony climate scientist to Congress

Soon’s fraud went on for over ten years, with him even testifying before Congress at the invitation of Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma, a boldfaced shill for Big Oil and Big Coal. It was eventually found that Soon was paid over $1.2 million by the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil, and others for his years of propaganda, and that Soon had no other source of income during that time. These revelations killed Soon’s credibility with everyone, except of course, the fake “grass roots” organizations that still act as conduits for Soon’s fabrications, and for blatant political sellouts like Senator Inhofe, who even today continues to quote his sham work. In what appears to be a perfect storm of greed and contempt for humanity, the Republicans appointed Senator Inhofe as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Among other displays of mental disorder, Inhofe has stated that “God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.” He has also stated that the EPA is comparable to the “Gestapo”, and that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change resembles “a Soviet-style trial, in which ideological purity trumps technical and scientific rigor.”

Tragically, the Republican science committee on the environment cares nothing about science or the environment. What motivates Senator Inhofe? Money. The oil and gas industry has made the largest campaign contributions to Inhofe, $1.7 million over his career as a senator. Inhofe has even published a book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, which presents the fantastical conspiracy theory that thousands of scientists worldwide have for decades been fabricating a giant hoax with mountains of fraudulent science for what purpose, no one really knows. Inhofe tries to support his claims with broken logic and Mr. Soon’s trash science, along with attacks on the Ph. D level professionals who are actual climate scientists. Mr. Inhofe will happily sell his book to you, as he promotes it in his public appearances.

The Coal Industry attempts to manipulate Congress with forgery

As stated above, in mid-2009 Congress was debating the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. This bill would have instituted a carbon emissions reduction plan at the federal level. A coal industry lobbying firm named Bonner and Associates mailed out thirteen letters to three House members who were known to be leaning in favor of the act, but whose votes was vulnerable. However, all of the letters were forgeries, written on the letterhead of organizations including the American Legion, the NAACP, and the American Association of University Women. As an example, and an excerpt from one letter read: “We ask you to use your important position to help protect minorities and other consumers in your district from higher electricity bills. Please don’t vote to force costs increases on us…”

An investigation into the forgeries by the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming found that Bonner and Associates has been hired by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which itself is another front group funded directly by representatives of the coal industry. Note that Bonner and Associates has extensive experience in propagating lies, having worked for years for the tobacco industry.

It is worth noting here that currently, the wholesale price of wind energy, per kilowatt-hour, is as low as half the price of electricity produced by coal-fired power plants, even without federal subsidies.

The Western States Petroleum Association’s propaganda campaign 

The Western States Petroleum Association, headquartered in Sacramento, represents BP, Shell, ExxonMobil and other major petroleum companies. These are many of the same players in the American Petroleum Institute, and the WSPA is the primary opponent of California’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions. From 2009 to 2014, the WSPA spent $27 million to manipulate public and legislator opinion. To do so, the WSPA and its allies created and funded 16 utterly fake “grass roots” groups and campaigns that they used to broadcast messages intended to appear as public backlash against the state’s carbon reduction efforts. In a secret presentation to business allies, WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd explained that the WSPA’s plan is to “activate a significant number of campaigns and coalitions.” Her presentation slide explains that the WSPA “has invested in several coalitions that are best suited to drive consumer and grassroots messages to regulators and policy makers.” These phony “citizen’s coalitions” were given names such as Fed Up at the Pump, the California Drivers Alliance, and Oregonians for Sound Fuel Policy. At least two of these phony groups spent large sums on radio ads and billboards attacking California’s carbon regulation efforts. Thankfully, these efforts failed, but the WSPA is still actively working in California, Oregon, and Washington to misrepresent public opinion to state legislators and thwart carbon reduction efforts.

Corruption sanctified: the American Legislative Exchange Council

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a sham. ALEC was founded by Reagan-era Republican politicians to create a direct, private forum that member corporations (those willing to pay) can use to directly access and influence state legislators. ALEC proclaims itself to be “the nation’s largest nonpartisan, individual membership association of state legislators.” However, every one of the 30 board members and officers is a Republican politician; there are no Democrats. And although they say that it’s an “association of state legislators”, 98% of ALEC’s roughly $8 million in annual operating cash comes in the form of “gifts” from corporations, trade associations, and conservative foundations.

A large portion of ALEC’s corporate cash is handed out in August of each year to pay for lavish vacations for each legislative member and their families. These are the annual ALEC meetings where the corporations and their lobbyists work to set the following year’s conservative legislative agenda in each state. ALEC members (legislators and corporate interests) meet three times a year, but the summer meeting is the largest.

Predictably, many of the same fossil fuel companies that belong to API and WSPA pay thousands in membership dues to join ALEC, and then may pay sums sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars as “gifts” to ALEC to be able to “vote” on “model legislation”, authored by ALEC’s corporate members. If approved by ALEC’s voting members, its Republican legislators then carry this “model legislation” home to their state legislators and lobby hard for its passage, with the financial assistance of ALEC. Some companies give large sums to ALEC. Through their various foundations, the billionaire Koch brothers gave ALEC over $200,000 in gifts in 2009 and at least $600,000 in gifts over the period from 2001 to 2011. And Koch Industries has contributed an undisclosed amount of money to ALEC, probably much more because it is hidden. Incredibly, ALEC is registered as a 501c corporation, so that the roughly $8 million in corporate and foundation “gifts” are tax-exempt.

In ALEC, Republican state legislators have effectively created a tax-free shell entity within which they promise to sell (exchange?) their legislative allegiance to corporations in return for free junkets and vacations for themselves and their families. Any state limits on gifts from lobbyists to legislators are flagrantly blown apart by ALEC, and the concept of quid-pro-quo is perfected and immortalized in gold-plated greed. In a normal world, ALEC legislators would be charged with multiple crimes, including influence peddling, accepting bribes, and operating a criminal enterprise.

Of course, many of ALEC’s largest contributors are fossil fuel companies and organizations. At ALEC’s 2014 annual meeting, an ALEC member and president of the Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast claimed that “there is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change,” which is a blatant lie. Bast went on to attack the IPCC, which is the world’s largest and most respected scientific body concerned with climate change, with recognized experts from over 130 countries. One of Bast’s slides stated: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a project of the United Nations, is not a credible source of science or economics” (emphasis added). Such a claim is beyond arrogance. Bast, who has no relevant education, claims that he knows more about climate science than the international community of doctorate-level professionals working in the field.

ALEC’s diet of lies is breathtaking. At the same 2014 ALEC meeting, David Rothbard, previously a contributor to the API’s Global Climate Science Communications Plan, stated in his presentation titled Climate Science Talking Points 2014, that “the scientific reality is that on virtually every claim – from A to Z – the claims of promoters of manmade climate fears are falling short or going in the opposite direction” (emphasis added). So according to ALEC, the Earth is cooling. These lies are frequently retold in various forms at each ALEC convention.

At this same 2014 ALEC conference, legislators and fossil fuel representatives gathered to craft sample state resolution against the EPA’s then-pending carbon emissions standard for electric power plants. And ALEC is currently pushing legislation in nine states in the northeastern US to kill the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the northeast and parts of Canada. Between 2013 and July of 2015, ALEC’s Republican state legislators introduced 65 (yes, sixty-five) bills designed to repeal or dilute state laws requiring increased utility power generation from renewable energy. ALEC’s efforts to deceive the public on climate change and to buy legislation to undercut greenhouse gas reduction efforts are ongoing, nationwide.

A déjà vu of deception

So what does this effort by the fossil fuels industry, costing hundreds of millions of dollars and carried out over decades to defraud and deceive the American public, what does this resemble? A conspiracy? Definitely. The tobacco industry? Indeed. Big Tobacco spent many millions over decades, spreading lies about how their products didn’t cause cancer and other deadly diseases, even though they knew early on from their own research that their addictive products kill. And just like Big Oil and Big Coal, the Republicans defended Big Tobacco for decades. Republicans fought warning labels on cigarettes, tried to defund government research on tobacco, attacked the evidence showing links between cigarettes and cancer, etc. The Republicans defended the Big Tobacco at every opportunity, because many Republicans received their largest campaign contributions from Big Tobacco and enjoyed the wealth guaranteed by the revolving door between government, Big Tobacco, and the lobbyist industry. The states finally sued Big Tobacco for damages and ultimately won a total of $206 billion from the industry. Big Tobacco got off easy.

Given Big Tobacco’s liability, one can only wonder: What is the liability for Big Oil and Big Coal, when the victims are the entire human race?

Obama’s bold carbon plan is in fact, a work of fiction

President Obama’s plan to reduce CO2 power plant emissions by 32 percent, in fact, only cuts emissions by 16 percent, and cuts total emissions by 7 percent. Meanwhile, the first six months of 2015 were the hottest ever recorded. And runaway global warming might be reality.

Each of us must grasp the fact that we humans are building a time bomb, unprecedented in lethality, that may kill more people than all of history’s wars and terrorism and disasters combined. We’ve been building this bomb since the start of the industrial revolution, exponentially dumping more and more CO2 into the atmosphere nearly every year for over 200 years, and in 2014, we added a record 39.8 billion metric tons of CO2.

The resulting climate changes are escalating and will stay with us for centuries. Imagine massive summer heat waves across the US, exceeding 115 degrees F for months at a time, with many thousands of deaths. Imagine crop failures from Florida to California, with 80 percent losses across the board. Imagine grocery stores empty of beef and poultry because farmers can’t keep their livestock alive. Imagine rivers and oceans nearly void of fish. Imagine global record heat waves, crop failures, food shortages, hundreds of millions of human deaths, and hundreds of millions of refugees. Imagine the inevitable wars as nations try to slow the crush of refugees and protect resources. Now imagine this beginning in the next few decades and continuing for centuries or longer.

You can’t imagine this? “Ridiculous,” you say?

Before the start of the industrial revolution, atmospheric CO2 levels remained around 275 parts per million (ppm), for roughly 10,000 years. Earth’s climate was safe for humans throughout that period. In fact, over the past 800,000 years, atmospheric CO2 levels have never exceeded 300 ppm. In only the last 200 years, CO2 has soared from 275 ppm to 404 ppm as of April of this year. The consequences have been severe and are escalating each year:

  • In 2003, the record European heat wave killed 70,000 people and devastated crops across Europe. Many countries saw their worst harvests since the end of World War II. Ukraine’s wheat harvest fell by 75 percent. Moldova’s harvest fell by 80 percent.
  • The record 2006 heat wave in the US and Canada killed at least 225 people. In California, the heat killed 25,000 cattle and 700,000 fowl, both records.
  • Successive heat waves of 2006 and 2007 set new records throughout Europe, affecting hundreds of millions of people. In the summer 2007, temperatures in Athens reached a killing 115.1°F.
  • 2010 again saw new heat records around the world. In Europe, the heat wave engulfed over 1.2 million square miles and burned several hundred thousand acres. In Russia, the heat killed over 14,000 people, burned a stunning 2.5 million acres, and caused crop failures of 25 percent.
  • In 2010, record monsoons created widespread flooding in in Pakistan, making 11 million homeless and wiping out several hundred thousand acres of farmland and crops. At least 1.2 million livestock were lost. Soon after, continued flooding in Pakistan in 2011 and 2012 made 10 million people homeless.
  • 2012 was again the hottest year in history for the contiguous United States, killing 4,000 cattle in Iowa, 500 in Minnesota, and 1,500 in South Dakota. The USDA declared more than half the continental US to be a disaster area. U.S. farmers sustained a record $17.3 billion in crop losses. Farmers in many nations including the US are reducing their animal herds because they can’t keep their livestock alive.
  • 2014 was the hottest year on Earth ever recorded. The ten hottest years recorded have all occurred within the last 16 years, from 1998 to 2014.
  • This year, the first three months of 2015 have each already set new global high-temperature records. From January to June, the average land surface temperature was 2.52° above the 20th century average. The first six months of this year was the hottest six-month period ever recorded on Earth.
  • This year, record heat has again stretched across the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, and the Arctic. In June, temperatures in Karachi, Pakistan hit 112.6 degrees F and killed 1,150 people. The heat killed 2,500 in India, where temperatures reached a record 117 degrees F.
  • This year in the U.S., with drought and extreme temperatures, farmers cannot afford to keep their livestock alive. U.S. cattle herd sizes are at a 63-year low. Overall beef supplies in the US are down by 20 percent over the preceding 12 years.
  • This year, California is breaking that state’s 2014 record drought, again. Total agricultural losses are expected to exceed a record of $2.7 billion. In July, Idaho declared a state of emergency as drought has killed a record 40 percent of the wheat crop. Washington and Oregon each expect record crop losses of $1.2 billion. Mountain snow packs in the three West Coast states are at less than 11 percent of their normal capacity, threatening severe water shortages. The entire U.S. West Coast has declared a drought emergency.

The future? NASA warns that a decades-long mega-drought is coming to the western US and plain states, which grow nearly all of the nation’s produce and livestock, and also supply much of the world. The results would be catastrophic.

President Obama has taken the first “significant” step for the US in mandating that the country reduce its CO2 emissions from power plants by 32 percent of the year 2005’s CO2 emissions, over the next 15 years. However, this “target” is frankly a disingenuous falsehood, since as of 2014, CO2 emissions from power plants have already dropped by 15.5 percent from 2005 levels. That’s 374 million tons of emissions already cut, and the plan only calls for an additional 400 million tons of reductions. How can you claim you’re going to do something that you’ve already done? Obama’s plan simply codifies a trend toward natural gas and renewable energy that is already under way, driven by the high price of coal versus gas, wind, and solar. And of the total 5.4 billion tons of US CO2 emissions in 2014, this future cut equals a paltry 7 percent, over the next 15 years. Given the gravity of the climate crisis we face, this is pathetic, and would be laughable if the situation were not so dire.

We need to understand this: Tragically, even if we could globally halt all global CO2 emissions today, this disaster would continue, worsening year-by-year for decades. This reason is, between 65 percent and 80 percent of CO2 released into the air dissolves into the ocean over a period of 20–200 years. The rest is removed by slower processes that take up to several hundreds of thousands of years. (Let’s remember that it took us 200 years to get here.)

If our global, complete failure to act so far is any clue, we will be lucky to reduce total CO2 emissions by 5-10 percent in the next 50 years. And because of the built-in delay described above, the net effect on climate will be inconsequential. Unless we drastically cut CO2 emissions soon, the climate will continue to heat up for the next several hundred years, and therein lies an unprecedented and extremely dangerous risk for humanity.

Earth’s Permafrost is Rapidly Melting

Twenty-four percent of the land masses in Earth’s northern hemisphere are covered with permafrost up to 700 meters thick. This frozen organic matter contains 1,700 gigatons of carbon. The permafrost is a planetary store of frozen carbon that has been locked away for millennia. Global warming is now melting the permafrost and releasing large quantities of CO2 and methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane is over 20 times more potent as a global warming gas than CO2. In regions of Russia, Canada, and Alaska, roads, houses, and forests are sinking into the Earth because the “permafrost” is no longer permanent. Dozens of large, mysterious craters have appeared in northern Siberia and the cause has been determined to be the sudden release of large quantities of methane gas and CO2. The great risk is that continued melting is now creating a positive feedback loop, where global warming causes more melting, causing more global warming, etc. Runway permafrost melting would release gargantuan amounts of CO2 and methane and cause runaway overheating of the planet. The incredible fact is this: Most of the Earth would become uninhabitable and a major die-off of human life would result.

In fact, permafrost melting and positive feedback heating is already occurring in the Arctic, and this is demonstrated by the fact that Arctic air temperatures are increasing twice as fast as the rest of the planet. The Earth is rapidly approaching, and may have already passed a tipping point where so much heating has occurred that future, frantic human efforts to slash CO2 and methane emissions will not be sufficient reverse this process. If that is the case, the results will be disastrous for the Earth.

We humans have known of the risks of global warming for more than 40 years and we have done nothing about it. Many reputable scientists fear that we have already passed that tipping point, and that the end of the Earth as we know it today, is inevitable. We can only hope that they are wrong.

The race is on today for humans to dramatically slash CO2 emissions. This is why President Obama’s plan to cut CO2 emissions, while laudable, falls terribly short. The President’s 32 percent reduction in power plant CO2 emissions is really only a 7 percent reduction in today’s total U.S. emissions that we won’t achieve for another 15 years. Seriously?

Given the undeniable risk to humankind, both now and for centuries to come, the U.S. must take urgent and meaningful action. We must ban new coal-fired power plants immediately. Existing coal-fired plants must be re-built to burn biomass or be closed by 2030. All new power plant construction must be wind or solar based. The transition currently underway to natural gas must stop. The burning of natural gas for power generation releases half the CO2 of coal, however the fracking, mining, refining, storage, and distribution of natural gas releases so much methane and CO2 as to significantly defeat the benefit of gas.

From 1850 to 2011, the US dumped more CO2 into the atmosphere than any other nation, and historically far more CO2 per capita than any other nation. The complete conversion of America’s power generation to renewable energy by 2035 is absolutely mandatory for the US to do its share and, with the rest of humanity, have any hope of slowing global warming. We cannot possibly expect other nations to get serious about cutting their emissions, if we in the U.S. refuse to get serious about cutting ours.

We must also stop shipping coal. Clearly it makes little sense to stop burning coal in the U.S., but then ship American coal to China or India, to be burned there. The U.S. must reduce, and by 2025, ban coal exports entirely. We must team with other coal exporting nations to slash global coal supplies, thereby making the price prohibitive.

It’s cheaper to go renewable!

Complete conversion to renewables by 2035 is entirely achievable. Today in the U.S., wholesale wind energy is priced as low as 1.4 cents per kilowatt hour, and solar energy as low as 3.87 cents. Even without federal subsidies, the cost of wind energy is priced as low as 3.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, while natural gas is priced at 6.1 cents, and coal, the dirtiest of all sources, is priced at 6.6 cents.

“Impossible,” you say? Not enough wind?

A study from the National Academy of Sciences revealed that in the contiguous U.S., the total potential for power generation from the wind is a stunning 84 petawatt-hours, that is 84 million gigawatt-hours. That’s 21 times the current power consumption of the entire U.S.

Can we really do this?

Without even trying, simply driven by the plummeting cost of renewables and limited tax and clean air incentives, power companies have been abandoning coal and moving to wind and solar. In 2015 alone, US power companies will add more than 20 gigawatts of power generation capacity, and nearly half of that will be wind energy (9.8 GW). Wind energy capacity is forecasted to increase by 12.8 percent in 2015 and by 13.0 percent in 2016. As of 2014, the country’s total installed wind energy capacity has increased nearly 23-fold since 2000.

Still, America is playing catch-up in wind energy. As of 2014, the U.S. has fallen behind China and Japan and we’re even falling behind South Korea and Vietnam in wind energy production. Frankly, this fact is pathetic.

Solar power is also expanding dramatically. In just five years, the U.S. solar panel market — which does not include concentrated solar plants — grew by an astounding 418 percent. The U.S. installed 1,306 megawatts of solar photo-voltaics (PV) in the first quarter of 2015, to reach 21,300 megawatts of total installed capacity, enough to power 4.3 million American homes. Solar accounted for a 32 percent of the nation’s new generating capacity in 2014.

But what can solar power do when the sun isn’t shining?

Concentrated solar power (CSP), uses mirrors to concentrate the sun’s energy to drive steam turbines. Importantly, CSP can store energy and produce electricity later when the sun isn’t shining. The number of CSP plants have grown tremendously and by 2013, over 3.5 gigawatts were being generated globally. CSP generation capacity is expected to grow by nearly 20 percent annually over the next five years, and now, is cost-competitive in the U.S. with coal and gas.

The Bottom Line

Currently, 67 percent of America’s total electrical power generation is from fossil fuels. Wind and solar now provide 5 percent of the nation’s total, however some states are far ahead. Iowa produces 28.5 percent of its electricity from the wind, followed by South Dakota at 25.3 percent and Kansas at 21.7.

For the U.S. to drive its CO2 power plant emissions to zero over the next 20 years, wind and solar power generation must grow by 20-fold over that period. This may seem like a tall order, but only because we have been so incredibly irresponsible and lethargic for over 40 years. Given the truly unprecedented and imminent threat mankind faces, and the fact that clean, cheap, and limitless energy from the wind and the sun can meet America’s needs today, many times over, our path forward is clear. And we must act now, not 10 or 20 or 30 years from now. Based on the mountain of legitimate scientific evidence, that could be too late.

Those who say that the conversion to renewable energy will create hardships on coal producers or hurt global economic growth are guilty of extreme indifference to the unfolding climate crisis that over 7 billion people are now facing. Note however, that from 2008 to 2012, while the coal industry lost roughly 49,530 jobs, the wind and solar energy industries created more than 79,000 new direct and supporting jobs. Do we want to kill coal now and go to renewables and the many thousands of jobs renewables will create? Or do we want to kill the planet for an industry that is absolutely going to die, regardless?

Except for the risk of thermonuclear war, we have never truly faced the possibility of a major human die-off. So far, we have avoided nuclear war, but we are bringing on this climate crisis with our eyes wide open. Global warming is not a risk, it is not a distant possibility, it is a certainty, here and now, and the evidence proving this is pervasive and undeniable. The health and well-being of our children and future generations demand that we act. Now.

Killing our future: Are you ready to choose the last generation?

We love our kids, of course. And every grandparent can’t help but fall in love with their grandkids. After that, what? Is it our great grandchildren that we’re willing to write off? Chances are good they’ll never meet us. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Is that the point in human history where we decide, in advance, that we’ll kiss-off humanity so that we can keep burning our precious fossil fuels?

When it comes to worldwide CO2 emissions, for us to believe that half-hearted, marginal attempts to reduce emissions will somehow stave off catastrophic climate change, is to embrace absolute self-delusion. Accelerated global warming is happening now. Heatwaves happen locally; they don’t happen globally, until now. Each year brings a raft of new broken records. Globally, nearly every year is warmer than the last. As of 2014, the last 16 years have seen the ten hottest years ever recorded on Earth. The year 2014 was the hottest year ever, and 2015 is on track to beat that. Just last month, July 2015 was officially the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. And in spite of Senator Inhofe’s claim that snow in Washington DC proves climate change is a hoax, the record-breaking isn’t going to stop there.

The unprecedented signs of this gathering catastrophe are everywhere:

  • Continuous, record-breaking heatwaves, worldwide.
  • Globally over the last 12 years, nearly 100,000 humans perished from excessive heat. In Europe, 70,000 died of heat in 2003 alone.
  • Ongoing, extreme droughts in the western US. Over-pumping of California’s Central Valley aquifers, ancient underground water reservoirs, has caused the region to sink by ten feet or more. These aquifers will never be replenished.
  • In 2006 in the US, the heat killed tens of thousands of cattle and over 700,000 fowl. Worldwide in 2010, millions of cattle were lost to heat.
  • Large-scale crop failures in the US and around the world. In 2012, the US suffered 17 billion dollars in crop losses.
  • Lengthening fire seasons have grown globally by as much as a month. Fire seasons are impacting larger areas of land. Growing and record fire seasons are charring the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, South America.
  • As of August 27, 2015, over 100 wildfires are actively burning in Washington, Oregon, and California. This season in the western US, over 44,000 wildfires have already burned 8.2 million acres. Only six other years have seen fire seasons burn more than 8 million acres, and all of those have been since 2004. All-time record fire seasons are now underway in Alaska, Washington, and California, with a likely record in Oregon.
  • Earth’s oceans are becoming deserts. Fisheries we humans rely on for food are collapsing. Massive die-offs of marine life including sea lions, birds, whales. Ever-growing ocean dead zones.

No one can honestly say this isn’t the result of global warming. And no one can honestly say this isn’t human caused.

Now with the Earth warming so quickly, the Arctic permafrost has begun to melt. Roads, houses, and forests are for the first time, sinking into the melting permafrost. The permafrost contains a planetary store of carbon equivalent to 6,800 gigatons of CO2, and this melting permafrost is now releasing large amounts of CO2 and methane into the Artic atmosphere. Critically, this is causing the Arctic to warm twice as fast as the rest of the planet, causing evermore-rapid permafrost melting, resulting in a positive feedback loop. A 15 percent release of permafrost CO2 would add about 125 ppm to the atmosphere, quickly skyrocketing global CO2 to over 530 ppm. Such levels have not been seen on Earth for at least 800,000 years, and likely tens of millions of years.

At such CO2 concentrations, Earth will become uninhabitable. Coastal cities will drown. Many millions if not billions of people will perish, as will countless species of plants and animals. Earth’s bounty, as we know it today, will be no more.

President Obama’s initiative to reduce US power plant CO2 emissions by 32 percent of the year 2005’s emission levels, applauded by many, can only be called “sandbagging”, given that US power plant CO2 emissions have already dropped by 15.5 percent from 2005 levels, as power companies have begun a slow transition to natural gas. So the president’s real goal is only a 16.5 percent cut in plant emissions. Granted, the plan would hold us to those cuts, but given the severity of the crisis humanity faces, this simply is not a serious effort. What must we do?

We can, and we must, leave carbon behind. Obviously China and India must get join in, but the US has disgorged more CO2 into the atmosphere than any other nation and we have an urgent responsibility to lead.

The incredibly elegant solutions to this growing disaster hit us in the face, every time we step outside. It’s in the wind and the sunlight. Wind and solar energy are clean, carbon-free, cheap, and effectively unlimited alternatives to coal and natural gas. US wind-energy capacity is forecasted to increase by 12.8 percent in 2015 and by 13 percent in 2016. As of 2014, the country’s total installed wind-energy capacity has increased nearly 23-fold since 2000. Solar power is also expanding dramatically. In just five years, the U.S. solar panel market grew by an astounding 418 percent.

But these advances are happening nowhere near fast enough to reduce the rate of global warming any time soon, because humans are still adding 2.4 ppm of CO2 to the atmosphere each year.  This crisis demands serious action. Within 20 years, US power generation should and must be entirely based on renewables. A study from the National Academy of Sciences revealed that in the contiguous US and excluding off-shore wind farms, the total potential for power generation from the wind is capacity is 16 times our total electricity consumption. That value is already discounted to consider for the variability of wind. We have far more wind energy than needed to meet all of the nation’s energy demands, including transportation. The energy is here, if we would simply harvest it.

Would it be expensive? Wind energy is far cheaper than coal or natural gas over the long run. A wind farm does require a larger initial investment to purchase and install the turbines and to update or expand the transmission grid, but this is quickly offset by the savings in the coal or natural gas not purchased. A rapid, nationwide conversion to wind and solar would place major demands on manufacturing and deployment capabilities, but so far, the growth of renewable energy has contributed greatly to plummeting costs. Today in the US, wholesale wind energy is priced as low as 1.4 cents per kilowatt hour, and solar energy as low as 3.87 cents. Even without federal subsidies, the wholesale cost of wind energy is priced as low as 3.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. Compare that to natural gas at 6.1 cents, and coal at 6.6 cents.

A Stanford University study indicates that an 80 percent conversion of all of America’s energy needs by 2030, with 100 percent conversion by 2050 is affordable and achievable. The current average cost to build a large scale wind farm is currently around $1.6 million per megawatt of installed capacity, and has fallen dramatically over the past decade. Of the nation’s total electrical generation capacity, 13 percent is renewable, leaving 87 percent, or 1,020,165 megawatts to be converted to renewables. Other sources including solar would be part of the mix, but for the sake of a general estimation, we’ll use wind. This results in a rough price tag of $1.63 trillion to convert all power generation in this country to wind. Added capacity would need to be built to meet demand when the wind is not blowing, but experience has shown that wind is much more reliable than previously thought. Additional costs for grid expansion would need to be included, but the US power distribution grid is outdated, regardless, and needs updating. So in fact, the $1.63 trillion figure for complete conversion is an entirely valid baseline. That is less than the $2 trillion cost of George W. Bush’s war on Iraq war, and what did we get for that?

This $1.6 trillion would be spent over 30 years, roughly $54 billion per year. It’s nearly guaranteed that those costs would continue to fall over time due to efficiencies of scale. And importantly, the cost would be dramatically offset by the avoided costs associated with roughly 60,000 premature annual American deaths and other healthcare costs caused by power plant air pollution, and by the many of billions of dollars that we will otherwise spend each year to battle the compounding consequences of global warming. A complete conversion will not halt global warming, but it will obviously slow it down.

Compare that $54 billion investment to the nearly $600 billion Americans spend annually on defense. Even the US Pentagon sees global warming as a national security threat. How much justification do we need?

Frankly though, I couldn’t care less how much the conversion to renewables might cost. The true cost of carbon-based capitalism on Earth has been horrific. In the addition to the staggering costs that unaddressed global warming will bring, over the many decades we’ve suffered countless coal mining calamities, like the Tennessee Coal Ash Disaster, the Massey Energy Mining Disaster, the Sago Mine Disaster, the endless onslaught of oil spills including the Exxon Valdez disaster, the BP Gulf Oil disaster, the Amoco Cadiz spill, the Gulf War Spill, mercury poisoning, continuous acidification of soils, lakes, streams and oceans, mountaintop removal mining, black lung disease, oil train derailments and fires. The list of environmental and human disasters is endless. Did you know that outdoor air pollution kills 200,000 Americans every year? What pathological disorder compels us to embrace so much destruction?

This Earth and the life it supports (including humans) have paid a very, very dear price for carbon capitalism. In truth, the cost of carbon capitalism has been immeasurable.  So what is it worth to you? As if saving humanity from catastrophic die-off might be a little too expensive. We often gush over ourselves for being the most intelligent, most magnificent creatures ever to walk this Earth. Today, right now, we are reaching out across time and committing an act of planet-wide genocide. It’s not in the usual sense of how humans like to kill ethnic groups, but in a generational sense. We are killing our future.

The earliest signs are pervasive. Yes, this record US west coast fire season will end. Yes, this record drought will eventually end (although NASA isn’t so sure of that). And yes, the brilliant Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma will still be able to make snowballs next winter. But a child born this year will witness first-hand the gathering of our human undoing: the agonizing and sometimes convulsive die-off of much of humanity, unless we decide very, very soon that the human species should live on. Otherwise, Darwinian laws will playout as they have for countless eons and vanished species. The survival of the fittest. But fitness for survival isn’t only about brains or brawn. It’s also about common sense. There’s not much time left to decide, and this is in fact the most important decision we will ever make. So I ask you, are you ready to pick the generation that witnesses first-hand the beginning of our end? The generation that finally pays the true price for carbon capitalism, and our insanity? Because by failing to act, now, we already have. We may never meet them. But they will surely remember us.