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A Little Better Doesn’t Matter

I’ve heard progressive people defend Obama’s environmental policies. They claim that even though he’s pushed more drilling, fracking and nuclear power, at least he acknowledges the problem, promotes sustainable energy sources, and has waged a war on coal. In contrast, Republicans say there is no problem, promote “clean coal” and chant “drill baby drill.” These characterizations may be accurate, but climate scientists’ projections indicate we can take little comfort from Obama’s slightly better policies.

How can that be? Isn’t any improvement better than none? Unfortunately no. The idea that even curbing some greenhouse gases must be better than none reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of tipping points and positive feedback loops.

The rising level of CO2 in the atmosphere is common knowledge. Increased CO2 raises global temperature. CO2 was 200 parts/million (ppm) in 1800 and it has now topped 400 ppm. NASA reports that as of 2014, average global temperature had risen 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or .8 Celsius, since 1880. To make matters worse there is a 30-year delay in the full effect of CO2 on temperature. That means the current global temperature increase only reflects CO2 increases through 1985.

Extrapolating in a linear manner from this rise misses how climatic change occurs. The reason the Paris climate conference last December set a target of holding global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius is because the best climate change model projections show that once we cross that marker, we hit a tipping point. This triggers positive feedback loops that create further increases; once initiated these increases cannot be stopped.

The most widely known of these loops is the melting of Arctic Sea ice. Until recently the white Arctic ice cover reflected heat back into space, reducing the effect of the polar summer sun. Now that so much ice has melted, the exposed darker seawater absorbs the heat of the summer sun instead of reflecting it. This causes additional heating, inducing more ice melt, causing more absorption and heating. This positive feedback loop is why Arctic temperatures are rising so rapidly and melting Greenland’s ice sheet. If not reversed, this positive feedback loop will accelerate the demise of the entire ice sheet, drowning coastal cities. But that is not the worst of our troubles.

Other positive feedback loops include the melting of permafrost, the burning of the Amazon rainforest, and the release of methane hydrates from the ocean floor. The best science we have today tells us that once we cross the 1.5 degree Celsius mark, it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid tipping points that will generate at least 5 or 6 Celsius of total warming. That much warming would render much of our planet uninhabitable to humans, and turn much of the remainder into an unproductive wasteland.

Any environmental policy – no matter what the Party affiliation – that carries us across that key climate 1.5 degree Celsius boundary brings us to that tipping point. And remember the 30-year lag between the release of greenhouse gasses and their full impact. Scientists estimate the CO2 and other gasses already released in the last 30 years will add at least another 0.4 degree Celsius rise by 2045. Effectively, we have already created more than a 1.2 Celsius increase.

This approaches an environmental precipice; one we will plunge over, if we by continue Obama-style “slightly better” policies over the next decade. So a little better won't help. Only rapid and drastic reductions in the use of fossil fuels to dramatically decrease greenhouse gasses can prevent this.  Read More 
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You Can’t Have Your Own Facts

I’ve heard liberals on TV tell Republicans that, while they are entitled to their opinions, they can’t have their own facts. They can’t claim it’s a fact that, contrary to all the evidence, Obama was born in Kenya, that Hillary Clinton engaged in a Benghazi cover-up, or that global warming induced climate change is a hoax perpetrated by scientists to get grant money.

But Republicans are not alone in this practice.

Recently, I’ve read online vitriol from Clinton backers attacking Sanders’ supporters who say they will not vote for Clinton if she is the Democratic Party nominee. People like me (I’ve explained in other blogs why I won’t vote for Clinton) have been called, stupid, self righteous, selfish, or idiotic, to name a few. We’ve been told that Trump is so bad (and I agree he is) that we’d be crazy not to vote for Clinton in November. I’ve been told to ignore my opinions, hold my nose, and vote for Clinton.

I’ve responded that every national poll taken throughout this primary season has shown Sanders beating Trump by greater margins than Clinton. The most recent poll shows Clinton barely ahead of Trump, but Sanders still has a double digit lead. This is true in the critical swing states. State polls demonstrate, that unlike Clinton, Sanders is comfortably ahead of Trump in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. These same polls report that the majority of voters view both Trump and Clinton negatively, while a majority view Sanders positively. I also note that Sanders wins the “open” primaries because he is more popular among the independents needed to secure a national victory.

Those I’ve argued with refuse to accept these facts. They say they don’t trust the polls. Come on… all of them? Over six months? Really? Or they argue “wait until Trump starts red-baiting Sanders,” as if Sanders hasn’t called himself a democratic socialist so many times that it has gotten boring, and as if Trump’s attacks on Clinton won’t be just as disgusting. Clinton backers are in denial about this. But they can’t have their own facts.

Come November, if Trump wins a close race against Clinton, I expect Clinton’s voters will blame voters like me for Trump’s victory. That doesn’t make sense. If beating Trump is their primary concern, they should look to themselves if they voted for Clinton, along with all the others who voted for her, in their state’s primary. Those voters ignored facts, chose the weaker Democratic candidate, and in doing so left the White House door ajar for Trump.

It is not too late to change. If fear of a Trump presidency drives them, they should start contributing to Sanders’ campaign. They should be calling on the super delegates to back Sanders, and if they live in the few states with remaining primaries they should switch their votes to Sanders.  Read More 
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More Natural Allies

It’s pretty clear that the struggle to prevent global warming induced climate change and the anti-war movement are natural allies. War not only causes death and horrific environmental destruction; it also has an unacceptable carbon footprint. In the May 9th issue of THE NATION, James Gustave Speth and J. Phillip Thompson III assert that the same could be said for the civil rights and green movements.

I hadn’t thought about this before, but I agree with the authors that, “When one explores the roots of both the environmental and civil-rights movements, one finds a strikingly similar radical critique. Both movements have called for a deep restructuring of society and the economy; in both cases, that call was based on an affirmation of life and the devoted care that life requires of us.”

This makes sense because capitalism requires exploitation and degradation of the “other” that both the civil rights and environmental movements must confront. This is why many African-American Community activists and scholars are making more radical assessments of what must be done. This is reflected in the deeper structural analysis of Michelle Alexander’s, book about mass imprisonment, THE NEW JIM CROW, and the more aggressive strategies of the Black Lives Matter and Moral Mondays movements. This analysis includes an understanding that environmental degradation has a disporportionate impact on the poor.

Of course, in the civil rights movement a radical analysis only emerged as Martin Luther King and others moved beyond calls for desegregation, legal and voting rights. And the civil rights movement viewed the “other” as different races, while the environmental movement defined the “other” more broadly as the natural world.

Traditional leftists often scoff at Green and Animal Rights activism. But these groups’ challenge to our society’s commodification of animal and plant life and natural resources confronts the same bad actors that mistreat workers and non-whites. Naomi Klein made this point in THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING when she writes that the battle to prevent climate chaos can unify the left because those engaged in struggles to end war, promote economic and racial justice, as well as stop the extraction of fossil fuels, are up against the same corporate enemies. The green, racial justice, anti-war and animal rights movements are learning that to achieve these progressive goals they must change the nature of the system that empowers those enemies.

Fortunately, Speth and Thompson are not crying in the wilderness. People of color and indigenous activists in the US and across the globe are forging new alliances to fight everything from the placement of toxic waste dumps, to extractionist infrastructure, to the theft and destruction of natural resources and habitats. The emergence of these alliances and the potential for even more to develop are the best hope we have to save ourselves along with much of our planet’s plant and animal life from environmentally generated decimation.

THE NATION article is part of a growing understanding that it isn’t only people who must be liberated from the global tyranny of massive corporations and the governments they dominate. These institutions gain power by controlling all peoples, animals, plants and resources, by marginalizing the needs of the poor and voiceless, animal and vegetable. It follows that the best way to break their death grip is to liberate not only people, but the entire natural world.  Read More 
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Limits of Liberalism?

I subscribe to our local newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette. I appreciate its local coverage, liberal editorial bent, and the intelligent, well-written op-ed pieces.

The Gazette has given front page coverage since April 11th to protests organized by Divest UMass, a University of Massachusetts at Amherst student group demanding that the University divest from all fossil fuel companies. These protests included peaceful sit-ins in the University’s administration building leading to 34 arrests. The newspaper reported the Judge’s comments to some of those being arraigned. That article prompted me to write this letter to the editor:

"Older not wiser

According to the April 14 Gazette story, the Judge chided students for not riding bikes or public transportation to the hearing for students arrested for protesting UMass fossil fuel company holdings.

Of course we should all be aware of and act to reduce our carbon footprint. However, the individual actions the Judge addressed will at best only slow our plunge into civilization-threatening climate chaos. The students, on the other hand, by confronting the structure of our fossil fuel based economic system demonstrated a better grasp of what will save us.

Judge Estes is older, but the students are wiser."

I waited to see my letter in print. I’m still waiting ten days later. Instead, on April 19th, the Gazette published the following letter, by a professor of environmental economics at a local community college:

"Individual avoidance of fossil fuels does matter

Here, here to Judge Thomas Estes (“15 arrested,” Apil14) for putting his finger on the fact that it is students’ and everyone’s daily behavior that will effectively address climate change. Bike, bus, drive below the speed limit."

Evidently, our liberal newspaper was willing to print a letter that, in effect, said global warming induced climate change could be solved by altering our personal behavior, but not one that pointed out that we must change the nature of our system.

Individual verses structural change is not an either or proposition. I believe that basic economic change is paramount, but we must change our behavior as well. On the other hand, the published letter opined that modifying individual behavior is THE way to address climate change effectively. This personal focus turns a blind-eye to the root causes of the crisis. It lulls us into thinking that all we have to do to save ourselves is act more responsibly.

I wish that our decent local paper had published both letters, side by side, to encourage conversation about these issues. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’m familiar with the limits of liberalism.

PS The Gazette finally published my letter this morning (4/26). While I am glad that they did, the delay since the publication of the 4/14 story has blunted it's impact. The students won their demand, and the news cycle has moved on.  Read More 
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As Bill McKibben wrote in the April 11th issue of The Nation, many know that CO2 causes global warming, but fewer know about the impact of CH4 (methane).

I’ve worried about methane since I read WHEN LIFE NEARLY DIED, Michael Benton’s 2003 book about the greatest mass extinction event our planet has experienced. It is common knowledge that a giant meteor strike wiped out 50% of the earth’s species, including most dinosaurs, 67 million years ago. Benton’s book focuses on a more terrifying event 251 million years ago that destroyed 90-95% of the planet’s species. He wrote that the extinction “was no local phenomenon, since it has been detected in rocks from China to Spitsbergen, from Greenland to South Africa, from Russia to Australia. In every case, whether looking at events on land, or in the sea, the rate of species loss seems to have been similarly huge. There were no safe refuges, nowhere to hide.”

Scientists are still debating the cause of this die-off that transformed the lush and diverse web of life at the close of the Permian geologic period into a world-spanning wasteland from which life took millions of years to recover. Scientists consider the “Siberian Traps” the leading culprit. These were gigantic volcanic eruptions that inundated an area equivalent in size to the current European Union with lava 4,000 to 10,000 feet thick. These eruptions lasted a million years and spewed massive quantities of carbon and sulfur dioxide. Devastating acid rain and warming followed. But initially scientists had trouble accounting for the 6 degree centigrade global temperature jump that accompanied this calamity.

Enter methane: The 2011 edition of the ROUGH GUIDE TO CLIMATE CHANGE states that “Among all the by-products of the melting Arctic, one stands out in its sheer horror-movie potential. Trapped within the permafrost are billions of tonnes of methane hydrates (also known as methane clathrates). … Beside their presence in permafrost, methane hydrates are even more extensive in seafloor sediments around the margins of continents across the globe. In their supercompacted form, methane hydrates are more than 150 times more concentrated than gaseous methane.”

Many scientists believe the rapid warming caused by the volcanism of 251 million years ago generated a “methane burp” releasing these methane hydrates, literally poisoning the atmosphere while causing a global temperature spike. This was the coup de gras that annihilated up to 95% of all the species on our planet. It is the worst case scenario that our approaching climate chaos could generate.

Bill McKibben warns that we are wildly underestimating the amount of methane gas fracking pumps into the atmosphere. He cites a recent Harvard study showing that methane emissions in the U.S. increased by 30% between 2002 and 2014. The ROUGH GUIDE reports that although CH4 only stays in the atmosphere for 20 years (CO2 lasts 100 years), methane is dangerous because it is 25 times more efficient as a warming agent. Alarmingly, the Harvard study notes the “25 times” figure was based upon CO2’s life-span, not CH4’s. This led one Harvard researcher to conclude, “a more accurate figure… is between 86 and 105 times the potency of CO2 over the next decade or two.”

While the U.S. may have reduced CO2 emissions by switching from coal to fracked natural gas (which has half the CO2 emissions of coal), the methane that escapes during the fracking and transporting of natural gas actually increased our greenhouse gas footprint. Thus, we are poisoning the air and accelerating towards global warming tipping points that could cause a methane burp.

It is time to stop all fracking, everywhere, immediately, and for climate change activists to escalate their attacks against those who could kill us all with “safe, clean” natural gas.

P.S. It is also time for someone with more scientific knowledge than me to write a book about the environmental impact of methane to educate us more deeply about what is at stake.  Read More 
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Advertising = Harassment?

I recently read Ecosocialislism: A Radical Alternative To Capitalist Catastrophe by Micheal Lowy (Haymarket Books, 2015). This little book is filled with essential, big ideas.

One chapter, “Ecology and Advertising,” was particularly provocative. I quote a paragraph here:

“Advertising pollutes the mental landscape, just like it does the urban and rural landscapes; it stuffs the skull like it stuffs the mailbox. It holds sway over press, cinema, television, radio. Nothing escapes its decomposing influence: in our time we see that sports, religion, culture, journalism, literature and politics are ruled by advertising. All are pervaded by advertising’s attitude, its style, its methods, its mode of argument. Meanwhile, we are always and uninterruptedly harassed by advertising, without stop, without truce, unrelentingly and never taking a vacation, advertising persecutes us, pursues us, attacks us in city and countryside, in the street and at home, from morning to evening, from Monday to Sunday, from January to December, from cradle to grave.”

Advertising drives us to compulsive consumption of fetishized, increasingly useless, items. This excess consumption is necessary to grease the wheels of capitalism. Consumption per se is not the root of the problem, but rather capitalism’s nature, whether green or neoliberal, that requires advertising to fuel acquisitiveness so more and more stuff can be produced and sold. We must work to change the nature of the system AND its underlying ideology of consumption if we value our grandchildren and their children’s survival.

Even if advertising is not at the heart of approaching ecological crises, we cannot avoid catastrophe without involving the majority of humanity in a green anti-capitalist revolution. And we must wean billions from advertising’s thrall to succeed in gathering that support.

We need to conquer Madison Avenue while taking on capitalism and its military-industrial complex. As Lowy writes: “How can people be convinced to abandon consumption habits incompatible with ecological equilibrium without putting a stop to continuous pounding of advertising that incites, encourages, and stimulates them night and day to buy and buy again?”

This is a challenging task: advertising would not be so effective if it did not resonate with components of our nature. But thousands of years of human history along with the vast variety of human cultures teach us that such neurotic acquisitiveness does not have to be the driving force of social success. Lowy writes, “Every attempt to put limits to advertising’s aggression - until we are, one day, to get rid of it altogether - is an environmental duty, a political and moral imperative for all those who hope to save our natural environment from destruction.”

I wish Lowy said more about how we should go about doing it. I may run afoul of my ACLU friends, but we must divorce the concept of advertising from free speech. We must convince the public that there is a qualitative difference between advertising products and the expression of personal opinions. As a first step, environmental organizations must call out advertising for what it is: mental harassment, a public nuisance, and a contributor to the destruction of our planet.  Read More 
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Hillary Clinton; Women and Children’s Rights

When talking Sanders verses Clinton I’ve argued “Clinton is a corporate democrat who stands for nothing progressive.” Some have responded, “she stands for women and children’s rights.” I’ve accepted that, but upon further thought, that is, at best, only partially true.

Clinton hasn’t championed poor women and children’s rights. In recent decades, nothing has hurt poor women and children more than President Bill Clinton’s 1990’s “welfare reform” which Hillary supported. Hillary Clinton’s connection to Marian Wright Edelman’s Children’s Defense Fund is often cited as proof of her advocacy for children’s rights, but Edelman and Clinton parted ways over this “reform.” Moreover, Hillary’s support for the war on drugs has resulted in mass imprisonement that has devastated poor and minority communities including women and children.

Clinton’s promotion of huge bombing campaigns from Serbia, to Afghanistan, to Libya is no boon for women and children either. Once again, women and children suffer disproportionately from what is politely termed collateral damage. She also embraced over a decade of economic sanctions against Iraq that international human rights organizations report led to the malnurishment of hundreds of thousands of children. War is incompatible with women and children’s rights, yet Clinton is a hawk.

True, she has supported Obamacare, abortion rights, equal pay for women and educational initiatives. While all of these have some positive impact, there is either an elitist or corporate tinge to the policies she advocates. Obamacare, like the plan Hillary pushed in the early 1990’s, while better than nothing, is a convoluted system designed to benefit insurance companies. It has not even suceeded in cutting the number of uninsured in half. It’s most affordable “Bronze Plan,” has high co-pays that poor people have trouble paying. And once again, it is the poorest segment of society, over representated by women and children, who remain uninsured.

Hillary’s espousal of equal pay for women has focused on ensuring that professional women make as much as professional men and enabling women to shatter the glass ceiling that keeps them from ascending to the most powerful corporate positions. This kind of elite feminism only changes who wields corporate power. It does not lessen big businesses’ domination of budgetary priorities and control of the body politic.

Her backing of abortion rights effects women of all classes, but again, in the 1990’s she did not object to her husband’s willingness to cut federal funding giving equal access to abortion to poor women. As a member of the Obama administration she was fully behind massive standardized testing and charter schools, at the expense of the public school system. She has vocally supported the educational rights of girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but kept silent about the status of women and girls in Saudi Arabia. Apparently, our need for oil drowns her feminism.

We can argue about whether Hillary Clinton stands for women and children’s rights, but there is no question that there is little, if anything, progressive about how she goes about it.
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Exonerate Ethel

Last week the Rosenberg Fund for Children launched an online petition campaign to exonerate my mother, Ethel. I urge everyone to click on the picture to the left (it's a link), to sign the petition, and to spread the word throughout your communities.

I’ve wanted this for decades. I can’t recall when I first thought of separating my mother’s case from my father’s. I think the women’s liberation movement of the late 60’s planted the seed. As we began the reopening effort in 1974, I noticed that while almost everyone on both sides talked about “the Rosenbergs,” the debate focused almost entirely on whether Julius was an atomic spy. I remember saying that Ethel was “disappeared” into Julius.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980’s information began to dribble out that raised the possibility that Julius was a spy. The release of the Venona transcriptions in 1995 added force to this possibility, but also provided powerful proof that Ethel never spied. The KGB gave all its operatives code names; Ethel had no code name. At that time, I proposed that we accept that Julius might have engaged in non-atomic military-industrial spying, without conceding this was certain, and that we concentrate on Ethel, whose innocence seemed more likely. Our lawyer, Marshall Perlin, disagreed, saying that would be perceived as giving up on Julius and that would defeat efforts to reopen our parents’ case. I regret accepting his argument.

For the next decade, I groused to close comrades that we should emphasize Ethel more, but met with similar resistance about abandoning Julius. I gave talks that focused on my mother’s innocence, but did nothing further.

Two events in 2008 strengthened my determination to do more. The first was the release of Ruth Greenglass’ Grand Jury statements that demonstrated Ruth lied at trial about Ethel’s involvement. The second was my parents’ co-defendant Morton Sobell’s admission that he and Julius engaged in military-industrial espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union.

Still, it wasn’t until 2012, when I realized that September 28, 2015 would mark Ethel’s 100th birthday, and that was the ideal time to stage a major event all about her. Now I had the answer when people asked, “but what about Julius?” Ethel was almost two years older than Julius; it was neither his birthday, nor his centenary.

With the help of several others I began the work that resulted in New York City Council Members and Manhattan’s Borough President issuing proclamations honoring Ethel on her centenary and declaring her execution wrongful. I had no way of knowing that this plan would get a boost from the release in July, 2015, of David Greenglass’ Grand Jury testimony denying Ethel’s involvement. This release also led to the New York Times publishing an Op Ed piece, written by my brother and me, calling on the Obama Administration to exonerate Ethel.

It took a few more months, but this cascade led to the RFC’s launch of the online petition campaign to pressure the Obama Administration to acknowledge the injustice done to my mother. Regardless of what the administration does, the growing public acceptance of Ethel’s innocence is a triumph. It has been a long, but ultimately fruitful, journey.

Post Script: I would also love the government to declare Julius’ execution wrongful because he did not engage in atomic espionage. Such a declaration from this administration appears impossible, but what would have been Julius’ 100th birthday is still more than a year away. Perhaps the Sanders’ administration will be more accommodating.  Read More 
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As a teenager I considered myself a communist, but rarely described myself that way to others because it could be dangerous. As an adult I’ve become ambivalent about such designations. That’s because when people hear words like “‘socialist” “feminist” “liberal” “conservative” or “fascist,” to name a few, they make inaccurate assumptions about what the terms mean. Without further explanation, labels are as likely to obscure as to clarify.

I was proud of composing the four guiding principles of the Rosenberg Fund for Children: All people have worth; people are more important than profits; society must function within ecologically sustainable limits; and world peace is a necessity; because they were written in plain language without “ists” or “isms.” They reflected my loss of ideology as I aged. When asked to describe my core politics, I wouldn’t answer with an “ist,” but rather, by quoting Tom Paine: “I am a citizen of the world. My religion is to do good.” That baker’s dozen of words is clear, and if you think about it, says a lot.

Recently I’ve started to apply a new “ist” label to myself despite these misgivings. I’m convinced that “radical environmentalist” is a succinct and effective way to describe my politics.

Environmentalist: I see the impact on the environment of global warming induced climate change as an overarching issue. It trumps all others because if we continue on our current course, even with the recent, dramatic expansion of photovoltaic and wind power, we will cross climatic tipping points and deplete resources so thoroughly that mass starvation will cause civilization to collapse, or worse.

Growing up in the Jewish community, I knew people who asked “is it good for the Jews?” I ask instead “is it good for the environment?” That’s how I assess everything from personal choices to jobs programs and Presidential candidates. Everyone deserves a decent job, but if those new jobs result in significantly more consumption, they facilitate climate change disasters. So I question any jobs program that does not include plans to reduce consumption. It also means that I will not vote for any presidential candidate who does not pass environmental muster, even if other candidates are worse.

Radical: This means we can’t solve this challenge within the capitalist framework. The combination of capitalism’s profit motive and its grow-or-die imperative foster compulsive consumption and worldwide military domination. These are incompatible with stabilizing our planet’s climate. We can’t attack this problem as long as countries and individuals compete to secure the most resources and accumulate as much wealth as possible. The psychological pillars of capitalism – individualism and getting ahead – also work against us. Solving the global crisis requires collective action, and egalitarian leveling. This is why green capitalist solutions may temporarily slow down, but will not prevent, our plunge into the abyss.

I’m still wary of labels. But I hope that adopting this one and explaining what it means will frame the discussion in terms that enable me to be more persuasive.  Read More 
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The NY Times Gets Some of it Right

Last Sunday the New York Times published “Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change.” The article posed 16 questions and answered each in two or three short paragraphs.

The article is valuable because it provides readable, useful information while indicating that we are approaching a crisis. However, the answers lack systemic analysis of the root causes of this crisis and sugar-coat the problem.

For example, in response to Question 3, “Is there anything I can do?” they write:

“You can reduce your own carbon footprint in lots of simple ways, and most of them will save you money. You can plug leaks in your home insulation to save power, install a smart thermostat, switch to more efficient light bulbs, turn off the lights in any room where you are not using them, drive fewer miles by consolidating trips or taking public transit, waste less food, and eat less meat. Perhaps the biggest single thing individuals can do on their own is to take fewer airplane trips; just one or two fewer plane rides per year can save as much in emissions as all the other actions combined. If you want to be at the cutting edge, you can look at buying an electric or hybrid car, putting solar panels on your roof, or both.”

“In the end, though, experts do not believe the needed transformation in the energy system can happen without strong state and national policies. So speaking up, and exercising your right as a citizen matters as much as anything else you can do.”

The emphasis is entirely on personal acts. Even attempting to influence public policy is focused on individual acts and is included as an afterthought. We can’t expect the New York Times to encourage mass action to transform our energy system, but that is what’s needed. There is also no acknowledgement that unprecedented production and resource consumption under globalized neo-liberal capitalism is the source of the problem.

Then there’s the sugar coating of the problem. Question 6 asks, “What’s the worst-case scenario?” They answer:

“That is actually hard to say…. Perhaps the greatest fear is a collapse of food production … and mass starvation. Even with runaway emissions growth, it is unclear how likely this would be, as farmers are able to adjust their crops and farming techniques to a degree…. Another possibility would be a disintegration of the polar ice sheets, leading to fast-rising seas that would force people to abandon many of the worlds great cities…. [it concludes with the failure of the monsoon rains]”

This is not the worst case. The worst is not any one of these problems, but all of them and more at once. The possibility that farmers could adapt “to a degree,” is not the worst. The worst is that they can’t adapt. The answer ignores one recent model that projects temperatures in the Middle East could reach 170 degrees, rendering swathes of our planet uninhabitable, or that methane gas releases might turn our atmosphere toxic.

Hopefully, none of these nightmares will be realized, but ignoring them does not help educate the public. And it borders on disinformation, since another answer states “all of this could take hundreds or even thousands of years to play out,” when we could see these kind of changes begin in as little as 50 years if we continue with business as usual.

More generally, the problem with the NYT piece can be summed up by the language I quoted in a recent blog: “The worst climate change deniers are not the ones who say it is not happening, but the ones who recognize the problem but refuse to confront its most basic sources and causes.”

Given the New York Times’ cozy relationship with corporate capitalism, this is hardly surprising.  Read More 
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