`Owning’ the weather? PART VIII
By Rahnuma Ahmed
Ten years from now, no, five years from now, you’ll feel ashamed for having written this. Definitely. He hung up.
This was last Monday, the day `Global Warming, Or The Greatest Scientific Fraud’ was published (New Age, 15 March 2010).
It had been an early morning call. Speak to my son, said my friend. Oh, so he’s in Dhaka now, I thought, since I know he lives and works in the US. Do you know what you’ve written? Do you know that 90% scientists agree on global warming? Do you know that you’re writing absolutely reactionary stuff, that you’re speaking in the interests of the oil industry, in the interests of the powers-that-be?
Hey, hold on, what about the suppression of data? What about the lies, the fraudulent methods employed by global warming scientists?
I’m more concerned about your journalistic methods, sensationalising… I’m shocked. You should look at the bigger picture. There’s no need to blow these e-mails out of proportion.
I invited him to write a rebuttal. He refused. I was being condescending, he said.
I’d thought of concluding the weather series today, but I’ve changed my mind.
First, a quick look at some of the headlines of the last few months, to recap how Climategate has been unfolding:
– ClimateGate: Phil Jones, UK climate scientist, temporarily steps down, The Huffington Post, 1 December 2009–
‘Climategate’ professor Phil Jones awarded £13 million in research grants, Global Research, 5 December 2009
– Copenhagen climate summit in disarray after ‘Danish text’ leak, The Guardian, 8 December 2009
– IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri to face independent inquiry, The Telegraph, 26 February 2010
– Climategate scientist questioned in Parliament, New Scientist, 2 March 2010
– UK government rebuked on climate change ads, Miami Herald, 15 March 2010
That the Anthropogenic Global Warming theory (AGW, caused by humans) was based on, if nothing else, bad science, is pretty clear. A matter of concern, if not, downright alarm, for scientific associations. The Institute of Physics (IP, 36,000 physicists) in its response to a House of Commons inquiry has said, the Climate Research Unit’s (CRU) leaked e-mails, if not forged, “provide prima facie evidence” of refusing to comply with honourable scientific traditions and the freedom of information law. The Royal Society of Chemistry (46,000 members) says, a “lack of willingness” to make scientific data available implies that the results are not sufficiently “robust.” The IP had added, a “wider inquiry” is needed. Hadn’t other scientists, at other leading institutions helped CRU formulate IPCC’s conclusions on climate change? If so, the “circle of complicity” was bigger.
Okay, admittedly, AGW science is a bit dodgy. But if it’s a good cause, a progressive cause, does it’s being a bad science really matter? And, it does have millions of supporters. Ranging from environment-conscious people at the grassroots level to influential proponents—both individuals and institutions. Al Gore, David Rockefeller, George Soros, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Greenpeace, the New York Times, Washington Post, Times, Guardian, BBC, ABC (in Australia), Nature, Scientific American. Many many others. Even if it’s scientific basis is a bit unsound, surely, we should still support the movement? In the interests of saving our planet?
But rushing headlong into the issue in such a manner, pre-empts the possibility of raising critical questions. Of asking whether the AGW cause (or, climate change, as it later became known) best represents, in the sense of problematising, formulating, tabling—the environmental issue. I don’t think so, unlike my caller. And that, precisely, is where the problem lies.
As the extent of AGW scare-mongering becomes increasingly clear—the polar bear population has increased nearly-four times more instead of decreasing (22,000), the Himalayan glaciers are not melting, etc.,—questions centring around inequality and social justice, return centre-stage. Ever stronger.
For developing countries, to agree to carbon reduction means basically agreeing to remain poor. An examination of world energy statistics reveals that the combined energy consumption of 5 of the 6 most populous countries (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan) equals that of the 6th (US). In a situation characterised by stark wealth inequalities, would it be wise, asks Robert Bryce, for any of the Big Five leaders to agree to CO2 reduction? As Rajendra Prachauri, the now-disgraced IPCC chief had pointed out, 400 million Indians (40%) do not have a light bulb in their homes. “You cannot, in a democracy, ignore some of these realities.”
And neither can it be ignored that western leaders have recently dreamt up hoaxes to create a climate of fear, to scare their (complicit?) citizenry into consenting to military invasion, to the occupation of resource-rich developing countries. George Bush: Saddam Hussein had links with al-Qaeda. Tony Blair: Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction. Ring a bell? And no, it’s not over yet. Obama: Enriching uraniums. Iran. (According to a Haaretz news report, America is transporting 387 bunker-buster bombs to its Diego Garcia air base, for possible Iran strike, 18 March 2010). Progressive politics? Who, what, where? Did I miss something?
There are other aspects, too. Will international treaties—Kyoto Protocol, and the new one to replace it in 2012—reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? Help save the planet? Unlikely. The leaders of the rich world, write Johann Hari, are enacting a giant fraud (Independent, 11 December 2009). A rich country can “cut” its emissions while not actually reducing them. How? By paying a poor country to emit less. Well, since it’s the same atmosphere, that’s okay, isn’t it? Actually, no. A system which can sell emission cuts among countries becomes extremely complex, writes Hari. Very soon, and deliberately, it “becomes so technical that nobody can follow it—no concerned citizen, no journalist, and barely even full-time environmental groups.” Tricks abound. For instance: by storing carbon, forests mitigate global warming, right? But Canadian, Swedish and Finnish logging companies have pressurised their governments to agree to inserting the clause that “sustainable forest management” i.e., cutting down almost all trees—doesn’t lead to losing credit. The cap-and-trade system, says Hari, laced with Enron-style accounting tricks is Kafkaesque. No real cuts. Only tamasha cuts.
If Bart Chilton (Commodity Futures Trading Commission) is right, five years from now the carbon trading market will become the world’s largest commodity market, worth $2 trillion. Richard L. Sandor, chairman and chief executive officer of Climate Exchange Plc thinks it’ll be larger, $10 trillion. Bigger than oil. As billionaire hedge fund operator Soros puts it, carbon markets present “financial opportunities.” Al Gore is known as a carbon billionaire. Barack Obama’s name has popped up, too: as the board member of a Chicago-based charity, Obama had agreed to a proposal aimed at devising a carbon dioxide emissions trading market. This led to the setting-up of Climate Exchange, headed by Sandor, “one of the most successful investors trying to profit from rising environmental awareness” (Wall Street Journal). The initial idea behind granting Sandor the award in 2000 was to have “a carbon trading system ready to implement” with the signing of the Kyoto Protocol.
The oil industry doesn’t seem unduly worried either, having “effortlessly recalibrated” their stance: CRU’s financial supporters in 2008 included Shell and British Petroleum (Alexander Cockburn). Recently, Rockefeller family shareholders of Exxon Mobil urged the board to adjust to the “changing world.” To focus on the “environmental crisis facing all of us.”
Can solutions proposed by Kyoto, Copenhagen based on global warming/climate change theory accomplish what Banyacya, the Hopi interpreter, had urged: “Its up to all of us, as children of Mother Earth, to clean up this mess before it’s too late.” The “mess” list is a long one. Deforestation. Desertification. Species extinction. The urgent need to preserve biodiversity. Develop sustainable agriculture. Dismantle corporate attempts to privatise water…
Can solutions that ignore the “worst polluter” of CO2 and other toxic emissions on the planet, work? Such as, the Pentagon. Such as, depleted uranium (DU).
During Kyoto negotiations, the US had demanded its own military operations, and those with UN and/or NATO, be completely “exempted” from all climate treaties and agreements. After the others agreed, Bush administration went ahead and refused to sign the accords. Obama has not revoked the blanket exemption either. Officially, the US military uses 320,000 barrels of oil per day, this excludes fuel consumed by contractors, or in leased and privatised facilities (Sara Flounders, Global Research). Since 1991, the U.S. has released radioactive atomicity equalling at least 400,000 Nagasaki bombs or, 40,000 Hiroshima bombs, into the global atmosphere.
There is another, equally critical, silence: CO2 emissions caused by warfare. Total CO2 emissions from invading Iraq roughly equal UK’s total emission for a year. Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) say, the environmental effects of invading Iraq are major. Local air pollution. Climate change due to burning oil wells. Groundwater pollution from leaking oil wells.
Compounded by another silence: depleted uranium (radioactive) is used in the manufacture of armaments. Tank cartridges. Bombs. Rockets. Missiles. Both DU and white phosphorus munitions inflict long term damage to the environment. In a letter to the president of the UN General Assembly, Iraq’s minister for women’s affairs wrote, young women in Fallujah are now terrified of having children. No head. Two heads. A single eye in the forehead. Scaly bodies. Missing limbs. Cancer. Leukemia. Similar in Afghanistan. DU causes v-e-r-y long term damage, measured in billions of years. The global atmosphere, writes William Bowles, has been permanently contaminated by the US with radioactive pollution having a half-life of 2.5 billion years.
Naivete among Americans, of whatever colour, is inexcusable. I am ashamed. Already.
[concluding piece, next week]Show