Twenty years ago the eminent climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute, told Congress about the fact of global warming: he urged them to act. Yesterday James Hansen told Congress about the fact and the consequences of global warming. Again, he urged them to act. Hansen also stated that fossil fuel "CEO’s should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature".
Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including funding to help shape school textbook discussions of global warming.
CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.
Conviction of ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal CEOs will be no consolation, if we pass on a runaway climate to our children. Humanity would be impoverished by ravages of continually shifting shorelines and intensification of regional climate extremes. Loss of countless species would leave a more desolate planet.
If politicians remain at loggerheads, citizens must lead. We must demand a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants. We must block fossil fuel interests who aim to squeeze every last drop of oil from public lands, off-shore, and wilderness areas. Those last drops are no solution. They yield continued exorbitant profits for a short-sighted self-serving industry, but no alleviation of our addiction or long-term energy source.
Washington likes to spend our tax money line-by-line. Swarms of high-priced lobbyists in alligator shoes help Congress decide where to spend, and in turn the lobbyists’ clients provide "campaign" money.
The fossil-industry maintains its strangle-hold on Washington via demagoguery, using China and other developing nations as scapegoats to rationalize inaction.
Democracy works, but sometimes churns slowly. Time is short. The 2008 election is critical for the planet. If Americans turn out to pasture the most brontosaurian Congressmen, if Washington adapts to address climate change, our children and grandchildren can still hold great expectations.
As many FDL readers know, the Bushies and the megacorps they serve fear science: independent empirical inquiry puts the lie to the propaganda Big Carbon, Big Chemical, Big Ag and the like use to jusitify killing off the living world for dead quarterly profits. Hansen scared the Bush/Cheney crowd so much they tried to defeat him with one of the weapons they deployed against Iraq’s people: a green Bushie in his twenties whose sole "qualification" was having worked for them in the Bush/Cheney campaign.
Just as in Iraq, the power grab blew up in Bush’s face.
The Bushies’ weapon — a twenty-four year old Texas A&M dropout named George Deutsch — went from the Bush/Cheney campaign "war room" to NASA, where he followed orders handed down from the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The Bushies picked Phillip Cooney – a former American Petroleum Institute lobbyist – to head the CEQ. After MSM belatedly outed Cooney, he resiged two days later "to spend more time with his family". Immediately after his resignation, Cooney also found time to sign on with Exxon/Mobil’s propaganda public affairs department. The Bush/Cheney White House went on to help Big Carbon by appointing "a former lobbyist for utilities, mining, chemical, and other industrial polluters" James Connaughton as CEQ chair. In his book Censoring Science, Mark Bowen revealed that when George Deutsch censored Hansen’s work, he acted on Connaughton’s instructions.
What we don’t know — or willfully choose to conceal — can not only hurt us, but kill us.
Every day, the Bushies’ catastrophic ignorance of history brings destruction to Iraq’s people and our economy. The Bushies’ ignorance blew up in their faces, too. When Bush I tried to censor Hansen in 1989, Senator Al Gore made sure Hansen had a chance to tell Congress what he knew about climate change and the GOP’s attempt to serve Big Carbon by squelching Hansen.
In 1989 and today in 2008, the GOP’s attempt to silence Dr. Hansen only brought greater attention to his prescient work on global warming.
What does Dr. Hansen have to say?
The shocking conclusion, documented in a paper I have written with several of the world’s leading climate experts, is that the safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is no more than 350 ppm (parts per million), and it may be less. Carbon dioxide amount is already 385 ppm and rising about 2 ppm per year. Shocking corollary: the oft-stated goal to keep global warming less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is a recipe for global disaster, not salvation.
The consequences of continued increase of greenhouse gases extend far beyond extermination of species and future sea level rise.
Arid subtropical climate zones are expanding poleward. Already an average expansion of about 250 miles has occurred, affecting the southern United States, the Mediterranean region, Australia and southern Africa. Forest fires and drying-up of lakes will increase further unless carbon dioxide growth is halted and reversed.
Mountain glaciers are the source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people. These glaciers are receding world-wide, in the Himalayas, Andes and Rocky Mountains. They will disappear, leaving their rivers as trickles in late summer and fall, unless the growth of carbon dioxide is reversed.
Coral reefs, the rainforest of the ocean, are home to one-third of the species in the sea. Coral reefs are under stress for several reasons, including warming of the ocean, but especially because of ocean acidification, a direct effect of added carbon dioxide. Ocean life dependent on carbonate shells and skeletons is threatened by dissolution as the ocean becomes more acid.
Such phenomena, including the instability of Arctic sea ice and the great ice sheets at today’s carbon dioxide amount, show that we have already gone too far. We must draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide to preserve the planet we know. A level of no more than 350 ppm is still feasible, with the help of reforestation and improved agricultural practices, but just barely – time is running out.
A price on emissions that cause harm is essential. Yes, a carbon tax. Carbon tax with 100 percent dividend is needed to wean us off fossil fuel addiction. Tax and dividend allows the marketplace, not politicians, to make investment decisions.
The public must send a message to Washington. Preserve our planet, creation, for our children and grandchildren, but do not use that as an excuse for more tax-and-spend. Let this be our motto: "One hundred percent dividend or fight! No more alligator shoes!"
Oh — and this.
In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature. If their campaigns continue and "succeed" in confusing the public, I anticipate testifying against relevant CEOs in future public trials.
Thanks to Dr. Hansen and thousands of other honest scientists around the world, we know what to do. For twenty years, we’ve known about the problem. We can all be part of the solution, and part of the changes required to preserve our living world in a form that will support the wonderful diversity it supports — including our children and their children. Part our work is to support the 100% carbon tax and whenever possible, shrink our personal carbon footprints. Part of our work is to shut the climate change deniers out of mainstream discussion — in precisely the fashion civilized people now shut Holocaust deniers out of mainstream discussion and mainstream media.
And in our spare time, we may want to stock up on some (carbon neutral) munchies for the climate deniers’ trials. Looks like Dr. Hansen will make things very hot in the courtroom.