Which Way to the Climate-Change Room?

Contemplating the stakes indicated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2014:

“Pushing global temperatures past certain thresholds could trigger abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes that have massively disruptive and large-scale impacts. At that point, potentially unstoppable processes are set in motion, and its consequences are no longer something we can control.”

Already, as we can all learn just by turning our attention to media reports from around the globe, threatening changes are taking place with weather systems worldwide: unexpectedly heavy rainfall in some areas, droughts in others; increased numbers of tornadoes and hurricanes in still other regions; ice caps melting at precipitous rates at both polar caps; cities and whole island civilizations threatened by rising sea levels. Mostly we are required to do nothing at all to ring in this bleak-seeming future, just allow it to happen, to pretend and to act as if we weren’t facing a rapidly-developing crisis that could usher in the extinction of most of the known life-forms on planet Earth.

Looking back from our current situation of anticipated dire peril, the immediate past doesn’t reflect very inspiring images either. In brief, the past few decades brought us a mixed-bag of economic turbulence, widening terrorist threats, natural disasters along the so-called Ring of Fire volcano corridor and interminable warfare and human suffering over a widening area of the East, spilling into the West, generally speaking.

Over the same period, the corporate elite and and their political operatives took full advantage of the confusion and crises to introduce policies and programmes, through their essential control of key government initiatives and the capitalist marketplace, that have inordinately favoured the notorious “one percent” of humanity, who now control all of our futures. It was accomplished in the main through tax cuts favouring the wealthy, by trimming social costs to the bone, keeping profit-reducing business regulations to an absolute minimum and selling-off public assets to private profiteers wherever feasible.

Additionally, controlling the majority of us through skillful exercise of the popular tools of fear and greed has led us to immobilizing concentration on individual survival and aversion to any “rocking the boat,” except where publicly encouraged and enabled by the ruling elite. It has led to renewed crackdowns on civil liberties as a “trade-off” to security enhancements, and to mass unreported surveillance of all citizens at all times – and make no mistake about that happening. It has spawned frightening human rights abuses by the police and other armed authorities. It has caused divisions among people along ethnic and economic lines, and divided people along racial lines by politicians looking to their own limited interests. Authoritarian regimes are in the ascendancy, and “You’re one of US or one of THEM” increasingly the order of the day. Increasingly-militarized police forces worldwide are responsible for tens of thousands of civilian deaths annually, and dictatorial regimes everywhere, though especially in Africa and the Middle-East, slaughter their populations at will. The U.N. protests and calls for assistance to deal with the devolution of societies at high risk, but not much aid or direct assistance is forthcoming, as the task is becoming too overwhelming and possibly, sadly, to little or no avail in any case.

At the heart of the climate change denial movement in the US are right wing “think tanks” such as The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Ayn Rand Institute. The movement, as such, is not the product or outgrowth of science skepticism or well-thought-out alternative scenarios to explain climate phenomena such as we’ve witnessed in recent years. Instead, it is a mindset actively and methodically promoted by right wing think tanks such as the above-mentioned ones, and others such as Republicans and similarly-oriented ideologues in a widespread network of “deniers” at odds with the clear evidence.

A 2013 study by researcher Riley Dunlap and political scientist Peter Jacques found that an astonishing 87 percent of climate denial-slanted books had links to right wing think tanks. Many were created in the late 1960s and early 1970s because American business elites were worried that public opinion, inflamed by the Vietnam War and the so-called hippy movement were turning against the very capitalist system that had spawned their great wealth and gave them such huge control over their engines of growth and personal enrichment. Most importantly of all, the system allowed them to earn massive amounts of money through the manipulation of vast amounts of money freed from any necessity to perform any actual labour or to produce any useful product. The more their control could be exerted over the “free market” system by the capitalists, the more they profited personally, so to this end they actively promoted the argument that the limitless pursuit of wealth was not only nothing to apologize for, but also offered the greatest hope for the future physical and spiritual satisfaction and improvement of all of mankind… a pipedream unmatched by any known drug currently on offer, as it has turned out.

Yale University’s Cultural Cognition Project showed that a person’s political leanings or ideological outlook – their cultural worldview, that is – can explain most individuals’ beliefs about global warming more powerfully than any other single characteristic: more than age, ethnicity, education or particular affiliations. A serious window into people and how they respond as climate change deniers or believers; deniers of the science involved, or accepting of it.

The research has shown that people with positive views of collective action and social justice, a concern about financial inequality and suspicions about the corporate agenda overwhelmingly accept the scientific consensus on climate change. Conversely, those with a more individualistic worldview, marked by opposition to government assistance to the poor and minorities, with strong support for industry and a belief that we all get pretty much what we deserve in life, overwhelmingly reject the scientific consensus. Only 11 percent of them view climate change as “high risk,” compared to 69 percent of the collective action consensus group. Notably too, while in 2007 the three major networks ABC, NBC and CBS ran 147 articles on climate change, in 2011 they ran just 14. This may be explained as a shying-away from the topic due to inboxes and comment openings being jammed with vicious threats whenever an article was published favourable to the science “accepters.”

Many “deniers” admit that their distrust of the science behind climate change resulted from the very real fear that if climate change threats are real, the political implications would be catastrophic for them. As frequent Heartland Institute speaker James Delingpole pointed out, modern environmentalism speaks the language of the Left, anathema to the Right: “Higher taxes, redistribution of wealth, government interventionism and marketplace regulation.”

Heartland president Joseph Bast put it even more bluntly. He and his colleagues didn’t become engaged with climate issues because they found flaws in the scientists’ facts, but out of alarm about the economic and political inmplications of those facts. “This is a recipe for a massive increase in government, job-killing taxes and the death of wealth,” he concluded.

British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s treasurer Nigel Lawson takes great pride in having privatized many public assets, lowered taxes on the wealthy and broken the power of the large unions. The thing about climate change is that it creates “a new licence to intrude, to interfere and to regulate the private marketplace,” he concluded. And former Czech president Vaclav Klaus compared attempts to prevent global warming to “the ambitions of communist central planners to control the entire society.” Indeed.

The Global Carbon Project reported in January that recent US gains in carbon emissions reductions have been achieved by burning less coal and more natural gas, and to a lesser extent through an increase in renewables. Current trends then are broadly consistent with Paris Agreement targets for 2030, which aims to keep global temperature warming to less than 2 C. If that announcement didn’t trigger a rash of bell-ringing across the US, it’s likely because the recent Trump proposed budget included a proposed dismantling of key Environmental Protection Agency climate-change research and prevention programmes.

According to researcher Amy Davidson, the Trump Administration “has promised that energy and climate policies will focus on reviving the coal industry, reducing carbon emission standards for vehicles and power plants and revisiting requirements that that climate change and its costs be factored into all decisions by federal authorities.” Truth with dire consequences.

An historic advance against climate change by one of the world’s worst polluters is now under threat of reversal to the “bad old ways” by the Greed is God newly-minted president of the United States, multiple-bankruptee Donald J Trump and his retrograde Republican cheering section: a clear case of the politically-blind leading the blindly-political toward an Armageddon of their own fashioning rendered deadly by the blinding delusions of vanity-driven rationalization. Is this, then, the beginning of the end for yet one more empire of the many destroyed by the monstrous short-sightedness of the few?

Stay tuned, then!

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