by Scott Scheffer
Struggle ★ La Lucha, May 27, 2022
June 9, 2022
The U.S. government and all the corporations that profit from fossil fuels are cherry picking the actions that they are taking in response to the global climate emergency. Everything that they are pursuing is potentially profitable, and they are paying less attention to reforestation, wind power, solar power or other alternative energy sources.
As they have done and are continuing to do during the COVID pandemic, they treat the climate crisis as if the United States is the only country enduring the consequences.
The whole scenario raises the question of how, in spite of divergent interests among the rich and powerful, they could have reached this consensus of inaction and callous disregard. The world is on fire and they aren’t even looking for a fire extinguisher.
The poorest populations are suffering the worst disasters when extreme weather created by CO2, methane and other pollutants hit their homes.
In 1984, Congress demanded the presence of top tobacco executives to answer for the lies they had been telling for decades about the harm of tobacco use. The hearings were a big deal, covered by the national media before and after, and tobacco CEOs’ lies to Congress made headlines and were talked about for years.
Not that it did that much good, but contrast that to what was supposed to be a similar hearing – this time with top energy company executives, to answer for misinformation about climate change that they’ve been funding through phony think tanks.
The October 2021 hearing was held electronically because of the pandemic. The CEOs didn’t even bother to join it. They had lower-level flunkies answer questions, and the news media barely covered the events.
The way that they brushed off Congress with barely a second thought was a clear demonstration of the hierarchy. Capitalist government works for corporations – not the other way around. Any events that hint at another relationship in which giant corporations have to answer to the government are theater.
Oil companies expanding
A May 11, 2022, article in the Guardian revealed something that even further elucidates their power. It turns out that despite claims by the major oil companies that they are going green, they are in fact expanding as never before. The article revealed:
- “The fossil fuel industry’s short-term expansion plans involve the start of oil and gas projects that will produce greenhouse gasses equivalent to a decade of CO2 emissions from China…
- “These plans include 195 carbon bombs, gigantic oil and gas projects that would each result in at least a billion tons of CO2 emissions over their lifetimes, in total equivalent to about 18 years of current global CO2 emissions. About 60% of these have already started pumping.
- “The dozen biggest oil companies are on track to spend $103m a day for the rest of the decade exploiting new fields of oil and gas that cannot be burned if global heating is to be limited to well under 2 degrees Celsius.”
Here are some of the events happening now that are caused by energy corporation criminals:
The Colorado River is in an unprecedented crisis. Warming and drying weather for decades has led to a drought that has broken records that go back 1,200 years. Water levels at Lake Mead, Lake Oroville, Lake Powell and dozens of other lakes are all at the lowest point ever recorded.
The river and its tributaries supply water to more than 40 million people and 3 million acres of crops. Hundreds of hydroelectric power generators electrify most of the southwest and are closer to their breaking point than ever before.
In northwestern India and in Pakistan a heatwave hit in the latter part of April and beginning of May, and is projected to return at the end of May. The heat was so bad that schools closed, crops were damaged, and there were power outages. A deadly cholera outbreak has infected thousands and killed people because of lack of access to clean drinking water.
On May 15, the temperature in the city of Jacobabad in Pakistan’s Sindh province was 124 degrees Fahrenheit. India’s capital city of Delhi hit 120 degrees Fahrenheit on the same day.
A study by the British national meteorological service concluded that without the impact of climate change, a heatwave such as this might occur once every 312 years. But the frequency is now likely to be every 3.1 years – roughly 100 times more frequent. By the end of the century their frequency will be about once per year.
This is similar to what has been forecast recently for Baghdad, Iraq. Many experts question whether such heat is fit for human survival.
KwaZulu-Natal slammed again
After torrential rains destroyed hundreds of homes and killed 435 people in the impoverished KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa last month, flooding is happening again. Hundreds had to flee their dwellings in late May.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala told Al Jazeera reporters, “Some areas are inaccessible and have become islands at this stage.”
In Bangladesh and parts of northeastern India, flooding in hundreds of villages has stranded 2 million people, including many children. The region is impoverished and because of lack of mobility, starvation is actually a concern.
The biggest obstacle to curtailing rising atmospheric temperatures is capitalism. But it isn’t just the rise of industrial capitalism that Biden & Co. can blame on the system’s earlier phases. The hyper-militarism of the U.S. imperialist era has exacerbated the global crisis.
That isn’t only because of the emissions spewed during the manufacture of the machinery of war – although the Pentagon itself emits more than the economies of 46 entire countries. But the plunder of the global south made possible by murderous warfare has left much of the world more vulnerable to extreme weather.
No one is safe from hurricanes, floods, rising sea levels or extreme heat. But when poverty is added to the equation, climate change is much more deadly for the world’s poorest populations.
Congressional hearings are nothing more than an attempt to rescue the reputation of the Biden administration that has come nowhere near being the champion of saving the planet that it promised during the 2020 election campaign and the early months of the administration.
The transition to a non-fossil-fuel world has to be run by the people. The oil barons that are knowingly destroying our planet belong in jail for the rest of their lives.
Struggle ★ La Lucha: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
From the archives:
Sleepwalking Into Climate Nightmares, by Rivera Sun
Pay Attention: Our Food System Is Broken, by Magnificent Mndebele
Abby Martin: The US Military: Planet Earth’s Greatest Enemy
Another Global Warming Worry: Parts of Earth Could Become Uninhabitable, by Pete Dolack + A Dire Warning About the End of Human Civilization
How Nonviolent Action Is Protecting the Earth, by Rivera Sun
Earth Burns and the Capitalist World Talks, by Pete Dolack
Will Griffin: The US Military is the Largest Institutional Consumer of Fossil Fuels
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Are the oil barons and the Pentagon in fact fully aware that they are wrecking the planet? Perhaps not. Perhaps they have managed to keep themselves ignorant; perhaps they are exercising doublethink. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
Indeed, some very rich people are buying up private islands, and mansions in places that they may consider to be “remote” such as New Zealand. Perhaps they have managed to convince themselves that they will somehow be safe there. If so, I think they are mistaken.
Some of the effects of global warming are feedback loops — for instance, loss of albedo as the polar ice melts. Feedback loops cause exponential growth. Take a look at the graph of exponential growth — it goes up and up, faster and faster. It will continue to do so until the feedback loop is no longer being fed (e.g., until all the ice is gone), and by then we’ll all be gone. Whenever the IPCC says “trillions of dollars damage,” I read “extinction of the human race and most other species.” And whenever they say “by the end of this century,” I read “by the end of this decade.” The only possibility of averting near-term human extinction is a global awakening and drastic change in our economic system.
But suppose the oil barons and Pentagon =are= aware that they are destroying any chance of anyone surviving on this planet. Why would they choose to do that? I have come up with three possible explanations; perhaps the correct explanation is a combination of these:
1. They expect to buy a spot on Elon Musk’s rocket to Mars. If that is their plan, again I think they are very much mistaken. Today’s science and technology are still very far from being able to create a habitable, sustainable place to live on Mars.
2. They are psychopaths who simply do not care about the lives of their own children or anyone else. Perhaps they do not even care about their own future, beyond a year or two. Their philosophy is to live for the moment and enjoy any spectacle they can. Look at Jeff Bezos, who spent a half billion dollars in Rotterdam building an ocean-going yacht that is so big that now he can’t get it out of Rotterdam. By the way, I blame capitalism for most of the psychopathy in the world. Its ruthless dog-eat-dog competition replaces caring with fear and greed.
3. They actually have no choice in the matter: The market forces them to maximize short-term private profits. Any plutocrat who disobeys that rule will lose the competition, lose their position, and cease to be a plutocrat; they will be replaced by some other plutocrat. They are trapped on this crazy train as much as the rest of us; they merely have more comfy cells. The only possible solution is to derail the train, change the economic system in its very foundations. Wake the 99%.
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