Open Thread #7

I’ve been starting and stopping a number of posts on various climate science topics, but have been diverted by one thing or another at work or home and never got round to finishing them properly. So instead of trying to finish them, I’ve decided to post them as teasers in this open thread. As with all open threads, you can discuss any climate science-related issue that strikes your fancy or have a go at some of my half-baked ideas below. 🙂

1. Ethics Schmethics, or Climate Denier Propaganda 101

Ethical Oil — Oxymoron Par Excellence

If you’re anything like me, watching the recent spate of television ads about the Athabasca Tar Sands and fracking has you mad — Shirley Temple mad.

The recent move by Exxon to promote the tar sands and fracking as promoting energy security is a lesson in propaganda and as they say in PoMo 101, it hijacks the discourse from one about the safety of the planet to that of America’s energy security. The strategy is to spend big money framing the public discourse so that when the general public thinks of the tar sands, they don’t see waterfowl covered in sludge from the filthy tailing ponds (which is happening at 30 times the rate the oil industry claims) but think instead of a smiling front man talking about “America’s energy security”.

Here’s how you know that something is bunk.

Ezra Levant is promoting it.

.

Here’s Ezra:

Ethical Oil According to Ezra Levant

Just what is it about Canadian oil and natural gas derived from fracking that’s so ethical? It’s not from Saudi Arabia. That means we don’t have to deal with dictators and despots to get our fix of liquid fossil fuels. We can get it from good ol reliable and democratic Canada!

My how things have changed — just a while ago, the right-wing-nut Pat Buchanan referred to Canada as “Soviet Canuckistan” as a way of putting down us down because we wouldn’t participate in the Iraq war — the “Soviet” part based on our “socialistic” tendencies, like our love of Medicare. Now that the US want to buy our shale oil and fracked natural gas, we’ve become angels and paragons of democracy, which means, of course, we’re willing to destroy the planet to ensure Americans have cheaper abundant fossil fuels.

How ethical of us!

But if you deny global warming is real or a threat, you can make this claim and it sounds perfectly logical.

Royal Dutch Shell which pays lip service to climate change is another fossil fuel corporation that is trying to play the ethical oil game by talking about how it must ensure a steady supply of fossil fuel to feed the world’s demands while playing up the idea of carbon sequestration as its way of being ethical.

Recently, Shell shareholders forced its executive to undertake a review of the risks from its involvement in the tar sands development.

From The Guardian:

Co-operative Asset Management and 141 other institutional and individual shareholders raise “concerns for the long-term success of the company arising from the risks associated with oil sands.”

So which ethics is more significant? One that protects US interests or one that protects the entire planet?

When it comes to ethics, I say that the biggest threat to democracy and our way of life is not from Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda, but from climate change, as the NYT reports, the Pentagon has already recognized.

The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.

Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.

Sure, getting out of Saudi Arabia would be a good thing for America’s security. But what about the rest of the world if the Tar Sands are fully developed?

2. The Republican War on Science, or “Shucks, I just rely on Good Old Common Sense.”

One of the saddest and most vexing aspects of American politics is the anti-science and anti-intellectualism of the right wing and the new Republican Party. It’s become a badge of honour, this love of ignorance, this celebration of science denialism, whether it is climate science denial, creationism, or 9/11 truthers. It’s the lauding of Joe the Plumber over scientists. It’s not a stellar moment for America or for the way TROTW (aka The Rest of the World) sees it.

Case in point:

As Krugman notes in an excellent article titled “Republicans Against Science“, Governor Rick Perry recently stated that “evolution is just a theory” and one “with a lot of gaps in it”.  Nor does Perry accept the scientific consensus on climate change:

“I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

Krugman points out that Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney used to accept AGW but has recently done an about-face. Why? Because Republicans have become anti-science.

According to Public Policy Polling, only 21 per cent of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35 per cent believe in evolution). Within the GOP, willful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates, one that Romney is determined to pass at all costs.

Here’s an example of knowing something is valid, but willingly suspending judgement or refusing to act, because it is politically opportune to do so.

Is that going to be our species’ epitaph?

They would have done something, really, but it was just too damn inconvenient at the time.

Every technological and economic and social transition costs someone. Every change means that some group, some class, some individuals, some businesses, some industries, will suffer. You can’t get around it. Some will suffer. Others will flourish. AGW is beyond that, because ultimately, all of us will suffer in some respect or other if we fail to act to prevent dangerous climate change. And if we aren’t the ones, our children and their children will be.

We’re in an era of suicidal inaction because of the coming election and the poor economic times. The continued exploitation of fossil fuels is unsustainable in the long term even if it does provide short term solutions to economic issues facing the US.

Where the US leads, others follow. I fear the US is leading us down the garden path.
So there’s my own two cents worth of recent climate news that had me steaming like little Shirley.
What about you?
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About Policy Lass

Exploring skeptic tales.

7 Responses to “Open Thread #7”

  1. I say that the biggest threat to democracy and our way of life is not from Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda, but from climate change

    You can say it even better: that the biggest threat to democracy is, as illustrated by its failure to address climate change, from its subversion by Frankencorps programmed to care about their bottom line only.

    • Perhaps we should give humanity a retrospective Darwin award…?

    • Absolutely — that is the real problem. Individual consumers have shown that if they are offered an alternative, if they are given an option to be greener, to use less destructive technology, they will choose it. So it’s not consumers who bear the brunt of the blame — it’s corporations who are trying to shape the political discourse and prevent the public from forming enough will to demand action on the part of politicians — all of it to protect a very limited self-interest that borders on sociopathic.

      The craven attempts on the part of corporations to play up on the public’s current fears: of unemployment (lots of jobs in the tar sands and related industries!) or rising energy costs (we’re struggling and we can’t afford new taxes on energy!) whilst ignoring the other threats we all face — ocean acidification, ozone depletion, ice retreat, sea level rise, more intensive storm systems, high cost of insurance due to damages, droughts, floods, famines, climate refugees, new diseases, wars over dwindling resources… Those costs are ignored.

      We should think of ourselves as global citizens, thinking about how our actions affect not just our own backyard but the rest of humanity and our biosphere.

      /rant

      Need caffeine…

  2. So where did the rest of the money go?

    “…Moreover, of the $9.2-billion in federal funding that was up for review, Mr. Vaughan’s team of auditors could only identify $85.9-million that could be clearly identified as being earmarked for climate change adaptation…”

    http://www.hilltimes.com/news/news/2011/10/10/feds-accused-of-creating-a-climate-change-plan-%E2%80%98designed-to-fail%E2%80%99/28419

    Did it go to Bruce Carson, Harper’s convicted fraudster advisor? Or to more gazebos?

  3. It seems Tallbloke got a visit from the officers of the law…

    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/tallbloke-towers-raided-many-computers-taken/

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