The tobacco companies’ response to the US Surgeon General’s report in 1964 linking smoking to lung cancer was countered by the tobacco companies setting up propaganda organizations to create a controversy by generating doubt over the link. This strategy staved off the inevitable for more than two decades.
The same tactic is being used by the carbon energy companies against the independent climate scientists who have established that the climate is warming as a result of CO2 emissions. After a certain amount of warming, feedback mechanisms come into play that accelerate the warming. For example, as CO2 emissions raise temperatures, permafrost begins melting releasing methane, a greenhouse gas that speeds the warming.
Another example of feedback is the loss of sea ice and snow cover on land. Ice and snow reflect the sun’s heat, but the dark surface of the ocean and land absorb the heat, resulting in a further rise in temperature.
The greenhouse gases around the planet trap heat radiation. The oceans, which cover about 75% of the planet, have enormous heat capacity and can soak up a lot of energy. Being very deep, they take a long time to heat up. As the oceans absorb the heat, it takes decades for the atmosphere to heat up. This “climate lag” delays the full impact of global warming.
As temperatures rise, the feedback mechanisms come into play and the planet arrives at tipping points at which things spin out of control. Once that happens, it is too late to control carbon emissions. The release of methane and nitrous oxide, the acidification of the oceans, the destruction of rain forests—which turns them from their service as carbon sinks into net carbon sources—work together to destroy the oceans and coral reefs as a source of food, to deplete water resources, and to raise temperatures beyond those at which life can exist.
It is important to understand that global warming is not a theory. It is observable fact. It is documented. The measurements are made. The numbers are actual measurements, not predictions from a model. If CO2 emissions are not controlled in time, there is no way to avoid the consequences.
It is important to understand that we are talking about whether planet Earth will be able to sustain life in the near future. It is important to understand that mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef is already occurring, that CO2 is rising as a percentage of the atmosphere, that the acidification of the oceans is increasing. These are facts.
It is also important to understand that unlike the hired guns of the carbon energy industry, independent climate scientists have no material interest in misrepresenting the facts.
It is important to understand that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is not a fake news organization. Neither is NASA. Neither is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
It is important to understand that glaciers have melted away, that the Greenland ice shelf is rapidly shrinking, and that ships now move year round through the Arctic ice.
The carbon energy industry has put out all manner of disinformation and conspiracy theories about the independent scientists. They are said to be part of a plot to install global government, as part of a plot to reduce the human population, as part of a plot to reduce living standards for the mass of humanity to primitive levels so that the one percent can have even more, and so on.
If you want to gain an understanding of climate science and to discover that there is much more to the ecocide threat than you are aware of, and if you want to see the hard, documented evidence, read the just published book, Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival (Clarity Press, 2018) by Dr. Peter D. Carter and Elizabeth Woodworth, with a foreword by Dr. James E. Hansen. The authors write: “Since the United Nations Paris conference in late 2015, climate change indicators have escalated so quickly that an emergency response is imperative if civilization is to avoid breakdown and eventual collapse.” The authors provide the hard and extensive evidence in a science appendix titled “Evidence of the Climate Emergency.”
Humans need to understand that just as their own life depends on a maintained balance, so does the life of the planet. That balance is more delicate than people comprehend.
It is important to understand that the tobacco companies with their policy of creating doubt and controversy only endangered the lives of smokers. But the carbon industry is endangering the life of the planet itself. This is what the authors mean by their book title, Unprecedented Crime. It is unconscionable that corporations are so determined to extract the last dollar from their oil and coal reserves that they knowingly endanger the life of the planet.
It is difficult to comprehend the risks that the carbon energy industry and its propagandists are willing to take with the life of the planet. The corporations know about the Greenhouse Effect and its danger. The President of Exxon Research and Engineering Company, Mr. E. E. David, Jr., explained it to a meeting of scientists: “The critical problem is that the environmental impacts of the CO2 buildup may be so long delayed. A look at the theory of feedback systems shows that where there is such a long delay the system breaks down unless there is anticipation built into the loop.”
Readers always want solutions. Two-thirds of the book is about solutions. The carbon energy corporations could continue to be major energy suppliers by switching into non-carbon forms of energy. It is better for us all to go through a painful adjustment than to cease to exist. For example, oil companies can be transitioned to renewable energy in an orderly and upbeat way. StatOil in Norway is working in this direction. Removing government carbon subsidies and transferring them to renewable energy is an important step toward saving the planet.
There are working CO2 reduction solutions already in existence in Europe, Afria, India, and China. These solutions are seldom mentioned in US media because 7 out of the top 10 global Fortune 500 companies are either oil or automotive corporations, and the media is silenced by their advertising (see chapter 4).
Chained to profit, the Fourth Estate is itself part of the betrayal of life on earth. With the media failing to inform and to sound the alarm and with politicians dependent on industry campaign contributions, saving the planet is an iffy proposition.
Copyright © 2018 Paul Craig Roberts
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost and The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.