Change the Climate Channel, Colltalers
With 2016 likely to be called the hottest year on record, there was no need for president-elect Donald Trump to make the fight to reverse climate change any worse. But by nominating fuel industry insider Scott Pruitt for the Environmental Protection Agency he did just that.
So get ready to a new year of increased temperatures, melting polar caps, carbon and methane emissions, glacier cracks and lose icebergs, to be only half of the problem. The other will be a climate-change denying administration.
Practically every environmental organization has denounced Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt’s many legal battles against the agency he’s now set to lead, President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and other environmental initiatives, such as those signed at the 2015 Paris Conference.
With other attorneys general, he joined in the infamous 2014 29-state lawsuit against the CPP, which is still pending and may advance to the Supreme Court, where a majority vote, potentially boosted by a future Trump nominee, may undermine years of efforts to control pollution.
But the biggest case for Pruitt’s unfitness to head the EPA is his links to the industry he’ll be in charge of regulating. For instance, he was accused of signing letters, dismissing the environmental impact of natural gas drilling in OK, that turned out to have been written by Devon Energy lawyers. Also, the co-chairman of his 2013 re-election campaign was Continental Energy CEO Harold G. Hamm.
If a GOP-led Congress confirms Pruitt, and there’s really no reason to expect that it won’t, and the possible appointment of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, for Secretary of State, groups fighting for further environmental protection rules may have their job cut out for them.
It’s not just that one is a skilled litigator, and the other a wealthy executive, loyal for 40 years to one of the most profitable, and worst polluter, corporations on earth. But it’s the fact
that the two nominations signal a sharp course of action from the Trump administration. There’s a clear choice of insiders and the superrich to write government policy, and concerns about environmental issues are not a priority.
The news about the nominations caps a particularly tough year for the already severe signs that the climate is the biggest issue of our era, for its dramatic impact on the chances for survival of billions of people, and for its potential to end the civilization in decades, not centuries.
Here are the facts: a November study by NASA and University of Colorado at Boulder scientists showed that ‘Arctic Ocean and neighboring seas have been slow to freeze, setting both daily and monthly record lows.’ Caused by warmer waters and atmosphere, plus wind patterns, the phenomenon reveals a long-term, potentially climate-impacting trend towards accelerating melting levels at the Arctic polar circle.
Two other studies spelled out the recent bad news coming from the north. A consortium of scientists found out that the concentration of methane, a greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere, is rising faster now than in the previous decade.
That study follows an August research project, by a University of Alaska Fairbanks team, showing evidence of increased permafrost releases of ancient carbon. Old methane, stored for centuries under the permafrost, is released as carbon, which multiplies the already toxic effects on public health and quality of life for billions, caused by massive daily man made emissions released worldwide into the air we all breathe.
Another research, this time based overseas, highlights yet another of the president-elect’s misguided campaign promises, that of reviving the coal industry. Scientists from China, the U.S., and the U.K. have finally traced back to coal burning the cause for the infamous London fog that, 64 years ago this December, killed over four thousand people, sickening another 150 thousand, and was never properly explained.
Using lab experiments and atmospheric data from Beijing and Xi’an, two heavily polluted Chinese metropolises, they found that sulfur and nitrogen dioxide combined and released by the burning of coal, created ‘an acidic haze’ that covered London and choked people to death.
The tragic event propitiated the passage of the British Clean Air Act, in 1956. The irony is that, although China’s economy is still highly dependent of coal production, it is being phased out, there as here, as part of both countries’ commitments to the Paris Conference goals.
Ready for some soothing Fake News already? Not yet, not here. We’re almost done and the thing about facts is that they stay with us, inform us, and after a period of extreme discomfort realizing that things can indeed get worse, they compel us into action. Some of us, anyway.
Let’s move south, then. Heard of the Antarctica Crack lately? Just last March, it was a 14-mile long gash, but recent satellite and aerial photos confirmed to have grown to over 70 mile in length and, at some points, 300 feet wide, almost twice the length of a football field.
At this pace, this 2,300-square-mile ice colossus will split off from the Larsen C Ice Shelf, within a year. If the Shelf itself melts off completely by 2020 as scientists expect, after having remained intact for 10 thousand years, it will add four inches to world’s sea levels.
Even counting with concrete steps taken to slow down climate change, by that year many more Pacific islands will have sunk, and their populations will be engorging the hordes of dispossessed, nationless citizens, predicted to boost the next wave of global migrations.
They’ll be as hungry as many inland field and food workers, who will be hit by severe droughts and incontrollable storms, raging wild fires and terminal soil depletion. Climate and land availability have always been factors in the production of agricultural commodities. But increased weather unpredictability may render large portions of arable land unsustainable, and prices, prohibitive to most.
This is not some alarmist warning to the future; it’s already happening. And it’s not taking place in remote regions, but in food belts of major world economies, starting right here, in the ol’ U.S. of A. In keeping with other of Trump’s deceiving campaign promises, imagine if diminished plantation lands also suffer from lack of crucial immigrant hands to bring it all to the dinner table of thousands of Americans.
The president-elect and his chosen circle of billionaires won’t be concerned about that, not personally anyway, since they can afford whatever price sturgeon caviar costs at any time. Too bad for the remainder 99%, who never seem to think that it’s just a matter of paying a lot more for food, housing, and health. There, problem solved. What, they can’t afford it? Why do they keep making bad choices in life then?
Every day, the 89 million subscribers of the Weather Channel are expertly warned about the weather perils at their neck of woods, possible hazardous conditions on their commute to work, and a likely delayed trip home at the end of the day. The constant stream of graphs and dramatic in-loco footage is only interrupted by commercials full of happy middle class families, with clean houses and safe automobiles.
What’s missing by the channel’s lineup of good looking, and racially homogenized, anchors is news about the already ongoing impact of climate change on their audience’s lives. That partially explains why so many are still confused between what’s weather and what’s climate.
This is not meant to single out a particular broadcaster. Yet one wonders where’s its accountability on reporting facts and explaining the science behind of what’s happening? No one doubts the value of shows featuring ‘human stories’ of survival and courage, rescue and happy endings to the life threatening ‘wild side’ of weather. But they don’t fulfill the need to inform, as good journalism should be about.
The same with school curriculums and the dissociative pattern of ‘forcing feed’ knowledge into young minds, while denying them the tools to understanding the political implications of life as it happens. Perhaps we’re going about this the wrong way, trying to tame the bull by its tail.
There’s a game change in place, and the U.S. will again no longer be in the lead of environmental and climate change issues. At the end of the day, billionaires don’t share our same interests. Trump will do as Trump does, and we’ll be left out in the cold, no pun intended.
Maybe instead of putting so much currency on elected officials, the key is searching for facts that connect our daily lives, and those of our children, to a higher purpose. We could probably use the help of those interlopers who show up every four years arguing the case for a third party, and then vanish, when the hard, headlines-ignoring work of community organizing has to be done. But let’s not wait for them either.
The stream of bad news about the climate that 2016 has brought us will probably continue, and with those nominees in charge, it’ll probably become a litany of despair. But we do have a choice and things do change with effort. Isn’t what we still tell our kids, as if we firmly believe it? In other words, no matter how many new enemies of the earth may show up, we’ll always be more than them. Enjoy the Geminid meteor showers. WC