Climate change is no joke

What a totally spurious pro-Keystone pipeline column from Joe Nocera in the New York Times today!  He doesn’t even bother to mention the 35,000-plus people who turned out in Washington to protest, focusing instead on “boneheaded” Bill McKibben and James Hansen and others who got themselves arrested at the White House last week as though that were the end of the story of citizen protest of this issue.

He dismisses the idea of a carbon tax on fossil fuel companies as ineffective, arguing, inexplicably, that this would “make expensive tar sands more viable.”  Huh?  Is anyone fact-checking this columnist, NYT?

“If you really want to eliminate expensive new fossil fuel sources, the best way is to lower the price of oil, which would render them uneconomical.”  Anyone follow that logic?

Nocera does not once mention the real reason for the protest against the tar sands extraction, which is the environmental hazards, from toxic waterways to exponential increase in the greenhouse gases causing global heating.  If that isn’t an insidious, dishonest omission, I don’t know what would be.

His only mention of climate change is dismissive: “Like it or not, fossil fuels are going to remain the dominant energy source for the foreseeable future, and we are far better off getting our oil from Canada than, say, Venezuela.  And the climate change effects of tar sands oil are, all in all, pretty small.”

There are so many things wrong in this sentence I hardly know where to start, and most of my readers probably can do the parsing themselves anyway.

The truth is that if, as Joe would have it, “fossil fuels are going to remain the dominant energy source for the foreseeable future,” then our foreseeable future is going to be very brief.

Yesterday while in DC I went back to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to see the Human Origins exhibit, which is, strangely enough, funded by the climate-change denying billionaire Koch brothers.

Once again I lingered at the opening display, a huge poster depicting the changes in Earth’s climate over the past few hundred thousand years, showing how the swings between extremes of hot and cold forced our ancestors to adapt or die.

The last inch or so of the immense timeline (I’m guessing it’s 12 feet wide) shows the last 10,000 years, the era of homo sapiens.  The swings between hot and cold get more jagged as we get closer to the present, with the last hundred years–a mere quarter-inch of the vast scale of human history–showing aggressive upward spikes of heat.

There is no mistaking the message of this chart.  We are now in a period of rapidly escalating climate change.  If we don’t adapt just as rapidly, a major correction to our population will ensue. Millions, even billions of humans may die off, very much in the “foreseeable future.”

For those left to tell the tale, one thing is for sure: the Keystone Pipeline, rusting and derelict on the western plains, will be a less-than-useless monument to the immense folly of men like Joe Nocera, who thought climate change was just a joke.

Climate Change Denial at the NY Times

I opened up Joe Nocera’s column in today’s NY Times, “The Poisoned Politics of the Keystone XL,” with anticipation, thinking that at last the Times was going to deliver a column roundly critiquing the pipeline and the oil-drenched politics from which it sprang.

My expectations could not have been more disappointed.

To put it mildly, Joe Nocera does not know what the hell he is talking about.  And I have to wonder whether some clumps of sticky tar-sandy dollars might have found their way into his pockets in return for the little PR gift he just gave, with flourishes, to the Canadian oil industry.

You will have to read Nocera’s column for yourself–I really can’t bear to summarize it.  Suffice it to say that he believes that:

  • 1) extracting the Canadian tar sands will make the US, and North America generally, “energy secure”;
  •  2) there is no point in pushing for energy conservation or a shift to renewable energy;
  • 3) Canadian tar sand oil “may be a little dirtier than the crude that pours forth from the Saudi Arabian desert…but is hardly the environmental disaster many suppose”;
  • 4) the US is foolish to cede our interest in this oil to the Chinese.

To which I (and some 300 other respondents to his column on NYT.com, as of this writing) have to say, Joe, are you out of your mind????  Or are you just being willfully blind?

Yesterday I was writing about the holocaust of harp seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where for the past decade global heating has been melting the ice at an alarming rate, leaving newly born seal pups at the mercy of thin, fragile ice floes.  I have also been thinking a great deal about the Little Ice Age that seems to be occurring in Europe this winter.  While we here in New England are enjoying springlike temperatures and a total lack of snowfall, Europe is getting dumped on with snow, and frigid temperatures to boot.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find solid information about this in the NY Times or other mainstream press outlets, but if you look hard enough, it’s there.  Climate scientists are pointing to the steadily melting Arctic ice cap as the culprit in the change in wind and weather patterns that are bringing more extreme weather to Europe–remember the 2010 hot spells that cost hundreds of lives?  This severe cold is also to blame for hundreds of deaths.

Let’s connect the dots.  Tar sands extraction can only be done by burning lots more fossil fuels.  That’s why environmentalists oppose it.  Not so much because of the destruction of millions of acres of pristine wildlife habitat, though that is generally acknowledged as sad collateral damage.

No, the main problem with extracting the Alberta tar sands is that doing so will speed the heating of the planet.  Heating the planet will lead to melting polar ice, rising sea levels, and ever more bizarre and destructive weather patterns.

Heating the planet will lead to death and destruction on a vast scale.

As the authors of a recent Royal Society special issue on climate change put it, if temperatures rise 4°C , “the limits for human adaptation are likely to be exceeded in many parts of the world, while the limits for adaptation for natural systems would largely be exceeded throughout the world. Hence, the ecosystem services upon which human livelihoods depend would not be preserved.”

This is science-speak for a basic premise I think anyone could understand: if the temperatures continue to rise, human beings, and the ecosystems that have evolved alongside us, are TOAST (expletive deleted).

Going full-bore at the Alberta tar sands is signing the final death sentence for millions and millions of living beings on this planet, including millions of human beings.

Humans in heretofore privileged spots on the globe, like Europe and the USA, will not be excepted from the general ecocide.

Do you have any children or grandchildren, Joe?

Can you really in good conscience assure them that selling the Alberta tar sands, to the US or the Chinese, will contribute to their “energy security”?

If you answer yes, then my original hypothesis is confirmed.

You are out of your (expletive deleted) mind.

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