Written By Patrick Mazza
The climate hour is late, too late for anything but the most sweeping and fundamental efforts to break free from fossil fuels. Lying oil companies have skewed our political system, blocking effective response for over 25 years. Now the Earth’s climate is severely twisting under the effects of fossil fuel carbon pollution. Never has the disruption been more visible than in recent months.
This is the first of a series of blog posts leading up the largest direct actions against the fossil fuel industry in history. From May 4-16 Break Free, staged by the global 350.org network and other groups, will mount actions at six U.S. locations and in 10 other countries around the world. Civil disobedience will play a leading role. That will definitely be the case for the Pacific Northwest action, taking place from May 13-15 at oil refineries in Anacortes, Washington and organized by a broad coalition of mainly grassroots groups and collectives from around the Northwest.
After many years of political system failure, we can rely only on a massive people power wave capable of making demands for fundamental and rapid system change. A political system corrupted by the greatest series of corporate crimes in history leaves no other option.
Investigative journalists recently uncovered how oil companies systemically lied about climate disruption, knowing the monstrous implications of their deceits. Journalists documented that Exxon scientists researched fossil-fuel-driven climate disruption in the 1970s and 1980s, and accurately predicted the outcomes. These revelations are now fueling fraud investigations by 20 state attorneys general across the country.
Exxon and its cohort of oil companies knew exactly what they were doing when in the late 1980s they began funding disinformation campaigns meant to cast doubt on climate science and stop regulations that would have reduced carbon pollution. Their tragic success already spells the death of millions of people and extinction of uncounted species. It is the absolutely pinnacle example of how powerful corporate institutions driven by the imperative to preserve profit and the value of capital assets will take our planet down if we let them.
Thus, to break free from fossil fuels, we need to break free from the institutional corruption that pervades our society, and prevents meaningful progress. To paraphrase John Lennon, we need to free our minds from the institutions that have held back our imagination of what this society could be if we decided to make a world fit for our children.
Make no mistake. Our generation is well on the way to leaving a legacy of utter desolation. Severe climate disruption is already upon us. We need to understand what this means. Climate is an abstract word, and that is part of the challenge in drawing people to respond to it. Climate is in essence the pattern of wind and ocean currents that drive weather patterns around the globe. It hits home in the amount and intensity of rain and snow a region receives, or does not, as well as extremes of heat and cold, and the way they lock in for extended periods. Wind and ocean currents are becoming seriously twisted.
This is evidenced by the Pacific Ocean’s third monster El Nino in 34 years, affecting weather patterns across the Earth, and by warm winds blowing over the Arctic leaving the March 2016 maximum Arctic Ocean icepack tied for 2015 as the lowest ever recorded. Going into melt season, this could set up record low ice cover this summer, with expanded patches of blue water soaking solar heat that white ice would otherwise repel into space. Heating of the Arctic is likely slowing and stalling the jet stream, one of the world’s major weather generators, resulting in massive deluges and snowstorms in some places, scorching heat and drought in others. And, as much feared, it is now documented that Greenland icecap meltwater is interfering with North Atlantic currents that transport warm water from the tropics. While the world is seeing record warmth, the North Atlantic is witnessing record cold. The cold-warm contrast is already fueling more intense storms.
Underscoring the emergence of a climate emergency, scientific agencies reported that this January and February were by far the hottest ever recorded. It was the largest spike over average temperatures on record. At 1.35° Celsius, reported by NASA, it came perilously close to the 1.5°C limit set as an aspirational goal by the recent Paris climate summit, and regarded by many scientists as an absolute limit to prevent runaway climate catastrophe. In fact, with climate-twisting carbon emissions at a record, we are well on the way to a 4°C increase as early as this century. This represents a massive crime against climate justice.
“As the planet warms, climatic conditions, heat and other weather extremes which occur once in hundreds of years, if ever, and considered highly unusual or unprecedented today would become the ‘new climate normal’ as we approach 4°C – a frightening world of increased risks and global instability,” the World Bank recently reported. “The consequences for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water resources change, diseases move into new ranges, and sea levels rise. Ending poverty, increasing global prosperity and reducing global inequality, already difficult, will be much harder with 2°C warming, but at 4°C there is serious doubt whether these goals can be achieved at all.”
The human face of this could be seen when the most powerful storm to make landfall in Southern Hemisphere history plowed into Fiji February 20, killing 42 and destroying the homes of 62,000. At seven percent of the nation’s population, that would equate to 23 million Americans being suddenly driven from their homes. Category 5 Typhoon Winston, with winds up to 185 mph, was the second most powerful tropical cyclone to hit land in the planet’s history after Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the Philippines in 2013. These storms underscore the tragic fact that the fossil fuel consumption, mostly by the richer countries, is taking from poor people of color what little they have.
In the face of all this, when the world should be taking desperate measures to reduce carbon emissions, 2015 saw record growth in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. The Titanic is headed toward the iceberg and the captain is ordering the boilers stoked to speed the ship toward its destination.
The climate emergency is now staring us in the face, as is the bankruptcy of politics as usual. We must break free from fossil fuels, and relentlessly drive for a rapid and just transition to 100% renewable energy. The next post will detail how we must undertake this energy revolution, which is well within our grasp.