For over 30 years, a coalition of fossil fuel companies and their supporters – politicians as well as businesses who gain from maintaining the status quo – have been fighting the scientific community and their environmental supporters in the battle for and against climate change. The former, well-funded, have largely succeeded in a campaign of deception and duplicity that casts doubts on the “certainty” of climate change and/or lack of “consensus” among the scientists. As far as they are concerned, so long as one “scientist” remains unconvinced, the case is not settled – hence no need to do anything about climate change.
In an article in The New Yorker (26 Nov 2018), Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, quotes Alex Steffen, who famously referred to the conspiracy to hide the truth and confuse the clueless public as “the most consequential deception in mankind’s history.”
It is a colossal understatement. What could have been essentially solved by now at relatively little cost had we started in the 1970s and ’80s will cost us at least twice as much today – and far more the longer we wait. And still, our political leaders are either giving it mere lip service or — in the case of President Donald Trump, for example — not even that (box on right).
Having wasted precious time – at least 3 decades since former NASA scientist James Hansen testified before the US Congress in June 1988 – the problem has grown to epic proportions, requiring urgent and coordinated action on a global scale. Two recently released reports from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and US Government’s 4th National Climate Assessment conclude that further delays or inaction will have dire consequences.
Surprisingly, the latter is more unequivocal on the extent of the calamity facing the US and the world at large. It emphatically states that climate change is primarily caused by human burning of fossil fuels and says that the current feeble efforts to counteract the effects of rising temperatures aren’t enough, with potentially devastating economic consequences. These are strong and unambiguous words for 14 US government agencies involved in preparing the report under the Trump administration.
But no matter how dire the message or how credible the messenger, it fell on deaf ears to the point of being irrelevant. President Trump said he did not believe the predictions of the scientists and academics who said climate change could lead to billions of dollars in economic losses.
Philip Drost, head of UN’s environmental arm, said, “The missing link here is leadership.”
Bill McKibben, puts a lot of the blame on the powerful fossil fuels lobby. In the New Yorker article, he writes, “In the case of global warming, the culprit is fossil fuel, the most lucrative commodity on earth.”
Amazingly, there are still those who see nothing wrong with maintaining the status quo, no matter what the IPCC or the US government’s own studies say. Speaking at a recent event organized by carbon- loving Koch brothers, Rick Perry, the US Secretary of Energy, said he expected the US to go on emitting carbon at the current levels through 2050.
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