Monday, November 21, 2011

Climate Change, denial, and suicide

Ah yes, the hard evidence just keeps piling up about climate change.  Meanwhile, here in Minnesota it snowed (a little) over the weekend but we are being promised 51°F (10°C) by Friday so this was just our "warning" snowfall.  So after a late and very wet spring and an incredibly dry fall, we are now treated to a late winter start.

Extreme weather will strike as climate change takes hold, IPCC warns
Heavier rainfall, storms and droughts could wipe billions off economies and destroy lives, says report by 220 scientists
Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent, Friday 18 November 2011

Heavier rainfall, fiercer storms and intensifying droughts are likely to strike the world in the coming decades as climate change takes effect, the world's leading climate scientists said on Friday. 
Rising sea levels will increase the vulnerability of coastal areas, and the increase in "extreme weather events" will wipe billions off national economies and destroy lives, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body of the world's leading climate scientists convened by the United Nations. 
Scientists have warned of these effects for years, but yesterday's report – the "special report on extreme weather" compiled over two years by 220 scientists – is the first comprehensive examination of scientific knowledge on the subject, in an attempt to produce a definitive judgment. The report contained stark warnings for developing countries in particular, which are likely to be worst afflicted in part because of their geography, but also because they are less well prepared for extreme weather in their infrastructure and have less economic resilience than developed nations. But the developed world will not be unscathed – heavier bursts of rainfall, heatwaves and droughts are all likely to take their toll. 
Chris Field, co-chair of the IPCC working group that produced the report, said the message was clear – extreme weather events were more likely. "Some important extremes have changed and will change more in the future. There is clear and solid evidence [of this]. We also know much more about the causes of disaster losses." 
He urged governments to take note – many of the economic and human impacts of disasters can be avoided if prompt action is taken: "We are losing way too many lives and economic assets in disasters." 
The report was timed just before crucial talks taking place later this month in Durban, South Africa, where the world's governments will discuss a new global agreement to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. 
Europe's climate chief, Connie Hedegaard, said the report should galvanise governments to act, especially when added to the stark warnings last week from the International Energy Agency that the world has only five years to take the emissions-cutting measures needed to prevent catastrophic global warming. She said: "Last week, the serious warnings from the International Energy Agency. Today, this IPCC report … With all the knowledge and rational arguments in favour of urgent climate action, it is frustrating to see that some governments do not show the political will to act. In light of the even more compelling facts, the question has to be put to those governments in favour of postponing decisions: for how long can you defend your inaction?'' 
Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics, said the report meant the science was now clear: "This expert review of the latest available scientific evidence clearly shows that climate change is already having an impact in many parts of the world on the frequency, severity and location of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and flash floods. more
Denial is strong.  Especially when change is gradual.  When listening to the climate change deniers—especially the seventh-rate "intellectuals" who are hoping they have found one last gravy train—I am reminded of that wonderful old insult, "He's a stupid man's idea of what a smart person sounds like."

Unfortunately, a lot of people in USA slept though their science classes so have no idea how to evaluate scientific claims.  So they fall for the soothing reassurance of the deniers who tell them that we don't have to change because the guys who are telling us we have to change are mean old commies.  Max Planck once warned us that change only comes to science one funeral at a time.  Besides, there is money to be made defending the status quo.
Capitalism vs. the Climate
Naomi Klein November 9, 2011

There is a question from a gentleman in the fourth row.

He introduces himself as Richard Rothschild. He tells the crowd that he ran for county commissioner in Maryland’s Carroll County because he had come to the conclusion that policies to combat global warming were actually “an attack on middle-class American capitalism.” His question for the panelists, gathered in a Washington, DC, Marriott Hotel in late June, is this: “To what extent is this entire movement simply a green Trojan horse, whose belly is full with red Marxist socioeconomic doctrine?”

Here at the Heartland Institute’s Sixth International Conference on Climate Change, the premier gathering for those dedicated to denying the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet, this qualifies as a rhetorical question. Like asking a meeting of German central bankers if Greeks are untrustworthy. Still, the panelists aren’t going to pass up an opportunity to tell the questioner just how right he is. 
Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who specializes in harassing climate scientists with nuisance lawsuits and Freedom of Information fishing expeditions, angles the table mic over to his mouth. “You can believe this is about the climate,” he says darkly, “and many people do, but it’s not a reasonable belief.” Horner, whose prematurely silver hair makes him look like a right-wing Anderson Cooper, likes to invoke Saul Alinsky: “The issue isn’t the issue.” The issue, apparently, is that “no free society would do to itself what this agenda requires…. The first step to that is to remove these nagging freedoms that keep getting in the way.” 
Claiming that climate change is a plot to steal American freedom is rather tame by Heartland standards. Over the course of this two-day conference, I will learn that Obama’s campaign promise to support locally owned biofuels refineries was really about “green communitarianism,” akin to the “Maoist” scheme to put “a pig iron furnace in everybody’s backyard” (the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels). That climate change is “a stalking horse for National Socialism” (former Republican senator and retired astronaut Harrison Schmitt). And that environmentalists are like Aztec priests, sacrificing countless people to appease the gods and change the weather (Marc Morano, editor of the denialists’ go-to website, 
Most of all, however, I will hear versions of the opinion expressed by the county commissioner in the fourth row: that climate change is a Trojan horse designed to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism. As conference speaker Larry Bell succinctly puts it in his new book Climate of Corruption, climate change “has little to do with the state of the environment and much to do with shackling capitalism and transforming the American way of life in the interests of global wealth redistribution.” 
Yes, sure, there is a pretense that the delegates’ rejection of climate science is rooted in serious disagreement about the data. And the organizers go to some lengths to mimic credible scientific conferences, calling the gathering “Restoring the Scientific Method” and even adopting the organizational acronym ICCC, a mere one letter off from the world’s leading authority on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But the scientific theories presented here are old and long discredited. And no attempt is made to explain why each speaker seems to contradict the next. (Is there no warming, or is there warming but it’s not a problem? And if there is no warming, then what’s all this talk about sunspots causing temperatures to rise?) 
In truth, several members of the mostly elderly audience seem to doze off while the temperature graphs are projected. They come to life only when the rock stars of the movement take the stage—not the C-team scientists but the A-team ideological warriors like Morano and Horner. This is the true purpose of the gathering: providing a forum for die-hard denialists to collect the rhetorical baseball bats with which they will club environmentalists and climate scientists in the weeks and months to come. The talking points first tested here will jam the comment sections beneath every article and YouTube video that contains the phrase “climate change” or “global warming.” They will also exit the mouths of hundreds of right-wing commentators and politicians—from Republican presidential candidates like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann all the way down to county commissioners like Richard Rothschild. In an interview outside the sessions, Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, proudly takes credit for “thousands of articles and op-eds and speeches…that were informed by or motivated by somebody attending one of these conferences.” 
The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank devoted to “promoting free-market solutions,” has been holding these confabs since 2008, sometimes twice a year. And the strategy appears to be working. At the end of day one, Morano—whose claim to fame is having broken the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth story that sank John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign—leads the gathering through a series of victory laps. Cap and trade: dead! Obama at the Copenhagen summit: failure! The climate movement: suicidal! He even projects a couple of quotes from climate activists beating up on themselves (as progressives do so well) and exhorts the audience to “celebrate!” 
There were no balloons or confetti descending from the rafters, but there may as well have been. more
Finally, a cautionary tale of the human costs incurred when climate change denial joins forces with the sputtering idiocies of neoliberalism.  Farmer suicides are especially sad because they run so contrary to the culture of life that is agriculture.  When they do happen, the cause is almost always economics.
Wave Of Suicides Among Indian Farmers
12:36pm UK, Friday November 18, 2011
Alex Rossi, India correspondent 
The record suicide rate among farmers in India continues to rise and is threatening the country's stability and future development, according to campaigners. 
They are blaming the government's policies for the agrarian crisis and are demanding it takes urgent action. 
More than a quarter of a million farmers have killed themselves in the last 16 years in what is the largest recorded wave of suicides in history.
Kishore Tiwari, a campaigner with the Vidharbha Jan Andolan Samiti in Maharashtra state in central India, says cotton farmers have been particularly badly affected.

Many of them have only just moved to growing cash crops - like cotton - in the last few years. 
He says the farmers have taken on large debts to buy hybrid seeds, which are often unsuited to the harsh and temperamental Indian climate. 
"They are sold these modern seeds and modern chemicals and have to take on large debts to buy them. 
"The problem is they need a lot of water which is in short supply and then when the crop is poor and they have to repay the money lenders, they despair and commit suicide." 
Mr Tiwari says the suicides are a symptom of a wider crisis in the countryside. 
India's has one of the fastest growing economies in the world but its roots are in the countryside and much of it is being left behind.

In a country with aspirations, moving away from a life of subsistence is attractive but it can also be deadly. 
Vandana Moohorle is now bringing up her children alone after her husband killed himself by drinking pesticide. 
Like many farmers, he had been persuaded to use genetically modified seeds by the possibility of a better harvest. What he wasn't told was that they needed more rain than the region provided. 
His wife blames the government and the large agricultural companies for exploiting the rural poor who dream of a better life. 
"He was always tense" she said. "He had borrowed a lot of money for pesticides and fertilizers and now I will have to pay back his debts. Debt is the reason for all the suicides around here and it's the people in charge who are responsible for it." 
Across rural India there is now widespread despair. The fields are also filling up with widows. more

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