As Millions March for Climate, Stab in Back by EPA & NYT

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

An estimated 200,000 climate protesters rallied in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, braving record temperatures in the 90s, well above the average temperature for April 29 in the national capital. They were allowed to surround the White House from a distance. The protesters were pushing back against the pro-Warming policies of President Donald J. Trump, which favor burning massively increased amounts of coal, gas and oil, putting extra billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere over time.

At the same time that protests were mounted in cities across the US and the world, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency under denialist, shyster lawyer, and generally miserable human being Scott Pruitt removed its Climate Change web page.. When the fox is in charge of the hen house, the first thing he does is to oil the hinges so the hens can’t hear him coming through the gate. So the climate marchers got stabbed in the back, predictably, by the very government agency that should be protecting their children from the ravages of pollutants like carbon dioxide.

State legislators, bought and paid for by Big Carbon, are plotting to try to stop the march to solar power and other renewables.

CO2 is a deadly greenhouse gas, which is responsible for having turned Venus into a scorching Gehenna where lead melts on the surface. Human beings evolved during the past 200,000 years, when carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have been low, roughly 270 parts per million. Since 1750 and the advent of the Industrial Revolution, human beings have increased CO2 in the atmosphere to 410 parts per million. This is the fastest accumulation of so many billions of tons of CO2 ever in the earth’s history. CO2 has fluctuated in the distant past, but over millions of years. A level of 410 ppm is consistent with massive warming and seas that are dozens of meters higher than now, which would submerge Florida, Louisiana, the Egyptian Delta, and most of Bangladesh, among other catastrophes. This warming and those disasters will happen over time rather than immediately, since the seas, for instance are cold and slow-moving and will take time to warm up consistent with the current greenhouse effect.

In order to muddy the waters and help Exxon-Mobil and the Koch Brothers, the New York Times sold out and hired climate denialist Bret Stephens, who abruptly tossed a set of old bromides about the uncertainty of climate change onto the editorial page.

Make no mistake about it. Bret Stephens is shamelessly purveying a falsehood. His like deliberately and skillfully deploy the techniques the cigarette companies used to deflect the science on lung cancer. It is known that liberals are open-minded, willing to concede the other person’s point of view, willing to entertain self-doubt. Denialists, like a criminal who profiles the victim before striking, have been trained to play on these traits.

But let’s get this straight. There is no more doubt in the scientific community about the reality of human-caused climate change than there is about the law of gravity. Perhaps Mr. Stephens and his ilk should step off their balconies every once in a while to test whether the arrogant Mr. Newton and his seventeenth century mathematics could not reasonably be debated on the certainty that they will fall to their deaths every time.

On climate change, there are no reasonable grounds for doubt about either the reality or the costs. An eighth-grade science experiment can prove that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Does Mr. Stephens think Venus is so hot because of the nitrogen in its atmosphere? Or could it be the massive amounts of CO2? Are there really grounds for a debate here?

I’m a historian, and have taught history and climate change. And, actually history is highly relevant here. Scientists have gathered ice cores and have developed proxies that allow them to estimate CO2 levels in past ages. And we can correlate those carbon dioxide levels with sea level, stationary massive storms and droughts, and other kinds of events that accompanied climate change in the past. Somebody tried to troll me that if CO2 levels fluctuated in the past naturally, how do we know that humans are causing today’s changes. That’s easy. Past fluctuations were mostly driven by volcanic activity– lots of it, over millions of years. There hasn’t been anything like that going on since 1750 (you would have noticed), and nor could volcanic activity change the levels so rapidly (they never have, ever before). Current volcanic activity is putting less that 1% as much CO2 into the atmosphere as human burning of coal, gas and oil.

Bret Stephens at the NYT is the essence of fake news.

The New York Times gave us the Iraq War with phony stories about aluminum tubes and Iraqi nuclear bomb projects, and biological weapons on bumpy Winnebagos on Iraq’s potholed roads. The paper has a lot of great and honest reporters, but a little bit of arsenic can ruin an otherwise fine meal.

What I can’t understand is why people don’t protest in front of coal plants and embarrass the utilities running them. They are the dirtiest, most dangerous things on the planet and all of them need to be closed down yesterday if we are to get a handle on climate change. Trump can’t promote coal mining if there aren’t any plants burning the noxious stuff (it is laced with mercury, a notorious nerve poison, quite apart from destroying the planet with CO2).


Related video added by Juan Cole:

CGTN: “Thousands gather in protest at People’s Climate March”

11 Responses

  1. No one could accuse Margaret Thatcher of not being sufficiently to the right.
    ” “the need for more research should not be an excuse for delaying much needed action now … there is already a clear case for precautionary action at an international level.”
    Second World Climate Conference , 1990.
    She could see it nearly 30 years ago. Perhaps her Chemistry Bachelor of Science degree helped her see the picture.

  2. This is going back to the dark ages. Science and progress will be a thing of the past. Perhaps the Taliban will approve of such thinking.

    • That’s the exact thing I thought today while driving here in Indiana. The right wing Governor and his cronies have let the roads deteriorate for the last twenty years all the while cutting taxes on the wealthy. So who gets to to pay for the repairs? The working people and poor with new taxes and toll booths! The thought flashed in my mind today – a Republican toll booth on every road, which will force people to stay in their own little town/hamlet, going back to the dark ages. They are nuts. Oh, buy a new car and the tax increase is like fifteen dollars. Buy a full electric car and its something around $150.00! The Republicans are really trying to kill off electric cars.

  3. We could all stand to be better informed here, and when things simply make no sense its best to question ones assumptions.

    First, these people, as cited, cannot be that stupid. Could it be that they are compromised by industry, but rationalize things with a knowledge that legacy energy is on its last legs and the situation will resolve itself in 20 years by free market mechanisms? While there is a price to pay, maybe they think they can have their cake (bribes) and eat it to. The march 27 NYT quoted Pruit, parsing how it was impossible to measure climate change with “any great precision.” It was the sort of BS line one gets from the lawyer of a guilty dependent, who is cornered into questioning his opponents grammar: the guy really does know better.

    Second, why is it that the deeper background and demonstrated allegiances of the people cited so consistent and predictable (do a quick wiki on any of them)? Their ultimate allegiance is consistently only to their tribe and/or sheer power. So, the greater good is simply not part of their values equation. This is something to accept and deal with.

    Third, even when elected, its a mistake to think politicians represent The People. Demo/GOP candidates, especially at the national level, represent corporate and elite interests, and vary only in the style of salesmanship they offer to the masses. Trump distracts people with one hand while doing their bidding with the other; Hillary’s style wouldve been different, but she would have to answer to the same masters. House representatives come from increasingly gerrymandered districts, representing ideologically narrow and mindless constituencies on both ends of the spectrum. At best, a minority of eligible voters who do vote cancel each other out, which ordinarily might be a good thing. But at the national level, policy alternatives are out of The People’s hands.

    What’s to be done is a tougher question, but getting a more accurate read of the realities tends to clarify things and resolve some of the more intractable frustrations before effective action might become possible.

    • Reread the article and your points are all addressed. The fundamental problem is the military–industrial–congressional complex minus the military in this case. I am including the NY Times as part of the industrial complex since they are profit driven and have shown time and again that profit trumps veracity. The comparison to cigarette companies and lung cancer is spot on. Politicians can be bought and this is a good example.

      • The point is to look directly at the situation, and the people mentioned, for what they are and what this all means. What’s to be done.

        1) They know better, and they. Just. Do. Not. Care. This isn’t a matter of persuading or education.

        2) These people are the Usual Suspects, who cannot even be safely described directly, due to their power. Suffice it to say that in foreign affairs they represent the two main flavors of neoconservative.

        3) The current system of government has become corrupted to the point it no longer belongs to The People.

        Now. What to do?

  4. Brett Stephens at the NYT is the essence of fake news.

    And, at last night’s White House Correspondents Association dinner the attendees were dishing out and lapping up praise for the mainstream media and their search for the truth.

  5. There is nothing logical in this addiction to coal, it’s mostly sentimental, I might say “germinal”.
    I remember French PM Pierre Mauroy’s mythological thinking ; in 1981 wanted to re-open the coal mines in Northern France, thanks to his historical background.

    First suggestion : send a copy of Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” (the chapter on Easter Island might suffice) to “these people”, in order to help them understand that, notwithstanding their own air conditioning devices, they will be burned, too. Just a little later.

    Second suggestion : make “these people” nervous, by telling that China runs 2/3 of the world’s bullet train network (source : le Monde 4/22) (neither oil- or coal-powered) and that they shall be overcome. There is a risk there : they may bomb the railways …..

  6. “Perhaps Mr. Stephens and his ilk should step off their balconies every once in a while to test whether the arrogant Mr. Newton and his seventeenth century mathematics could not reasonably be debated on the certainty that they will fall to their deaths every time.”

    Now, now. Doubt is still warranted here. Perhaps they will merely break their backs, legs, necks and skulls, managing to survive (in a vegetative state) for many miserable years to come.

  7. Now *this* is a good idea:
    ” …Mr. Stephens and his ilk should step off their balconies every once in a while to test whether the arrogant Mr. Newton and his seventeenth century mathematics could not reasonably be debated on the certainty that they will fall to their deaths every time.”

  8. The sad fact is that polarization has reached the point where they do things that don’t even make sense in their own free market fundamentalism philosophy. They’re against addressing climate change primarily because we are for it. They basically do it just to piss us off.

Comments are closed.