D – Climate Thinkers

Planet on the Boil: Twinkle-Uncle Dialogue on Climate Stalemate

earth 2

Uncle: And how about the D’s, Twinkle?

Twinkle: They are the Deniers, uncle. These conservative elements deny the very existence of the issue. For example, one Wag TV made a 90-minute documentary called ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ for Britain’s Channel 4. According to the channel, manmade climate change was “a lie…the biggest scam of modern times. The truth is that global warming is a multibillion-dollar worldwide industry: created by fanatically anti-industrial environmentalists; supported by scientists peddling scare stories to chase funding; and propped up by complicit politicians and the media …The fact is that CO2 has no proven link to global temperatures … solar activity is far more likely to be the culprit.”[1]

Since the Sun is deemed to be the problem, the solution some of them propose is to block some of the sunlight reaching the Earth. A group of nuclear weapons scientists at the Lawrence Livermore laboratory in California proposed launching into the atmosphere a million tones of tiny aluminium balloons, filled with hydrogen, every year. Another proposal from a scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, was to spray billions of tonnes of seawater into the air. Another scheme was to inject sulphate particles into the atmosphere. Yet another plan was to flip a giant mirror into orbit. All these suggestions would eliminate the ozone layer, cause droughts, change the rainfall pattern, propose a premature technology respectively. All those fixes were more expensive than cutting the amount of energy we consume. Most importantly, none of them would reduce the concentration carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.[2]

In March 2009, the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank, organized a conference of climate crisis deniers that had 600 attendees who were all white males and most of them were past retirement age. Among the 70 speakers only two were women and one African-American. They were affiliated with rightwing think tanks such as the Ayn Rand Institute, the Carbon Sense Coalition, the Committee for A Constructive Tomorrow etc. These deniers came from the conservative wing of the Republican Party and the extreme end of the Christian Right. Most of the fifty think tanks linked to this conference had received $47 million in funds from Exxon, and the Koch and Scaife families who had made their first fortunes in the oil business.[3]

Among these deniers there was little agreement on who they were fighting against and why. Some of them saw themselves as modern day Galileos and pure scientists trying to get the truth out against a hostile academic orthodoxy. Others saw it as an attempt to get in the way of business earning legitimate profit. For some, the enemy was government and for others such as the Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, a leading European climate crisis denier, it was  Communism. Marc Morano, an aide to James Inhofe, the Republican senator who had dismissed global warming as a “hoax,” said that the conference was a counter-offensive to what was happening in the mainstream media and the leadership in Congress and in the White House.[4]

They do not like the political and policy implications of climate crisis and hence they decide not to believe in it; they would grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial. For instance, Representative Paul Broun of Georgia, US, declared that climate crisis was nothing but a “hoax” that had been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.”[5]

Similarly, industries are not enthusiastic about taking the compliance process forward and planning for the future. In a survey of Indian industries to assess their preparedness, 83 percent of the respondents claimed to have fair understanding of the climate crisis but only 21 percent measured their current carbon footprint. The survey claimed that there was a significant gap between good intentions and appropriate actions to back them up.[6]

There were attempts by scientists, politicians and journalists to whitewash the whole issue by identifying false reasons and lame excuses. A former National Academy of Sciences president Frederick Seitz in the US published a paper in 1994 and listed several questions concerning the ‘greenhouse—warming’ connection. One of them claimed that when there were more sunspots, global temperature went up.[7]

Despite the fact that his country was the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels, the US President George Bush strongly opposed action against the climate crisis since he took office in 2001. He wanted G8 leaders to support new technologies to limit warming without harming business. Right before the G8 summit on July 6-8, 2005 in Scotland, he admitted in an interview on Britain’s ITV that global warming was “a significant, long-term issue that we’ve got to deal with.” However, he would not go along with any Scotland agreement if it looked like the Kyoto Protocol. He said: “The Kyoto treaty would have wrecked our economy.”[8]

In the diplomatic circles too, there are deniers. For instance, the UN Security Council discussed the climate issue for the very first time in April 2007 to reframe the way people think about this problem. But three of the permanent members, the US, Russia and China objected to it. Moscow’s Ambassador to the UN admitted he was “lukewarm because of where it is discussed.” For people like him, Security Council is meant for discussing bombs and bullets and not about trees and polar bears. Luckily, the British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett insisted this was what she wanted the SC to discuss. U.S. Senators, Republican Chuck Hagel and Democrat Dick Durbin tabled a bill that demanded all US agencies come together to produce national intelligence estimate of the threat of the climate crisis also.[9]

Uncle: Oh, my! They really don’t get it, do they?

Twinkle: They surely don’t. Acknowledging the presence of a wrong is the first step to think rightly about it.

The writer is a social and Green political activist from the southernmost tip of the South Asian peninsula, Email: [email protected].

[1] George Monbiot, “Bush’s change on climate is illusory,” The Hindu, January 31, 2007.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Suzanne Goldenberg, “Meet the climate change deniers,” The Hindu, March 13, 2009.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Paul Krugman, “Don’t pooh-pooh climate change. It’s real,” Deccan Chronicle, June 30, 2007.

[6] V. Jayanth, “Climate change: industry’s lukewarm response,” The Hindu, August 11, 2008.

[7] Jan Tenbruggencate, “Scientists back off from blaming global warming on humans, The Honolulu Advertiser, June 12, 1994.

[8] “Global warming: Bush won’t favour curbs on emissions,” The Times of India, July 5, 2005.

[9] Jonathan Freedland, “Now, global warming is a threat to all,” The Hindu, April 20, 2007.

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