Category Archives: Climate change

Opinions on Climate Change

A Climate Emergency

 

We are about a week away from a federal election in Canada. I think I have to weigh in on this issue. The Canadian Parliament has declared that we are in a climate emergency. I don’t think that is a hysterical reaction. I think that aligns with most of the science. And it is the scientists we should be listening to at a time like this. Since this issue is so important I think we in Canada should vote primarily based on who will best deal with this crisis.

Yet it is clear that our Canadian government, led by the Liberals who mainly supported that resolution that Parliament made, is not treating it like a climate emergency. They are doing better than the Conservative opposition, but that is not saying much. It is a climate emergency, but the Canadian government has just invested $4.5 billion dollars to purchase the rights to the Trans-Mountain pipeline planned to transport bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands to the Pacific. To do that they have to cross numerous First Nations reserves. And  many (but not all) of  the Indigenous people on those reserves  do not want that pipeline on their land. Neither the government of B.C., nor the people of B.C.  are very receptive either. Spending so much money to invest in a pipeline that will last for decades, when we should be getting off fossil fuels, does not sound like the Liberals are treating the problem like an emergency. I know Canadians, and not just oil companies, earn a lot of money from the oil and gas industry. But we spend a lot to support (subsidize) it too. Are we being wise? I think not.

As I said, the Conservatives are even weaker. They have promised that within weeks of taking office they will rip up the Carbon Tax, even though almost all economists acknowledge that a tax on carbon is the only measure that makes economic sense.  Alternative proposals from the Conservatives seem weak at best. They have some good ideas, but on balance, they are clearly not treating this as an emergency either. The Member of Parliament who represents the riding in which I live, had a supporter deliver a pamphlet to our door which highlighted cancelling the carbon tax at the top of his list of promises. He lost my vote right there, but I know in my riding there is not a chance that he will not be re-elected. But I won’t vote for him.

The New Democratic Party policy, as far as I can see, follows the Liberal policy quite closely in this respect, but they don’t support buying the pipeline. But this is an improvement.

The Greens have the most interesting idea. They will impose a carbon tax, like the Liberals, and will increase it regularly like the Liberals, but they will not stop at $50 a tonne. Most economists agree with them that $50 is likely to be insufficient. The Greens promise to keep raising the tax until it works and we start to reduce oil and gas consumption enough to reach our targets. Another words, they will raise the tax until it hurts and we do what needs to be done. Unfortunately it is now so late that anything less is wholly inadequate. We have had more than 30 years to deal with the problem and now we are paying for that procrastination.  Partly we have been procrastinating so long because powerful interests have been spending a lot of money to persuade us that this was in our interests. Why this happened is an interesting story in its own right, but I will deal with that later. Because the election is approaching so fast I think I have to concentrate on that right now.

Next I shall report on some famous people who came to the city in the Climate First Tour.

 

 

 

G7 and Climate Change

As we drove towards B.C.  we heard on the radio that at the recent G7 talks when the subject of climate change came up on the last day, President Donald Trump left the room and the meetings.  There was nothing he felt he had to learn on the subject. He knew it all. The country that has emitted more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any other country in the world is now led by a simpleton who does not understand the significant dangers of failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As the actions of the G7 countries are currently on track to lead to increased average global temperatures of 4°C rather than the agreed upon maximum of 2°C, with likely catastrophic results, the failure of the American President to take the issue seriously is profoundly unsettling. But no one should be surprised.

Edmonton surprises Us

Our drive through Edmonton was uneventful. That is the best way to drive through a major city.  There was one thing of importance that happened. This was the announcement that the City of Edmonton has declared a state of climate emergency as part of its urgent response to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By itself that is not that amazing.  What makes it interesting is that Edmonton is a city deep in the Oil belt. It is in the heart of Conservative climate denial. Recently elected Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has already announced  that he is getting Alberta out of the climate deal the previous Premier made with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. A number of Canadian Conservative Premiers, including Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario have committed to fighting the federal climate plan which includes a puny carbon tax even though many serious economists, including the recent Nobel Prize winner have stated that a carbon tax is the most effective means of tackling climate change.

Most politicians in Canada are doing little or nothing about climate change, even though scientists agree it is posing an existential threat to the country. Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish climate activist has been haranguing political leaders around the world to treat the climate crisis as an emergency because she sees so few of them treating it as a real emergency. And that is what we actually need. We should be acting like it is an emergency rather than battling each other about how to deal with the problem.

Many local governments in Canada have already declared a state of climate change emergency. I know that mere declarations serve little purpose unless they are accompanied by action, and I hope Edmonton will do exactly that, as its mayor has promised. But doing nothing or advocating that nothing be done, or failing to treat this issue as an emergency, as so many governments are doing, including the Provincial government in both Alberta and Manitoba, is a gross dereliction of duty. It is incredible that it requires a young teen age activist to make that clear.

Stick your nose in the Mess

 

Canada and the other wealthy countries have recently been issued a report card by an independent agency about their progress on climate change. And if I ever brought home such a report card I know I would have been in big trouble at home.

According to the Climate Action Network an international association of more than 1,300 climate groups after assessing the performance of the G7 “the wealthiest countries in the world—including Canada—are lagging instead of leading in the fight against global warming.”

It is not a pretty picture. This is how the director of that network described it: The richest countries in the world are delivering the poorest performance, and some of the smallest and poorest are the leading the way.”

The report ranks Canada’s climate plan as having the same effect on global warming as the policies of the United States, where the U.S. President has rejected the Paris agreement. Ouch! Japan is also in this sorry category. Other countries in the G7 are doing slightly better in the 3°C category. Included here are France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

The report got even more specific.  Mia Rabson described it this way: “The report card says Canada’s current policies are consistent with global warming exceeding 4°C compared to pre-industrial levels, more than twice the stated goal of the Paris agreement of staying as close to 1.5°C as possible and absolutely no more than 2°C.”

Well what does a 4°C average global temperature rise by 2100 mean? It doesn’t sound like much. But it is! First, we must remember that more than a hundred countries have agreed that a temperature rise of 1.5°C would be dire, and a rise of 2°C catastrophic. Guardian  columnist George Monbiot called a rise of 2°C “climate breakdown.” He also said, “This is a catastrophe we are capable of foreseeing but incapable of imagining. It’s a catastrophe we are singularly ill-equipped to prevent.”

As such a previously unthinkable temperature rise becomes all too thinkable, scientists are spelling out for us what this will likely mean.

 

Drowned cities; stagnant seas; intolerable heat waves; entire nations uninhabitable… and more than 11 billion humans. A four-degree-warmer world is the stuff of nightmares and yet that’s where we’re heading in just decades.

 

To many of us the end of the century seems like a long ways off. To some it probably is inconceivable. Yet, my grandchildren will be in their 80s then. It is the world they will inherit and I wonder what they will think of us who left it to them.

In my legal career I was a commercial lawyer. One of the things I had to do many times, when my clients were taking risks that I believed they did not properly appreciate, was to make it abundantly clear and understandable. I had to drill the risks home in plain, clear, and understandable terms. The warnings could not be cursory or perfunctory. Often examples were the best way to do that. Sometimes I metaphorically had to stick their noses in the mess to make sure they saw it. I cannot do that for climate change. But Gaia Vince, an independent environmental journalist can. This is what she said:

“Four degrees may not sound like much – after all, it is less than a typical temperature change between night and day. It might even sound pleasant, like retiring from the UK to southern Spain. However, an average heating of the entire globe by 4°C would render the planet unrecognisable from anything humans have ever experienced. The last time the world was this hot was 15m years agoduring the miocene, when intense volcanic eruptions in western North America emitted vast quantities of CO2. Sea levels rose some 40 metres higher than today and lush forest grew in Antarctica and the Arctic. However, that global heating took place over many thousands of years. Even at its most rapid, the rise in CO2 emissions occurred at a rate 1,000 times slower than ours has since the start of the Industrial Revolution. That gave animals and plants time to adapt to new conditions and, crucially, ecosystems had not been degraded by humans.”

 

I think that makes the issue pretty clear. Now we know where we appear to be headed and there is little sign that we are slowing down.

Humans will survive. But I am not sure that is good news. It makes more sense to say it will be bad news. As Vince argues,

“The good news is that humans won’t become extinct – the species can survive with just a few hundred individuals; the bad news is, we risk great loss of life and perhaps the end of our civilisations. Many of the places where people live and grow food will no longer be suitable for either. Higher sea levels will make today’s low-lying islands and many coastal regions, where nearly half the global population live, uninhabitable, generating an estimated 2 billion refugees by 2100. Bangladesh alone will lose one-third of its land area, including its main breadbasket… Indeed, the consequences of a 4°C warmer world are so terrifying that most scientists would rather not contemplate them, let alone work out a survival strategy.” 

After  speculating how it is possible for us to produce enough food to feed the projected population of 11 billion people when climatic conditions will be so unfavourable to agriculture in so much of the world, Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany has also reached some grim conclusions: “There will be a rich minority of people who survive with modern lifestyles, no doubt, but it will be a turbulent, conflict-ridden world.”

As if this is not bad enough I just heard today that Donald Trump skipped that part of this year’s G7 meeting dealing with climate change. After all he knows it all doesn’t he? And his country has done more to create the problem than any other country in the world.

David Suzuki and the Indigenous Attitude to Nature

At the University of Winnipeg talk after showing the film Beyond Climate, Suzuki also discussed a new attitude to nature. He  began by talking about the American economy.

After World War II and the end of the Great Depression, America President Franklin Roosevelt realized that the war economy had saved capitalism from self-destruction. But a war economy carries with it enormous unpalatable costs far beyond mere economic costs. He realized that what it needs is consumption. Constant relentless consumption. That was his solution.

Of course what the United States has actually done is to maintain both a consumer economy and war economy. The U.S. spends as much on the military as the 9 countries that are next in line, spend combined.

Suzuki thought we needed a better way. Climate change was just one of the things such an attitude had ushered in. He said  he had learned a lot from indigenous people. In fact he said, “Indigenous people have taught me all I know.” This was important because much of the film dealt with the opposition of First Nations to the plans of Alberta and the Canadian government to build pipelines from the Oil Sands of Alberta to transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) or oil or bitumen to the coast of British Columbia. Alberta was upset that the federal government could not ram through the pipeline approval process. Of course that is just not feasible. Those days are done. The Supreme Court won’t put up with it.

In the late 1970s Suzuki realized that we needed a new attitude to nature. And he found it. He found it in the 1980s when he went to interview indigenous people at Haida Gwaii. He wanted to talk to them about the protests by indigenous people over logging on their land. He talked to forest company executives, environmentalists, politicians, and, most importantly Haida. That was how he met Guujaaw a young artist who was leading the Haida opposition to the logging.

Suzuki wondered why the Haida were so vehemently opposed to logging since many of their own people got jobs with  logging companies. And many of them badly needed jobs. Suzuki asked him, “What would happen if the trees were cut down?”  His reply was profound, but Suzuki did not realize at first how profound. Guujaaw said, “Then we’ll be like everyone else, I guess.”

A few days later Suzuki thought about that answer and it “opened a window on a radically different way of seeing the world.” As we keep getting reports from the World Wildlife Fund and others about the incredible impact humans are having on the world, I think a new attitude to nature is exactly what we badly need. Suzuki explained it this way,

“Guujaaw and the Haida do not see themselves as ending at their skin or fingertips. Of course they would still be around physically if the trees were all gone, but a part of what it is to be Haida would be lost.  The trees, fish, birds, air, water, and rocks are all part of who the Haida are. The land and everything on it embody their history, their culture, the very reasons why Haida are on this earth. Sever that connection and they become ‘like everybody else.”

Indigenous people around the world have similar attitudes. They  are based on a deep attachment to the land they occupy. They are connected to that environment. It is part of who they are. Suzuki like other people from the west had a different attitude to nature and that has made all the difference. To the Haida, and other indigenous people, and as Suzuki concluded,

 

“…there is no environment ‘out there,’ separate and apart from us; I came to realize that we are the environment. Leading science corroborates this ancient understanding that whatever we do to the environment or to anything else, we do directly to ourselves.The ‘environmental’ crisis is a ‘human’ crisis; we are at the centre of it as both the cause the victims.”

 Suzuki realized he had found the new perspective he needed. It allowed him to see the world through different eyes.  He realized, as the Haida had before him, that what we needed to survive and thrive was not more money in order to live rich and healthy lives. This new attitude to nature was reflected in all the Haida did and found its fruits in how they wanted to interact with the land. As Suzuki said, “Rather than being separate and apart from the rest of nature, we are deeply embedded in and utterly dependent on the generosity of the biosphere.” I use the word “affinity” to describe this new attitude to nature. I will comment on again in these blogs.

It is this attitude that Albertans don’t understand. It is not just a matter of paying the Indigenous people money. They want jobs, they want money, but not at any cost. They don’t want it at the cost of their identity. That is why some of the indigenous people, but not all of them, do not want pipelines on their land and will sacrifice the jobs if necessary. I know that seems bizarre to Albertans and most Canadians for that matter. Alberta and Canada have to learn to respect that. Only then will they be able to successfully deal with Canada’s first nations.  And perhaps Canada will learn something valuable in the process. Perhaps there is something of value in that new attitude to nature.

Max the Tax

Conservatives in Canada are already gearing up to fight the next election and an important platform for them is reputedly a war against the carbon tax, as modest as it is.  I have heard their leading line will be, “Axe the tax.”  It has a poetic ring to it, but is it good policy?

The scientists of the world have warned us that we have to reduce our consumption of carbon by 50% in 12 years. That is a tall order. Economists generally agree that the best weapon against carbon is a carbon tax. It makes sense. Make the carbon so expensive people will voluntarily switch to alternatives that have already been developed. Instead of subsidizing carbon, as we have been doing for decades, we have to do the opposite. We have to make the use of carbon painful. That’s why I advocate for a carbon tax to the max. No one likes taxes but clearly we need this one. There is no reasonable alternative on the horizon. The Conservative Party has not suggested any. It wants to continue doing what it did while the federal conservatives were in power, as little as possible. The federal liberals who were in power before that, had the same policy. It is time for change; it is time for transformative change.

Canada has recognized that a transition to a non-carbon economy requires carbon pricing and that it has to curb carbon pollution and lets face it, that is exactly what carbon is at this time in our history. We can no longer afford to pollute with carbon.

Peter Miller in an article in the Winnipeg Free Press put it well: “Absence of a carbon price (or one set too low) is a moral and market failure. It is in effect a subsidy paid to emitters by victims and governments who pick up the costs of more damage from climate change. “Axe the tax” really means “keep the subsidy.” A better cry is, “Make the polluters, not the victims, pay.”

And I’m sad to report I am one of the polluters. And so are you. Most of us are. And we’ve got to pay. Some of us can’t afford to pay. The carbon tax should be used to mitigate the losses for those people. Most of them did not cause the problem. People like me (and you) caused the problem. We should pay. Damn I had to say that, but I think its true.

That’s why Miller said, “Cancelling a carbon tax altogether is destructive tax avoidance.” It’s time to max the tax, not axe the  tax.

Time is Running Out: A secular Revival: David Suzuki in conversation about film Gimme Some Truth

 

After the showing of the film Gimme Some Truth, that I saw at the University of Winnipeg,  David Suzuki talked about how foresight was a key characteristic of humans. It was an incredibly valuable skill. It allowed us to thrive where other species died out. We have more technologies and techniques to look ahead than ever before. However we are not using these tools, or our skills, to look ahead to see the danger around the corner. Instead we are allowing economics and politics to dominate. We are accepting business as usual. Some of our politicians are doing exactly that.

Franklin D. Roosevelt knew after the Depression and during the WWII that America would have to transition from a war economy to something new and different. The war economy was what got America out of the Depression but at a great cost—i.e. wars are incredibly devastating. He wanted something to replace that war economy with something less destructive.  He found that in consumption. America’s economy became a consumer economy. Consumption drove the economy. This, according to Suzuki was a horrible mistake. I agree. The consumer society has shredded the environment and morality.  It was as bad as the war economy.

Suzuki said that many of his colleagues whom he respects a lot believe that it is already too late to do anything about climate change. They say, we are already doomed. We can’t keep temperature rises to 1.5º C as scientists say we need to do to avoid catastrophe and as the governments of the world said they would do when they signed the Paris accords on climate change. To this Suzuki responded, “We don’t have enough information to know that this is true, so we have to give it a try.” He refused to give up–yet. “Nature is resilient. We need to step back and give it a chance,” he said.

According to Suzuki “climate change is the “existential issue of our time.” We must get politicians to take this issue seriously. All other problems pale in comparison.” As a result we have to do something urgent and game changing. He says we have to get after every politician. We cannot accept any longer their refusal to deal with this issue. We can’t let them backtrack. It is too late.

Suzuki pointed out that in 1998 the environment was the No. 1 issue on the minds of Canadians. Then we had a recession and everyone forgot about it and turned to the economy instead. Politicians started to talk about environmentalists as a ‘special interest group.’ That is not what we are, Suzuki said.

As Suzuki said, “Our kids have everything to lose. Their entire future is at stake. This is much more than a drop in 3rdquarter profits.” The elders like Suzuki and, of course, me, have to speak up. We should blog about it. Hey I am doing that. We all have to do something.

If you think social justice is important, as Suzuki does, and I do, social justice will be radically affected by climate change. The poor and those who have done the least to cause the problem will suffer the most from climate change. Is that just? Climate change is the serious issue, not marijuana. Yet we spend much more time talking about marijuana.

In July of 2017 Suzuki wrote a letter to the Prime Minister who had been so widely hailed as an environmental savior when he committed Canada to the Paris accords on Climate change. Suzuki was deeply worried about what Canada was doing when it approved dubious pipeline projects. Here is part of that letter:

… If we don’t look at it head-on, then I believe we will continue to talk but fail to take the hard steps that must be taken now — stop all discussions of building pipelines, shut down the tarsands and fracking, and get on a hard path to renewables. That must be done if we are to even come close to meeting the 2050 targets in the Paris Accord. It is ludicrous to keep looking to the economy and market forces and consumer pressure to make us change direction. We need you to make big, hard decisions and Harper made it all the more difficult for you by failing to even tackle the low-hanging fruit …

The good news is that the future predicted doesn’t have to happen, but only if you take the hard steps. You know I have no hidden agenda. I implore you as an elder near the end of my life and terrified for the future of my grandchildren.

This evening in Winnipeg David Suzuki filled the audience with wild enthusiasm. It was like a secular revival meeting.  Let’s hope its more effective than that. He said in the next election he wants stadiums filled with young people and adults demanding change. That election is about one year away. Suzuki thinks that is our last chance.

Scientists in their dry manner have issued a serious warning. Here is what the press release the IPCC issued says,

The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air. Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.”

What does “unprecedented changes mean?  There are many interpretations. Here is one: At 2ºC , 25% of all species will be extinct. At 3ºC New York City will be submerged. Of course the higher the temperatures the worse it gets.

Suzuki described his altar call this way:

 

“We’ve now got a call that is comparable to the call when Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941.  After that event, nobody said, ‘Those damn liberals, they want to spend us into poverty. Nobody said, ‘This is a Democratic or Republican issue. Nobody worried about the economic cost. We’ve got a challenge. How to make a peacetime economy in which our primary goal is to make a massive transition of our energy usage.”

 

Suzuki also pointed out that like the reaction to the Pearl attack this can be done. It is tough but not impossible. And our time is short. Half of the reductions must be made in 12 years! As Suzuki said,

 

“Sweden, which is a northern country like Canada imposed a carbon tax in 1992 of $130 per tonne. We’re quibbling over $10 (per tonne) or $15 (per tonne) or $50 (per tonne). During the  time that the tax was $130 (per tonne), the Swedish economy grew by 40 percent. So now, let’s not waste time on that. Let’s get a carbon tax in and lets start with a much bigger tax than either the Liberals or any of the other governments are speaking of…Stop behaving as if it’s those Greens who care about the environment, and we don’t give a damn because the economy is our highest priority. This is Pearl Harbour, and let’s act on it together.”

 

Debra Roberts one of the Co-Chairs of IPCC Working Group II, (not a radical like Suzuki) in presenting the report to the world press, pointed out, “The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future.’Then she added, This report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people’s needs. The next few years are probably the most important in our history.

Manitoba and the Carbon Tax

 

Just before we left Manitoba for Arizona, I heard our Premier Brian Pallister rail about how unfair the federal government is to Manitoba. They were not giving Manitoba credit for all their green activities such as Manitoba hydro.  Palliser does not get it.  First, the carbon tax is not a normal tax at all. It is actually revenue neutral. Every dollar of tax Manitobans will pay will be given back to Manitobans to use in activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Every cent of tax collected will be paid back. In fact if he joins the federal plan he can decide how that money is to be spent.

This is no time to argue about Manitoba’s carbon plan compared to Canada’s plan. We must work together.    We have 30 years (or perhaps a lot less) to completely transform the global economy. This is probably the biggest task humanity has ever undertaken. We cannot fail. The result of failure are too catastrophic and the cost too immense. If we don’t make the necessary changes the climate will make them for us.

We need political leaders who can stand up to corporate interests who are putting their own welfare above that of the people. We cannot allow them to profit from pollution any longer. We also have to tackle the inequities that changed policies will necessitate.

We can use the carbon tax money to do that. We must make sure we don’t pay it back to the polluters. Then we have accomplished nothing. Too often government policies have done exactly that. We cannot shield Canadian polluters under the guise of preserving their competitiveness. Polluters should not be competitive. If every government shelters the polluters the carbon tax will bring no benefits. The price on carbon must lead to decarbonizing the economy. Business models that rely on polluting the atmosphere are outdated and must be rejected. Businesses should no longer be able to push such costs on the people of Manitoba as an “externality.” We have to use the money raised to fund clean alternatives that don’t pollute.

The policy of the federal government to impose a carbon tax of $10 per tonne of carbon pollution now, rising to $50, is likely inadequate. But at least we must do that. At the same time we can urge the federal government to do more.

The Conservatives have been criticizing the Liberals relentlessly for months, claiming the new proposed carbon tax will be a “tax grab”. Then the Liberals explained how the tax was going to be paid back to the people. Now the Conservatives are complaining the Liberals were trying to buy votes by giving the money back. That is what they promised all along. It is supposed to be a revenue neutral tax.

The carbon tax is a completely sensible proposal. Economists have been saying for some time that this is the best way to fight climate change. Really it is just an application of the polluter pays principle. It really makes complete sense that the person who pollutes pays for the pollution. Pollution should not be treated as an externality that can be passed on to society.  Those who don’t pollute will get more of the money back.

The plan could be criticized for many reasons, but Conservatives have picked the wrong ones. I think they should have attacked the carbon tax for not making carbon expensive enough!

The government is bringing a tax that will cause the price of a litre gasoline to rise less than 12 cents in 5 years. The Conservatives have been railing against this massive tax grab.   According to gasbuddy.com the retail price of gasoline has fluctuated by $0.24 in the past year, $0.38 in the past 2 years, $0.55 in the last five years. How can the modest carbon tax be economically destructive as the Conservatives have complained, remembering too that all the tax will be paid back to the people?

There are some good taxes. That sounds liken an oxymoron. Or is that just a moron?

Thinking about Climate Change

 

I have been thinking a lot about climate change lately. Thinking of course, not necessarily doing anything about it. That is harder. So I am determined at least to speak up. I will also try to do something in my own personal life. But I think speaking up is important too.

I have recently left a country that is in climate change denial for another . I have left Canada for the United States. In Canada we are just more surreptious about it. We claim we  believe climate change is real and is caused by humans, and we claim we are doing something, but nothing gets done. IN 20 years now nothing has got done. In the US many people  still don’t even believe that climate change is happening or that it is caused by human activities. The numbers of those who resist the obvious are shrinking, no matter what their President says about it. I am not sure which country is worse.  The hypocrite (Canada) or the resister (the US). Both have serious flaws. Our grand children won’t be impressed.

If the temperature rises 1°C the new UN Climate report released in 2018 says, up to a third of people in the world could lose their source of clean water. At a 2 °C rise people begin to die in what are “normal” summers. Countries already hit hard by hurricanes could see those already dramatic effects amplified, and most fearfully, 1/3rd of all  life on the planet faces extinction. If that does not catch the attention of people it is difficult to comprehend what could. Now I admit thinking about things like that are hard.  Who wants to do that?  Well, for sure, not the President of the United States. Nor most of his Republican enablers.  Even worse, millions of Americans still support his Presidency.

Trump was recently interviewed on CBS 60 Minutes and was asked if he still thought climate change was a hoax. He dodged the question. As comic Jim Jefferies said, “Some Republicans continue to say that climate change isn’t real, but the real hoax is Republicans pretending it’s a hoax. They know the science is real, they’re just making so much money they don’t give a shit. ”

Texas Republican Lamar Smith is the Chair of the American House Science Committee and he received more than $600,000 from the oil and gas industry. Another Republican, the senior Senator from Oklahoma since 1994, has many contributors from the oil and gas sector. His biggest funders include ExxonMobil and Koch Industries. It sometimes  seems the only thing that one can afford to buy is a Senator.

Of course it is difficult for people to focus on issues like this when you tell them they are going to die. As Anthony Leiserowitz the Director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication  said, “Climate change is the policy problem from hell. You almost couldn’t design a worse problem as a fit with our underlying psychology or with the way our institutions make decisions.” The problem is that when we feel fear, or guilt or experience anxiety we tend to withdraw from the issue and try to think about something else that makes us feel better. That is much more pleasant. It is difficult to avoid doing that. But critical thought demands it.

As Jim Jefferies said, “Imminent death is too scary to contemplate. If you told me that I am going to die and everyone I ever met is going to die a fiery death my first thought wouldn’t be ‘Oh I’d better bring my own grocery bags to the store. It would be more like, ‘I have been meaning to try heroin.’ The problem of climate change is just too big and overwhelming. How can we possibly deal with a threat to our lives, our kid’s lives, our grand kid’s lives, our great grand kids?”

Jefferies suggested that the only way to get Trump’s attention was with pictures.  So he drew one of a Trump Hotel filled with people, but not the kind of people Trump wants. he pictured a Trump hotel filled with dirty refugees. He asked Trump to consider this, “First Mr. President with all the refugees created by global warning, poor people will have to stay in Trump hotels with all their disgusting unwashed faces and their dirty hands.” Then Jefferies had another horror story for Trump to consider. “As the weather gets more severe if you think Stormy Daniels is a problem wait until she is upgraded to Hurricane Daniels!”  As if that picture was not graphic enough he had another, “Eventually Russian prostitutes will be too dehydrated to piss on a mattress.”  His conclusion was that “we gotta put these pictures on chicken buckets until he gets the message.”

These were stories from a comic. It’s pretty bad when the comedians give us the straight goods and the politicians evade the truth. That seems to be where we landed.