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Antarctica melting ice

Misconceptions about the subject of climate change still abound, so frequently assisted by the corporate lobby denialists, confused journalists, and also far too many evasive politicians. 

Several years ago, an acquaintance of mine encountered an American executive in the oil industry. When challenged on the subject of  global warming, this executive conceded that the climate was altering. However, he did not believe that human activity was the cause. Moreover, he could not see any reason for oil companies to change their policy by investigating alternative energy sources. The reason being that huge profits were made from oil production. When confronted about melting polar ice caps, the executive stated that oil companies were pleased about the Arctic ice cap receding; his own company could now drive drilling equipment straight into the rock without having to remove the ice layer. There was no expression of conscience about the repercussions of this exploitation.

The oil companies substantially assisted to precipitate the climate of weather extremes; nothing else matters to them but their accumulating wealth and sales drive.

The ever more costly fuel is purchased by compliant consumers who race at breakneck speeds in corroding metal frames poised on wearing rubber tyres. They can often be seen holding mobile phones close to their ear as they drive around in their technological chariots. Too many of them play extremely loud music on car radios that defy normal standards of public nuisance. The British police have given unheeded warnings that the combination of car radios and mobile phones is deadly, being the root cause of many accidents on congested roads where almost everyone drives too fast.

The West Antarctic ice sheet is one of the regions currently under close scientific scrutiny. This polar  zone is contributing about 25 percent of the annual global melt in land-based ice, a phenomenon which has increased in conformity with some warnings generally ignored. The West Antarctic ice sheet  “is particularly precarious in the face of a warming climate and ocean currents, because it is grounded hundreds to thousands of feet below sea level.” Relevant findings were contributed by an international team involving the Technical University of Denmark and Colorado State University. One conclusion is that glacial isostatic adjustment may slow the demise of the West Antarctic ice sheet “by lifting up the bedrock and sediments beneath the ice sheet.” The uplift is ocurring very rapidly, a type of process that  would normally occur over thousands of years. According to Professor Rick Aster, if future global warming is extreme, the entire West Antarctic ice sheet will still melt. 

To keep global sea levels from rising more than a few feet during this century and beyond, we must still limit greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, which can only occur through international cooperation and innovation. (Quote from Aster, Rising Bedrock)

Only a decade ago, the dramatic retreat of ice sheets was commonly regarded as a myth. The sceptics of climate change fooled the world. The required international cooperation is missing. Countries like America and Russia innovate distractions from the necessary directives expressed by the United Nations. Future calamity is now certain, not the fantasy that many tycoons have invented. Many helpless people are already paying the dire cost of capitalism and resource exploitation with their lives.

While we watch the global problems increasing, we can observe the anomalies in occurrence. At relative leisure, one can move backwards and forwards over the past fifty years or so to investigate the errors. Nothing can prevent the basic consequences of those errors, in view of the dismal lack of politically concerted action to remedy deficiencies.

There is now a new industry for the consumer. Many writers on ecology have favoured various forms of “green” merchandise which supposedly create utopia. Like the “eco houses” of the Findhorn Foundation, everything has a price in the new age of eco-fantasy. The more affluent the client, the more he or she might have to pay the entrepreneurs. Furthermore, like other houses, the “eco” variety can be resold for a profit. I have critically referred to this scenario as ecobiz, dating back to my book Pointed Observations (2005); see the index p. 415. The word Ecobiz has been used in a more glorifying sense by industry and business concerns.

The current situation has been deceptive for fifty years. One impediment is the new wave of green business consultants, who have invented such beliefs as: “We will save the biosphere by adopting nuclear energy, GM crops and geoengineering.” See Channel 4’s convenient green fictions.

Other problems have been created by misleading journalism, which has shown an alarming ability to misread and distort environmental issues. Some years ago, a British daily newspaper hosted a diversion which the more responsible George Monbiot duly addressed. The misinformation extended to the subject of water vapour, alleging that cyclical changes in vapour may account for much global warming in the twentieth century.

Scientific analysis has described this construction as a classic denialist argument created in the early 1990s. The error was dispelled years before by a NASA satellite measuring water vapour. The changes caused by accumulation of carbon dioxide are the root cause of water vapour feedback. Water vapour is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but does not increase or change unless carbon dioxide precipitates the damaging atmospheric processes. Warming from CO2 emissions causes more water to evaporate from the oceans and collect in the atmosphere, thus producing an even larger scale of warming.

The same erring media source asserted that the British Met Office website showed how global temperatures were flat for the past fifteen years. Monbiot observed in contradiction that “all the datasets, including the Met Office/CRU figures show that the current decade is the warmest in the instrumental record.” Such details are well known to ecologists, but still widely obscured by political and oil industry aberrations.

Too many media reports about climate change, during the past forty years, were imbecilic.  The yardsticks employed were too often those of corporate business and complacent high salary politics. Not to mention sheer incompetence. In view of the extensive scale of climate problems, the current civilisation can easily be regarded as the worst one in history; whatever the glaring flaws in former epochs and societies, none of them could achieve anywhere near the damage provided by contemporary feats of manic corporate capitalism and the “march of progress.”

On the controversial subject of nuclear power, Greenpeace stated a decade ago: “Despite what the nuclear industry tells us, building enough nuclear power stations to make a meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would cost trillions of dollars, create tens of thousands of tons of lethal high-level radioactive waste, contribute to further proliferation of nuclear weapons materials, and result in a Chernobyl-scale accident once every decade.”

In America, the situation was almost unbelievable for so many years. The situation, in 2010, was assessed by the environmentalist Rick Piltz: “During the past two years, the global warming denial machine has launched a nihilistic, take-no-prisoners war on climate science and climate scientists that makes Bush officials seem tactically subtle and rhetorically nuanced in comparison.”

Science journal reported a crisis (R.A. Kerr and E. Kintisch,“Climatologists Feel the Heat as Science Meets Politics,” 17/12/2010). In 2000, George W. Bush pledged to regulate CO2, but when he became President, he refused to sign the crucial Kyoto Protocol which 187 countries had ratified three years before. The Bush Administration became notorious for downplaying and evading the actual and potential effects of climate change, but did not mount overt attacks on climate scientists. The subsequent Republican revolt against climate science was far more extremist.

What we face today also includes members of Congress and other politicians, plus an army of lobbyists and political and propaganda operatives, who are essentially acting as agents for corporate interests and right-wing anti-regulatory radicalism. And the [American] blogosphere is awash in science-ignorant attack dogs who appear to take lessons from thugs. (Rick Piltz, “Today’s War on Climate Scientists,” 2010)

America, Russia, and China are not the only vandals in terms of carbon dioxide pollution. The new threat from Canada, formerly a minor contributor to climate change, has created alarm. Canada needed to cut CO2 emissions only 6% by 2012. Instead, the Canadian emissions rose over 25% by 2010. This setback was caused by big business exploitation in Alberta. Mining the tar sands can politely be called an ecological disaster. The tar sands have to be extensively refined to produce crude oil. The general mess is a major strike at nature and non-corporate humanity. The many adverse consequences include “mutated fish, poisoned food, and unusual diseases.” Such drawbacks mean nothing to the relentless purses pocketing the profits. Several of the world’s biggest oil corporations are involved.

The tar sand project has been described in terms of the largest and most destructive industrial project in human history, attended by long term ecological risks. The economic gains have been impaired.

Ecological sanity is severely offset by corporate greed. By the time that due public education is created, it will be too late. Realism is alien to the ailing international consumer society, which substitutes distractions at every turn.

Kevin R. D. Shepherd
January 7th 2011, modified December 2018

ENTRY no. 36

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