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30 Years Ago Climate Change Became News And Both Sides of Politics Took It Seriously

June 23, 1988 marked the date on which climate change became a national issue.

In landmark testimony before the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, James Hansen, then director of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies, stated that:

“Global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause-and-effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and observed warming…In my opinion, the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.”

Hansen’s testimony made clear the threats posed by climate change and attributed the phenomenon to human exploitation of carbon energy sources. Its impact was dramatic, capturing headlines in The New York Times and other major newspapers.

file 20180607 137312 1yu682g1(New York Times)

As politicians, corporations and environmental organizations acknowledged and began to address this issue, climate change entered into the political arena in a largely nonpartisan fashion.

Yet despite decades of public education on climate change and international negotiations to address it, progress continues to stall. Why?

One reason for the political inaction is the gaping divide in public opinion that resulted from a deliberate – and still controversial – misinformation campaign to redirect the public discussion on climate change in the years following Hansen’s testimony.

James Hansen testifying to Congress in 1988 (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)James Hansen testifying to Congress in 1988 (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

Just as predicted

Four years after Hansen testified to Congress, 165 nations signed an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

They committed themselves to reducing carbon emissions to avoid dangerous disruption of the Earth’s climate system, defined as limiting future temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius.

The signatories have now held 25 annual UNFCCC conferences dedicated to developing goals, timetables and methods for mitigating climate change, the most consequential of which are encompassed in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

But as of today, not one single major northern industrial country has fulfilled its commitments under the Paris treaty, and the nonprofit Climate Action Tracker has rated the United States’ plan to achieve the Paris goals critically insufficient.

There have been more than 600 congressional hearings on climate change, according to my calculations, and numerous attempts to pass binding limits on carbon emissions.

Despite those efforts, the United States has yet to take meaningful action on the problem – a discrepancy compounded by President Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from the treaty altogether.

In the three decades since Hansen’s testimony, the scientific certainty about the human causes and catastrophic effects of climate change on the biosphere and social systems has only grown stronger.

This has been documented in five Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports, three US National Climate Assessments and thousands of peer-reviewed papers.

Yet CO2 levels continue to rise.

In 1988, atmospheric CO2 levels stood at 353 parts per million, or ppm, the way to measure the concentration of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere. As of June 2018, they have reached 411 ppm, the highest monthly average ever recorded.

The effects of these increased concentrations are just as Hansen and others predicted, from disastrous wildfires in the western US and massive hurricanes associated with historical flooding to extended droughts, rising sea levels, increasing ocean acidification, the pervasive spread of tropical diseases and the bleaching and death of coral reefs.

Massive gap on public opinion

Future generations will look back on our tepid response to global climate disruption and wonder why the world did not act sooner and more aggressively.

One answer can be found in the polarization of public opinion over climate change in the United States.

The latest Gallup Poll shows that concern about climate change now falls along partisan lines, with 91 percent of Democrats saying they are worried a great deal or fair amount about climate change, while only 33 percent of Republicans saying the same.

(The Conversation/Gallup/CC-BY-ND)(The Conversation/Gallup/CC-BY-ND)

Clearly, a massive gap between Republicans and Democrats has emerged regarding the nature and seriousness of climate change.

This partisan divide has led to an extreme political conflict over the need for climate action and helps to explain Congress’s failure to pass meaningful legislation to reduce carbon emissions.

Polarizing public opinion

The current political stalemate is no accident. Rather, it is the result of a well-financed and sustained campaign by vested interests to develop and promulgate misinformation about climate science.

My scholarship documents the coordinated efforts of conservative foundations and fossil fuel corporations to promote uncertainty about the existence and causes of climate change and thus reduce public concern over the issue.

Amplified by conservative media, this campaign has significantly altered the nature of the public debate.

These findings are supported by recent investigative news reports showing that since the 1970s, top executives in the fossil fuel industry have been well aware of the evidence that their products amplify climate warming emissions.

Indeed, industry scientists had conducted their own extensive research on the topic and participated in contemporaneous scientific discussions.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade group, even circulated these research results to its members.

By 1978, a senior executive at ExxonMobil had proposed creating a worldwide “CO2 in the Atmosphere” research and development program to determine an appropriate response to growing evidence of climate change.

Unfortunately, that path wasn’t taken. Instead, in 1989, a group of fossil fuel corporations, utilities and automobile manufacturers banded together to form the Global Climate Coalition.

The group was convened to prevent the US adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In its public statements, the coalition’s official position was to claim global warming was real but that it could be part of a natural warming trend.

The corporate drive to spread climate misinformation continued beyond fighting Kyoto. In 1998, API, Exxon, Chevron, Southern Co. and various conservative think tanks initiated a broad public relations campaign with a goal of ensuring that the “recognition of uncertainties of climate science becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’”

While that coalition disbanded in 2001, ExxonMobil reportedly continued to quietly fund climate misinformation, funneling donations through conservative, “skeptic” think tanks such as the Heartland Institute, until 2006, when the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists exposed its funding scheme.

ExxonMobil – the nation’s largest and wealthiest company – continues to work with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a self-described public-private partnership of corporations and conservative legislators, to block climate change policies.

Holding fossil fuel companies responsible

ExxonMobil’s conduct – promoting uncertainty about climate science it knew to be accurate – has generated public outrage and led New York’s attorney general to initiate an investigation into whether the company has illegally misled the public and its investors about the risks of climate change.

This trend in litigation has expanded, and there are now several ongoing climate litigation suits.

While important, lawsuits cannot fully address the larger issues of corporate social and political responsibility to acknowledge and address climate change.

Just as Congress investigated efforts by the tobacco industry to dupe the public into believing its products were harmless in the 1990s, I believe a full and open inquiry is needed now to unmask the vested interests behind scientific misinformation campaigns that continue to delay our efforts to mitigate a global threat.

At a minimum, the US needs to change the system of hidden funding, in which companies such as ExxonMobil or the Koch brothers use pass-through organizations to camouflage donations to climate denial efforts.

Current US tax rules for nonprofit organizations, including climate-denying think tanks, do not require them to reveal their donors, enabling them to support large-scale political activities while remaining unaccountable.

American voters deserve to know who is behind climate disinformation efforts, and revising nonprofit reporting laws is a good place to begin.

In my view, the central concern here is nothing less than the moral integrity of the public sphere. The Declaration of Independence states that governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

But when vested interests with outsize economic and cultural power distort the public debate by introducing falsehoods, the integrity of Americans’ deliberations is compromised.

The ConversationSo it is with the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to distort public discourse on the urgent subject of climate change.

If corporations and public relations firms can systematically alter the national debate in favor of their own interests and against those of society as a whole, then democracy itself is undermined.

I believe Congress can and should act to investigate this issue fully. Only then can we restore trust and legitimacy to American governance and fulfill our society’s moral duty to address climate change at a scale commensurate with its significance.

Robert Brulle, Professor of Sociology, Drexel University.

This article was originally published by The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Planet Earth

Volcanologists discover “domed magma uplift” in the Yellowstone caldera

© twitter.com

The last time a major eruption of Yellowstone occurred 640 thousand years ago. The supervolcano is currently under close scrutiny by scientists who are trying to recognize the slightest signs of a possible future catastrophe. 

According to some experts, the eruption is unlikely to happen again, since the volcano is quite “old”, while others are sure that it will definitely happen again, the question is only in time.

Volcanologist Robert Smith of the University of Utah made an amazing breakthrough in understanding the Yellowstone system when he noticed a change in water levels in a local lake. The study focused on looking for signs of deformation in its caldera, which could indicate an impending eruption, Express reports.

“He recognized some of these signs, especially in the changes in the level of Yellowstone Lake, and saw that his basin was tilting, which caused the water level to rise at one end of the lake and fall at the other,” geologist Robert Christiansen said.

According to the data received, over the past 50 years, the caldera has risen by about two-thirds of a meter. This was later found to be normal for Yellowstone, as scientists observed periods of upswing followed by declines.

The experts explained that this is a rather impressive “domed uplift”, which indicates magmatic activity. 

“Either the magma invaded the crust or it heated the hydrothermal system, causing it to expand and lift the crust,” Christiansen said. 

Later it was found that the periods of rise last for about ten years, then a period of stability begins – about a year, after which the water level falls.

It is currently at a low point. The results were based on an analysis of volcanic deposits scattered tens of thousands of miles across the region.

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Planet Earth

Piraha – people who live for the day and are considered the happiest on Earth

In the wilds of the Brazilian jungle, the people of Piraha live, which is difficult to understand for a modern person. They do not know the past and the future, consider prolonged sleep dangerous and have no idea what stress is. The missionary who came to the piraha to teach them life, came to the conclusion that these people are the happiest on Earth. And years later, he completely realized that he needed to learn from them, and not vice versa.

We are publishing rare pictures of these mysterious people and also tell the most shocking facts about Pirah people, who see the world absolutely differently from most people on the planet.. And we can also tell the most shocking facts about the people of Pirah, who see the world absolutely differently from most people on the planet.

Live here and now

The essence of the Pirah culture is explained very simply: “Live here and now” In their language there is only the present tense, because, according to the people, the only important thing that is worth communicating to others is what is experienced at that very moment.

Who are Piraha - people who live one day and are considered the happiest on the planet
©  bad.planet / Instagram

Piraha believe that sleep is harmful 

They were shocked when they found out that someone was sleeping for 8 hours. The people are sure that if you fall asleep for a long time, you can wake up as a different person. However, there is also an opinion that such a regime was formed due to the fact that the area where the people live is teeming with snakes. Therefore, they sleep in fits and starts for half an hour and no more than two hours a night.

They only distinguish between dark and light colors. Red and yellow confuse people, as well as green and blue.

Who are Piraha - people who live one day and are considered the happiest on the planet

The number of Pirah is only 800 people

Usually, representatives of primitive tribes would rather take their own lives than lose their honor and respect. But not a feast. They basically don’t understand what anger or despair is . “If Haaiohaaa dropped the fish into the water, that’s bad. No fish, no dinner. But what does Haaiohaaa have to do with it? ” – they just think.

The concepts of “century”, “time” and “history” are empty phrases for pirah, and almost none of them remember their grandparents. When asked what was the tribe before they laconic answer: “Everything is the same’.

Mothers don’t tell their children bedtime stories. In addition, here, in principle, no one remembers any stories: collective memory is built only on the personal experience of the oldest living member of the tribe.

Also, the piraha do not know what guilt and shame are. A husband can easily leave his wife if she is no longer young and pretty. Moreover, the woman will not be angry with him and will simply say something in the spirit:

“It happened because it happened, that’s all. So, we need to look for a new man.”

Who are Piraha - people who live one day and are considered the happiest on the planet
©  Smithsonian Channel Smithsonian Channel / YouTube

In their language there are no words for the left and right sides, and the people do not understand why this is necessary.

Piraha mothers do not know how many children they have

But they distinguish them by their faces. The point is that this nation cannot count. Piraha do not even perceive the word “one”. However, they have concepts of “several” and “many”. That is, they can say that they have several children, but they cannot give the exact number.

Who are Piraha - people who live one day and are considered the happiest on the planet

Piraha show no interest in the achievements of modern civilization. Moreover, they completely do not understand the way of life of modern people. “ How can you sleep and eat so much? “- this is how the people think about white people. However, they began to wear clothes, and also used aluminum utensils, threads, matches and fishing tackle.

This culture lacks religion and the concept of God. Although belief in the otherworld is common in most cultures, piraha is useless.

Who are Piraha - people who live one day and are considered the happiest on the planet
©  Smithsonian Channel Smithsonian Channel / YouTube

Every few years, the inhabitants of the people take a new name for themselves, which corresponds to the next period of their life.

Due to the peculiar perception of time, this unusual people do not see the need to store food for future use. What’s more, they don’t treat food as significant at all. If you could not find something for lunch, then  you can skip lunch and eat the next day.

Кто такие пираха — люди, которые живут одним днем и считаются самыми счастливыми на планете

In the Pirah, everyone is equal 

There is no social hierarchy. Perhaps that is why researchers note the amazing vitality of these people. In their tribe there is no envy, anger, theft, conspiracies and intrigues.

They don’t say thank you, sorry and please. In other words, they don’t have any courtesies. Piraha are perplexed why all this is needed, because they all treat each other so warmly without any formalities.

Who are Piraha - people who live one day and are considered the happiest on the planet

Missionary and linguist Daniel Everett wanted to teach Pirah all the benefits of civilization and lived for many years among these unhurried, constantly laughing and knowing no sins people. During this time, he suddenly became an atheist and changed his worldview. After all, the Pirahaha absolutely did not understand why to believe in someone whom no one saw, and why this someone influences the happiness and life of an individual.

Piraha do not suffer from mental disorders and depression. According to Everett, this nation has a phenomenal degree of life satisfaction, and without banned substances and antidepressants.

Piraha are sometimes called the happiest people on the planet.

 According to some experts, while some people remember the past or spend time studying the features of other cultures, this people simply lives their own lives, smiles, laughs and knows no troubles.

Do you think a person from a civilized society cannot understand the inhabitants of the jungle? Or is there something attractive in their principles of life?

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Planet Earth

How to create a “heaven on earth” for all mankind?

We ask ourselves this question and tried to answer it. Of course, by “paradise” we do not mean “paradise booths” somewhere in the mythical nooks of the past, but a very real place – our home called planet Earth.

Moreover, this is our only home at the moment, since the prospects for the colonization of other planets of the solar system for us are still rather dreams, and very far from being realized.

Two main problems for humanity

Do you know what we like about people? The fact that even being in difficult living conditions, they do not limit their interests only to how to earn a living for themselves – no, they are interested in more global issues: political, social, philosophical or scientific in nature. But what worries them the most?

In our opinion, most people on our planet are preoccupied with two main problems:

1) Security (in every sense of the word, including economic)

2) Happiness (in the broadest sense of the word)

While these problems may seem very different at first glance, they actually boil down to caring for your own well-being.

In this context, it is quite easy to understand why humans do not live in paradise on Earth.

There are many problems that are prevalent all over the world today, such as wars and crime (with all the associated problems), as well as various health problems, both physical and mental.

It seems obvious that no one wants to live in a world where they are constantly under the threat of violent crimes, wars or other disasters, and it is also clear that many people want to find love and happiness not only, and not so much for themselves, but rather for those who are very dear to them.

Hence, the most obvious way to create a paradise on earth would be to increase safety for all people and increase the possibilities for human relationships.

When it comes to security, there are a number of obvious things that can be done. For example, many people are concerned about pollution and environmental degradation, as well as related issues such as global warming and overpopulation.

There is an obvious solution to this in the form of cleaner energy sources (such as solar energy) and more efficient modes of transportation (including space travel). This would help reduce fears about climate change at least partially.

Another issue that is widely discussed is the possibility of a nuclear war between large countries. This could potentially lead to the extinction of all of humanity, if it happened at the moment, given the advances in technology and weapons compared to previous generations.

In addition to these issues, there are a number of other issues that seem to be at least somewhat predominant, such as privacy, economic insecurity and social inequality.

What we can do?

If we digress from philosophical reasoning and look at the real situation that has developed in the world over the past ten years, we can see that the world has ceased to live by the rules.

If earlier, there were official and unofficial rules of “behavior of states in international relations”, now these “gentlemen’s agreements” are completely ignored.

One possible solution to this could be the creation of a “world government” that would control all aspects of human life (including economy and technology). However, this will almost certainly have some negative consequences.

World government: pros and cons

Pros : One government of all human civilization, by definition, will save us from wars, economic inequality, social inequality and the likelihood of global destruction in the event of a nuclear war. In fact, on planet Earth, there will be one huge country in which the entire population of the planet will live.

Cons : There is a risk that people will come to power who will turn the good goal of “heaven on earth” into the possibility of establishing a dictatorship in which all the disadvantages of the previous type of government will remain, when “everyone was for himself”, but already without the opportunity to defend their interests as it was when there was a system of scattered but sovereign states.

How, then, to create a paradise on earth for everyone?

1) Develop future technologies that will help us save the planet and stop global climate change.

2) To develop medicine in the direction of increasing the life expectancy of a person, which will entail an increase in the quality of life, and an increase in “happiness” for each individual citizen.

3) To achieve maximum protection of people from any threats . The safety of citizens in all spheres of life should become a priority for the state.

4) Revive the system of “international rules”, which must be observed by all countries, without exception.

5) Limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons in order to increase the overall level of the sense of security of all mankind, and save it even from hypothetically possible mutual destruction in the event of a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons.

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