|Donald Trump wants to tear up the Paris Climate accord; Hillary Clinton wants to implement it
Trump has no knowledge of climate realities, accepting in the absence of understanding the rabid ravings of a few energy industry-sponsored “deniers”, namely that global warming is a hoax. Clinton has done her homework and understands the conclusions of the overwhelming majority of expert in climate science, namely that global warming is real, is happening much faster than any previous such warming in the planet’s history, and that the cause of the resulting climate changes is our burning of fossil fuels.
Trump claims it’s not an issue; Clinton knows it’s the most important challenge our country and the rest of the planet have ever faced.
That difference alone would require any well-informed American voter to cast their November ballot for Clinton, no matter how much that voter may dislike Clinton, or her husband, or “establishment Democrats”, or Progressives, or sloppy email server management.
Whether one favors Clinton or not, the latest qualified national survey shows that 64% of Americans are now worried about the damage fossil fuel burning is doing to our planet. This, even though the media hasn’t effectively informed them about the critical dangers and risks we face, not just as a country, but as a species.
We’re confident the issue of climate change will be raised in the debates between the two candidates. But with the understandable level of public concern and frustration about the issue, with the complexities of the topic, and given the threat to action on climate change posed by Trump, we need to get the mitigation of climate change impact into the public discourse now, not later.
Plus, we have to acknowledge that Trump may be so afraid of showing his inability to take on Clinton mano a mujer that he will turn tail and refuse to debate her. The chances of any serious discussion about climate change during the campaign would then be zero.
How to inform the voters in time?
What can we do to help people quickly understand the main threats of global warming, and how climate change can be mitigated, especially when the subject is much more complicated than even our conflict with Islamic terrorists, or immigration, or jobs growth–not to mention all the disinformation about global warming spread by minions of the energy industries and their political allies for the past three decades?
Our approach is to start with a simple, brief, basic list of ten well-demonstrated scientific facts and observations.
Courageous men and women of science have done the heroic field and laboratory work to “prove” these findings; that’s not the purpose of this post. Nor will we defend the reasoning behind the conclusions listed here–readers can go to the sources and make up their own mind if our reasoning is sound.
All we’re trying to do here is summarize the truth about climate change in language the voters can understand. We have confidence that if they know the hard truth, they’ll vote for action to mitigate the disasters our children and descendants will face in the second half of this century and beyond.
The ten basic truths voters need to know
Let’s begin with the scientifically based truths:
1. Climate change is not a hoax
The changes in the Earth’s climate are observed facts. The only global warming hoax is the one that Exxon Mobil and the other fossil fuel companies have been perpetrating for fifty years, as they concealed their own research and sand-bagged climate science through false-front “scientific” so-called think tanks and the bought votes of politicians.
2. The climate, including both the atmosphere and oceans, is warming faster than our powerful models predicted just a few years ago
The sea and atmosphere are warming even more rapidly than was forecast just a few years back by officially sanctioned scientific sources sponsored by the UN. With improving techniques and measurement tools, scientists are discovering feedback loops, deep ocean relationships, and glacial melt phenomena not foreseen even five or ten years ago.
3. The climate is warming quickly mainly due to our use of fossil fuels
The evidence of this is now overwhelming. Readers who continue to deny this truth can Google ” fossil fuels global warming”.
The largely unspoken or unpublicized truths
4. The media is focused mostly on rising sea levels, not on the much more dire impacts of climate change
This is understandable, since those living on the world’s coasts and low-lying islands are the ones most visibly affected by rising sea levels and massive storms. Similarly, extended droughts get some coverage. The media are beginning to report the disaster facing coral and other oceanic species as the oceans warm.
But the vastly more threatening near-term impacts are the decline in potable water supplies, the destruction of the oceanic food chain, and regional climate impacts such as enormous regional droughts.
The human impact is rarely reported in the proper context of climate disruption. The media do not want to discuss the most dangerous likely outcome of climate change: the mass migration of millions of desperate people — not the ones moving from Miami or the Gulf Coast to higher ground, but the penniless millions in South Asia, and the starving millions in Africa, desperately trying to find food and water and shelter for their helpless families.
5. Little to no public attention has been focused on known potential methane release events
Methane is potentially roughly twenty times more deadly than CO2 as a greenhouse gas in the short term. If enough methane were to be “released” into the atmosphere at once, say, over a fifty-year span, the Earth’s climate would warm very much faster.
Scientists call the mass release of naturally stored methane an “event”, almost as if it was a minor or local phenomenon, akin perhaps to all the ice currently atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania melting, not seasonally, but for all time. Methane release events are anything but minor; they affect the entire planet.
These events occur when the arctic and/or deep oceans become warm enough to melt the huge quantities of methane frozen at the bottom of the sea. Equally threatening would be the release of millions of tons of methane currently suspended in the frozen tundra regions of North America and Siberia. Both types of methane release events are driven by global warming, so it’s likely our descendants will be hit by both types of events at once.
We know beyond any possible doubt or stupid “denial” that that the climate is warming fast. What we cannot yet see is how much faster it will heat up once we begin to experience one, or very likely, two methane release events concurrently.
The scientific question is how close are we to triggering the beginning of massive methane releases? How much more CO2 buildup in the atmosphere and oceans can the planet tolerate before we pass the methane release tipping point? Once the releases begin, it will be too late to avoid the worst consequences of our collective greed and foolishness.
6. Our ability to predict the pace of future warming is very much undermined by our lack of global research
There are many more threats to our collective survival. The coming methane release is but the scariest. All the risks and threats urgently demand study and measurement. But in the U.S., we’ve allowed the efforts of the climate researchers, our most critical scientists, to become political captives of a Republican-controlled, anti-science Congress. In turn, the Republican-controlled Congress is impeding the ability of other nations to effectively combat global warming.
The uncomfortable truth our leaders won’t talk about: how we allowed ourselves to get into this mess and put our planet at risk
7. The massive increase in the consumption of fossil fuels over the past 60 years has been driven by the massive increase in global population
Our blind, unreasoned, unchecked adherence to cultural tradition and religious dogma has resulted in a level of population that will soon reach 8 billion: about three times the number of mouths this planet can realistically support. These billions require energy to live. As their economies develop over time, they demand more energy per person.
If we have the objectivity to turn and look back, we can see how doubling our numbers from four billion to eight has brought us very close to or beyond the edge of sustainable human civilization. If we have the courage to look ahead, we’ll see how we’ve embarked on a course of species disaster.
8. Future population levels may be much greater than we’re being told
The U.N. and other official agencies assure us population growth is slowing and will soon “stabilize”. But there is no guarantee that the maximum population level will be reached as soon as hoped. Your Truthteller estimates “stabilization”–the leveling off of population growth–will occur much later in this century, at a population level close to or exceeding 14 billion. That would be some 30-40% higher than the levels forecast by the U.N.
Said more bluntly: our immediate descendants may be facing a global population well in excess of thirteen billion, as opposed to the nine or ten billion suggested by the “official” forecasters. No existing public policy deals with this probable reality.
9. The demand for energy in just a few decades will skyrocket
The growth will be due partly to the growing global population, but mostly due to the certainty that billions of today’s humans along with all the new ones will be working their way up the standard of living scale, and hence, up the consumption chain. They’ll be demanding cars, refrigerator-freezers, computer devices, and air-conditioning.
Even should the official “stabilized” population level of ten or so billion be correct, we will have stabilized at a level that demands twice as much food as we produce today, and consumes at least three times as much energy as we now use each year. If these new humans succeed in achieving even a modestly comfortable lifestyle, our collective energy use could be as much as five times the kilowatt-hours we consumed globally in 2015.
No one in authority is telling us how much more energy each year will be needed, or where it will come from. The U.N. and our governments refuse to deal openly with the realities of over-population. The fossil fuel producers supply energy consumption estimates, but they downplay the likelihood that their published forecasts are low.
10. The future our immediate descendants face is much darker than most people realize
While climate change is gradually working its way into the daily news cycle, the average person is still dangerously uninformed of the pressures placed on the land, sea, and other species as population continues to grow.
Even if we could supply cool air and electric transportation to ten or more billion people, we’d still face the problems of trying to feed them. We’ve already depleted the oceans of their fish stocks, already over-farmed the most productive lands, and already condemned billions to a miserable existence of perpetual undernourishment. The scarcity of fresh water will be even more pressing.
Electricity can feed our devices and support our lifestyle, but it cannot by itself fill our bellies. Yet still we refuse to face the consequences of our self-induced population madness.
Two more conclusions every voter needs to consider
To these ten stark truths we must add two assessments–well-reasoned suppositions that will very probably prove accurate over the coming decades.
One holds out a promise of saving our descendants from the horror of a hot, hungry world consumed by famine, disease, violence and human exploitation. The other starkly predicts why we are unlikely to act to save our own children and grandchildren in time.
First, the required energy to meet the coming massive increase in demand is reasily available, at low cost, without using fossil fuels or nuclear power
Although not publicized, the truth is that renewable and other non-carbon energy sources can be ramped up very much faster than governments and the great energy corporations want to say. It is realistically possible we could virtually end the burning of fossil fuels within the span of three or four decades, even while providing enough electrical power to meet the energy demand of four to six billion new urbanized consumers by around 2080. We can produce enough cheap electricity for all this even while providing massive power for water desalinization, recycling, and industrial-scale foods manufacturing.
It sounds hopeful. Until we consider your Truthteller’s second assessment.
We do not have the political will and organizational determination to achieve this green, clean future
The harsh truth is we have insufficient political will in the few semi-democratic countries to overcome the economic and legislative power of the global energy industry. The billion or so citizens of the leading OECD countries will not prove up to the challenge, leaving the ten or more billions in the impoverished and developing world to suffer the worst effects of global warming.
The fossil fuel companies know that if they can manage to delay political and regulatory action long enough, the inevitable explosion in energy demand will force us to allow them to keep on burning. They’ll be able to dig up and burn all the coal in all the corners of the Earth. With billions of new consumers desperately trying to acquire energy, the companies know they’ll be able to keep the price of energy electricity high enough to secure huge profits, while using their political power keep the alternative energy providers small. Will they be able to block all forms of alternative energy? No, they’re too smart; they’ll allow enough victories to lull the consumers in the relatively more comfortable countries into accepting the continuation of fossil fuels burning. The ten billion desperate consumers with zero political power will thus remain under the companies black thumb.
The energy industry giants know that their survival depends on keeping us ignorant about the bleak prospects for ours.
They understand the best delaying tactic is to ensure we continue to have powerless or downright stupid national and corporate leaders. Their strategy has paid off for two generations. And now, in the person of Donald Trump, they have an opportunity to literally halt all attempts by the U.S. to mobilize the other industrialized countries against this cataclysmic threat.
In follow-up posts, we’ll explain in more detail the looming threats to the survival of our civilization and thousands of other species.
But hopefully, thoughtful readers of these ten truths about climate change will now understand why U.S.-sponsored and OECD-led action to end the burning of fossil fuels is far and away the greatest issue of the 2016 election. They’ll see how this election may well prove to be our last chance to turn humanity away from the path to its own destruction. They’ll conclude that only under Clinton’s proven leadership and consensus-building skill do we have a chance to convert our leading economies to alternative energy supplies. They’ll realize that she must have the bipartisan support of a Congress no longer controlled by the climate deniers and energy industry toadies.
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Where this list of climate truths comes from
Our book series on climate change and sustainability economics will be published hopefully in the coming year and 2018. For now, we’re intensely busy with the more immediate issues of the 2016 U.S. election cycle, so we must limit our exposition of the climate issue to the contrast between a seriously concerned Clinton and an absurdly ignorant Trump.
Since our intent is to stimulate thought and discussion among the voters, we’ve held back on our extensive quantitative analysis of the impact of further population on energy consumption for now. We’ve also deferred for now the explanation how we can scale up clean, renewable energy very much faster than even a proven genius like Elon Musk may have dreamed. For now, readers only need accept that our (and other) realistic, cost-effective energy solutions are available using presently available, proven technologies.
Suffice to say the sources for all these facts and conclusions are publicly available, in research papers and databases that are mostly not pay-walled. (We’ll be publishing over a thousand online links in our upcoming book series, so non-technical readers, parents, teachers, and business people will be able to quickly investigate the sources directly, and draw their own conclusions.)
Words for the Activists
Many who are actively trying to mitigate climate change are opposed to any discussion that suggests it is inevitable we’ll continue to see the growth in energy consumption. They assume this means that programs to reduce CO2 and industrial methane emissions will somehow be undermined by the politicians, at the behest of the fossil fuel companies. The truths enunciated here in no way discourage emission-reduction programs; they do suggest however that we must do far more than simply focus on taking carbon-based energy off the market.
Activists also often refuse to consider the realities of “climate engineering” in discussions of mitigation. The truth is that humans have been engineering the climate in an organized way ever since the beginning of the Neolithic age. The issue is not how to avoid the engineered production of energy at all costs, but how to manage the costs, producing energy that is clean, safe, and cheap, cheap enough to drive the fossil fuels industry out of business.
My analysis emphasizes the economic costs and risks of climate change, not individual human or entire species tragic outcomes. Plenty of others will find and document the awful results of past, present and likely future unconscionable human stupidity. Similarly, in analysis and discussion of mitigation efforts, I consider the political barriers to action right along with the perceived economic ones. It is common among activists to build their case on the premise that “we” must do this or stop doing that. They almost never suggest how “we” could actually change entire economies. They usually fail to confront the fact that regulatory force is the only way to make all these “musts” actually happen. They avoid the real challenge, namely that “we” cannot command “they”.
Words for the naysayers
You’re free to dispute the truth or probable truth of these ten statements, of course–but not with your Truthteller. It’s OK to not be aware of factual science, logical reality, and energy realities; but it’s not OK to waste our time. I’ve done my homework on climate and economics for decades. If you think I’m wrong I invite you to go to the sources and do the same. If you think quoting from the denier cabal passes for sound argument, think again. These are the bozos who’ve tried to block all rationale public discussion and political action on climate change; who’ve undermined the work of tens of thousands of climate researchers around the globe; and who even now refuse to face the hot reality all of us can see and feel.
The authors of the studies, analyses and exhausting, often dangerous fieldwork that collectively comprise the sources you’ll be trying to disprove are the folks you want to debate. Spoiler alert: you cannot argue with a fact; you can only deny it or try to cover it up, just as Exxon-Mobil did for fifty years.
Feedback and useful questions are always welcome. Hate mail is welcome, too; we have excellent garbage collection services here.