2015 A Breakthrough Year for the Earth?

AT THE VERY LEAST AN EYE OPENER?

Maybe we can, at the very least, start talking about Global Climate Change.

Let’s face it, 2015 went out almost as if the Earth were screaming at us to take her into consideration when making our New Years’ Resolutions. Here in South Florida, we spent Christmas sweating through the end of our regional hottest year in history. With heat index bringing us into the nineties a white Christmas was significantly more than a dream. For us, it comes as no surprise that 2015 was, almost certainly, the hottest year on record globally and the second hottest for the United States according to Scientific American.

If that weren’t bad enough, according to the NOAA, the United States experienced ten weather events costing us over a billion dollars each. This includes an absolutely devastating drought, with associated wildfires, that continue to bring western states to their knees, flooding in Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina, and a crushing winter storm this past February in the North East. 2015-billion-dollar-disaster-map

And December was not at all subtle about climate. Tornadoes in Texas along with flooding in the Midwest killed over twenty people. Alabama had to declare a state of emergency. Northern England was underwater.

In the meantime, the Marshall Islands  continue to disappear. Crucial habitats are on the brink of destruction, which could have catastrophic impacts on human beings as tropical diseases spread to northern climes, fisheries suffer, crop destroying insects have longer gestation times, forests are stripped by beetles and fresh water sources are in danger of disappearing.

Look, Global Warming, and the resultant Global Climate Change, is not controversial anywhere in the world. The UN gathering of nations in Paris to address climate change proves that, at this point, every nation in the world is willing to admit that there is a serious problem, and every nation in the world is willing to do something to address this looming disaster. True, each nation has its own interests, its own challenges, its own economic needs based on divergent levels of development. However, so long as developed nations are willing to do their fair share, developing nations are willing to come to the table.

Almost everyone agrees that something must be done! Merry Christmas everyone. The ultimate gift of 2015 is that we are finally at a point where something, anything, can be done to address climate change at the global level.

Everyone that is except the American Right Wing as soundly represented by the Republican Party.

Shit!

President Obama is correct in his observation that the Republican Party is the only major political party in the world that denies global warming and global climate change. Unfortunately, The Republican Party has a disproportionate amount of power within the world’s largest economy and one of the world’s biggest sources of carbon emissions. In essence, a party that represents about 40% of the eligible voters, half of whom want to do something about climate change, in a nation that represents only 5% of the world’s population–but 100% of the world’s Republican Right Wingnuts–can stymie global agreements for the other 98% of the world.

Of course, no other nation has quite the exorbitant and obnoxious pay-to-play political campaign finance system that the United States does. The American system priveleges huge corporate donors who treat campaign contributions as investments in their own interests. It is in the corporate interest to privatize the profits while socializing the costs. Carbon emissions that are destroying the planet are, strangely, no exception to this rule.

This became clear in 2o15 when it was revealed that Exxon/Mobil knew about the threat that their product posed for the world about thirty years ago. Not only did the company conspire to keep this revelation a secret, but conspired to sow confusion into the debate. According to the Guardian, citing a report by Greenpeace, “Over the years, Exxon spent more than $30m on thinktanks and researchers that promoted climate denial.”

Well, Exxon and other oil and gas producers continue to spend unspeakable amounts of money on global warming denial. Only now, that spending is in the form of campaign contributions. These contributions are increasingly lopsided toward the Republican Party. This can be compared to the Alternative Energy sector which, though leaning Democrat, hedges its bets a little bit more.

Oil v Alt energy
Total campaign contributions by party. Source: Opensecrets.org

It’s clear that Oil and Gas has its party, and that party is fully vested in supporting one of its most reliable patrons at the expense of the world.

Despite the near unanimity of world leaders, the most powerful of them was forced to water down the Paris Agreement with vague, non-binding language, in order to keep it away from the Republican Party in Congress. According to the Guardian, ” the agreement reached in Paris was constructed with a view to making it safe from Republican attacks – which was one reason negotiations were so difficult.” The article goes on to explain:

Under US insistence, the 31-page agreement was explicitly crafted to exclude emissions reductions targets and finance from the legally binding parts of the deal. Other areas of the deal, including five-year review cycles, do carry legal force. That would free Obama from having to submit the deal to Congress.

The Republican Party, specifically the increasingly reactionary and dogmatic caucus of the Republican party, is a handicap on the rest the world when it comes to the most pressing global issue of all time. American Conservatism would a be global laughing stock if the consequences of their vested dogma weren’t so dire.

So if there are any lessons from 2015, they can be summarized thus:

  1. Global Climate Change is now glaringly obvious.
  2. Political resolve to act on climate change is at hand.
  3. American conservatives are the single greatest force of historical regression in the world.
  4. This historical regression can, if not checked by American citizens, mean the end of civilization.

Let’s keep these things in mind as we make our way through 2016. Might this be the year acclaiamed by our grandchildren as the time the world was saved from its own greed and poison? That is up to us.

 

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