Posts Tagged ‘Global Warming’

Climate Change: Fighting for the Common Interest

Friday, October 4th, 2013

By Bobby Righi 

Our corporate controlled political system and ‘free trade’ economy is not only waging war on workers, on communities, on public services and social safety nets. They are also waging war on the very ecological systems that sustain life on our planet earth. Climate change forces us to realize that if we don’t stop destroying our eco-system, we literally threaten the future of life on our planet.

Workers have the most to gain from the fight around climate change. When its full economic and moral implications are understood, climate change is the most powerful weapon workers and their unions have in the fight for equality and social justice. The climate threat makes the need to fight austerity all the more pressing, since we need public services and public infrastructure to both bring down our emissions and prepare for the coming storms.

If we spend our money on a pipeline or a coal train we will get some construction jobs, but we will also add to the growing profits of big corporations at the heavy public cost of environmental damage. Spend that money on public transit, building retrofits and renewable energy, and you get many more jobs and a healthier future for all communities.

Today the deposits of easy to get fossil fuels are running out so the coal, oil, and gas industry is engaging in new forms of energy extraction: mountain top removal for coal, tar sands mining for oil, deep-sea drilling, and fracking for oil and gas captured in horizontal layers of deep bedrock.

All of these methods release more toxic chemicals into the air and water than before, and are injuring the health of our children and grandchildren because children are more vulnerable to toxins. These methods of extraction also burn more carbon fuels to get to and transport the deposits and they release carbon and methane gas into the atmosphere, all of which accelerates climate change.

In California, oil companies are planning to use fracking to get the large reserves of oil in the Monterey Shale formation. This will require large amounts of water, a resource we are running out of and in short supply in California. There is evidence from Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Texas where fracking for gas has been going on for a while that the drinking water is contaminated with toxic chemicals and radioactive metals. In California environmental organizations and state regulators are fighting the plans for fracking and trying to place strict regulations on the process.

As President Obama went through New York and Pennsylvania, he was met by groups of people who were protesting fracking in their communities. More than 100 municipalities in the country have passed bans on fracking, putting them in the crosshairs of the powerful and arrogant energy industry.

Fracking is exempted from regulations such as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and other legislation that governs other industrial activities. Fracking operations do not report their air and water emissions under the Toxics Release Inventory. A special amendment to the 2005 Energy Policy Act specifically exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act, which authorizes the EPA to regulate all injection of toxic chemicals into the ground.

If all of this isn’t bad enough, there is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement looming over us. It will make it easier for corporations to challenge any laws that interfere with their profit. An example: the province of Quebec has put a time-out on fracking near the St. Lawrence River to study the impacts on its watershed, however under NAFTA, it is being challenged by Lone Pine Resources, an Alberta based company using its subsidiary in the US to sue its own country. This is the first time that a company has sued its own country using a trade agreement.

Many groups here in Washington and around the country have been waging an active battle against the XL Pipeline, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for gas and oil, and coal industry plans to ship mile-long trainloads of coal through west coast states to new ports that will ship the coal to China.

Environmental groups, along with unions and community organizations have succeeded in delaying the XL pipeline pending more research. Many organizations in Washington, including PSARA, are calling on the WA State Department of Ecology to further study the impact of coal trains through Washington. And the state of New York is currently banning

fracking.

All of this hard work can be threatened by NAFTA and the supersized version of NAFTA we are facing in the TPP. Corporations could claim these are ‘barriers to trade’ and sue for potential profits and make tax payers shoulder the expense and force communities to change their laws.

Currently, the US Trade Representative (USTR) is calling on the US Congress to give up its Constitutional obligation to regulate foreign commerce. USTR appointed negotiators, many from large corporations, want the power to negotiate the TPP with limited input from Congress. This is called Fast-Track and it gave us NAFTA and CAFTA and our planet can not afford more.

Call your Congressional Representatives to demand they oppose fast-track and the TPP. Urge state officials to take into account the environmental costs of corporate-backed polices and programs. We need to uphold our values in WA State; healthy jobs and healthy communities.

Bobby Righi is a PSARA member, on the PSARA Environmental Committee, & a retired member of AFT-WA. Some parts of this article reference a speech by Naomi Kline, author of the The Shock Doctrine. The speech was delivered on September 1, 2013 at the founding convention of UNIFOR, a new mega union created by the Canadian Autoworkers and the Canadian Energy and Paper Workers Union. 

A future for our grandchildren

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

By Dean Baker

Worry about the grandchildren? Then stop global warming, but don’t pretend deficit reduction by slashing pensions is for them.

Imagine if in response to Japan attacking Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, our political leaders had debated the best way to deal with the deficits from war spending projected for 1960. This is pretty much the way in which Washington works these days.

The political leadership, including the Washington press corps and punditry, were already intently ignoring the economic downturn that is still wreaking havoc on the lives of tens of millions of people across the country. Now, in the wake of the destruction from Hurricane Sandy, they will intensify their efforts to ignore global warming. After all, they want the country to focus on the debt – an issue that no one other than the elites views as a problem.

The reality, of course, is straightforward. The large deficits of recent years are due to the economic downturn caused by the collapse of the housing bubble. If the economy were back near its pre-recession level of unemployment, then the deficits would be close to 1% of GDP, a level that could be sustained indefinitely.

But the deficit scare-mongers are not interested in numbers and economics; they want to gut key government programs – most importantly, social security and Medicare. That is why they are pushing the fear stories about the debt and deficit. This is the rationale for the Campaign to “Fix” the Debt, a collection of 80 CEOs ostensibly focused on getting the budget in order.

What is perhaps most infuriating about this crew is the claim that their efforts are somehow designed to benefit our children and grandchildren. This is bizarre for a number of reasons.

First, while they do want to cut Social Security and Medicare for current retirees and those expecting to benefit from these programs in the near future, the biggest cuts in their plans will hit today’s young.

In effect, they are promising to “save” these programs for young workers by destroying them. Under most of the proposals designed to “fix” these programs, social security will provide a sharply-reduced benefit for retirees in 40 to 50 years’ time, compared to the currently scheduled level. And Medicare will by no means ensure most seniors’ access to decent healthcare.

However, what’s even more bizarre regarding their generational equity logic is the idea that, somehow, the well-being of future generations can be measured in any way by the size of the government debt. This point should have been pounded home to even the thickest deficit hawk by Hurricane Sandy. What we do or don’t do in the next decade will have a huge impact on the climate conditions that our children and grandchildren experience. Imagine that we listen to our Campaign to Fix the Debt friends and find a way to pay down the debt while neglecting any steps to curb global warming.

We’ll be able to tell our children and grandchildren that they don’t have to pay interest on government bonds (they also won’t be receiving interest on government bonds, but let’s not complicate matters with logic), even as they evacuate their homes ahead of flood waters. Undoubtedly, they will be very thankful for this great benefit that we will have bestowed on them, courtesy of the public-minded CEOs of the Campaign to Fix the Debt.

In reality, the campaigners are spewing utter nonsense when they imply that the well-being of future generations will be in any way determined by the size of the government debt that we pass on to them. We hand down to future generations a whole society and a planet that will be damaged to varying degrees, depending on our current actions. Neglecting the steps necessary to fix the planet out of a desire to reduce the deficit is incredibly irresponsible if we care about future generations.

Of course, global warming is far from the only non-budgetary cost that we are imposing on future generations. When we fill our jails with young people, many of whom will spend much of their lives in the criminal justice system, we are imposing large costs on future generations. We just are not honest enough to enter them in the budget books. The same is true when we make enemies internationally with aggressive military actions that could lead to enduring hostility.

There are also even simpler cases of dishonest accounting: if the government imposed a $250bn annual tax on prescription drugs (roughly $3tn over the ten-year budgetary horizon), everyone would understand this as a large burden on consumers. However, when the government grants patent monopolies on prescription drugs that allow drug companies to charge $250bn more than the free-market price, no one enters this additional cost on the ledgers.

The Campaign to Fix the Debt types like to pretend such costs don’t exist. They just want us to shut up and gut Social Security and Medicare. But the public is not likely to be as stupid as they want us to be.

Alex Loorz, 17…

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

…is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by teenagers to compel the government and corporate interests to prevent further pollution of the atmosphere and to reverse global warming. The lawsuit relies on the “public trust doctrine,”
dating from Roman times, that requires the protection of nature for future generations.

The scientists are right

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

By Will Parry

Yes, there was a heat wave in March, running in a broad swath across the United States, from the Upper Midwest to the Northeast. Weather stations reported that by March 21, more than 2,200 daily high temperature records had been broken.

International Falls, Minnesota, “the Icebox of the Nation,” exceeded its all-time historic high March temperature by 22 degrees. Weather historians say this may be the largest margin ever for any U.S. station with a century’s worth of records.

Veteran Minnesota weatherman Paul Douglas blogged that “ this is OFF THE SCALE WEIRD, even for Minnesota.”

Mother Earth has a message for us: the scientific community is right. The weather extremes that scientists forecast are with us. Not in some hazy future, but right now.

And we keep on generating carbon dioxide with our massive, ongoing, night-and-day consumption of fossil fuels.

Every day, from our kitchen window, I can see, two blocks away, the southbound lanes of Interstate Five, cars and trucks racing past. Endlessly. Endlessly. Endlessly.

Bill McKibben, the outspoken activist and environmentalist, has dedicated his life to saving the planet as a viable home for its multitude of creatures. McKibben’s organization is called 350. org. The scientific consensus is that 350 parts per million is the absolute upper limit of carbon dioxide that life on Earth can tolerate.

We’re bumping up against that limit right now.

McKibben calls our attention to the profound significance of the hot weather in March, “an early season outbreak of heat completely without precedent in its scale and spread.”

April and May frosts may kill off the plants that have budded early. Soil exposed by the retreat of snow will dry out much earlier, raising the risk of drought and forest fires. Reservoirs will start evaporating early.

“But the real fears are things we can’t anticipate, simply because we’re moving into uncharted territory,” McKibben says. “We’ve never seen anything like what we’re seeing in March.”

On May 5, McKibben and 350.org are planning a day for people on all continents to testify to the effects of climate change.

“There will be Pakistanis forced from their homes in the worst flooding the country’s ever seen, and Somalians dealing with a drought horrible even by the standards of the Horn of Africa. Thais, who watched flood do damage last fall equal to 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, and El Salvadorans who watched 15 years’ worth of development wash away in a week of record rains,” McKibben says.

We in PSARA should find the ways to enlist in Bill McKibben’s valiant crusade to save our planet – for our own children, and for all the children of the world.