By Dr. Evaggelos Vallianatos
The year 2015 is gone and forgotten. The world is moving blindly into more diseases, more wars, more ecocides, mass extinction and, definitely, a warmer planet.
The Petroleum Climate Agreement in Paris
The UN conference in Paris about climate change (COP21) in the first two weeks of December 2015 was all about the power of big oil, coal, and natural gas. World leaders pretended they signed a pact of extraordinary significance. In fact, the Paris Agreement is a toothless wish list that left petroleum, coal and natural gas under the burning flames of their corporate and state owners. George Monbiot, a British journalist who attended the Paris conference, is right in denouncing the hypocrisy of the international community. He said he witnessed lots of backslapping but not much change of heart about the future of the planet or its people. He did not see anything in the behavior of world leaders or in their written agreement about greenhouse gas emissions that would “avert climate breakdown.”
Climate breakdown is unprecedented and deadly. It’s happening on a small scale but, potentially, it might become monstrously large. In fact, with continuing huge amounts of greenhouse gases reaching the atmosphere, it’s certain that orgies of climate disruption will lash back.
Heads of state are aware of the danger of climate change. Yet, they have bought the propaganda of the oil, gas, and coal executives: that all is under control, that the burning of fossil fuels may cause some climate change, but we have plenty of time to adapt. The other siren of deception assured the politicians that converting to alternative forms of energy must go on side by side with our dependence on oil, coal, and natural gas.
So the international politicians and big oil, coal, and gas corporations are willing to wreck the planet and, potentially, kill-off hundreds of millions of human beings for the perpetuation of current profits from the burning of fossil fuels.
The catastrophic effects of global warming are no secret. In 1988, The UN established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to study the causes and effects of global warming. This organization includes thousands of scientists from all over the world. Some of their reports make chilling reading. But even before 1988 there was plenty of bad news about big oil and the heating planet.
Climate Change and Civilization
In 1989, I wrote my first article on the dangers of global warming. Chicago Tribune published it. I said big oil, coal, and gas companies had to cease excavating the Earth for more fossil fuels because civilization is incompatible with climate change. I recognized, of course, then as now that expecting companies like Exxon to voluntarily close shop is chimerical. So I put my hopes then and now on popular will to shutting fossil fuel companies down. I suggested solar and wind power would suffice in giving us plenty of energy.
Senior officials at the EPA tried to fire me. They became incensed I pointed my finger at Exxon and other oil, coal, and gas companies for the crime of global warming. But, fortunately, the Republican administrator of EPA, William Reilly, overruled his deputies and dismissed the charges against me. He did not agree with me but he defended my right to express my opinion.
This background and the research I had done for several years prepared me for the climate sham of Paris. I was not surprised, and not merely because of past corruption or the power of big oil.
The Empire of Cars
Each morning I walk my dog in the streets of Claremont, a small California college town of 30,000 people where I have been living since 2008. Countless cars flood the streets of this town. The drivers of these cars probably remain oblivious of the harm of their machines, that their cars emit greenhouse gases, which are also harmful to all breathing creatures.
Claremont, like so many other small towns, offers no alternative to cars. It has no public transport. And Los Angeles, about an hour by car from my home, remains the car dinosaur of southern California. Like other large cities in the US and other countries of the world, Los Angeles lives or dies by the infrastructure of the polluting car.
The example of the cars writing our future shows how far away we stand from the Hippocratic “you shall do no harm” with your “healing” and other means of your civilization. Instead, we embrace technical gadgets and a huge variety and amounts of mostly deleterious substances without thinking through their effects.
Indeed, our economists wish those effects away. They brand them “externalities.” And with such obscenity, economists and their corporate paymasters legitimize harm and, if you are fish, death. No wonder we have been dumping our car externalities into the air we breathe, our atmosphere.
The War Eclipses of Health
War also absorbs externalities. Indeed, war lives on externalities. The twentieth century, burned up by wars, has left us such war legacy that we have been dragged down the same path.
Since the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the US has been on war footing. America occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, wasting thousands of American soldiers, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis, destroying both countries, and wasting trillions in these illegal and senseless wars. The only beneficiaries of these military adventures have been arms manufacturers and the national security state.
However, the consequences of these immoral wars are far reaching. The American invasion of Iraq has left the entire Middle East in a state of chaos. Millions of Moslems are fighting civil wars. These wars have been attracting thousands of Moslem fighters from Europe. Additional millions of Moslems have become refugees, inundating Europe. And out of this Middle Eastern killing ground, foreign invasions and vast destruction, there are emerging fanatical forces among Moslems and Christians reminiscent of the dark age- crusades and the thirteenth-century Mongol invasion of the Middle East.