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Climate Crisis Made Worse

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From Counterpunch

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By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

From youtube.com: World needs to make near-revolutionary change to avoid imminent climate disaster. {MID-333013}
World needs to make near-revolutionary change to avoid imminent climate disaster.
(Image by YouTube, Channel: PBS NewsHour)
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Barack Obama, speaking to the Baker Institute, made sure the audience of wealthy Texans, many in the oil business, gave him credit for making the United States a world leader for oil and gas production. He said, "American energy production...went up every year I was president. And...suddenly America's like the biggest oil producer, that was me, people," eliciting cheers.

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Throughout this century, even though the climate science was clear, presidential leadership has escalated the dependence on oil and gas, built infrastructure for pipelines and compressor stations, encouraged fracking in the US and around the world and prevented a global response to reducing carbon gas emissions.

This dereliction of consistent misleadership has put the planet on a dangerous path of climate crisis. In a just world, the political and corporate leadership of the United States would be held accountable. As it is, leadership for confronting the climate crisis must come from the people, not from political leaders.

Obama's Sordid History of Undermining the Climate

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Obama's legacy confuses some people because, unlike President Trump, he did not deny climate change and, unlike President Bush, he did not come from the oil industry. But in reality, Obama watered down global climate agreements and grew oil and gas output and infrastructure in the United States.

As a newly elected president, Obama came to the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 with the goal of weakening the agreement so there would be no internationally enforced reductions of climate gases. Ban Ki-moon, the UN general secretary, warned leaders that they held in their hands "the future of this entire humanity."

NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed that the US monitored communications between countries before the summit, and planned to spy on the negotiations during the conference. The NSA knew of China's efforts to line up its negotiating position with India. Chinese negotiators entered the talks willing to undertake mandatory emissions cuts, but needed other major countries in the the developing world to agree. The US developed a strategy to stop China, indeed to make them the villain.

As the Copenhagen meeting was progressing, Obama, who had already "won" a Nobel Peace prize and was a political star as the first black president, flew to the meeting with Secretary of State Clinton. Obama and Clinton crashed a meeting of Chinese, Indian, South African and Brazilian leaders who were trying to agree on enforceable standards. The US made sure their agreement would not threaten US oil interests.

As a result of Obama's intervention, the accord set no target for concluding a binding international treaty, leaving the implementation of its provisions uncertain and fueling criticism that it was more of a sham than a breakthrough. US intervention stopped a collective agreement among nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050, which was included in earlier drafts. Obama also successfully prevented adequate US funding for climate justice policies for poorer countries and scuttled the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed on in 1992.

Obama undermined the UN climate process and became known as "the man who killed Copenhagen," said Greenpeace US head Phil Radford. Bill McKibbon said: "The president has wrecked the UN and he's wrecked the possibility of a tough plan to control global warming. It may get Obama a reputation as a tough American leader, but it's at the expense of everything progressives have held dear." At the time, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that world emissions need to peak by 2015 to give any chance of avoiding a 2 C rise.

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Obama declared a phony negotiating victory for the climate in Copenhagen and went on to make sure the Paris Accords also contained no enforceable standards, making it an inadequate treaty for the climate crisis. Climate scientist James Hansen called the Paris agreement a "fraud" of "worthless words."

Domestically, after running against "drill baby drill" Republicans, Obama governed in the era where fracking became widespread, off-shore drilling increased and massive oil and gas infrastructure were put in place. In 2012, Obama said, "We've opened up new areas for exploration. We've quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We've added enough new oil and gas pipeline to circle the Earth and then some." Obama fast-tracked the approval process for oil and gas infrastructure at a time when scientists were saying we should build no more carbon-polluting infrastructure. While he delayed portions of the high profile Trans-Canada pipeline, his administration approved the equivalent of 10 Keystone pipelines.

Under Obama, while there was a decline of 37% in coal production, gas production vastly increased by 34% due to fracking. Obama presided over the highest gas production in history and crude oil production rose by 88%, the fastest rate in the 150-year history of the U.S. oil industry. On the positive side, his tenure was also timed with big increases in solar and wind energy. Obama also deserves credit for putting in place fuel economy and emissions standards for cars.

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Kevin Zeese is co-chair of Come Home America, www.ComeHomeAmerica.US which seeks to end U.S. militarism and empire. He is also co-director of Its Our Economy, www.ItsOurEconomy.US which seeks to democratize the economy and give people greater (more...)
 

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2 people are discussing this page, with 6 comments  Post Comment


John Rachel

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Things are worse? That means we in the progressive movement should keep doing what we're doing, the way we're now doing it, because we have such a sterling record of accomplishment, right?

I get it now.

Submitted on Wednesday, Dec 5, 2018 at 11:07:37 PM

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Reply to John Rachel:   New Content

Keep doing what we are doing? No, recognize that we cannot rely on a president but must rely on ourselves. We should not be taken off our task by the next Obama. The path to creating the kind of world we need is by building a mass movement. We are making progress on a mass climate justice movement but we have not built the power we need.

Submitted on Thursday, Dec 6, 2018 at 12:50:37 AM

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Reply to Kevin Zeese:   New Content

We need to have a serious, focused talk sometime, Kevin. While your intentions are admirable, the momentum of "movement building" you see is an illusion. Time is wasting. How about some fresh thinking from the outside?

"No, recognize that we cannot rely on a president but must rely on ourselves. We should not be taken off our task by the next Obama."

I'm glad we agree on this. I haven't deviated from my mantras on this for six years. The obsession with presidential misleadership is a huge debilitating distraction. But so is much of the street action. They've got our number, Kevin ...

Whack A Mole Activism

The Peace Movement in America: Status Report

Too bad you don't see the need for a truly grand strategy. Because what we're now putting our time and energy into is going backwards. As you pointed out in this article.

Submitted on Thursday, Dec 6, 2018 at 9:47:35 PM

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Reply to John Rachel:   New Content

Street action is not the only way for movement's to build power. We do so much more than street action. It is a constant education process, constantly watching for the false "medicare for all" sounding like proposals that really undermine it, organizing people -- there is so much we are doing beyond street actions.


Submitted on Friday, Dec 7, 2018 at 1:12:57 AM

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Reply to Kevin Zeese:   New Content

Very nice, Kevin. Good work.

Power to the people! Right on!

Submitted on Friday, Dec 7, 2018 at 8:35:01 AM

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Reply to Kevin Zeese:   New Content

"Street action is not the only way for movement's to build power."

Of course! Why would I think otherwise?

"We do so much more than street action."

And you are to be admired, credited, and lauded for your excellent and noble work in all areas where you apply your energy, creativity, dedication to the good fight.

But we're still going backwards. This means that doing more of the same will just mean accelerating the reversal of our fortunes. There was a time a few decades ago when our approach to activism was much more effective. Our enemies learned to counter us on every front. Is it so illogical and repugnant to conclude we need to seriously rethink our strategies and come up with something new, fresh, innovative, unanticipated?

That's my only point. For you to remind us of how brillaint and inspiring your work has and continues to be, is unnecessary. Your dedication speaks for itself. Having said that, while I'm for 'noble' and 'inspiring', I'm also for 'effective' Does this make me a dreamer? An annoyance? An outlier?

Submitted on Monday, Dec 10, 2018 at 12:12:51 AM

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