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Fossil fuel industry's plan for us: Burn 5X more carbon than is compatible with a livable planet

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(Article changed on November 26, 2012 at 14:58)


What follows here is a synopsis and interpretation of a discussion Bill Moyers recently had with Naomi Klein.

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The fossil fuel industry business model is based on them selling, and us burning, five times more coal and oil-based fuels than is compatible with the continuance of healthy human life on earth.   This means their business model is at war with human life on this planet.  

We're up against the very, very powerful fossil fuel lobby whose paymasters have every reason in the world to do whatever they can to prevent this from ever becoming the most urgent issue on our agenda.   This includes spending billions on a very corrupt corporate media, and on academic and intellectual whores whose "professional opinions" are essentially for sale to the highest bidder, and who will testify on their behalf.

Climate change requires collective action  

It requires that we somehow manage, in spite of what was just stated, to regulate extremely powerful corporations including oil and coal companies.   It requires that we plan collectively and effectively, as a society.   Problem is, at the historical moment that climate change hit the mainstream, all "collectivist"/regulatory ideas fell into disrepute.   All solutions had to be "free-market' solutions.   Governments were supposed to "get out of the way (of corporations)."   Among right-wingers, "collectively' remains a dirty word -- "that's what communists did."   Anything "collective' was tainted and suspect.   Libertarians like Margaret Thatcher even went so far as to claim that "There's no such thing as society."

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Now if you believe that, of course you can't do anything about climate change, because climate change is inherently a collective and societal problem -- there's no denying that this is our collective atmosphere.   We can only respond to its gradual poisoning and alteration collectively.   Otherwise we cannot respond in any effective way.   Yet some parts of the environmental movement foolishly respond to this dilemma by personalizing the problem and cheerfully saying, "Okay, let's recycle.   Let's all buy a hybrid car."   In an effort to get along with the powers that be, they treat this problem like it could have business-friendly solutions -- things like cap-and-trade and carbon offsetting.   But those "solutions' aren't nearly enough.  

For this reason and others we ended up with a movement that every once in a while would rear up, and people would get all excited and say, "this time we're really going to do something about this."   And whether it was the Rio Summit or the Copenhagen Summit, or that moment when Al Gore came out with Inconvenient Truth, the movement would then, after a brief period of mild public optimism, just recede into the background of most peoples' consciousness.   Why so?   Because it (the movement) didn't yet have the collective social support and political-economic support it needed.

On top of that, we've had this concerted campaign by the fossil fuel lobby (with the help of their academic/scientific & journalistic whores) to both buy off the environmental movement, to defame it, to infiltrate it, and to spread lies within the larger culture about it.   And, quite sadly, the entire climate-denial movement has been doing all this very effectively.

Where, why, and how the climate-change denial movement is most entrenched

Environmental writer Glenn Scherer has pointed out that over the last two years, the lion's share of the damage from extreme weather, floods, tornadoes, droughts, thunder storms, wind storms, heat waves, wildfires, has occurred in Republican-leaning red states.   And yet, quite paradoxically, those states have sent a whole new crop of climate-change deniers to Congress.  

Explanation:   If you are deeply invested in free-market ideology, if you really believe with your heart and soul that everything public and anything the government does is evil, and that our liberation must and will come from liberating corporations, . . then climate change fundamentally challenges your worldview, precisely because the truth is that the big corporations (which have the biggest hand in creating the problem) must be regulated!

Climate change is the greatest single free-market failure.  

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It is what happens when you don't regulate corporations and you allow them to treat the atmosphere as an open sewer.   So it isn't just "Okay, the fossil fuel companies want to protect their profits."   It's that climate-change science threatens the free-market worldview.   And when you drill deeper into the drop-off in belief in climate change, what you see is that the large majority of Democrats still believe in climate change -- in fact their rate of belief in it is up in the 70th percentile.   This means that the whole drop off in belief has happened on the right side of the political spectrum.   So it turns out that the most reliable predictor of whether or not somebody believes that climate change is real is what their views are on a range of other political subjects -- things like abortion and taxes.   What you find is that people who have very strong conservative political beliefs simply cannot face the science behind climate change.   Why not?   Because it threatens the ideological structure within which everything else they believe is anchored.

Yes the market can play a role.  

There are things that government can do to incentivize the free market to do a better job.   Could that ever be a replacement for preventing the fossil fuel industry from destroying our chances of a future on a livable planet?   No, of course not.   But it could help our efforts to stop carbon-induced (CO 2 -induced) climate change.

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Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley. I've (more...)

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