Commentary & Opinion
3:51 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Michael Meeropol: “Unholy Alliance” That Denies Climate Change Puts Future Generations In Danger

I recently read an OP-ED piece on line that really made me angry.  It focused on the coalition challenging the scientific community on the issue of global warming.  It was written by Meredith Tax and entitled “Climate change and false gods: Moloch and the bible-punchers in the US” (It was posted on April 14, 2014 on the opendemocracy.net website.)

Tax writes,

“In a report released Sunday, April 13, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which won the Nobel Prize in 2007, …  made it clear that, while the future will be sunny, it is anything but bright.  The report, written by an expert committee of 1250, made recommendations for immediate actions to mitigate, if not prevent, climate change. The leading one is to stop using fossil fuels and divert energy investment into renewable sources like wind, water power and solar. The report says we must limit global warming to 2°C by the year 2050; this can be done without wrecking the world economy but we have to move fast—‘we cannot afford to lose another decade’, says Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the expert committee.”

We have to act now --- so why don’t we do it?

Because of a combination of (in the Tax’s words) money-worshippers and Bible punchers –

some businesses – which care more about making the next million than the survival of millions in a warmer earth dystopia -  have formed an unholy alliance with religious fundamentalists many of whom do not want to take actions to stop climate change because they actually welcome global destruction as the beginning of “end times” where the righteous will be “raptured” up to heaven.

(Maybe this widely held view seems absurd but there has been a best-selling series of novels called the Left Behind series that, according to some deeply religious friends of mine, are based on a “particular” interpretation of the Book of Revelations.  In the “end times” all the righteous will ascend straight to heaven (this is the “rapture.”)  That will leave the rest of humanity in a titanic battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.  The fictionalized series describes those battles on earth AFTER the rapture has occurred.) 

The religious right and big money, of course, now control the Republican Party and have scared too many Democrats (especially those from states where coal and other fossil fuel interests have particular political clout) into supporting the businesses who make money by pumping carbon into the air.

That support is unconscionable.  

By denying the scientific consensus about climate change and blocking all efforts to seriously do something about it, these criminals are murdering millions of people not yet born.  Yes, I said murder.  The climate catastrophes forecast for 50 to 100 years from now will make many highly populated sections of the earth uninhabitable(flooding many major cities and coastlines), will play havoc with agricultural production, and undoubtedly lead to a significant drop in the world population – and not just through voluntary family planning – even if the earth miraculously avoids major wars over dwindling resources.

Despite the severity of recent storms we really have not begun to see the impact of global temperature increases. People like me living comfortably in our old age will experience none of the pain – but it is difficult to imagine the horrors that this warmer world has in store for our grandchildren.  And it could be stopped virtually dead in its tracks with the correct policies – But that would require that some industries disappear.  For the recommendation of the IPCC to be achieved, approximately 80% of the fossil fuels currently accessible have to be left in the ground – too great a sacrifice for their owners who, according to an outstanding article in The Nation by Christopher Hayes (see “The New Abolitionism” May 12, 2014) are actually spending billions exploring for new sources of energy.

Unfortunately, so far, this “unholy alliance” is winning.  Despite a President who has pledged to do something about climate change – a President who accepts the scientific consensus – government policy has actually continued to subsidize the fossil fuel industry when it should be taxing them heavily. 

So how can we the people make a difference?  The nationwide demonstrations against the Keystone pipeline obviously are important but even if that pipeline is stopped, that is just a single skirmish in a very long war.

Recently, I have been made aware of the divestment movement among college students, pension funds, non-profits, and sovereign wealth funds (Norway is considering completely divesting).   Put simply, they are demanding that their institutions sell all stocks in fossil fuel companies.   (For more information, check out gofossilfree.org.)  This actually makes good business sense.  If the future of the world depends on leaving 80% of fossil fuel resources in the ground, corporations spending billions exploring for even more fossil fuels are clearly making irrational investments.

Individual pension funds have for a long time offered individual members the option of putting their lifetime accumulated savings into what are called Social Choice funds – funds that specifically buy no stocks in companies that engage in military production and (more recently) fossil fuel production. 

The divestment idea is, however, bigger and more significant because it involves single large purchases. This campaign brings to mind the 1980s --- the successful efforts to boycott firms that invested in South Africa.  It seemed like just a pin prick at the time, but in fact it made a great deal of difference in the fight to undermine the Apartheid regime. 

The fossil fuel companies are major players in the effort to keep the carbon pumping.  The executives making that decision are apparently following Groucho Marx who said “what has posterity ever done for me?”  These executives apparently couldn’t care less about people not yet born.

I am hoping the rest of us are better than that. 

Support your local divestment movement.  Make fossil fuel production unprofitable.  Save the planet.

Michael Meeropol is visiting professor of Economics at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York. He is the author (with Howard Sherman) of Principles of Macroeconomics: Activist vs. Austerity Policies.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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