Meltdown 3: Responsibility for Climate Change

The Meltdown Essays are devoted to exploring a regrettable yet realistic prediction: that if the vested commercial and political interests (who profit from the status quo) continue to actively derail measures to tackle carbon emissions, they will create a vacuum into which violence will emerge as a necessary tool of climate advocates within the next 25 years.

In the second essay (Meltdown 2: Violence Already Happening) I made the point that the actions of carbon barons and commercial interests amount to an insidious violence perpetrated (for profit) on the masses in the form of climate change.

In this, the third Essay of the series, I apportion responsibility with the same commercial and political interests who obstruct meaningful progress to mitigate climate change despite being in full knowledge of the consequences of their actions. 

Certain individuals / organisations have more direct input and control into shaping the rules and regulations that govern our world. Richard Heede in his academic paper on tracing sources of anthropogenic climatic change shows that 63 % of industrial carbon dioxide and methane comes from the fossil fuel and cement production by just 90 entities. And while organisations such as ExxonMobil admit that the risks from climate change are real, they cynically protect their profits by fighting EPA plans to curb emissions. Indeed far from being concerned at the dangers of climate change, the worlds leading fossil fuel companies (and indeed governments) treat melting icecaps as an opportunity to expand prospecting operations.

But isn’t it the responsibility of the voting public to ensure Government keep Industry in toe? In “This Changes Everything” by Naomi Klein, the author, journalist and climate campaigner shows that fossil fuel producers are fighting a dirty war to prevent progress; her evidence mimics the recent article in The Guardian which shows how the biggest Republican Senators and Governors who oppose the Paris Accord in the USA are big recipients of oil money. In short, the political system is in tow to dirty money and concern for long term public good is low priority and which thereby renders much of the democratic system defunct of meaning.

The climate organisation 350.org was able to show an effective $2000 return for every $1 in political donations made by fossil fuel donors in Australia. The internet is littered with reports detailing the subsidization of fossil fuel production by international governments which hugely disadvantages attempts by clean energy to compete. Where many industries in the modern world face rigorous environmental scrutiny, fossil fuel firms are given a free hand to pollute throughout the world, because politicians are unwilling to act in the public good.

Not happy to simply bribe government, Klein also explains in detail how the fossil fuel industry fund proxy organisations / “think tanks” to muddy the water of public opinion on climate change. These “independent” organisations specialise in selective analysis, perverting statistical data, feeding conspiracy theories about the environmental movement and playing on peoples religious and economic fears. Their aim is simple and callous: to create doubt in the science of human caused climate change and to in so doing minimise public demand for action to restrict pollution. Several of these think tanks are advocating increased funding for geoengineering which aim to treat the symptoms and not the cause of human caused climate change. To date the only notable achievement of geoengineering has been to embolden the myth that the human race can pollute indefinitely on the premise that a pain free “cure-all” is just around the corner. None of this should come as a surprise. Corporations have a sordid history of fighting progressive measures to protect public health; the motor industry fought tooth and nail to prevent the mandatory introduction of safety measures in cars. The tobacco industry has long resisted efforts to curb the damage caused by smoking.

In the obsessive quest for profits large corporations back neo-liberal ideologies which assert that solutions should be left to “free market forces” and that personal choice, not legislation, should determine if polluting products are purchased or not. Clearly if such a facile approach were adopted across the board the world would be a very different place – CFC’s (chlorofluorocarbon) would not have been banned by international decree and the hole in the ozone layer would be larger. Speed limits would be a thing of the past and standards for safety in housing and consumer products would be non-existent.

But again, isn’t it up to the average citizen to educate themselves on the greatest issues facing themselves and their families and not to be swayed by snake oil dealers? If only it were that simple.  One of the biggest barriers to an engaged and educated citizenship is is corporate censorship of the media.

Instead of providing an objective and critical eye (on the government, corporations and the pseudo science which surrounds much of the climate denial agenda), the largest media conglomerations are actively seeking to create and feed a news agenda that confirms the bias of their audience, rarely doing anything that might challenge or alienate the paymasters. As Noam Chomsky explains of such “information sources” they strictly “limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” For instance the fact that the short term sacrifices would outweigh the long term costs would never get a fair hearing. Therefore, it’s only natural that huge swathes of the public are confused and distracted by climate change given the constant barrage of misinformation which permeates our everyday lives.

And while the environmental movement itself is working in the right spirit, it is guilty of certain mistakes. Some commentators have criticized elements within the environmental movement who have unduly placed too much emphasis on personal choice (to the detriment of collective action) as the key to solve climate change. Criticism has also been leveled at some of the priorities of certain environmental NGO’s. For instance, is there much long term benefit in trying to preserve individual species when entire eco-systems face destruction if climate change gets as severe as some expect? (Chris Packham, a BBC Presenter raised this very issue in calling for panda’s to be allowed to face extinction with dignity  and for the funds to be spent elsewhere.)

So is all of this a cop out of individual responsibility? Perhaps but it seems unrealistic and disingenuous to imagine that individual action (such as lifestyle and consumer decisions) alone could tackle the scale of the problem at hand when the very structures upon which democratic society are founded are corrupt. In this regards, the vast majority of the worlds population are simply hostages in the games of the corporate and political elites – not guilty by intent or action but doomed to share the fate contrived by the greater powers controlling world affairs.

I hope that I have been able to briefly show that the biggest obstacle to progress lies with the commercial and political interests who obstruct meaningful progress to mitigate climate change despite being in full knowledge of the consequences of their actions.

In Meltdown 4: Last Resort and Meltdown: given all of the above and the diminishing time-frame for the implementation of meaningful measures to head off catastrophe, the most radical and climate advocates will ultimately contend that violence is required as a last resort to effect change and equally as a necessary form of self defense.

Follow the drop down menu on “Meltdown Essays” above to find the next essay in the series. Until then keep smiling.

For more on my background and other writing press here.

One thought on “Meltdown 3: Responsibility for Climate Change

  1. Like you say, Dermot – Censorship of the media, people with the power to change things being recipients of oil money, misinformation, and purposely avoiding educating people of the consequences of Climate Change is all definitively leading to the meltdown of our planet.
    Good essay!

    Liked by 1 person

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