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Boardman writes: "Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can 'solve' the climate crisis. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions."

The COP24 gathering in Katowice, Poland. (photo: BBVA)
The COP24 gathering in Katowice, Poland. (photo: BBVA)

Climate Crisis Goes Unabated, Nations Most Responsible Still Anti-Future

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

22 December 18

Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can “solve” the climate crisis. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. And why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly mean nothing to our society?

Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground. So we can no longer save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed. So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past, and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming, whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.

Greta Thunberg of Sweden, age 15, addressing COP24,
the 24th Conference of Parties to the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change

appy talk news coverage of COP24 accomplishments tends to prattle on about how 196 nations have agreed on a “rule book” that will help implement the 2015 Paris Agreement to begin cutting back on greenhouse gasses worldwide in an effort to limit the damage of the climate crisis already well underway. This is not bad news. It’s not really news at all. The highly technical “rule book” may add clarity to what 195 nations are doing or not doing to mitigate global warming, but it is no more enforceable than the Paris Agreement. The response to the global climate crisis continues to be voluntary, with the world’s most useful volunteers refusing to step up. Global greenhouse gas emissions increased in 2017 and are increasing again in 2018. None of this is new, nor is it necessarily an unalterable omen of planetary doom. But to head off the worst of this creeping catastrophe, major nations will need to change their behavior enough to have global impact. That is still a long, long way from happening. The US is in the retrograde vanguard, along with China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other oil-producing states.

The history of the world’s limp response to climate change is an old, consistent story, since long before it reached crisis proportions. Human impact on climate was recognized as early as 1847, in a speech by Whig congressman George Perkins Marsh in a talk before the Agricultural Society of Rutland County, Vermont. His observations were largely cautionary, the kind of environmental concern that was ignored by the industrial revolution for a century, until there were too many toxic waste streams and Superfund sites to ignore, so the costs were passed on to the victims as much as guilty corporations and their quisling political flunkies could manage. It’s the same game with the climate crisis; those responsible avoid accountability at whatever cost to anyone but themselves. At COP24, 191 nations were eager to adopt the latest UN climate report that gives the world roughly 12 years to head off the worst effects of the climate crisis. This simple acknowledgement of the best current science available was blocked by the coercion of the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. The power politics of denial, led by the US, not only slows any rational response to continued warming, these politics encourage unchecked pursuit of the profitable but globally destructive practices that created the crisis in the first place.

As an example, take the 100 million barrels of oil the world uses every day, referred to by Greta Thornberg (above). Leaving those 100 million barrels in the ground, day after day after day, year after year, would accrue to the health and welfare of billions of people over decades if not centuries. By contrast, a few people, maybe a few thousand people in the oil and gas industry will die before they forego the profit from using every last drop no matter what carnage they cause. In a very real sense, the traditional energy industry is a calculating mafia for whom killing people isn’t mass murder, it’s just a cost of doing business, and the beauty part is that it’s a cost they don’t even have to pay.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change isn’t the only credible scientific body warning of the deepening climate crisis. The US government’s official 1596-page National Climate Assessment released in November also sounds alarms that increased warming will cost the US billions of dollars and millions of lives. The White House has rejected it and the president said, “I don’t believe it.” All the same, the evidence is clear, the science is sound, the crisis is real. UN Secretary General António Guterres spoke urgently and lucidly to the COP24 gathering in Katowice, Poland, delivering in his own words essentially the same message as 15-year-old Greta Thornberg – that addressing and ameliorating climate change is not only necessary but entirely possible:

We have the ways. What we need is the political will to move forward…. Failing here in Katowice would send a disastrous message to those who stand ready to shift to a green economy.

To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.

COP24 was neither a failure nor a success. Insofar as the “rule book” was adopted, that’s positive, but perhaps a Pyrrhic victory. There’s little reason to think that enough of the nations that pose the major threats to the planet are even close to changing their practices sufficiently to make any real difference. There is no reason to expect any reduction in global emissions, which is necessary to mitigate the climate crisis. In the near term, global emissions are going to continue to increase and the only possible good news will be slowing the rate of increase. That is unlikely. The US is hell-bent on burning more oil, coal, and gas as well as loosening restrictions on emissions. Canada has long-term plans to decarbonize its economy, but for now it is rushing to capitalize on its tar sands oil. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, China has become the largest national greenhouse gas producer (once #1, the US is now #2) and that’s unlikely to change. Australia is committed to more coal. Brazil is committed to agribusiness at the expense of the Amazon rainforest. Germany is still hooked on coal. And Poland, which hosted COP24, plans to continue to rely on coal. The #3 polluting nation, India, is committed to using coal to bring electricity to hundreds of millions of its people. The #4 polluting nation, Russia, relies heavily on coal and oil. And so it is across the industrialized world where no one wants to get too far from the herd as it ambles toward the cliff. 

Precise measurements of particular greenhouse gasses from particular sources are hard to come by and mostly don’t exist because the world is a tricky place to measure with precision. But the scale of the problem doesn’t seem to be a mystery. More than half the climate-warming emissions come from China, the US, and the European Union (add India, Russia, and Japan and that’s close to 70% of the total). In other words, there’s little the rest of the world can do to make much difference. And right now there’s no major national leadership anywhere committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions enough to avert catastrophic warming. The US is deliberately heading for destruction, burning all the fossil fuels it can find. Other nations have a more mixed approach (China burns more coal and has more solar panels than anyone else by wide margins), but collectively it’s nowhere near enough to keep the climate crisis from deepening.   

Globally, some 70% of greenhouse gasses are created by the energy sector of the economy – primarily electricity generation, transportation, heating/cooling, and industrial processes. Of those, electricity and transportation are the worst offenders. That’s why solar panels and windmills matter so much (even when discounted for the industrial production emissions). The scale of the problem is huge and hard to grasp. But the laws of physics as applied to greenhouse gasses have brought us to a reality where the control and reduction of a planetary threat is understood and could be implemented, albeit with great difficulty and cultural stress. The main barrier to preserving a livable planet is the intellectual pollution of right-wing and corporatist ideologues who claim reality is a hoax. That’s how the official US delegation ends up going to the climate change conference to promote using more coal. Self-preservation is the enemy of the profitable.

In a culture of equal treatment for disinformation, it’s little wonder an organization like has trouble getting heard beyond its committed minority. Founded in 2008, 350.0rg refers to the presumed reasonable concentration of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere of 350 parts per million (ppm). In 2008, that reasonable level had long since been passed. In the 1880s, early in the industrial revolution, the CO2 level in the atmosphere was around 280 ppm. By 2008 the concentration was 386 ppm. Today CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is over 400 ppm and climbing. In its simplest terms, this is a clear crime against humanity (as well as a suicidal gesture). Perhaps it’s time to start thinking of the climate crisis as a crime and the world as a crime scene. Then we’d need to figure out a way to round up the perpetrators. We know who they are.

As they were fond of saying back in the day: things are going to get a lot worse before they start getting worse.

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William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+2 # 2018-12-23 00:20
Two things trouble me. It's not fair to blame fossil fuel producers if we don't take blame for using their products. And we need to figure out a way to keep fossil fuels in the ground without prompting riots such as there were recently in France. Sacrifices are inevitable, but how can we accomplish them and keep civil order?
+1 # economagic 2018-12-23 16:15
1. The moderately enlightened public (or in Newspeak, "woke") can only do so much to avoid the use of fossil fuels when the fossil fuel EXTRACTORS control both the civil government (both through lobbying and through campaign financing) and the private government of corporations in other industries that support continued use of fossil fuels.

2. There will be riots--sooner or later, one way or another. But I think what you mean is that the burden of the transformation should be borne primarily not by those least able to afford it but by the individuals and especially the corporations and their investors that certainly CAN afford it, which are also the parties that stand to lose the most if the entire global system collapses.

How do we shift that burden, which at present does indeed rest with those least able to afford it? Until someone figures out how to peacefully detach the One Percent from their wealth and power (of which they own about 90 percent) without violence, the answer will be riots.
+2 # lfeuille 2018-12-23 16:46
Yes it is fair. The Fossil Fuel industry has bribed politicians to keep clean, renewable power sources to expensive and difficult to use for the average person to take advantage of them. Most of us do not have the resources to bribe politicians to do the right thing.
+1 # economagic 2018-12-23 18:19
Ms. Thunberg's words sound very familiar to me. I came to essentially the same conclusion 50 years ago, at a slightly greater age and without the focus on climate, which was still in the future. My concerns at that time were wars (nuclear and otherwise), advertising, marketing, TV, "The Media" in general, and the generally declining state of human society, which my college education had somehow failed to inform me had been of concern for the past 500 or so generations.

It HAD, however, convinced me that my talents and interests in science and engineering would be of little use in remedying any of those problems, which are of human origin: mostly greed, xenophobia, and willful ignorance. Instead, I became part of the local color in San Francisco for most of the next 8 years, earning my living then and for the next 25 years fixing houses and 2-way radios.

I first heard of global warming in 1972 from a physics professor whose class I had taken. He had just read an article recognizing that it would become a real problem at some point in the future, surely one of those by oil company scientists around that time. I have followed the debate ever since and the problems now are the same as they were 50 years ago. I can't be sure, but I think he said that it was expected to become a serious threat in about 150 years, pretty close to the mark given the nature of exponential growth.
-1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-12-23 08:11
This is a good article, but I can't help feeling depressed and hopeless when I read, again, that we have only 12 years to radically change our energy consumption or we will face dire consequences. The simple fact is that we are not going to change in 12 years. There's nothing that can force the great energy consuming nations to change in 12 years.

The first global climate change conference was in Kyoto, Japan, in the middle 1990s - more than 20 years ago. Nothing has been done since then. The technology for green energy has improved dramatically but it has not been implemented.

Take the case of Bill McKibben and Yes, it was founded in 2008 but right away the now-liberal hero, Robert Mueller, opened a domestic terrorism case against it --

"FBI Files Show Agents Tracked Non-Violent Climate Activists as Part of 'Domestic Terrorism Case'"

That's how climate change is dealt with by the world's unipolar super power. The USG still regards climate activism as a criminal or terrorist activity. So nothing will be done because the USG does not want anything to be done. We might as well point the finger right at the real cause of global climate change. Why blame poor nations or energy consumers? Blame the real culprits.
-3 # BKnowswhitt 2018-12-25 21:45
And the weather has not been radicalled changed nor the climate .. nor man made global warming in the past 20 years ... GO TRump!!!!!!!!!! !!!!111
+4 # Kootenay Coyote 2018-12-23 09:08
'...things are going to get a lot worse ....'
True; despite which, that is no reason not to begin Climate rescue & reconstruction.
-2 # oldoilieotto 2018-12-23 09:45
What is needed is a source of energy equivalent to that 100 million barrels of oil. Until there is one available at a cost that can be borne by ordinary people, nothing will change. Oil is not even the worst offender. That distinction belongs to coal and the worst offending nation is China. Wind and solar might eventually replace a lot of the coal which is used to generate electrical power, but replacing oil, which is used primarily for transportation has proved to be very difficult. Electric vehicles are not the answer if they just replace oil with coal for the electricity. Gore, DiCaprio and others could have a far greater impact by giving up their fossil fueled opulence than by continuing to scold the rest of us. If there is any relief for our energy predicament, it is one that will bring hardship to everyone. Leadership should consist of showing the way.
0 # hiker 2018-12-23 11:24
I guess these so called 'leaders' think they can eat, drink, and breath money. I hope they know that there grandchildren will be spitting on there graves.
+1 # neis 2018-12-23 12:11
"By contrast, a few people, maybe a few thousand people in the oil and gas industry will die before they forego the profit from using every last drop no matter what carnage they cause."

As we continue to waste more precious, irreplaceable time, thus eliminating more possibilities and options in the process. perhaps we will get to the point where we will only be left with the option of testing this hypothesis.
+1 # AlexG 2018-12-24 00:44
Very good article, Mr. Boardman, but I do think that There IS sufficient political will to tackle this AGW threat to human civilization, among most people.
The problem is that the mass concern & latent political will power needed to address the issue, is not only insufficiently legitimated & organized by the corrupt political & economic powerbrokers of world, rhe issue is, instead, still actively downplayed, denied, and even mocked by the most powerful of said powerbrokers (with only a few notable exceptions.)
Until a self-organizing , bottom-up, leadership now arises across the planet, one that's able to dethrone most of the corrupt fools and greedheads who currently/insan ely Misrule most of humanity -especially on this AGW issue, then Nature's Ostensible Experiment in allowing the arising of mass-cognitive, rationally-self -evolving, human creatures on planet Earth, will likely-fatally fail... maybe not because of AGW temperature rises alone...but instead because of cosmically-disa llowed, self destructive species defect in the Human hard-wired Neurological Design.
Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, and other earlier thinkers, have speculated about this kind of possible cosmic-zero-out come for the human species, if, in general too many of us humans internally choose to lazily remain on neuro-cognitive 'auto-pilot.'
0 # jazzman633 2018-12-30 12:31
Twelve years to change our ways? You might as well say "12 hours."

For me, the canary in the coal mine has always been motor sports.

An Indy race car gets 1-2 miles/gal. NASCAR, 3-4. And there are hundreds of races, plus jet-skis, motorcycles, snowmobiles, and boats, boats, boats.

No society that is remotely serious about greenhouse gases and climate change burns fossil fuels for amusement.

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