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Monday, 29 September 2014 09:18

The Climate Change Deniers Hall of Infamy

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STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGlacier(Photo: Luca Galuzzi)The science of anthropogenic global warming/climate change is quite clear, and has been for quite some time. It is supported by observational evidence, such as the massive melting of sea ice, Antarctic ice, and the glaciers. Indeed, the data and reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, supported by 97% of the scientists world-wide concerned with the wide variety of related matters, has concluded, and reported with an ever-increasing sense of urgency, that massive, anthropogenic changes in our climate, due to global warming and the associated acidification of the world's oceans, are underway. If they not reversed, soon, major irreversible changes in life on Earth will take place over the next century or so, with many species, including possibly our own, either not surviving or being reduced greatly in numbers. That is, in a century or so the Earth will be frying and drowning at the same time. At the same time, we are told by the vast majority of scientific opinion that the process can be significantly slowed down and then hopefully stopped --- if major actions to reduce the anthropogenic production of Greenhouse Gases and related pollutants are taken now.

But right now, that seems unlikely, unlikely at least at the levels at which such actions would need to be taken in order to be effective. And who is standing in the way of that process? Why the Global-Warming/climate-change Deniers, of course, virtually all of whom are or were or will be connected to the fossil fuels and related industries in one way or another. They are a tough bunch. And so, I should think that, even if they are wrong (and they most surely are), they will want the world then to know who they were now. If the frying/drowning process does occur, I am sure that they would want to be known far and wide as the folks who were responsible for those outcomes. And so, I propose that they be given their very own Hall of Infamy, so that down the road, whoever is left can readily identify those who were responsible for their plight.

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Let it be understood that the major obstacle to meaningful change world-wide is the United States of America and its fossil fuels policies. There is talk, of course, about China and India and certain other countries, which are currently major carbon-producers (China is currently No. 1). But were the U.S. to take the lead and make major changes in the way it deals with the fossil fuels and produces energy, the rest of the world would likely follow, perhaps not entirely willingly, but they would, eventually. As is well known, significant changes in energy-production policy would require major government action. And while certain industries, in the U.S. and other countries, are moving (some rapidly) in the direction of doing something meaningful about reducing carbon pollution, they all agree that for anything truly meaningful to take place, government action will be needed.

In the U.S. currently, the Obama Administration is making certain moves in the direction of fossil-fuel use control. while at the same time however [fostering aggressive polices supporting exploration and use and presenting a somewhat mis-leading impression of what the United States is actually doing. So perhaps Barack Obama should be first on the list. However, one must say that the bulk of the list for members of the U.S. government is made up of Republicans. For the 113th Congress, in 2013, the Center for American Progress identified 158 Senators and Congress-people, all Republicans, who were vocal global warming/climate change deniers. Collectively they had received about $59 million in campaign contributions from the fossil fuels industry. We obviously cannot list all of the names here, but they all deserve membership in this Hall. Among the more prominent members of Congress who belong are Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell, James Inhofe, Marco Rubio, Steve Stockman, Darryl Issa, Dana Rohrabacher, Steve King, Steve Scalise [why are there so many Steves?], and, of course, Michelle Bachmann. These are all Deniers.

Then there are those politicians who might be called the "confusers," taking the "well maybe, maybe not, I'm certainly not ready to make up my mind on the science but I am certainly sure that there is no reason to do anything NOW." Take, for example, Gov. Bobby Jindal, who was an honors biology student in college, claiming ignorance on the subject. He must go in. Standing behind all of these political folk are of course their puppeteers and financiers in the Fossil Fuels Industry, the truly evil folk, many of whom are smart and well-educated enough to know better. For them, the Koch Brothers are very convenient poster boys.

Next are such scientists as one Steven Koonin (oh dear, that name again!) who, on the eve of the Great Climate Marches this past Sunday, published a delay/distractor column in the Wall Street Journal. On just a plain reading of what he says and where it was published (the WSJ has been leading the Denialists for the past 10 years), it is fairly easy to come to the conclusion that he is part of "the throw them some chaff," "let's distract from the accepted science," branch of the Denialist strategy, which has so much in common with that used for so many years by the tobacco industry. Of course, that should come as no surprise, given that both the tobacco and fossil fuels industries have used the same publicists to develop their messages. (For those who might be interested, a scientist's response to Koonin can be readily found).

There are certainly others who should make this Hall, like Rush Limbaugh and his fellow global warming red-baiters: "it's all a Communist Plot, donchaknow." (For the past century or more, whenever the Right starts to lose an argument on other grounds, they can always be counted to fall back on red-baiting). However, it should be noted, as Naomi Klein points out in her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, that capitalist ruling classes which, like ours (and not Germany's, for example), are dominated on the political side by the fossil fuels and related industries, are extremely unlikely to finally support the policies that combatting the menace would require. Thus, certainly in the case of the U.S., capitalism itself is the enemy and major changes in the organization of societies at the economic, political and social levels would be needed if the Earth as we know it is to be saved. So maybe Rush, although he has the whole thing backwards (so what else is new?), is on to something. But that's another story.

Unfortunately, I could name many more names of those who belong in this Hall of Infamy, but I feel that I have gotten the movement off to a good start. I hope that you agree.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout he is the Editorial Director of and a Contributing Author to The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy, and a Senior Editor, Politics, for The Greanville Post. Dr. Jonas' latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and available on Amazon.