What if climate change is a hoax?

Australia blog about climate change science media coverage : Anti-carbon tax protesters in Canberra

Pro-oil protesters hold signs at a demonstration against taking action on climate change.

The most demanding issue of our time is environmental protection. Over hundreds of years of exploding populations, consumption-driven economies, and carving up the planet for resources, the human species has completely reshaped its humble home world. For decades now, scientists have warned that this behavior, unchecked, could have an ominous consequence. Science has given humanity a simple ultimatum: change our behavior or face nature’s wrath.

This has led to a deep schism. Those who are most heavily invested in the current system fight scientists’ claims aggressively. Corporate giants have spent untold millions on disinformation campaigns and disseminated their propaganda through far-right outlets. They have successfully transformed a scientific and moral issue into a political one.

But for the sake of argument, suppose the denialists are right. If we turn our resources to the fight against climate change and it turns out to be a hoax, what will we have done?

First things first: Climate change is not a hoax. The basic science behind the theory is indisputable and fairly simple. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are emitted as byproducts of human transportation, manufacturing and farming. These allow ultraviolet rays from the sun to pass through earth’s atmosphere, but trap infrared heat reflected off the earth’s surface. Human beings have dramatically increased the quantity of those greenhouse gases, and the planet is heating: we now regularly break the record for hottest year.

Regardless, the steps we might take to combat climate change are positive for humanity, independent of the planet’s temperature. Sustainability and ecology will guide us toward wiser decisions overall. It will move us away from toxic byproducts of industry that pollute our air, land, and water. Millions of jobs in green infrastructure can be created. And our reckless, oil-driven imperialist foreign policy will cease – no one has ever gone to war over sunlight or wind.

The main argument against taking action on climate change is that it will cost America too many jobs. This is the reason President Trump gave for pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. But his withdrawal speech relied on figures from a pro-fossil fuel think tank and was widely criticized as deceptive, even by Trump’s usual standards. In fact, phasing out oil is the right thing to do economically.

Pipeline Spills 2010 to 2015

A map of pipeline spills in the United States from 2010-2015.

Green infrastructure in the United States is already booming. Renewable energy is creating jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy and employs some 4.5 million Americans. There are now more jobs in green energy than in fossil fuels. Meanwhile coal, which has become a symbol of Trump’s populist Midwest rise, employs only around 75,000 Americans in some of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs available – jobs that should be happily traded in for green alternatives.

Aside from the economic boons, there is the issue of sustainability. Estimates on how much oil is left vary, but it’ll run out a long time before sunlight does. Not only that, oil is a carcinogenic, deadly pollutant for which there is still no reliable transportation method. Tanker spills devastate huge areas of water and pipelines have dumped more than 9 million gallons of crude oil on US soil since 2010. Not only is energy from solar and wind clean, it could one day be free.

Our hang-up on oil has also caused the United States to pursue some of the most unsavory ties in all international relations. Saudi Arabia is the an oppressive, ultra-conservative Islamic fundamentalist state that provides ISIS a model for its dreamed-of caliphate, yet we share a “special relationship” with them over oil. Trump’s alliance with Vladimir Putin likewise appears to be triangulated around the matter of oil.

As Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, he alienated the US from our European allies on the single biggest global issue. He’s instead strengthening US, Saudi Arabian, and Russian relations – the world’s three biggest oil producers by far. A new international order is forming with despotic petro states on one side and green states on the other, and Trump wants the US on the wrong side of history.

Big Oil’s power can hardly be overstated. Politically, the industry can buy all the representation it needs – not a single Republican presidential candidate made climate change a priority and most denied its existence outright. Oil companies receive billions of dollars annually from the government in the form of tax breaks and subsidies. Its profits depend on earth’s continued destruction. And it knows it’s lying: In-house scientists at places like ExxonMobil have, for decades, internally recognized the effects of climate change while externally publishing reports to downplay it.

In the classic comic series Watchmen, the villain Ozymandias kills millions of New Yorkers as part of an elaborate hoax to convince the people of earth that they are under extraterrestrial invasion. His ploy seemingly works to unite earth against this common threat, hoax though it may be. Dark as it may be, we should take the lesson to heart. Even if climate change is a hoax – which, again, it isn’t – we’d still gain from fighting it a better, cleaner, and more cooperative world.

A brief history of Republican presidents as mascots

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Donald Trump makes an entrance fit for a Lady Gaga concert at the 2016 GOP Convention.

In a sixth season episode of The Simpsons, Springfield’s Republicans gather to discuss their next mayoral candidate. Mr. Burns insists on “a true leader, who will do exactly as he’s told.” A political strategist says the next mayor of Springfield is just behind the door. When it’s opened, there’s nothing there but a water cooler, prompting a round of applause. Moments later Sideshow Bob, a former TV personality, steps into frame, and the Republicans decide he’s even better.

Three of the last four Republican presidents – Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump – could have easily been devised in such a meeting. In real life, as on The Simpsons, the Republican Party has shown a preference for presidential candidates who lack substance but put on a good show. It seems they don’t want a president so much as they do a mascot. Continue reading

What happens when the worst person in America becomes president

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After shoving a diplomat out of the way, President Trump adjusts his jacket and takes center stage.

Donald Trump is not, yet, the worst-ever president. He’s trying to be, but his administration has been too hamstrung by controversy to get much done. Part of this is because, on a personal level, Trump is almost certainly the worst person to occupy the White House. He’s crude, ignorant, abusive, and greedy – just for starters. Whatever he does or doesn’t accomplish in terms of policy, having such a toxic person in the nation’s highest office is already having destructive consequences. Continue reading

Far right blames negative Trump coverage for congressional baseball shooting

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At rallies across America during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump called for violence from his podium.

At a practice for the Republican congressional baseball team Wednesday morning, a mass shooter opened fire and struck five people. One of them was Steve Scalise, the third-ranked Republican in the House of Representatives. The shooter, identified as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson, was killed in a shootout with Capitol police. In the ensuing news cycle, Hodgkinson’s political persuasion became public knowledge. He was, apparently, a political progressive who volunteered on the Bernie Sanders campaign and despised Donald Trump’s presidency.

Figures on the far right wasted no time blaming Trump’s critics for the attack. Comments on right-wing message boards, and on Hodgkinson’s own Facebook page, excoriated liberals for dividing the country and encouraging violence. Sean Hannity, whose FOX News program is the leading Trump propaganda hour on cable, warned, “When Democrats continue to dehumanize Republicans… the climate around the country becomes more than toxic.” Newt Gingrich blamed “an increasing intensity of hostility on the left.” Continue reading

Russia collusion among least of Trump’s crimes

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Putin and Trump Matryoshka dolls. Image taken from Politico.

The number one political scandal in Washington, D.C., continues to be President Trump’s campaign and cabinet’s association with Russia. A steady trickle of salacious, but ultimately inconclusive, headlines has dominated the D.C. press ever since the election. Each new testimony and new detail, however minor, is treated like a bombshell. But even if the worst possible scenario between Trump and Russia is confirmed, it will still be among the least of his crimes. Continue reading

Left and Right PC outrage in the Trump era

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This picture earned more than its thousand words, but it didn’t get as many laughs.

From comedians to journalists, high-profile members of the left and right found themselves in Trump-related controversy in recent weeks. The incidents provide a useful microcosm to paint a bigger picture. When the political correctness of each side is analyzed one thing is clear: the left holds its own to a much higher standard than the right does. And while liberals spend much of their time infighting, Republicans are radicalizing further rightward and running away with the country. Continue reading

White people really don’t like being called racists

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In his defense of Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani declares, “To call anyone a racist is outrageous.”

Comedian Louis CK has a bit about white privilege that includes a riff on the lack of effective racial slurs against white people. “Ruined my day,” he mockingly complains after being called a cracker. It’s an interesting observation, but CK overlooked one word that does cause white people to become uppity: the word “racist” itself. For many white people, it has become a slur in its own right. Continue reading

A theory: Comey firing proves Bannon is still in charge of the White House

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Steve Bannon is the likeliest administration member to push Trump into full authoritarianism.

Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey because he was leading an investigation into Trump’s Russia connection, whatever that may or may not be. But even as Trump essentially admitted this was the reason in a TV interview, the Trump Administration made one ridiculous excuse after another. First Trump passed the buck to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. But when Rosenstein passed the buck back, Trump trolled the world and said Comey was fired because of his mistreatment of Hillary Clinton.

It’s a pitiful naivety that would allow anyone to believe anything Donald Trump says, particularly about this case. What the whole episode really proves, though, is that the rumors of Steve Bannon’s demise were greatly exaggerated. The decision to fire Comey may have been Trump’s, but Bannon’s fingerprints and the fingerprints of the alt-right are all over it. Continue reading

The problem of cop-on-citizen crime is cultural

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Police use violence to contain a crowd in Anaheim protesting police violence in 2012.

Whenever a black, brown or Muslim person commits a crime, pundits spend the next news cycle trying to diagnose what it is about those communities that produces such violence. White Americans are so convinced the problem is with the groups themselves, and not individuals or social forces, that they elected a president who wants to ban all Muslims, build a wall to keep out immigrants, and instill law and order in black neighborhoods.

Yet when a police officer kills an unarmed citizen, media presents the officer’s side of the story; digs into the victim’s past for any evidence of wrongdoing, no matter how petty; and urges the public not to turn against law enforcement. When the officer is truly indefensible, he’s cast as a bad apple. But if there’s any group in America whose violence needs to be examined on a systemic level, it’s the police. Continue reading

Violence at Berkeley is less about free speech than it is white nationalism

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Gavin McInnes, founder of the political street gang Proud Boys, reads what would have been Ann Coulter’s speech at Berkeley.

On April 27, far-right polemicist Ann Coulter was scheduled to give a speech at the University of California at Berkeley. After a lot of back-and-forth, during which Coulter was disinvited, re-invited and rescheduled, the group that sponsored her ultimately backed out. Security concerns, including a near-guarantee of violence, prompted both Coulter and the Young America’s Foundation to decide that her appearance would jeopardize people’s well-being. In a statement, Coulter said, “It’s a sad day for free speech.” Continue reading