Part III of an investigative report. [Part I: http://bit.ly/fV8slf | Part II: http://bit.ly/gMITca | Part III: http://bit.ly/gMrxw9 | Part IV: http://bit.ly/g9xbFN ]
The Spin Doctors | Spinning the Potential for Abrupt and Catastrophic Climate Change
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley
It is now beyond obvious that those who control the world’s economy are hell-bent on burning all of our planet’s remaining fossil fuels – including those that not long ago, were considered impractical to exploit. Corporate-colluded states, corporate-controlled media and corporate-funded scientists will be red-lining the well-oiled engine of the propaganda machine as it works overtime.
They will try to convince you the methane hydrates in the world’s oceans are deep enough that the inevitable increased temperature will not affect them. (Think again. Take a look at the map – the methane hydrates, even outside of the Arctic, are almost all located on shallow continental shelves.) And if that doesn’t work they will try to convince you that mysterious bacteria will rapaciously devour all methane gas.
In the following paragraphs, the danger that this misinformation presents is outlined. Layered upon the aforementioned spin, at the same time they will try to convince you that because the methane hydrates are now destabilizing and melting (because governments have done nothing for decades to halt global warming), we have no choice but to extract the methane and burn it – for the safety of humanity. If the misinformation contradicts itself, this in itself is of little to no importance – as long as the key message is allowed to weave itself into the collective subconscious. The key message being: “There is no emergency. Methane risks are non-threatening.”
The truth is, there is one option, and one option only. We must stop burning fossil fuels. Completely.
“In an energy hungry world any new fossil fuel resource will only lead to additional carbon emissions.” – Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the Tyndall Centre at Manchester University, January 2011
Corporatized states, media and scientists who have pledged allegiance to protect the current economic system will try to convince us that methane hydrates will provide society with a “clean,” “sustainable” fossil fuel.  Make no mistake – they are not clean or sustainable. Nor are they renewable.  The burning of fossil fuels – including natural gas/methane – creates CO2. All the spin in the world will not make this fact any less true. On 14 January 2001, Dr. Gideon Polya explains that a further phony approach that is now being implemented on a massive scale around the world is a coal-to-gas transition on the basis that natural gas is “clean”. He states, “The reality is that gas burning seriously threatens the Planet because (a) humanity should be urgently decreasing and certainly not increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution; (b) Natural Gas (mainly methane, CH4) is not a clean energy greenhouse gas-wise; and (c) pollutants from gas leakage and gas burning pose a chemical risk to residents, agriculture and the environment.” The asserted “clean-er” status of gas as a fossil fuel is contradicted in the recent analysis by Professor Robert Howarth of Cornell University, who has concluded that ” A complete consideration of all emissions from using natural gas seems likely to make natural gas far less attractive than oil and not significantly better than coal in terms of the consequences for global warming. ” It is grossly negligent to spend billions of tax dollars on a dangerous scheme that will lock humanity into what is essentially a promissory note for the annihilation of our children, grandchildren and all life. Polya states: “Top climate scientists state that we must urgently reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration from the current damaging 392 parts per million (ppm) to a safe and sustainable 300 ppm for a safe and sustainable planet for all peoples and all species.” This is absolutely true. It is also true that only zero carbon can achieve any reduction in atmospheric CO2; only zero carbon can reduce ocean acidification.
If we do not stop burning all fossil fuels, the runaway greenhouse scenario will be upon us. The global scheme to drill methane hydrates ensures that there will be no real transition to clean, safe, renewable energy alternatives. Arctic carbon feedbacks are heating the oceans – enough to melt the slightly deeper methane hydrates on all of the continental shelves. Today, there are methane hydrates (for example, off of California) emitting methane gas into the oceans. Methane seeps have been identified along many passive and active continental margins. It will take very little additional warming (perhaps even no additional warming is needed) to add more methane emissions via methane hydrate feedback into the oceans. It is true that in relatively deeper water, much more methane will be dissolved and relatively less will be emitted to the air. (Yet this also produces catastrophic results in the form of further ocean acidification.)
This is why the stability of Arctic methane hydrates is so critical; they do not have this depth of water, therefore they are able to emit far more easily into the atmosphere. The East Siberian Arctic Shelf represents 25% of the Arctic Shelf and 8% of the total area of the World Ocean’s continental shelf. Of this shelf, 75% is shallower than 50 metres in depth (the mean depth of the continental shelf is 130 m); this provides a very short conduit for methane to escape to the atmosphere with almost no oxidation. The Arctic shelf methane hydrates are more vulnerable because they have naturally been experiencing warming by as much as 17°C, while deep oceanic hydrates have been warmed by less than 1°C.  Methane hydrates are only stable under specific pressure and temperature conditions.
Most scientists continue to ignore the oceans. Scientist David Archer, who has been pivotal in minimizing methane risks of late, proposes that increased leaking of methane will all dissolve in the oceans for a hundred thousand years – therefore inferring that destabilizing methane hydrates should not be considered a high risk “within our lifetime”. Yet, methane is oxidized in ocean water to CO2 – which acidifies it. It is a possibility that the increase in ocean acidification could be attributed to the melting of methane hydrates.
More acidic oceans must exchange additional CO2 to the atmosphere. Yes, methane-consuming bacteria will digest methane, however, this further depletes oxygen from the oceans and causes further acidification. The result of this is dead oceans. Dead oceans can be imagined as sewers spewing toxic gases like hydrogen sulphide into the air and onto an unrecognizable landscape void of life. Scientists continue to observe critical aspects of climate in a reductionist fashion – failing to acknowledge (or at least convey) that all elements of nature are interconnected. There will be no free lunch.
A 2010 paper addressing new constraints on methane fluxes in the Gulf of Mexico suggests that deep methane hydrates may leak vast amounts of methane into the ocean water, thus raising the concentration of methane in surface waters and ultimately the atmosphere. All of these fluxes and ocean-air exchanges are happening today, and will continue to increase. The report states: “A significant release of methane into the atmosphere could ultimately lead to a catastrophic greenhouse effect; this mechanism has been invoked as an explanation for past deglaciation [global warming] events.”
If we link this information to Archer’s suggestion that methane hydrates will continue to leak into the oceans for 100,000 years, we are looking at a creeping ocean catastrophe that has already commenced. Based on results of many recent studies, it appears there are now ocean regions where ocean water is supersaturated with methane, the result being more methane emitting into the air above. In one such 2010 study, scientists suggest that future sea-ice retreat may decrease the residence times of methane and nitrous oxide in the surface Arctic Ocean and thus enhance the sea-air flux of these climatically active gases.
The video below shows a large plume of methane-rich gas continuously bubbling in a tundra lake in Alaska. (2010 | 0:40)
There is no precedent in the past for the abrupt and extreme rate of global climate forcing that this fossil fuel-based industrial civilization has created. Though the scientists are silent (except when justifying ongoing research), the fact is that we are now, most definitely, in an abrupt global climate change event, which is most likely unsurpassed in the history of life on the planet. Scientists condemn humanity by failing to call for the absolute ending of the current fossil fuel economy, as well as an ending to burning all fossil fuels – the only way to achieve zero carbon emissions – and the only way to stabilize the planet (recognized by IPCC).
Any science or policy that is accepting of any fossil fuels – inclusive of conventional oil and gas – condones and legitimizes current coal plants and drilling to continue and to expand, while ignoring the fact that nature cannot compromise. Therefore, those who accept false solutions such as CCS (carbon capture and storage) (already proven to be a spectacular failure) are complicit in protecting the current suicidal “business as usual” economic model that will bring us to a complete collapse of civilization.
Simply stated, it does not matter where methane carbon feedbacks come from. What matters is that these feedbacks will cascade and multiply – at some point causing a mass extinction event. Imagine a domino effect. It takes just one carbon feedback to add to our current state of global warming to trigger all other carbon feedbacks – this is definite. As world governments absolutely refuse to stop burning fossil fuels, continued accelerating warming of our increasingly fragile planet, caused by rising greenhouse gas emissions, will ensure such feedbacks are dead certainties.
Feedbacks that further amplify global warming (creating additional CO2 and additional feedbacks which are mostly unaccounted for in climate models and not reported as greenhouse gas emissions) include:
- warming soil (CO2)
- increased ground level ozone. (which reduces photosynthesis, making it toxic to all green growth)
- warming peatlands (methane)
- warming wetlands (methane from sources such as lakes, ponds, rivers, etc.)
- forest fires (CO2 and methane)
- forest die back (CO2)
- thawing permafrost (methane)
- melting methane hydrates (methane)
- warming ocean water (dissolves less CO2)
- ocean acidification (draws down less CO2)
- plankton die-off (less effective ocean biological carbon pump)(CO2)
- loss of sea ice (less cooling albedo)
The slightest risk/possibility of methane being added to the atmosphere from carbon feedbacks today – from any source – leaves no doubt that an absolutely expedient transition from fossil fuel energy to zero carbon energy is imperative for our survival. Yet, methane releases continue to accelerate. The fact that methane is 100 times more powerful than CO2 in the first 5-10 years after it’s been emitted creates an unparalleled world emergency of massive scale. State governments, media and scientists who minimize, ignore or deny methane risks condone the massive risk to civilization’s survival from methane carbon feedbacks.
Scientists and governments have known for decades that climate change accelerates the warming temperature in the Arctic far faster than anywhere else on Earth. Resulting warming of the Arctic Ocean will result in the destabilization, melting and venting of the methane hydrates. It is not surprising that we now find ourselves in a situation where we are “beyond dangerous atmospheric interference” (DAI) with the climate – as the world has done nothing to stop it. This situation will continue to accelerate even if we stop burning all fossil fuels today. This is why the emergency is unprecedented and unparalleled in magnitude.
The “laws of ecology” established by biologist Barry Commoner are essential in understanding the carbon cycle and the solutions we must seek for our climate crisis:
1. Everything is Connected to Everything Else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all.
2. Everything Must Go Somewhere. There is no “waste” in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown.
3. Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system.”
4. There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. In nature, both sides of the equation must balance; for every gain there is a cost, and all debts are eventually paid.
All life on Earth is connected by carbon. The burning of carbon – carbon that has been sequestered over millennia by the accumulation of animal-based petroleum and plant-based coal – over the course of a few hundreds of years has proven not to be a “free lunch”. The relentless rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not going to stop and the relentless rise in temperature will continue. The only answer – which we resist, deny, refuse and are unwilling to accept – is that we must stop burning ALL fossil fuels. Not a reduction and not less. All. The Burning Age is over. And just as the Stone Age ended before they ran out of stones, so the Burning Age must end before we run out of fossil fuels.
Governments and global society as a whole continue to ignore safe, renewable energy sources – sentencing humanity and all life to a hell on Earth. Until we acknowledge why, nothing will change. A new foundation for a global society built on principles of sharing and the simple premise of “living well, not better” is the greatest threat to the current economic system and the current global power structures. Such a revolution is not about to be embraced by any major greenhouse gas-emitting, developed, obstructionist state who has clearly demonstrated in Cancún that the protection of economy is clearly more vital than protection of life. Make no mistake – everyday that our current global economic system is allowed to continue as is brings us one step closer to irreversible climate catastrophe and complete exhaustion of the planet’s last remaining natural resources. Our current economic system will lead us, in no uncertain terms, to our own annihilation.
Those who protect the current economic system – scientists in general, and “big green” co-opted environmental groups – are silent on what now constitutes a clear, unequivocal planetary climate emergency. They have played their role. Their funding is immense and secure.  Their professions and elite status remain secure. Ask yourself … why do environmental groups not disclose to their global audience what MUST happen if we are to avert catastrophe? Why do they ask us to buy t-shirts and high definition camcorders instead of telling us the danger that lies right outside our window? Is it so we can videotape our own demise? Ask yourself … why are those who claim to speak for civil society, who claim to represent us, not telling us we must fight for the lives of our own children? If society at large understood the unequivocal, unparalleled climate emergency about which wealthy states and key environmental groups remain silent, what would happen?
Universities as Bedfellows | Moral Nihilism
Education is …
“…one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.” – Bertrand A. Russell (1872-1970), English philosopher, mathematician, and writer
“…a state-controlled manufactory of echoes.” – Norman Douglas (1868-1952), British writer
Universities have been transformed into modern day brothels, where corporations can hire prostitutes under the guise of scientific research. Play nice = get rich. On 1 February 2007, BP announced an agreement with University of California, Berkeley for $500 million to research biofuels at a new Energy Biosciences Institute. In return, BP was given access to the university’s researchers and technology, built by decades of public investment.
Why would BP or any other corporation choose to pay for their own research institutes when they can, instead, essentially hijack a publicly funded one? BP will own all intellectual property rights of all resulting science, which it will use to effectively expand corporate profits. Such agreements most always ensure that any and all data from funded research is also owned by the funding corporation. This ensures that scientific research results that the corporations wish to be known to the public are divulged – and the scientific research results that could interfere with or even destroy corporate profit potential are buried from the public.
As neoconservative governments and governments straining under economic collapse continue to cut social programs and education, competing universities become more and more dependent on corporate funding. A brief and ultraconservative glimpse of other oil funding for university research: BP funds Princeton $15 million; Chevron funds University of California, Davis $25 million, Georgia Institute of Technology $12 million and Texas A&M, undisclosed; ConocoPhillips funds Iowa State University $22.5 million and Duke University $1 million; DuPont funds Iowa State University $1 million; and ExxonMobil funds Stanford $100 million (2007 figures). Funds provided by BP in June of 2010, after the oil spill, were dispersed to universities as follows: $5 million to Louisiana State University; $10 million to the Florida Institute of Oceanography hosted by the University of South Florida; and $10 million to the Northern Gulf Institute, a consortium led by Mississippi State University.
In June 2010, under mounting public pressure, BP agreed to provide research money to independent institutions in the Gulf region that could allocate the funds through a peer-review process – apparently with no strings attached. Writer Naomi Klein states that this is a model for research in the Gulf: paid for by the oil giants that reap the massive profits from oil and gas, but with no way for them to influence outcomes. However, BP had a back-up plan – and fortunately, there are still certain professors, scientists and perhaps universities who uphold ethics and are unwilling to compromise. On 22 July 2010, Cary Nelson, head of the American Association of University Professors, accused BP of trying to “buy” the best scientists and academics to help it contest litigation after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. “This is really one huge corporation trying to buy faculty silence in a comprehensive way,” said Nelson. “Our ability to evaluate the disaster and write public policy and make decisions about it as a country can be impacted by the silence of the research scientists who are looking at conditions…. There is a problem for a faculty member who becomes closely associated with a corporation with such powerful financial interests.” Russ Lea from the University of South Alabama stated that some clauses in the contract “were very disturbing.”
An article published on 14 January 2011 in Nature reports that “[a]t least as far back as September, BP began issuing a standard letter to independent researchers who requested samples, stating ‘Requests for source oil will be delayed…’.” Independent research has been the thorn in the side of BP and BP’s allies, correcting the “official narrative” over and over again. BP’s humiliation began with the oil-flow estimates and continued through to the “all clear” on seafood contamination. BP has effectively slammed the door on independent research by refusing to supply official samples of the Deepwater Horizon oil.
Corporate funding effectively silences dissent and buys legitimacy where none is deserved. The corporate influence and domination, like a virus, crushes imagination, strangles creativity and kills individual thought. Education pursued for the collective good is dead. Transcendent values – dead. The nurturing of individual conscience – dead. Ethical and social equity issues are framed and accepted as “passé.” Political silence reigns. Moral independence within educational institutes is being effectively decimated. It is of little surprise that empathy has declined by 40% in college students since 2000.
“In England … education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and would probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.” – Oscar Wilde
In 2010, James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers warns that we need to defend professors and graduate students against powerful corporations – and their own universities. He calls this The Canadian Corporate-Academic Complex. He writes: “As universities more aggressively embrace corporate values, corporate management practices, corporate labor-relations policies, and corporate money, faculty associations face troubling challenges. The new reality is particularly hostile to academic freedom, and we see that hostility in the actions of corporate funders and university administrators, often simultaneously.”
Indoctrination starts early. Our children’s minds are vastly deteriorating in our current education system. Ken Robinson believes that “we shouldn’t be putting them asleep, we should be waking them up to what they have inside themselves. But the model we have is this: I believe we have a system of education that is modelled on the interests of industrialism and in the image of it.” Robinson points to a test of 1,500 individuals – all tested for divergent thinking to show genius level. The individuals were kindergarten children and 98% of the children tested were genius level divergent thinkers. Five years later, the same children tested at 50%. His brilliant lecture is here and the transcript is here.
Economy is Sacrosanct
“How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.“ — Adolf Hitler
To understand why it is vital for the globally elite plutocracy to protect the current power structures that exist today, pretend you have been told that you only have a short time left to live. What would you do? Most people would work far less and probably stop working altogether if they could. Our children would become our focal point, as would time with other loved ones, and with nature. Consumer purchases and shopping would be the furthest thing from our mind. This would be the greatest threat to the global economy. If you can translate these ideas into a global society that actually understands that fossil fuels are literally killing us – that we are in a planetary emergency – would a similar shift in priorities not occur? Would our priority not become a full fledged effort to prepare our children for the future, indeed to try to ensure them a future? A complete boycott of all unnecessary consumer products. Unparalleled bank runs that would bring the entire system to its knees. All of these things that would likely happen if people were made to understand the magnitude of the climate emergency are the greatest threat to the global economy, driven and dominated by fossil fuels and the plutocracy that reaps obscene amounts of monetary wealth. Keep in mind the silent fact that the wealthiest 15% are responsible for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Self-appointed environmental groups can claim all they like that the people cannot be told “the truth” as the fear will paralyze them into further inaction. We know this is not true. Yet NGOs continue to downplay the catastrophic risks of global climate change, even now as those risks are rapidly increasing. A paper for the Four Degrees and Beyond conference in September 2009 titled Psychological Adaptation to the Threats and Stresses of a Four Degree World, written by Clive Hamilton (Charles Sturt Professor of Public Ethics in the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the Australian National University) and Tim Kasser (professor of psychology in the Department of Psychology at Knox College, Illinois, USA) states: “At present most governments and environmental organisations adopt a ‘don’t scare the horses’ approach, fearful that exposing people fully to the scientific predictions will immobilise them. With climate scientists now stressing the need for extremely urgent action and spelling out more catastrophic impacts if action is inadequate, this now seems to us a dangerous approach to undertake.”
In every natural disaster observed and every emergency laid in front of us, we bear witness to the deeply entrenched quality of humanity that surfaces. Although our humanity has been beaten down and crushed, it still lurks under our bar-coded, desensitized skin. And in the darkest hours, history shows that ordinary citizens have over and over again come together to help one another, often risking their own lives in the process. It is clear that people are not being told the dire reality of the climate emergency in order to protect the economy. Clean, safe, renewable and perpetual zero-carbon energy independence is the greatest threat to the status quo powers that be. Yet clean, safe, renewable and perpetual zero-carbon energy independence is the greatest key to freedom for regular people and the only chance our children have to live a full, decent life.
Ignoring the Necessity of a Plant-Based Diet at Our Own Peril
“I speak the truth not so much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little more as I grow older.” Michel de Montaigne, 1533-1592
This is the section that outlines a necessary resolve, which in a healthy society most citizens would easily embrace. However, I won’t delude myself with such false illusions. Knowing of the displaced anger this issue creates, I will continue writing with no illusions that such solutions that such solutions will be embraced on a global scale. And we can thank the tobacco industry for this – the industry that brilliantly created the spin of “personal rights and freedoms” to such magnitude that we can’t get the monster back into the cage.
Today’s corporatized society consists of consumers (formerly known as citizens) who have been told – until they believe it – that it is their “right” to pollute our shared environment … their “right” to destroy our shared environment … and their “right” to poison our children, including their own. And disturbingly, our corporatized society fights for these rights whenever corporate media signals that such “rights” are about to come under threat. We have witnessed corporations in the US – a country with one of the worst health care systems in the world – successfully convince masses of followers to fight against their own healthcare reform. In Canada, instead of fighting for the right and respect to raise and nurture our own children, we demand daycare, where the lowest paid people in society raise our children. Recently in Canada, parents fought for the right to enroll their children in school at the exceptionally tender age of three.
Also in Canada, industry mobilized Canadians across the country to “fight for their right” to continue the use and expansion of the unnecessary drive-thrus at fast food joints (the lowest possible hanging fruit). The billion dollar restaurant industry convinced Canadians and politicians that it is better to leave our vehicles running than to turn them off. Tim Hortons led the battle. Who is Tim Hortons? A corporate coffee chain that uses the branding technique of patriotism, convincing consumers to wave their coffee cups like Canadian flags. Approximately one quarter of the province of Nova Scotia’s landfill is Tim Hortons garbage (2005).
The staggering number of asthmatic children (which continues to climb) and the staggering number of deaths due to air pollution were of no concern. Convenience and personal “rights” to convenience were all that mattered. And as the citizens in vulnerable countries literally die from temperatures of 52ºC, the self-entitled wealthy sit in their air-conditioned SUVs ordering McHeartAttacks and KillerCokes for their children who are now subject to an escalating health crisis of obesity and diabetes. Perhaps it is time to redefine what constitutes child abuse.
What is rarely discussed is the fact that as much as half of the annual worldwide greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change are now being attributed to the lifecycle and supply chain of domesticated animals raised for food. The livestock industry also contributes to massive deforestation, causing further acceleration of climate change. Due to the fact previously stated, that methane is a powerful greenhouse gas 72-100 times more powerful than carbon in the short term (5 to 20 years), how can it be that this issue is barely being discussed? Like heart disease – denying this issue constitutes a silent killer.
Livestock now accounts for up to 51% (Worldwatch Institute) of all greenhouse gas emissions.  Methane accounts for a vast amount of these emissions. Meat counts for more damage than all transportation combined on our finite planet. In June 2010 the United Nations issued a second urgent plea for a global united transition to a meat-free and dairy-free diet: “A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change.” Yet despite urgent warnings from the United Nations (the first in 2006) that countries must reduce meat consumption, this is just another lifestyle change the well-off would rather not discuss, even when this massive dent in emissions would cost nothing – we could all do it today, at our next meal. We could at least begin a transition today. Especially in light that this is one of the few solutions in the mitigation of climate change where citizens are free of government-asserted control over our decision of choice. The fact that it would be more effective in the fight to prevent catastrophic climate change to eliminate animal products from our diets than it would be to eradicate the entire globe of all vehicles of transportation combined is nothing less than incredible.
The fact that we dismiss such a simple action at the cost of future generations is revealing. What it sadly reveals is an increasingly unenlightened society that is effectively becoming more and more corroded by unadulterated individualism.
The Right to Destroy Ourselves
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” – Albert Einstein
But why give fair and just transition programs and subsidies to independent farmers for making the critical transition to organic plant-based agriculture when we can just keep giving the billion dollar multinational corporations the vast subsidies to keep destroying our planet? And why give our children – who are at the mercy of our poor decisions – a healthy and compassionate diet when we can slowly kill them with an escalating epidemic of obesity and diabetes, costing the health care system billions? But hey, as long as the cost belongs to the taxpayers while the profits from disease line the pockets of the rich, what’s the problem?
Let’s face it, there is too much money to be made by the multinational corporations, who view our families, and especially our children, as nothing more than neon-flashing dollar signs. There is just too much money to be made on drugs, treatment and disease. Prevention is the enemy of corporate profit. And why even consider transitioning to a healthy plant-based diet when, instead, corporations can set another unknown disaster into motion – in this instance, cloned meat. Our “brilliant” species can do anything – except change the very patterns that destroy our own habitat and ultimately ourselves. Burn baby burn. Drill till we’re dead. Message from corporations to consumers (formerly known as citizens): Stuff yourself with meat, hormones and additives until you explode (or the planet explodes – whichever comes first).
As an exporter of meat, dairy and wool, New Zealand’s highest climate gas emission is methane, despite having a per capita car ownership that rivals California’s. How to fix this? Simple – like the IPCC, the government simply accounts for greenhouse gas emissions but doesn’t add in agricultural methane, even though methane is far more potent than CO2. Presto! Methane is no longer a problem.
There is no choice – if we want to continue living, there must be generous subsidies to assist a global conversion from industrial livestock farming to organic, primarily plant-based, small-scale agriculture rich in biodiversity. Intensive livestock production and the intensive food production for livestock contributes to massive deforestation and loss of biodiversity. Much of the cleared land for livestock could be reforested or returned to grassland – becoming lush carbon sinks rather than degraded lands that emit deadly methane. Conserving biodiversity, as well as feeding humanity, must be a global priority over sustaining factory-farmed livestock.
Like fossil fuels, states must eliminate the massive livestock and dairy subsidies. Such subsidies continue to be accepted and relatively unchallenged as states vie for export dollars by selling meat to other nations. Trade is set to be the number one sector of all fossil fuel consumption by 2030. Further, both the fossil fuel industry and the livestock industry must internalize the full costs of all pollution, including water pollution, CO2 from deforestation, methane from decaying animal parts (among other sources) and nitrous oxide from animal waste.
Will governments create such legislation? Not likely. For behind the red velvet curtain, the corporations run the greatest puppet show on Earth. This certain cause of CO2 and methane is the easiest (and most affordable) one to tackle – yet, almost five years after the initial UN warning we are not even discussing it.
October, 2010: Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food states unequivocally:”There is currently little to rejoice about,” and “worse may still be ahead…. Current agricultural developments are… threatening the ability for our children’s children to feed themselves,” he said. “A fundamental shift is urgently required….” He continued that “giving priority to approaches that increase reliance on fossil fuels is agriculture committing suicide.” Today agriculture continues to decline because of accelerating climate change. Feeding factory-farmed livestock rather than feeding people is just one more slap in the face to human rights and social equity.
October, 2010: Scientists warn of a livestock greenhouse gas boom: “Soaring international production of livestock could release enough carbon into the atmosphere by 2050 to single-handedly exceed ‘safe’ levels of climate change.… The livestock sector’s emissions alone could send temperatures above the 2 degrees Celsius rise commonly said to be the threshold above which climate change could be destabilising.” They also make a more conservative estimate: “The sector will contribute enough greenhouse gas emissions to take up 70 per cent of the ‘safe’ 2 degree temperature rise.” The authors of the study called on governments to prioritize the reining in of the livestock sector, adding that “mobilising the necessary political will to implement such policies is a daunting but necessary prospect.” They suggest the world will have to reduce emissions by roughly 87 per cent relative to performance at a global scale in 2000.
And again, remember that 2ºC was never considered safe. From the 1990 United Nations AGGG report: “Temperature increases beyond 1°C could trigger rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage.” The absolute temperature limit of 2°C in the same report was motivated as the limit beyond which the risks of grave damage to ecosystems and of non-linear responses are expected to increase rapidly.
In the video below (2011:13:57), The Genetics Myth, Dr Robert Sapolsky, Dr James Gilligan, Dr Gabor Maté and Richard Wilkinson speak of how a society void of ethics, effects our behaviours and emotional health.
We Can’t Run Away from Runaway
Non-linear in this case means runaway climate change. Why was the extremely dangerous (now catastrophic) 2ºC “target” chosen? The adoption of 2ºC enabled the economic system to continue business as usual – further destruction will continue until the Earth reaches her maximum limit where catastrophe becomes unavoidable. It is now quite evident how scientists identified their role in the international climate change negotiations – to provide policymakers a danger limit rather than a limit for safety. (This race-to-the-bottom reasoning has become typical of government environmental health policymaking. Hazardous pollution and chemicals suspected of causing cancer are deemed innocent until it can be proved with virtually total certainty that they are dangerous.)
To date only James Hansen and Stephen Hawking have stated that a runaway greenhouse effect is in our realm of distinct possibility. “Runaway greenhouse effect” is a scientific term very different from the “runaway climate change” term frequently referred to. “Runaway climate change” implies an uncontrollable, rapid acceleration event – an event too extreme for humans to survive it. The scientific term “runaway greenhouse effect” means a dead Earth.
Yet scientists continue to miss the main point on what constitutes global climate catastrophe for humanity when it comes to rapid global warming and climate disruption. For humanity and animals, our survival depends on agriculture – not the Greenland ice sheet. Global climate catastrophe is already tipping agriculture into decline – yet the critical tipping point is never mentioned. All focus should be on protecting agriculture. Even the IPCC climate model ensemble states that at 3°C, our agriculture goes into decline for all crops in all regions. Even so, these ultra-conservative IPCC models do not capture approximately half of the adverse impacts. The IPCC makes the mistake of plotting crop yield change against transient temperature change rather than the full, long-term temperature change. 3°C is deadly. Therefore 2°C is deadly, because a global average temperature increase of 2ºC, along with carbon feedbacks, will lead to 3ºC. This is what makes the Arctic climate feedbacks so critical to understand. Further acceleration of global warming, coupled with the warming the planet is already committed to, sets us on a path to a certain extinction event for humanity.
A growing number of concerned scientists are now calling for urgent action to be taken on reducing methane emissions, recognizing that methane has, by far a greater and more immediate effect on the speed of temperature rise than CO2. In a world of open minds, these emissions could be dealt with in a far easier and far more expedient manner. Unfortunately, if history is any indication, instead of embracing positive change, our minds will deny the need for it – having swallowed the corporate philosophy that “personal rights trump environment” no matter what – no matter what such rights destroy in our shared environment and no matter what such rights destroy in our children’s increasingly bleak, dark future.
Turning a Blind Eye to Unintended but Entirely Predictable Consequences
Instead of realizing and embracing an opportunity for cleaner water, cleaner air and healthier bodies, we would rather risk the onslaught of new viruses cropping up due to our grossly inhumane treatment of animals. Nature has come back to bite us with foot-and-mouth disease, bird flu, avian influenza (with cases reported in the Jeolla and Chungcheong provinces of Korea caused by H5N1 virus), mad cow disease, and all other diseases related to over-consumption of meat by humans. In January 2011 it was reported that South Korea was burying thousands of pigs alive due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. As many as 34,000 pigs have been killed in a single day. Not to mention health issues related to growth hormones and antibiotics. In the US, an estimated 70 percent of all antibiotics are fed to pigs, chickens, and cattle. American livestock consumes eight times the amount of antibiotics that humans do.
Meat production has increased a staggering 500 percent since 1950 to meet the ever-expanding demand. Factory farms supply 43 percent of the world’s cows and more than half of the world’s pigs and chickens for consumption. So ugly is the industry that we keep it behind closed doors, leaving the dehumanizing task for the most exploited workforce, the immigrant workforce. We do not use the language of the animals; rather we use palatable words that diminish the reality – beef, pork and poultry.
As well, the livestock industry is a primary contributor to deforestation. Since 1970, twenty million hectares (50 million acres) of tropical forest in Latin America have been cut down for livestock production. Meat production’s environmental toll on wilderness destruction, soil erosion, energy waste, and pollution is of such unbelievable scale and magnitude, it can be difficult to comprehend. Yet, it is barely even discussed let alone acted upon.
More False Solutions
In 2011, the giant agribusiness corporation Cargill announced its plan for a bacteria-based system to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous released into a river by its Fort Morgan, Colorado beef processing facility. Consider that Cargill corporation saw its profits soar 86% during the worst of the 2008 food crisis – tallying more than $1 billion in the second quarter of 2008 alone. During this same time, pesticide and seed seller Monsanto doubled its earnings. False solutions do not address the root cause of problems – they only add sensational profits to the bottom line of the corporations. Cargill’s bacteria system is certain to be a test-run for global distribution and patents. Destruction + pollution = corporate profit. Corporations serve to further enhance and expand their portfolios by effectively obtaining/creating government contracts that “clean up” the very destruction and environmental degradation they create. Climate degradation and climate-change-induced disasters will prove to be the ultimate shock doctrine for corporate profit.
And while our corporatized society dangerously distracts itself – by developing false-solution technologies and seeking grant money for further studies – the real issues, the root causes, remain unresolved. In Canada, rather than addressing the root of the problem – the massive environmental degradation and methane resulting from factory farmed pigs – the University of Guelph, heavily funded with corporate dollars, has created a genetically engineered “enviropig.”
An accepted example of the status quo “solution” is recycling. We neglect to critically examining the root cause – which is the production of the waste in the first place. We reject real solutions such as cradle to cradle life cycle analysis and zero waste/zero emissions (ZERI) concept principles, coupled with legislation that would demand that we achieve zero waste. Rather, we recycle. Yet, even if 100% of all private households in the US recycled 100% of their solid waste, this would add up to 1% of all the solid waste produced in the US.  This is what happens when you have the world’s largest waste management systems funding big greens such as Rockefeller’s lovechild, WWF. Of course, only if we evolve to a level of enlightenment where we are able to separate our wants from our needs while flat out rejecting consumerism and green capitalism, even meticulously critiqued production will fail us.
Next: Part IV:
- Destination – Hell. Are we there yet? | Drilling and Earthquakes
- Today: Arctic Feedback Time Bomb
- Detonating the Methane Time Bomb
- 250 Plumes of Dire Warning
- Compromised Science | Serving the Propaganda Machine
- Don’t Alarm the Public
- The Seafloor is Teeming with Recently Discovered Life – A Vital Component of Earth’s Carbon Cycle that Governs Climate
- Coconut Revolution
- While We Sleep | Corporate Greed – How to Create a Market
Cory Morningstar is climate justice activist whose recent writings can be found on Canadians for Action on Climate Change and The Art of Annihilation site where you can read her bio. You can follow her on Twitter: @elleprovocateur
References | Part III:
 Sustainable Development: ConocoPhillips: “Our company has been working on natural gas hydrate extraction technology since 2003 and is dedicating significant research and development resources to a field trial on Alaska’s North Slope. This well will be drilled to gain scientific knowledge and test a patented production technology which was developed by ConocoPhillips and the University of Bergen (Norway). ConocoPhillips and the University have been developing this technology since 2003. This trial represents the first experiment outside a laboratory of this production technology in which a carbon dioxide molecule is exchanged for the methane molecule locked up in the hydrate’s structure. The methane gas is produced, and the carbon dioxide is sequestered inside the hydrate structure. Methane hydrates hold a significant potential to supply the world with clean fossil fuel. This trial is an important step in developing a promising production technology to access this potential and ultimately to produce methane from gas hydrates while sequestering carbon dioxide.”
 The formation of methane hydrates takes a very long time, so they cannot be considered as a renewable energy source: the present deposits have probably been formed over a period of several million years (Davie, M. K., and B. A. Buffett, A numerical model for the formation of gas hydrate below the seafloor, J. Geophys. Res., 106, 497–514, 2001)
 Further information presented on 30 November – 2 December 2010 in Washington, US, by leading scientists Natalia Shakhova (University of Alaska, Fairbanks, International Arctic Research Centre, USA) and Igor Semiletov (Russian Academy of Sciences, Far Eastern Branch, Pacific Oceanological Institute, Vladivostok, Russia) is briefly as follows: 80% of the total area of sub-sea permafrost is in the East Siberia Arctic Shelf (ESAS) with shallow hydrates underlain in more than 80% of the ESAS area. Observational data suggest 80% of the ESAS sea floor serves as a source of methane to the water column. Arctic warming affects the ESAS the strongest: Observed warming on the ESAS is the strongest in the entire Arctic and the region is now 5°C warmer compared with average springtime temperatures registered during the 20th century. During the last two decades areas of flaw polynyas in the ESAS increased 5 times (flaw polynyas allow atmospheric methane emissions during the ice-covered period). One additional factor serving to enhance permafrost destabilization in the ESAS has been the warming of bottom water – up to 3°C during the last three decades. Considering the significance of the ESAS methane reservoir and enhancing mechanism of its destabilization, this region should be considered the most potential in terms of possible climate change caused by abrupt release of methane.
 D Nicolsky and N Shakhova, Modeling sub-sea permafrost in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf: the Dmitry Laptev Strait: http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/5/1/015006/
 Together, the top six big greens in the US received nearly $2.1 billion in total revenue from all sources in 2008. But not to worry, the average of $160 million per group that was government funded using your tax dollars wasn’t critical to the financial health of the six. This is just a drop in the bucket in the elitist non-profit industrial complex; Frederic Krupp, President of Environmental Defense Fund, $496,17; Cater Roberts, President of World Wildlife Fund, $486,394; Frances Beinecke, President of Natural Resources Defense Council, $432,959; David Yarnold, Executive Director of Environmental Defense Fund, $365,773; David Festa, V.P. West Coast Environmental Defense Fund, $360,872; Stephanie Meeks, Acting President of Nature Conservatory, $349,873; Larry Schweiger, President, National Wildlife Federation, $345,004; Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Centre on Global Climate Change, $335,099; Roger Shlickeisen, President, Defenders of Wildlife, $312,896; William Meadows, President, The Wilderness Society, $308,465.
 The United Nations FAO calculates the total greenhouse gas emissions attributed to livestock to be 18%: The FAO states that “livestock-related deforestation as reported from, for example, Argentina is excluded ” from its GHG accounting. Second, the FAO omits farmed fish from its definition of livestock and so fails to count GHGs from their life cycle and supply chain. It also omits GHG emissions from portions of the construction and operation of marine and land-based industries dedicated to handling marine organisms destined to feed livestock (up to half the annual catch of marine organisms). Read a further explanation on why the UN calculation is lower here.
 C & J Plant (1991). Green business: hope or hoax. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers.
A Killer in Our Midst | http://www.killerinourmidst.com/
Only Zero Carbon | http://www.onlyzerocarbon.org/
Media Education Foundation | http://www.mediaed.org/