THE WEATHER MAKERS: HOW MAN IS CHANGING THE CLIMATE AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR LIFE ON EARTH by Tim Flannery
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins
Part 7 [Conclusion]
One of the biggest problems facing the Obama administration is that of global warming and what to do about it. The Bush administration rejected the only international agreement to try and remedy the problem (the Kyoto agreement) and a new international agreement must be reached. Kyoto is not, as it stands, adequate to do the job that must be done. Flannery writes, "If we are to stabilize our climate, Kyoto's target [a CO2 emissions cut of 5.2%] needs to be strengthened twelve times over: Cuts of 70 percent by 2050 are required to keep atmospheric CO2 at double the pre industrial level."
In order to save the planet, as we know it, environmentalists will have to fight powerful international cartels that profit from the use of fossil fuels. The energy lobby in the U.S. worked full time with the Bush Administration to lie about, and distort the scientific. evidence of, global warming
These forces, and the politicians that front for them, have known for 30 years that their activities were killing the planet but the profits they were making were more important to them than the future existence life on Earth!
Flannery points out that ever since 1977 when the New York Times ran a story ["Scientists Fear Heavy Use of Coal May Bring Adverse Shift in Climate"] there has been a battle plan in effect to suppress as much as possible the scientific evidence of global warming.
The eight years of the Bush administration was a kind of culmination of these antiscientific doings. The Bushites suppressed or actually changed the wording and conclusions of scientific reports from NASA, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency [read Destruction Agency under Bush], and the National Academy of Sciences, among others. Even lobbyists for the energy companies were amazed by the zeal of the Bushites to further their interests at the expense of the planet, one of whom remarked that it may be a long time before the energy sector has another President Bush "or Atilla the Hun."
You know something is wrong when your allies think of you as Atilla the Hun. The truth is that Bush, and the Republicans generally spent their time in office (with the connivance of conservative Democrats) in acting in ways detrimental to 99% of the people of the earth and to enrich the upper 1%. But that 1% will suffer too if the atmosphere gives out.
So, what is to be done? We have to hurry, and Flannery sees the two great problems as 1) how to decarbonize the transportation system, and 2) how to decarbonize the electricity grid. We should concentrate our efforts first on the electricity grid (to get rid of coal) and then tackle the transportation system to get rid of oil and gas. It may seem that we will never get rid of these three fuels but we must or we will literally be committing suicide. Our civilization is analogous to those people who smoke three packs a day-- they know what is going to happen to their lungs and would be simply insane not to quit.
Flannery discusses several ways the power grid can be weaned from carbon. We can produce power by nuclear, hydrothermal, hydrogen, wind, solar (and also tidal action) methods and thus eliminate the need for coal, oil and natural gas. The risks of nuclear power make it the least desirable. I don't think we should be playing with it-- we don't know what to do with radioactive waste and when I read that the EPA plans to monitor waste dumps for 10,000 years, and will makes rule changes after that period to cover the dumps for 1,000,000 years I think: Let's get real!The EPA is not going to be around for 10,000 years!
One thing Flannery points out is that wind and solar energy can be produced locally and even by individuals and their families thus making for a decentralized system. If we go for nuclear or hydrogen power cells then "the big power corporations" will likely be in charge and survive. I think they should, if they survive, be placed under state control and treated as public utilities which should not be privately held for profit making.
After dealing with the power grid, Flannery turns his attention to the transportation system. We will naturally have to develop alternatives to carbon based fuel-- and ethanol is not the answer. It is not cost effective, takes up too much land, and damages the food supply by taking food crops out of production in order to grow the crops to make ethanol. Rather we will have have to use electric calls, hybrids, mincats [CAT stands for compressed air technology], hydrogen based fuel cells, and other non polluting methods to apply to transportation, as well as beef up out systems of public transportation.
One thing we can be sure of is that time is running out. I think anyone interested in the problems of climate change and global warming should read Flannery's book. It was written before the global collapse of monopoly capitalism and how this crash will affect out ability to save the planet remains to be seen.