change is the result of a deadly calculus: human lives are worth
risking and even losing over the profits of global corporations.
World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recently dropped a bombshell
should have garnered news headlines in the major global and U.S.
media, but did not. New WMO research concludes that “[t]here is
a 50:50 chance of the annual average global temperature temporarily
reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial level for at
least one of the next five years.”
Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas explained, “The 1.5
degree Celsius figure is not some random statistic. It is rather an
indicator of the point at which climate impacts will become
increasingly harmful for people and indeed the entire planet.”
2015, the likelihood of reaching that threshold within five years was
nearly zero. In 2017 it was 10 percent, and today it is 50 percent.
As we continue to spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in
that percentage spikes with every passing year and will soon reach
100 percent certainty.
average global temperatures hit the tipping point of 1.5 degrees
Celsius, climate scientists predict that most of the Earth’s
die off. At 2 degrees Celsius, all will die off. This is the reason
Nations members coalesced
staving off an average global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius
at the last global climate gathering in 2021.
planet has already heated up by 1.1
and the consequences are dire across the globe.
experiencing its worst heat wave in 122 years, and neighboring
Pakistan has broken a 61-year-old record for high temperatures.
Dozens of people have already died as a result of the extreme
farmers “can see the earth cracking every day,” as a
record-breaking drought has thrown the country’s agricultural
industry into crisis mode.
in the United States, across the central and northeastern parts of
the country, there is a heat
large and so severe that people from Texas to Maine experienced
triple-digit temperatures in May.
enclave of Laguna Niguel
Orange County, Southern California, is on fire, and dozens of homes
have been destroyed. Although moneyed elites have far more resources
to remain protected from the deadly impacts of climate change
compared to the rest of us, occasionally even their homes are in the
path of destruction, indicating that nowhere on Earth will be safe on
a catastrophically warming planet.
as extreme heat waves become more likely with global warming, humans
will burn more fossil fuels to power the air conditioning they need
to cool off and survive, thereby fueling the very phenomenon that
leads to more extreme heat waves.
such a scenario, it is a massive no-brainer for the world to quickly
and without delay transition to renewable energy sources. Instead,
President Joe Biden in April announced
sale of new leases for oil and gas companies to drill on public
lands, reneging on his campaign platform’s climate
did so apparently in order to increase domestic fuel supplies and
thereby lower gas prices. He also raised the percentage of royalties
that companies pay the federal government from 12.5 percent to 18.75
percent. But no amount of dollars saved by consumers or earned in
royalties by the federal government can halt the laws of physics and
protect the climate.
New York Times’s Lisa
“The burning of fossil fuels extracted from public land and in
federal waters accounts for 25 percent of the greenhouse gases
generated by the United States, which is the planet’s second
biggest polluter, behind China.” Here is one area where the
federal executive branch has control, and yet financial
considerations have been dictating responses rather than existential
denounced the move, Biden
did finally cancel the drilling leases
Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. The Interior Department cited a “lack
of industry interest” and “conflicting court rulings,”
rather than pressure from activists, as the reason for the
cancellation. Regardless, it is a small measure of relief for a
planet that is on its way to burning to a crisp.
Biden (and other lawmakers) claim they are driven by rising inflation
and the impact of high gas prices on voters’ pocket books, it
turns out the public doesn’t actually want
glut of oil and gas to help lower costs.
new poll by the National
Surveys on Energy and the Environment
that there is no longer skepticism among the public that the effects
of climate change are real, as 76 percent of respondents—the
highest on record since the poll started—“believe there
is solid evidence that temperatures on the planet have risen over the
last four decades.”
poll also notably concluded that “Americans continue to favor
reducing greenhouse gas emissions as their preferred approach for
staving off the worst impacts of climate change,” and that they
“remain skeptical of any pivot from mitigation toward climate
policy that prioritizes adaptation, use of geoengineering or
subterranean carbon storage.”
rather than invest in mitigating climate change or adapting to
it—which is what market-driven economies favor—people,
sensibly, want to stop the planet from warming in the first
there is growing
concern among climate scientists
it may already be too late for a transition to renewables. In spite
of energy sources like solar and wind becoming rapidly cheaper and
more accessible, overall energy consumption is increasing about as
fast, as per one recent study. Mark Diesendorf, the author of the
study, explained, “it is simply impossible for renewable energy
to overtake that retreating target. And that’s no fault of
renewable energy. It’s the fault of the growth in consumption
and the fact that action has been left too late.”
corporate profit-based considerations have constantly dictated our
energy use and climate policies, we have effectively decided that
major sacrifices of lives—most likely poor people of color—will
be worth the pain of relying on fossil fuels for energy.
is an analogy to be found in the COVID-19 pandemic. For months,
sounded the alarm
prevention, endorsing lockdowns, masks, and vaccines to stop the
spread of the deadly virus, just as climate scientists issued
warnings against global warming for decades. Both science-based
campaigns faced uphill battles, each with its own challenges in
recommending the most rational guidelines to maximize public safety
in spite of financial sacrifices (closing down most businesses and
restaurants and canceling major sporting and entertainment events, in
the case of COVID-19; promoting solar power subsidies, switching to
wind energy, and manufacturing hybrid and electric vehicles, in the
case of the climate crisis). All the while, corporate interests and
right-wing political opportunists successfully pushed their own
agenda in the halls of power, insisting that economic growth was the
most important consideration.
even as COVID-19 infection
rates are skyrocketing,
with cases having risen by 58 percent in the last two weeks alone,
mask mandates are being dropped all over the country and
COVID-19-related restrictions are ending. This is not because the
virus is under control—it is clearly not—but
because it’s no longer financially viable for corporate America
to sacrifice profits for lives. So, it will sacrifice lives for
as is the case with the climate crisis.
is worth spelling out this equation so that we know where we are
the climate changes, we begin to see where the bodies are
buried—literally. Water levels in Nevada’s
fallen so dramatically that the remains of at least two human bodies
were recently discovered. What other disturbing discoveries are in
store for us?
This commentary was produced by
Economy for All,
a project of the Independent Media Institute.