Opinion: The Threats Caused By “Pure Trash” Lies


Photo: Openclipart.(CCO 1.0)

This column appeared previously in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Marty Nathan

It is disorienting and disheartening to live in a society in which lies abound. And I can’t remember a time in my life since the McCarthy/Jim Crow days of the ’50s and early ’60s when so many in power have said so much that qualified as pure trash, declaring it true.

Just a few examples: Trump lying that he won a national election he lost by 7 million votes. His lieutenants lying that those who tried violently to reverse that election were either Antifa or tourists or peaceful protestors or facilitated by Nancy Pelosi.

Racist politicians claiming the issue in our election system is not lack of access to the vote by poor, Black, brown and Indigenous people, but voter fraud that has repeatedly been found to be minimal and never to have affected a major election.

The vilifying and outlawing of what is labeled as “critical race theory,” which actually translates to efforts to include the lives of and crimes committed against those same poor, Black, brown and Indigenous folks in our recounting of U.S. history. Right-wing religious and political leaders consciously disinforming about the lethality of COVID and attaching stigma to masking and vaccination. We are awash in lies and they are claiming lives and impeding our efforts to deal with unprecedented threats.

As you may know, climate science was systematically attacked with lies authored by the corporations at the source of the problem. Exxon spent vast sums denying its own research revealing that greenhouse gases released by drilling and burning their product would accumulate in the atmosphere and act as a blanket warming the earth and that climate disruption would result in increasing storm severity, flooding, rising seas, prolonged drought, deadly heat waves, massive wildfires, limitations on crop yield, heating and acidification of the oceans decimating sea life, a massive biodiversity crisis and a threat to life on earth.

Eventually most lies are exposed by reality. Climate reality is increasingly intruding on our front pages and nightly news headlines. Western droughts, deadly heat domes and fires, the flooding in China and Germany, and our own unprecedentedly hot June and rainy July have belied the many excuses given by the fossil-fuel linked PR firms and paid-for politicians for increasingly disruptive and deadly weather events.

Last week, Climate Action Now invited local climate scientist Shaina Sadai to explain the basics of what is known about our climate present and looming future. Many of us had heard much of what she said, but packing it together was painful:

■At 416 parts per million carbon dioxide, atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are currently higher than at any time in 4 million years, and they continue to rise.

■Following decreased emissions during the pandemic, we are set to observe the second biggest emissions rise in recorded history.

■More than half the global emissions since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution have been released since 1990 when the first IPCC was released. The global North is responsible for 92% of anthropogenic emissions, and the U.S. is the biggest total emitter, having belched out 40% of the anthropogenic greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere.

■Global temperatures are currently at around 1.2°C above the pre-industrial average. Warming is increasing at 0.2°C (likely between 0.1°C and 0.3°C) per decade.

■To maintain average temperature at less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial level (the target needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change), we must cut emissions by 55% by 2030, an even more formidable task than originally proposed, since yearly emissions have increased since the goal was set.

■Present global action is insufficient: current policies will lead to 2.7-3.1degrees C warming by 2100. Total voluntary emissions targets adopted by each country in the Paris agreement are about twice as high as what is needed to keep warming at 1.5°C.

■COVID recovery packages handed 42% of public money spent worldwide on energy to fossil fuels.

■The impacts of climate change are not felt equally: vulnerable populations and ecosystems are far more at risk. Conversely, climate destabilization amplifies existing inequalities.

■Global warming and climate disruption will continue and worsen into the future due to past and present emissions. The question now is how extensive the changes will become before emissions stop, and this depends on the rate and quantity of future emissions.

It is profit-based lies that have brought us to this crisis. And it will be difficult and life-changing for all of us if we are to stop the destruction that is, fittingly described, “in the pipeline.” But the numbers tell us that this work must absorb our attention if our children are to have a livable world worth living in.

Along the way we must be aware of the other, more subtle lies, what climate folks call “greenwashing,” that are now being cooked: that “natural” gas is a “clean” or “bridge” fuel; that biomass is “renewable” in the time we have; that there can be exceptions to the rule No More New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure, like building the monster Line 3 to bring Tar Sands oil to market; that it is OK to destroy forests to build solar; and that hydrogen fuel ore carbon sequestration schemes will save us. None are true.

There are ways to cut emissions and remove carbon that are science-based and have been translated into policy and legal proposals. They involve dismantling the pollution-and-destruction-for-profit system that has sent billionaires into space while the poor face eviction in a pandemic. We must act before it is too late.

Marty Nathan is a retired physician, mother and grandmother who writes a monthly column on climate change.

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