Activists lose criminal case on climate change defense – but judge praises effort

Five environmental activists who failed to convince a court that their attempt to block crude oil trains near Seattle was a legally justifiable act of civil disobedience on Friday were nonetheless praised by a judge as “part of the solution” to climate change.

On Friday, the campaigners were convicted in a court in suburban Seattle of misdemeanor trespassing relating to a September 2014 protest in which they blocked railway tracks used by crude oil trains in Everett, Washington.

They were acquitted of a second count of misdemeanor obstructing a train.

The so-called “Delta 5” – Michael LaPointe, Patrick Mazza, Jackie Minchew, Elizabeth Spoerri and Abigail Brockway – had hoped that their trial would mark the first time that a US jury was allowed to consider the “necessity defense” in a case of climate activism.

China’s Hunger for Commodities Wanes: Another Capitalist Nightmare?

The affluent are less likely to exhibit empathy, less likely to respect norms and even laws, and more likely to cheat, than those occupying lower rungs on the economic ladder.

“Modern America is a society in which a growing share of income and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small number of people, and these people have huge political influence — in the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, around half the contributions came from fewer than 200 wealthy families. The usual concern about this march toward oligarchy is that the interests and policy preferences of the very rich are quite different from those of the population at large, and that is surely the biggest problem.

But it’s also true that those empowered by money-driven politics include a disproportionate number of spoiled egomaniacs. Which brings me to the current election cycle.”

Privilege, Pathology and Power — 

Capitalism as a Religion

“With the fall of the Soviet Union, and the co-opting of Chinese communism, the capitalist west became triumphalist, complacent, and decadent, turning its back on the reforms that allowed it to withstand the Marxist critique in the first place.

Today, as ordinary Americans and Europeans get squeezed by the elites that control their economies and political system, and by the globalist system these elites have embraced, they seek scapegoats among the equally powerless – immigrants – and resort to a style of nationalism that has always been a refuge for scoundrels.

However, while the Marxist critique still lived, European and American elites felt compelled to soften the often brutal edges of capitalism, lest they too suffer the fate of Ayn Rand’s father. But now that Marx’s critique is gone, and with it the imminent threat of worker revolution, the impetus for reform has also vanished.

While Marxism still lived, capitalism could been seen for what it was – a flawed if realistic framework for economic relationships among equally flawed human beings. But with Marxism’s demise, capitalism has assumed the status of a de facto religion, especially among that set that prefers to exploit religion as a means for keeping ordinary folks in their place, and out of the streets.

We were once forced to choose between Marxism and democracy; we may soon be forced to choose between fascism and democracy.”

(A comment in the New York Times by Matthew Carnicelli of Brooklyn, New York to an article by Ross Douthat Cracks in the Liberal Order.”

Fossil Fuel Subsidies

“The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has counted 800 ways that rich industrial nations use taxpayer money to support fossil fuel producers.

A new report from Oil Change International, an energy research and advocacy group, estimates that aid to the coal, oil and natural gas industries came to $452 billion last year.

In their simplest form, fossil fuel subsidies amount to government spending to keep the price of fuel low for citizens. They are why gasoline in Venezuela costs about 2 cents per gallon. The International Energy Agency estimates that global subsidies total about $490 billion a year. Those direct subsidies are found chiefly in the developing world and in oil-producing nations.”

On Tether to Fossil Fuels, Nations Speak With Money; 

Most Important Thing Happening Now

“Future historians — if there are any future historians — will almost surely say that the most important thing happening in the world during December 2015 was the climate talks in Paris. True, nothing agreed to in Paris will be enough, by itself, to solve the problem of global warming. But the talks could mark a turning point, the beginning of the kind of international action needed to avert catastrophe.

Then again, they might not; we may be doomed. And if we are, you know who will be responsible: the Republican Party. What people may not realize, however, is how extraordinary the G.O.P.’s wall of denial is, both in the U.S. context and on the global scene.

O.K., I know the reaction of many readers: How partisan! How over the top! But what I said is, in fact, the obvious truth. And the inability of our news media, our pundits and our political establishment in general to face up to that truth is an important contributing factor to the danger we face.

But I hope I’m wrong, and I’d urge everyone outside the climate-denial bubble to frankly acknowledge the awesome, terrifying reality. We’re looking at a party that has turned its back on science at a time when doing so puts the very future of civilization at risk. That’s the truth, and it needs to be faced head-on.”

Republicans’ Climate Change Denial Denial; by Paul Krugman, DEC. 4, 2015, New York Times

( OHEA Editor’s note: It is true that Republican Politicians are mostly in the denial camp and Democrat politicians are mostly not. Examine a recent post on the Home Page of this site for a congressional vote on climate change policy and you will see the vote is almost completely along party lines (you can also see how your senators and representatives voted).

See a similar U.S. Senate type republican denial vote earlier in 2015 where you can also see how your senator voted.

But this website examines truth and cannot and does not promote individual politicians or political parties. Votes in Congress are votes by our representatives elected by U.S. Citizens in fair elections. So one cannot blame the G.O.P. for that. It is the minds of the Citizens, how they think, how they reason and their values that give us these votes. The corrupt campaign financing system also does not help. Nothing new here; Plato and other philosophers throughout history often wrote about these aspects of human nature.

But when the scale of the problem under discussion covers the entire planet, its ecosystems including agriculture and the entire world economy in the sense of all the real estate values, etc., we have an existential problem. Reading the comments to the Krugman article above, one can easily conclude that many, many citizens do not understand the science or the scale of the problem.)

This One Trend

“This one trend, climate change, affects all trends,” he said. “If we let the world keep warming as fast as it is and sea levels rising as fast as they are, and weather patterns keep shifting in more unexpected ways, then before long we are going to have to devote more and more and more of our economic and military resources not to growing opportunity for our people, but to adapting to the various consequences of a changing planet.”

Votes in Congress Move to Undercut Climate Pledge

I’m Not a Scientist

” ‘m not a scientist,’ or a close variation, has become the go-to talking point for Republicans questioned about climate change in the 2014 campaigns. In the past, many Republican candidates questioned or denied the science of climate change, but polls show that a majority of Americans accept it — and support government policies to mitigate it — making the Republican position increasingly challenging ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.

‘It’s got to be the dumbest answer I’ve ever heard,’ said Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who has advised House Republicans and conservative political advocacy groups on energy and climate change messaging. ‘Using that logic would disqualify politicians from voting on anything. Most politicians aren’t scientists, but they vote on science policy. They have opinions on Ebola, but they’re not epidemiologists. They shape highway and infrastructure laws, but they’re not engineers.’ “

Why Republicans Keep Telling Everyone They’re Not Scientists

Urban Oil Drilling

“Many Los Angeles residents are familiar with a sight that may seem strange to outsiders: an oil pump operating mere feet from businesses or homes. A recent lawsuit claims that the city has systematically failed to address drilling’s environmental consequences, especially in lower-income neighborhoods that are majority black and Latino.

Los Angeles is currently home to over 1,000 oil wells.

Pollutants from oil drilling, such as benzene, can cause cancer and other illnesses. Wilmington’s cancer rate is among the highest in Southern California. Residents there and in South Los Angeles have also experienced headaches, nosebleeds, asthma and eye irritation, among other health problems. Some have complained of drilling noise that goes on all night. One drilling site is less than 100 feet from a clinic serving people with HIV. Many wells are very close to playgrounds, homes or schools.”

Urban Oil Drilling; By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times, NOV. 27, 2015

(OHEA Editor’s note: as fossil fuels become more difficult to extract by conventional methods, more and more dangerous techniques and methods – e.g. fracking, tar sands, drilling sites closer to communities, etc.  – are,  and will be causing more and more problems of this nature)

Positive Movement? Probably not

“WASHINGTON — Bill Gates will announce the creation of a multibillion-dollar clean energy fund on Monday at the opening of a Paris summit meeting intended to forge a global accord to cut planet-warming emissions, according to people with knowledge of the plans.

The fund, which one of the people described as the largest such effort in history, is meant to pay for research and development of new clean-energy technologies. It will include contributions from other billionaires and philanthropies, as well as a commitment by the United States and other participating nations to double their budget for clean energy research and development, according to the people with knowledge of the plans, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the fund.

In a blog post in July, Mr. Gates wrote: ‘If we create the right environment for innovation, we can accelerate the pace of progress, develop and deploy new solutions, and eventually provide everyone with reliable, affordable energy that is carbon free. We can avoid the worst climate-change scenarios while also lifting people out of poverty, growing food more efficiently and saving lives by reducing pollution.’ ”

Bill Gates Expected to Create Billion-Dollar Fund for Clean Energy

(editors note: Naomi Klein in her book, “This Changes Everything,” reviews cases of  millionaire/billionaire involvement with climate change and concludes it is unreliable and has had little effect. Depend on the hopes of the wealthy for a critical, existential world problem?)

We Need Nuclear Power

“This past summer, the Group of 7 nations promised ‘urgent and concrete action’ to limit climate change. What actions exactly? Activists hope for answers from the coming United Nations climate conference in Paris, which begins Monday. They should look instead to Washington today.

The single most important action we can take is thawing a nuclear energy policy that keeps our technology frozen in time. If we are serious about replacing fossil fuels, we are going to need nuclear power, so the choice is stark: We can keep on merely talking about a carbon-free world, or we can go ahead and create one.

Only recently has climate anxiety challenged nuclear fear. Just as the impact of coal smoke dwarfs the effects of radiation from Fukushima, global warming is predicted to be far worse than mere pollution. The problem is so big that some prominent environmentalists have already declared defeat.”

The New Atomic Age We Need; by Peter Thiel, NYTimes, November 27, 2015

Below is a comment on above by a New York Times reader:

“Thank you for saying this!

Nuclear power generation is the ultra-low-carbon method of base-load supply that is long proven, and available in the near term.

It suffers from a spooky-scary public image, but is estimated* to have saved hundreds of thousands of lives — probably almost two millions! — worldwide: people who would have died from air poisoned by the coal which would have been burned instead, absent nuclear power generation.

Similarly, handling of radioactive waste is a difficult challenge, but is manageable when taken in context as one part of the legacy of our industrial civilization: we can leave future generations much worse things than nuclear waste, for example a planet too hot to sustain ecosystems that we could even recognize.

I think it both desirable and likely that in a few decades, fully renewable energy generation will enable retirement of nuclear power plants. But during these decades of transition, use of the best available nuclear generation technology can reduce carbon emissions by many, many billions of tons.

I’m not asking anybody to “feel good” about nuclear power. But please, for the sake of your planet and future generations, open your minds to rational choices based on the reality — not the mythology! — of costs and benefits.

*The estimate of lives saved takes account of the people killed by radiation and toxicity, and that not all nuclear power has displaced coal (though the great majority of it has).”

by MarkH (New York Times Reader)

(OHEA Editor’s note: nuclear power is clean and a huge possibility for controlling climate change at least until we can get enough solar/wind cranked up. New nuclear fuel processing, recycling and breeding reactor techniques are being developed to reduce the nuclear waste product problem. These developments may allow a re-birth of this industry in the next decade. For example, one innovation involves using a high-temperature method (pyro-metallurgical processing) of recycling normal reactor waste products from fission reactions into new forms that can then themselves be burned in a modified type of reactor called an advanced fast-neutron reactor. Using full recycling of wastes from thermal reactors can lead to about a 1% amount of wasted energy potential from uranium ore, versus the 95% wasted energy potential we have now. One can find many encouraging signs for nuclear power development in the U.S. France is called a success story in this regard with 75% of its electricity now coming from this fuel. A giant problem is the public perception of this fuel as dangerous. When the deaths from mining and burning of fossil fuels are put in perspective, as above and when perspective is also placed on the three famous nuclear accidents as trivial in comparison to fossil fuel dangers, the logic can clearly be seen for nuclear energy development. Much public education is needed.)

Slow, Slow Progress: Or is it Progress at All?

“………… the negotiators gathering in Paris [for climate change talks] will not be discussing any plan that comes close to meeting their own stated goal of limiting the increase of global temperatures to a reasonably safe level.

They have pointedly declined to take up a recommendation from scientists, made several years ago, that they set a cap on total greenhouse gases as a way to achieve that goal, and then figure out how to allocate the emissions fairly.

Many scientists do not believe that that limit would be particularly safe — it may still cause the sea to rise 20 feet or more, for instance, over a long period — but they agree that going beyond it would certainly be disastrous, precipitating an even larger rise of the sea, catastrophic heat waves, difficulty producing enough food and many other problems.

Yet the negotiators gathering in Paris will not be discussing any plan that comes close to meeting their own stated goal of limiting the increase of global temperatures to a reasonably safe level.”

Paris Climate Talks Avoid Scientists’ Idea of ‘Carbon Budget:’  New York Times


“Climate-change denial has been raised to an ideological principle, a tenet of modern conservative and libertarian politics. Deceit and secrecy are hardly necessary when large portions of the public eagerly accept the message. If anti-environmentalist politics resemble a game of three-card monte, it’s one in which all the cards are face up and the marks place their bets on a nonexistent ace. Anyone who points out the error can be accused of liberal bias, and credulous journalists will give equal weight to both sides of the “debate.”

Review: ‘Merchants of Doubt,’ Separating Science From Spin

Merchants of Doubt

“I just finished the incredible book [Merchants of Doubt] on which this film is apparently based. I was introduced to it by the revelations on February 22, regarding the funding of one global warming denier, Dr. Wei-Hock “Sun Spot” Soon, suspected of failure to identify a possible conflict-of-interest in some of his climate change denying articles.

One of the authors, Naomi Oreskes, was quoted in that article. After reading her comments I decided to read the book. I long ago came to the conclusion on my own that the tobacco campaigns were the model for the other confusion and obfuscation filled denier campaigns of everything from tobacco to global climate change. All of these campaigns are designed to string out the inevitable and logical conclusions as long as possible simply for profit.

What I didn’t realize was that all of these campaigns were so similar because they were all engineered and masterminded by the same set of former Cold Warriors who after retirement sought employment with American business interests whose general ideology they shared. While some Republicans have come around to climate change and recent polls have shown that a majority of self-identified Republicans now believe climate change is real, there is still a huge swath of the right, including such formidable think tanks as the Heritage Group, The American Enterprise Institute, The Heartland Institute, and several PACs associated with the Koch Brothers that have not changed their climate-denying position.”

Comment by “Prakosh” WA, March 6, 2015″ on an article entitled: Review: ‘Merchants of Doubt,’ Separating Science From Spin

Moral Pressure

“Public pressure is “really holding the key to this”, said Schellnhuber, who has attended most of the 20 previous UN climate summits. “The last, best hope we have is moral argument.” He said that Germany’s aim to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2020 was a tall order, because dealing with its lignite coal-fired power stations will be “very expensive and difficult”. But he said: “Merkel will do everything to achieve this or it will be seen as a national failure.”

Catastrophic global warming can be avoided with a deal at a crunch UN climate change summit in Paris this December because “ultimately nothing can compete with renewables”, according to one of the world’s most influential climate scientists.

Most countries have already made voluntary pledges to roll out clean energy and cut carbon emissions, and Prof John Schellnhuber said the best hope of making nations keep their promises was moral pressure.”

 “Nothing can compete with renewable energy, says top climate scientist. Damian Carrington/The Guardian/Monday 9 November 2015 08.06 EST