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Thursday, 9 October 2014

Climate change: Ralph Nader and the 'Kingpins of Carbon'

Over the past year, there has been a fair amount of concern expressed about UK energy companies and their pricing regime:
Futures Forum: "... a reckless use of public money at a time when people are very concerned about energy costs.”
Futures Forum: "SVEAG say 'unjustifiable' price rises by big companies will see another £1.5 million added to the estimated £15 million that leaves the area every year."

Meanwhile, although not perfect, the German model seems to be gaining ground:
Futures Forum: “Energiewende” – energy transformation... reducing dependence on fossil fuels and changing the role of the large traditional utilities.

On Start the Week on Radio 4, Naomi Klein argued that not enough is being done to tackle the entrenched position of the fossil fuel industy:
BBC Radio 4 - Start the Week, Naomi Klein on climate change and growth
Futures Forum: Climate Change: and growth on Radio 4

In the US, apparently $70bn worth of subsidies goes to the oil and gas industries - according to this vivid graphic:
Corporate Welfare

Ralph Nader has something to say about this:

Bowling Strikes Against the Carbon Kingpins

 
Consumer advocate, lawyer and author

Posted: Updated: 

Scientists agree. Businesses agree. Economists agree. Even the Pentagon agrees -- climate change must be a national priority. In 2010, The National Security Strategy, a memo released by the White House, warned:
The danger from climate change is real, urgent and severe. The change wrought by a warming planet will lead to new conflicts over refugees and resources; new suffering from drought and famine; catastrophic natural disasters; and the degradation of land across the globe.
Each year climate change and global warming are chronically worsening.
Despite this clear convergence on climate change, the only ones who won't agree on treating it are those who hold the most power to do so -- The United States Congress. The reason for their inaction, unsurprisingly, is tied to one of the biggest problems currently festering in America's weakened democracy, the corrupting influence of money in politics.
Greenpeace has just released a new report, written by Charlie Cray and Peter Montague, titled "The Kingpins of Carbon and Their War on Democracy." The report begins with the well-accepted premise that climate change or global warming is a catastrophic issue that requires immediate serious attention from the world's governments. The United States, however, remains frustratingly gridlocked and paralyzed on climate change. The report says,
In Congress, the fossil corporations' allies are refusing to act, based on the false claim that global warming is scientifically unproven or is even a hoax perpetrated by the world's major scientific organizations. Meanwhile the 3.6 ° F. 'safe' limit on global warming will soon disappear in our rear-view mirror.
Consider the "dog-whistle" issues that consistently divide Americans such as gun laws, school prayer and abortion, and one must ask what is it about climate change -- an issue that 83 percent of Americans agree on according to a 2013 survey -- that creates such turmoil? What is the source of the pushback in the face of a clear convergence?
The Greenpeace report identifies that source as "a multi-decade war on democracy by the kingpins of carbon -- the coal, the oil, and gas industries allied with a handful of self-interested libertarian billionaires." The self-interested libertarian billionaires are, of course, the infamous Koch brothers whose political influence has become well-known with the rise of the Tea Party movement. Not surprisingly Koch Industries has made billions of dollars off of the use of fossil fuels.
How is such a relatively small group of millionaires and billionaires able to achieve such great success in stalling national action on an issue that has dire consequences for the majority of the people on this planet? (See my letter to wealthy individuals asking them to band together to fund advocacy on climate change.)
Look to three Supreme Court decisions to find the answer. In 2010, Citizens United v. FEC gave big corporations like Pfizer, Aetna, Chevron, GM, Citigroup and Monsanto the ability to spend unlimited funds in independent expenditures to oppose or support candidates for public office. In 2013, Shelby County v. Holder overturned a provision in the Voting Rights Act that required areas with known, entrenched racial discrimination to be required to receive clearance from the U.S. Justice Department before instituting changes in voting laws. Finally, in 2014, the McCutcheon v. FECdecision significantly raised the amount that each individual can contribute to federal candidates and federal party committees from $123,200 to $3.6 million!
These Supreme Court decisions (mostly by a majority 5-4) are clear signs of a judicial dictatorship for plutocrats that carries the rancid banner for corporate privilege and power overriding the rights of individual voters. The unelected, life-tenured corporate court continues to tighten the noose of corporatism around the American people.
The Greenpeace report reveals that 89 wealthy political spenders with ties to the coal, oil and gas industries are the leading aggressors in support of fossil fuel companies that are raising the Earth's temperature with little regard for the rest of humanity or posterity. Because of the current state of campaign laws, most of these donors remain anonymous and regularly pull the strings of government in their favor with few repercussions.
The singular agenda of these "Carbon Kingpins" according to the report:
Prevent Congress from taking action to mitigate global warming; Eliminate all remaining restrictions on money in federal and state elections for legislators and judges, allowing totally-secret, unrestricted donations; Cut taxes [for the corporate and wealthy classes] to starve and shrink government, to keep it ineffective; Eliminate regulations that protect the environment, and, finally, Crush labor unions and reverse the victories of the civil rights movement.
It's a common theme in blockbuster Hollywood science fiction movies to demonstrate how an extraterrestrial invader can prompt the nations of Earth to set aside their various disagreements and band together to defend against a common foe. Climate change is, essentially, the equivalent of an extraterrestrial enemy. Just imagine if a handful of self-interested billionaires influenced the United States to let the Martians invade? The public would not stand for it. Yet the reality in America today is that a small group of reckless corporatists have put the entire world in danger to protect their harmful, environmentally destructive industries.
Obviously, the "Kingpins of Carbon" are not going to back down when their profits are on the line. It's going to take a rising rumble from the people to turn the tide in favor of protecting the planet for future generations.
One simple solution would be to enact a carbon tax -- supported by some conservatives and companies -- that would place a fee on polluters that emit greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. This tax would discourage the use of dirty fossil fuels and encourage clean energy alternatives to avert global warming while raising considerable revenue that could be applied to bettering life in America in other innumerable ways.
Such solutions will not enact themselves without the will of the people, however. The clock is ticking. It's time for immediate action on climate change and global warming.

Visit democracyforus.org to learn more.

Bowling Strikes Against the Carbon Kingpins | Ralph Nader
Futures Forum: Ralph Nader: UNSTOPPABLE

Here's a piece from last week from the author of the Greenpeace report:


THE CARBON KINGPINS’ WAR ON DEMOCRACY

September 26th 2014
BY 








































































































































ALEC sees mass exodus of companies leaving the group Greenpeace Blogs

Here's the full report:
www.greenpeace.org/usa/Global/usa/planet3/PDFs/Kingpins-of-Carbon.pdf
Kingpins of Carbon | Greenpeace

And here's something a little more provocative:

Totalitarianism, American Style

Understanding the subtle ways democracy has been undermined in the US.

Chris Hedges made these remarks Saturday at a panel discussion in New York City titled “The Climate Crisis: Which Way Out?” The other panelists were Bill McKibbenNaomi KleinKshama Sawant and Sen. Bernie Sanders. The event, moderated by Brian Lehrer, occurred on the eve of the People’s Climate March in New York City. For a video of some of what the panelists said, click here.
We have undergone a transformation during the last few decades—what John Ralston Saul calls a corporate coup d’├ętat in slow motion. We are no longer a capitalist democracy endowed with a functioning liberal class that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. Liberals in the old Democratic Party such as the senators Gaylord Nelson, Birch Bayh and George McGovern—who worked with Ralph Nader to make the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Mine Safety and Health Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the OSHA law, who made common cause with labor unions to protect workers, who stood up to the arms industry and a bloated military—no longer exist within the Democratic Party, as Nader has been lamenting for several years. They were pushed out as corporate donors began to transform the political landscape with the election of Ronald Reagan. And this is why the Democrats have not, as Bill Curry points out, enacted any major social or economic reforms since the historic environmental laws of the early ’70s.
We are governed, rather, by a species of corporate totalitarianism, or what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin describes as “inverted totalitarianism.” By this Wolin means a system where corporate power, while it purports to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, the three branches of government and a free press, along with the iconography and language of American patriotism, has in fact seized all the important levers of power to render the citizen impotent.
Totalitarianism, American Style | Alternet
Inverted Totalitarianism: A New Way of Understanding How the U.S. Is Controlled | Alternet

See also:
Futures Forum: "Fossil fuels at a tipping point?"
Futures Forum: Peak Oil... and the oil industry

and:
Futures Forum: Climate change: the language of framing.... "Climate change hysteria is really a feeling."
Futures Forum: Climate change: the language of framing... "Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change"
Futures Forum: "Climate science has been dragged into the American-style culture wars that are turning British intellectual life into a battlefield."
Futures Forum: The continuing politicisation of the climate change debate
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