FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Let’s Call Them What They Are: Climate Liars

by

In 2004, when I was working at the Union of Concerned Scientists, I had an interesting email exchange with my fellow countryman and ardent climate change columnist, George Monbiot.

This was before he went to the dark side and became a nuclear power apologist.  We were discussing climate skeptics and, as we did so, I began to think about their similarity to Holocaust deniers.  I suggested to Monbiot that climate “denier” was a more apt term than “skeptic.”  Monbiot ran with it.  Today it’s in the lexicon.

But it’s time for a change.  Because, as the revelations surrounding Exxon clearly illustrate, these “deniers” actually know better.  Even Donald Trump, for all his repulsive policies and personality traits, is not necessarily stupid.  He probably gets climate change.  It’s just vaguely possible that even Ted Cruz and Ben Carson do, too.  Which means none of them are really Climate Deniers.  They, like Exxon, are Climate Liars.

This makes them worse than genuine skeptics because they are deliberately sabotaging the long-term survival of our planet for short-term gain.  Some are doing this to win election to, or retain, public office.  Others are simply lining their pockets, eager for the lavish handouts the fossil fuel industry is willing to make to stay alive and perpetuate the myth that it is relevant.

Whether lying or denying, dismissing climate change is a winning formula because the public has been fed a steady diet of misinformation about the urgency of global warming.  More disturbingly, we are bombarded daily with news about truly inconsequential, often celebrity-driven gossip, or quotidian stories that are sensationalized into national dramas.  These obliterate the opportunity to impart information of genuine significance.  Instead, click bait and trivia have created an addiction to soft, rather than hard, news.

Meanwhile, the empirical facts languish like leftovers, of no interest to a fast-food consumer who prefers an easily digestible sound bite, even if it isn’t true.  Politicians know this and latch onto the messaging that will serve their ends, regardless of the veracity factor.

Mired in this melange of myths is nuclear energy.  Its spokespeople include a handful of misguided climate scientists like James Hansen who should know better but are pushing nuclear anyway as a climate change solution.  Just before the recent violent events in Paris, Hansen was promoting a press conference he planned to hold there during the upcoming COP 21 (Conference of Parties) climate talks.  Although COP is still going ahead, it’s not yet clear how many, if any, of the side events will.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that the ravages of climate change are now a present crisis rather than a distant threat, the Hansen crowd will be unrelenting in their promotion of nuclear energy.  This has historically stifled progress on climate change, and will continue to do so.

Are Hansen and his followers nuclear deniers, or actually nuclear liars?  It’s hard to know.  Hansen has refused to debate us or answer the obvious flaws in his thesis — such as the fact that nuclear energy cannot possibly come on line in time or in sufficient capacity to address climate change.

Hansen’s press releases and public statements tend toward rhetorical over-reaching and even insults.  This has become a favorite pastime of the nuclear power panderers, catering once more to the easy sell and quick snicker at the opposition’s expense.  Thus, Hansen, with all his lofty NASA credentials, has stooped to calling on donors to pull funds from green groups that oppose nuclear energy.  He even mocks solicitation requests that are “doubtless accompanied with a photo of a cuddly bear.”   Such cheap shots seem unworthy of a man who professes to represent serious science and uses his august curriculum vitae as a door-opening calling card.

Rectifying this problem is no easy task.  For one thing, blasting people with the truth about nuclear power doesn’t always work.  It is too technical, too complicated, too wonky and too grim.  Try telling someone about the dangerous state of a nuclear reactor drywell liner.  It’s a problem that could lead to disaster, cost people their lives and livelihoods, and force permanent evacuation.  But as a piece of messaging, it is dead on arrival compared to the “safe, clean and reliable” misleading mantra adopted by the pro-nuclear cronies.

The dialogue has to change, and obviously, though fun and even effective, name calling, like “climate liars,” isn’t the answer either.  Or at least, it isn’t an answer.  What we must do is stop the hemorrhaging of U.S. taxpayer dollars funding further, futile attempts to build a better nuclear mousetrap.

Like the billions spent on bombing raids that create more terror rather than eradicating terrorism, the never-ending flow of dollars toward the illusory phantom of a so-called “next generation” nuclear reactor is a failed strategy.  Such nuclear reactors have been “in progress” for decades and will likely never arrive in time for climate change, if at all.  They have demonstrated no strong likelihood that they will even work or ever be safe and will simply swallow up precious dollars and time that we cannot afford to waste.

For example, the U.S. Department of Energy has been funding a “next generation” favorite, the Small Modular Reactor (SMR), since the 1990s.  Today, there are still no SMRs in operation, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has yet to receive a single license application.

Climate disruption is adding to the terrible strife in our world.  Another nuclear disaster would destabilize the globe even more.  Things could not be more urgent.  Like terrorism, nuclear energy delivers fear and tragedy.  From leukemia clusters to meltdowns; the environmental racism of uranium mining to the exclusion zones of Chernobyl and Fukushima; we live in the perpetual shadow of disaster as long as nuclear power continues.

As everyone from Hansen to Huckabee doubtless knows, there are other ways forward.     They need look no further than the empirical evidence found in the 2015 World Nuclear Industry Status Report, where we see nuclear energy continuing to stagnate and even decline while wind and solar energy soar globally.   It’s time to follow the example of Germany and take nuclear power out of the energy equation.  Continued nuclear irresponsibility will have only one, tragic outcome;  allowing the climate crisis to slip beyond the point of no return.

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear. She also serves as director of media and development. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail