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No Holocausts Without Hitlers, But What About Climate Change?

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Can there be deliberate massive killing without some one or more people being thought responsible, perhaps as one or more “master-criminals”

Mankind has done very little to prevent the worst ravages promised for climate change and if we continue on that path there will be mega deaths. Looking ahead to this dreadful possibility, are we justified to think of those who are plunging us into this unprecedentedly awful future as criminals? And if so, who are these people?

Mass Killings Have Named Killers

The twentieth century (and 21st) have had more than their fair share of dreadful slaughters, slaughters which could be called holocausts. In general, some ogre has been identified as the author of the disaster, as a sort of master-criminal.

Hitler caused the holocaust of 6 million European Jews (which was also a holocaust for 5 million others folks).

Stalin brought on the great famine in the Ukraine (1932-33) in which 7 million people died.

America (Harry Truman presiding) caused the smaller holocausts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the USA, we like to think that Truman’s action saved lives over-all, and that he was thus a war hero rather than a master-criminal. Japanese may take a different view. But no-one doubts he was the author of those many civilian deaths.

At all events, we are used to associating mass killing with named killers, usually characterizing them as evil-doers, ogres, master-criminals.

What, Then, About Global Warming Climate Change?

What may we say, in that regard, about the projected (and rapidly on-rushing) world-wide disaster to some extent already brought about (and, of course, very much more to be brought about in the near future) by Anthromorphic Global Warming (“AGW”) a/k/a “Man-Made Climate Change”? Are there any master-criminals?

Well, the story is changing.

Until 1992 we might have said that there were no AGW criminals, because it was all so new. At least, so new to the politicians and media, which are bad listeners to things they cannot readily understand and don’t want to hear anyway.

Since well before 1992, of course, scientists have powerfully and very publicly made the case for the end of the use of fossil-fuels for power generation. Greenhouse gases (“GHGs”) produced by burning coal, oil, and natural gas along with other mostly human made gases are accumulating in the atmosphere and causing the earth-air-oceans to warm up, the oceans also to acidify, and an enormous transformation of the earth’s climate-system to begin.

If no-one was listening before 1992, it cannot be said that no-one is listening today. If the “climate deniers” are denying the reality of climate change, then they must at least have been listening!

No-one mentally alive today can make the case that he or she hasn’t heard these dire warnings. No one can say, “We didn’t know.” And it’s quite hard to understand how so many people can even say, today, “We don’t believe.” And yet there are, even today, “climate deniers.”

(If Pinocchio denied climate change today, his nose would have grown 100 feet long! By the way, since Pinocchio was made of wood, we may be interested in yet another evidence of climatic warming in tree-ring evidence from the UK. Deniers, deny it if you can! )[1]

And so it is appropriate to ask those embarrassing questions of politicians, not only “What did you know and when did you know it?” but in some cases, “And, in that case, what rational basis did you have to continue to say you didn’t believe it?”

These deniers are like people drinking the lead-laced water in Flint Michigan and saying, “Yummy, nothing like this water, so safe to drink!”

Or like the tobacco industry saying, for all those years, that smoking didn’t cause cancer!

Is It Really So Hard To Believe Things You’ve Not Yourself Seen?

Perhaps the deniers are merely ordinary people who are confused by science, who don’t realise that airplanes fly and the internet runs, and newer automobiles get 40 MPG, because some not-so-ordinary people, scientists and engineers, were not confused by science.

People who do not understand science may think a thing is not true unless they themselves can experience it: such people (if consistent in this respect) could not, for instance, believe in heaven or hell, or in the rings of Saturn, or in the existence of Antarctica, or in George Washington—because they’d never experienced them personally.

And please recall that before the USA attacked Iraq, we heard from President Bush that Iraq was in cahoots with al-Qaeda and had (dangerous to the USA !?) weapons of mass destruction (both of which claims proved to be wrong). But most Americans and almost the entire Congress believed these things, things they’d never seen personally!

There are parts of reality where we all have to take the word of experts about things we’ve never seen. We often believe “intelligence services” despite their bad record for accuracy. How much more so should we believe scientists, who are, as a rule, pretty much on the mark.

And Ordinary People Can Do Evil

Many Republican politicians seek to escape responsibility for AGW by claiming to be “ordinary people”. “I’m not a scientist,” they say, as if that canceled out their responsibility to care for the American people in matters scientific. (How many politicians really understand antibiotic-resistant microbes? Are they therefore not responsible for supervising the (over-) use of antibiotics in the meat-production industries?)

For the record, being an ordinary person is no protection against doing great evil: Adolf Eichman, one of the key architects of the Holocaust, after trial in Israel for war crimes, requested clemency as an ordinary person—this request is a grim reminder: being ordinary is no protection against doing great evil. To the extent that politicians presenting themselves as brave “climate deniers” in order to collect money from climate denying corporations and billionaires (like the Koch brothers) are not very different, morally, from Eichman, who was “just following orders”.

We’ve Been So Slow To Begin Treating Climate Change As A Real Danger

Since 1992, politicians have mostly ignored the warnings about climate change. Oh, they have not ignored the warnings entirely, for as early as 24 years ago they began giving lip-service to the problem: 1992:UN Framework, 1997:Kyoto. But, on the whole, and even today, the active response to AGW has been anywhere between tepid and non-existent.

Our political leadership, if it acknowledged that there is a climate problem at all, has been so slow and so unemphatic in responding—responding at most “tepidly”—that one might imagine the political class to be brain-dead—or pretending, as politicians so often do, to be brain-dead. But brain-dead is not quite the same as being master-criminals, is it? Perhaps the answer to that is, “it depends on what important problem the politician is ignoring.”

However, there has also been a worse than merely “tepid” response, a deliberately inactive response, the response of the “deniers”, political folks who have denied either that there is any climate change, or that climate change is man-made, or that there is any threat from climate change, or that there is anything mankind can (or should) do about it.

The most notable assembly of such “deniers” is the current batch of seekers of the Republican nomination for USA president. Their denial is aided, abetted, and perhaps bought-and-paid-for by wealthy folks (such as the Koch brothers) and wealthy corporations (such as coal-oil-gas producers).

The Ogres Of Climate Change

I nominate these politicians (and others: most of the Republicans in the USA’s congress), the “climate deniers” as the principal ogres of climate change.

And I am not alone.

Noam Chomsky has said about the same thing:

Renowned scholar and activist Noam Chomsky declared this week that the GOP and its far-right front-runners are “literally a serious danger to decent human survival.”

Speaking with The Huffington Post on Monday, Chomsky cited the Republican Party’s refusal to tackle—or even acknowledge—the “looming environmental catastrophe” of climate change, thereby “dooming our grandchildren.”

He went to rebuke the Republican party for its “abject service to private wealth and power” and dispossession of the poor.

But Chomsky made it clear that his conviction that “the Republican Party has drifted off the rails” and must be stopped by no means amounts to an endorsement of Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton—who he has previously criticized as hawkish and opportunistic.

Chomsky also said:

Every Republican candidate is either a climate change denier or a skeptic who says we can’t do it. What they are saying is, ‘Let’s destroy the world.’ Is that worth voting against? Yeah.”

OK, The Deniers Are Ogres, But Are They Murders?

OK, so many “deniers” (mostly Republicans) are really, really, horribly, really bad, people who stand happily by and watch as the climatic conditions are set up for the deaths of millions.

But are they murderers?

Can you be a murderer when you haven’t done anything except talk and laugh? Was Nero a murderer if he really fiddled while Rome burned?

I’d say yes. Although at law some action more than talking and laughing may be required to bring on a proper judgment of murder, here we’re not talking law, but morality.

If a man who has the power to prevent a great tragedy, and who knows about the on-rushing great tragedy, and who has a fiduciary duty to prevent the great tragedy (as politicians do)—does nothing to use that power to avert the tragedy, we may fairly say that he has been a cause (if not the only cause) of the tragedy.

So, in my view, all these “deniers” are (attempted) mass-murderers. We should call them that. We should challenge them to stop attempting mass-murder.

The Media Which Give Audience To The Deniers Are Also Ogres—And Murderers

Much of the USA’s mainstream media give air-time and newspaper space to those who deny climate change. They create the “he said she said” sort of “horse-race” we are so familiar with at election time, just as if the issue of Climate Change were an “up in the air” matter where the essential truth wasn’t known, the sort of contest where readers and viewers deserved to hear “both sides” of the issue because there was good and bad aspects to both sides.

But of course this is not the case.

Scientists are agreed on the AGW basics and are fairly agreed on most of the consequences, the “fall out”, to be expected if human burning of fossil fuels (and other production of greenhouse gases) are allowed to continue unchecked.

Those who deny AGW are not doing so for rational reasons but out of ignorance or because of mental unbalance—or dishonestly for ideological reasons or because they perceive that action on AGW would be a threat to their business interests.

And media which give space to “deniers” are doing so for all those reasons, including a condemnable desire to find profits from pumping up a seeming conflict even though climate-inaction due to the perception of that conflict endangers the world and humanity.

So, yes, I add all media which give prominence to climate-deniers to my list of climate-ogres, murderers.

But What About The Tepid Non-Deniers ?

But what about all the politicians who say they believe in AGW but do nothing, or do nothing much, to prevent it? What about politicians who say that averting AGW will cost too much or that they have other things to do? What about politicians who set such distant timetables (e.g., renewable electricity by 2050) that they are effectively electing to do nothing (or nothing significantly timely)?

I’m afraid that I say about them all the same thing: you are able to get scientific advice, so get it. You are capable of understanding this stuff, it is not that hard. If you are either a “denier” or a “tepid endorser” of AGW, you are a mass murderer or an attempted mass murder. Or will be if you don’t get very busy very soon.

We don’t have much time. Although 2016 is an election year, we don’t have time to stop work fighting AGW. We cannot stop fighting AGW just because there is an election—especially when it’s a year away.

(Actually, the news creeps out that President Obama keeps doing what he can on AGW, but no-one could say that the Congress is backing him up. Quite the contrary.)

Just One Early Manifestation Of AGW

And for those who say that the ill-effects of AGW are far off in the future, think again.

We’re already seeing early manifestations of AGW, such as the Jan 23, 2016, storm that hit the USA’s East Coast. A single storm, by the way, one of several, each of which killed more people in the USA than were killed by Islamic terrorists in the USA since 9/11/2001.

Storms vs. terror: More Americans killed in blizzard last weekend than Islamic extremist attacks since 9/11.

Caused by warming air (from warming oceans) which caused more moisture to be in the air (ready to fall as rain or snow) together with a huge warming of coastal waters due to a complex effect known as the slowing of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, itself caused by melting of the Greenland ice sheet, itself caused by general oceanic warming. (This will not be on the quiz, but read about it in the Washington Post.)

Politicians: Make the Choice Not to be a Murderer

There is still time, although less time than there was 20 years ago, to do your best to slow, to fight, to diminish, the ill-effects of AGW.

Aim at 100% electric generation in the world (at least in the USA) by 2030 (no, not 2050)! Do not depend on “markets” to do what requires governmental exertion. Generate money for needed investments by taxing the very rich—billionaires and multi-millionaires and giant corporations.

Or just print money! The USA came up with lots of money in 2008 to bail out the banks and the insurance giant (AIG), and it came up with at least $1T to fight the Iraq war, which was not a necessary expense—so it can jolly well come up with the money to fight AGW, which is a necessary expense!

End all subsidies now paid to fossil-fuel producers-marketers-users and get subsidies going for private folks to build rooftop solar installations and meantime help cities and states to build transmission lines and solar-panel fields and wind farms.

Get going! No time to lose! If capitalism can help, let it help. Where it cannot help, do an end-run around it, but get the job done! This is War! Make sure there are, indeed, war-profiteers. This time we need them, because, unlike the stupid and unnecessary $1T Iraq war, we need this war! Pour money into the renewable-electric-generation business and the science and engineering R&D will get done!

And to start with, let all the “endorsers” of AGW meet together to settle upon a teaching method to bring the public on board. If all (Democratic) candidates for president can agree to a single position on AGW-action, and can agree to put that message out there—in part to point out the Republican candidates’ (murderous) “denialist” nonsense, and in part to help President Obama get more action going—all to the good. And I would say, necessary.

Go to it! Nuff said.

Notes.

[1] past variability has been associated with large volcanic eruptions and changes in the amount of energy received from the sun.

The new finding, that temperatures over the past 30 years lie outside the range of these natural variations, supports the conclusions reached by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that recent warming is mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels – in other words anthropogenic, or man-made, activity.

Peter Belmont lives in Brooklyn. He can be reached at: pabelmont2007@verizon.net.

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