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Capital Blight - A Visit from the New Flat Earth Society

By x344543 - September 25, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

We post a lot of class struggle environmentalist relevant news on our Facebook page, an average of over 75 stories a day. Naturally, we expect them to incite comments and occasional disagreements from any number of directions. Having just surpassed 750 "likes", however, we're just getting started at this point, so we don't expect a lot of the big discussions or debates you might find on the Facebook pages of, say, the Sierra Club, 350.org, or Occupy. Considering that, it was quite a shock to see a contrarian response to this story (shared from DeSmog Blog) from a user named Tom Harris, reading (in part):

It is revealing that almost none of the above piece even addresses the science of the new report. Instead they employ logical fallacy attacks: guilt by association, ad hominem, motive intent, etc. Smart people are not swayed by such rhetorical tricks.

It is humorous that the writer calls the report just issued "the International Climate Science Coalition's report" when it was no such thing. I wish it were. It is a massive, heavily referenced and impressive document - see http://climatechangereconsidered.org/. We are simply helping the publishers (there are three, of which one is Heartland) of this fine book to promote the publication. And no, the funding for the book did not come from industry.

No one involved in this report is a climate change denier. They, the publishers and ICSC know that climate changes all the time and so we must prepare for these changes. We simply question the causes of climate change and do not agree with the politically correct version boosted by the UN IPCC, etc. So we deny that we deny climate change. We are denial deniers, if you want a label.

...Happily for society, especially those of us who want to use the best in science to engage in fact-based environmental protection, the press is indeed paying attention to the NIPCC report—see some of the coverage at the top of our Web site.

The full quote can be read here.

"Just what exactly is going on here and why is any of this relevant?" one might ask. Here is my answer: as Harris states, the ICSC has just published a document called "Climate Change Reconsidered", in a preemptive attempt by the NIPCC to undermine the AR5 report that has just been published by the IPCC.

If you are confused, that's precisely the result that Harris and his ilk have desired by spreading their misinformation. Fortunately there are folks like myself who will try and clear up that confusion and steer you in the right direction.

Let me begin by explaining what all of these acronyms mean and why they matter:

To begin with the IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. As the fine folks at Grist.org explain:

(The IPCC is a) scientific group set up in 1988 by two divisions of the United Nations. The goal was to form a body that would provide policymakers with trusted, cutting-edge information about climate change. Thousands of climate scientists from around the world volunteer their time to analyze and summarize the latest and best science. The result: Big, fat reports. And now the IPCC is dropping its first big report in six years — a scientific inventory of the combined knowledge of all the brightest minds in climate science. Needless to say, climate skeptics are not too pleased at such a robust body of science coalescing before the world’s eyes. (Emphasis added)

The IPCC have just released their latest report, known as the AR5. The report, in summary, states the following:

  • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.
  • Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years.
  • Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010 (high confidence). It is virtually certain that the upper ocean (0-700 m) warmed from 1971 to 2010, and it likely warmed between the 1870s and 1971.
  • Over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent (high confidence).
  • The rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia (high confidence). Over the period 1901–2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.19 [0.17 to 0.21] m.
  • The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. CO2 concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions. The ocean has absorbed about 30% of the emitted anthropogenic carbon dioxide, causing ocean acidification.
  • Total radiative forcing is positive, and has led to an uptake of energy by the climate system. The largest contribution to total radiative forcing is caused by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750.
  • Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.
  • Climate models have improved since the AR4. Models reproduce observed continental-scale surface temperature patterns and trends over many decades, including the more rapid warming since the mid-20th century and the cooling immediately following large volcanic eruptions (very high confidence).
  • Observational and model studies of temperature change, climate feedbacks and changes in the Earth’s energy budget together provide confidence in the magnitude of global warming in response to past and future forcing.
  • Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
  • Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 for all RCP scenarios except RCP2.6. It is likely to exceed 2°C for RCP6.0 and RCP8.5, and more likely than not to exceed 2°C for RCP4.5. Warming will continue beyond 2100 under all RCP scenarios except RCP2.6. Warming will continue to exhibit interannual-to-decadal variability and will not be regionally uniform.
  • Changes in the global water cycle in response to the warming over the 21st century will not be uniform. The contrast in precipitation between wet and dry regions and between wet and dry seasons will increase, although there may be regional exceptions.
  • The global ocean will continue to warm during the 21st century. Heat will penetrate from the surface to the deep ocean and affect ocean circulation.
  • It is very likely that the Arctic sea ice cover will continue to shrink and thin and that Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover will decrease during the 21st century as global mean surface temperature rises. Global glacier volume will further decrease.
  • Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century. Under all RCP scenarios the rate of sea level rise will very likely exceed that observed during 1971–2010 due to increased ocean warming and increased loss of mass from glaciers and ice sheets.
  • Climate change will affect carbon cycle processes in a way that will exacerbate the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere (high confidence). Further uptake of carbon by the ocean will increase ocean acidification.
  • Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped. This represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2.

As one would surmise, this isn't good, and the buzz being created by the report is substantial. Within 24-48 hours of the report, numerous stories published by the various "green" news sources we feature on ecology.iww.org lit up the internet, including:

...and that's just a handful of them!

It was headlines like these and the implications of them that the NIPCC, which stands for "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (and the similar sounding name is not coincidental) was hoping to marginalize. The NIPCC is a front group, established by Climate Change deniers, and the ICSC is closely linked to it. Tom Harris is the executive director of the ICSC (which stands for International Climate Science Coalition--yet another deceptive misnomer if there ever was one), so it's understandable that he'd react negatively to criticism of his organization.

He is also, in spite of his numerous attempts to spin the facts to make it look as though he is an independent thinker, deeply and thoroughly connected to the extreme right wing climate change denial intelligentsia, led by the Heartland Institute, the Koch Brothers, and the fossil fuel wing of the capitalist class whose annual profits number in the trillions of dollars. Try as he might, he cannot escape the truth.

The lion's share of his statement is mere hairsplitting in any case. In the balance of things, the minutiae that the folks at DeSmog may have only gotten 95% right really doesn't change the essential crux of the matter, and that is that Harris (among others) is carrying the water for capitalist interests whose profit margins are threatened by the changes that must be made if humanity is to stave off the utter destruction of life on Earth due to fossil fuel induced climate change. In order to carry out his mission, Harris has repeatedly and knowingly--at the behest of those interests--spread misinformation, pseudoscience, and lies intended to cover up the scientifically verified TRUTH that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is real, is already happening and accelerating, and is already having dire consequences.

Harris spends a good deal of energy trying to distance himself from his puppet masters, but as Greenpeace thoroughly exposed in Dealing in Doubt the Heartland Institute is heavily funded by fossil fuel interests. Between 1998-2012 they received over $676,000 from Exxon Mobil. They also received $532,250 from Donors Trust between 2002-11 and almost $14 million from Donors Capital Fund during that period.

According to the fine folks at Climate Science Watch:

Heartland’s funding over the past decade has included thousands of dollars directly from ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute, but a large portion of their funding ($25.6 million) comes from the shadowy Donor’s Capital Fund, created expressly to conceal the identity of large donors to free-market causes. The Koch brothers appear to be funneling money into Donor’s Capital via their Knowledge and Progress Fund.

Or, as one blogger at Daily Kos bluntly declares:

Donor's Capital Fund" is the arm of "Donor's Trust" whose sole purpose is to provide an avenue for wealthy "free-marketers" to donate sums in excess of 1,000,000 dollars to right-wing think-tanks and similar organizations without divulging their identities.

I agree completely, and whether it's one or two degrees of separation from fossil fuel interests, ultimately the NIPCC report is playing the tune called by the fossil fuel capitalists. In any case, a look at the Heartland Institute's own 990 forms reveals that they donated $45,000 US to the ICSC, therefore Tom Harris is lying.

And yet--following the reactionary pundit play book, Harris refers to the almost universally accepted scientific consensus on AGW as laid out in stark detail by the IPCC as the politically correct version". Anyone with half a brain knows by now that the term "politically correct" is a manipulative, right wing buzzword which is intended to dismiss any perspective that doesn't conform to right wing gospel as being the emotional, knee jerk reaction of naive, uninformed neophytes duped by nefarious--presumably "communist" (HORRORS!) forces on the left. This to me is the last refuge of scoundrels, the all too familiar ring of the right wing pot calling the kettle "black".

And just who exactly is being "politically correct" anyhow?

The "report" to which Harris refers, "Climate Change Reconsidered" is what most of us would expect: a veritable litany of climate change denial talking points. David Suzuki assesses this so-called "report" succinctly:

"Read Singer’s report if you want. But it’s full of long-discredited claims, including that carbon dioxide emissions are good because they stimulate life. It’s not the goal of deniers and contrarians to contribute to our understanding of climate change; they want to promote fossil fuel companies and other industrial interests, a point explicitly stated in the Heartland-ICSC news release."

Tom Harris suggests that we read "Climate Change Reconsidered" for ourselves, but why bother? It's already been thoroughly debunked by numerous reliable sources:

Oh...but I forget! 97% consensus isn't reliable evidence! Silly me!!!

Having thoroughly failed to "prove" that two plus two equals five, Harris tries to deny that he and his benefactors are the deniers, opining:

No one involved in this report is a climate change denier. They, the publishers and ICSC know that climate changes all the time and so we must prepare for these changes.

The facts, again, thoroughly documented in Dealing in Doubt say otherwise.

Proving that he can compact an unnaturally large number of untruths into a single statement, Harris then tries to claim that the NIPCC “report” has scientific merit, stating:

IWW Environmental Unionist Caucus are clearly not familiar with either the NIPCC or the report issued on Tuesday. If they were they would know that there are literally thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers included in both.

However, this statement is also a lie. Quoting Climate Science Watch once more:

Unlike the IPCC, the NIPCC examines literature published exclusively by climate contrarians who are paid to contribute their findings to NIPCC reports, according to leaked internal documents of the Heartland Institute. The 2009 NIPCC report Climate Change Reconsidered had two lead authors, Fred Singer and Craig Idso, and 35 contributors. Similarly, the 2011 Interim NIPCC report had three lead authors, Fred Singer, Craig Idso, and Robert Carter, and only eight contributors. The NIPCC does not employ the same rigorous standards and approval process used by the IPCC to ensure its assessment reports are accurate and inclusive.

Harris acts as if "Climate Change Reconsidered" is somehow a game-changer on the global warming "debate"--and to be scientifically accurate, the only reason why the "debate" even exists at all is because of the grand conspiracy of denial created by the fossil fuel wing if the capitalist class and the willingness of professional liars like Harris et. al. to spread their pseudoscientific drivel to the presumably gullible masses--but already the NIPCC "report", which many have determined to simply be regurgitating the already discredited nonsense if their previous "reports" is sinking like a stone.

If anything, the IPCC's fifth report (to which the purposely timed NIPCC "report" is an obvious attempt at a preemptive response) reinforces and strengthens the overwhelming scientific, peer reviewed consensus that AGW is real, worsening, and a dire threat to life as we know it. Some environmentalists even suggest that the IPCC is too conservative!

And yet, Tom Harris vainly attempts to discount any suggestion that he is a right wing shill, declaring:

"I am not right wing, being, for example, a strong opponent of the tobacco industry and a strong supporter of state sponsored medical care as we have in Canada."

However the rhetoric he uses almost exactly matches that used by the (Koch Brothers run) Cato Institute and that venerable union busting ministry of right wing propaganda, the Heritage Foundation as detailed in this article and video from Greenpeace.

And just because he supports the Canadian style "single payer" healthcare system (which greater than 95% of Canadians do, by the way) doesn't make him a socialist any more than Hitler being a vegetarian made the Nazi dictator an animal rights advocate. The fact is that in the real world you are judged by the company you keep and the alliances you make. An alliance with merchants of lies doesn't do wonders for one's credibility.

I would question why Harris is interested in arguing with the IWW at all considering the fact that the folks at DeSmog Blog are not currently affiliated with the One Big Union in any meaningful way (though they're certainly welcome to join the Wobblies if they're eligible to do so), so Harris ought to argue with them (though we're more than willing to debate him if he wishes, as one can see). We're not responsible for what they write. As we make quite clear on both our website and our Facebook Page, we do not necessarily endorse the opinions of the news feeds we syndicate and repost, and vice versa.

Harris, however, is responsible for what he declares, and he seems to spend a good deal of time and energy responding to those who (rightfully) explain to his would be listeners that the emperor has no clothes.

In many ways it's like shooting fish in a barrel at this point, and as history unfolds that will only become more obvious as Harris and his ilk are correctly identified as the latter day Flat Earth Society.

At present, however, this is no laughing matter. The possibility that the human race may survive to properly place the AGW deniers in their proper context is by no means assured (as much as Harris will argue to the contrary) and that is because of the scourge of capitalism.

What people on both sides if this debate generally fail to grasp is why such powerful interests would go to such great lengths to threaten all life on Earth and willingly cover up the fact that they're responsible for doing so.

The answer is quite simple, actually, and that is that capitalism is inherently anti-ecological (link) long term planning and acceptance of responsibility (as opposed to the externalization of the costs of doing business) is antithetical to capitalist logic, and the fossil fuel wing of the employing class. Given a choice between long term sustainability and short term profit, the latter almost always wins out.

A perfect and entirely relevant example of this logic in practice are the growing signs that with multiple types of fossil fuels, including shale oil, natural gas, and American, Chinese as well as Australian coal all face economic bubbles, in part due to the growing recognition that global warming is a real, dire threat.

It's not certain whether Harris actually believes the untruths he parrots or knows that he is lying, but it matters little. Lies are still lies no matter how one presents them. It's the purpose behind the lies matters, and in this case, it would seem that the fossil fuel wing of the capitalist class are deeply worried about $trillions in potentially stranded assets and they're desperately racing against the clock to exploit them before the people rise up and take away their (toxic) golden geese. I suppose the fact that the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus is drawing such attention at all indicates that we're onto something big. Historically the Wobblies have never backed down from a challenge from the employing class and we're not about to stop now (even if they believe the world is flat).