Trump’s Pick: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil and Prominent Climate Change Denier

The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch  has published a detailed article on the activities of Rex Tillerson while CEO of Exxon Mobil:

Rex Tillerson and Exxon Spent Big on Climate Change Denial while Misleading Public, Evidence Shows

http://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/12/13188/rex-tillerson-and-exxon-spent-big-climate-change-denial-while-misleading-public

Quotes:

‘Exxon has used “ALEC’s charitable status to fuel its disinformation campaign on climate change, so taxpayers are literally paying Exxon to lie to them’

‘ Notably, Tillerson’s block of shareholders held off a voluntary measure sought by minority stockholders from the Rockefeller family to significantly expand Exxon’s investment in alternative energy sources.’

 

Rex Tillerson, if confirmed, will be one of the most influential members of Trump’s cabinet, for example responsible for negotiations with President Putin and his cabinet on oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, recently banned by President Obama in the American sphere. Could an agreement with Russia become a way of circumventing this ban? Of course there are many other issues involved. How can the conflicting interests of Trump as a business man and president of the US be disentangled? Nobody will seriously believe that handing over control of his businesses to family members will guarantee that political decisions will not be influenced by how they might affect his profits. So far (during the election campaign) , Trump could not even be persuaded to reveal what taxes he had to pay, i.e., what his profits from his various businesses were. Was the appointment of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State influenced by Trump’s business interests ?

See also here:

Center for Media and Democracy and Common Cause file extensive new evidence in whistleblower tax fraud case against ALEC

http://www.exposedbycmd.org/2016/10/06/exxon-alec-running-illegal-lobbying-scheme-irs-complaint/

See also: https://blog.une.edu.au/klausrohde/2016/12/19/climate-change-and-the-future-of-mankind-donald-trump-and-his-team/

Climate Change and the Future of Mankind: Donald Trump and his Team

The last section of the book edited by me: The Balance of Nature and Human Impact, Cambridge University Press 2013, http://www.cambridge.org/9781107019614 , ends as follows:

‘………. climate change is just one of the dangers facing nature and
mankind; others include over-exploitation of resources caused by population growth
and over-consumption, habitat destruction such as deforestation, pollution, and invasive
species. With regard to climate change, we conclude with a quote from an
Amazon “ description” of the important book by the American physicist and climate
expert Joseph Romm (2006), which suggests that everything is not yet lost. There is
hope if we do something now. Because of the prominent role of the USA as an
economic and scientifi c power, a leading role will have to be played by that country,
but countries such as Australia with its enormous coal and gas reserves must play their
role as well.
“ Global warming is the story of the twenty-first century. It is the most serious issue
facing the future of humankind, but American energy and environmental policy is
driving the whole world down a path toward global catastrophe. According to Joseph
Romm, we have ten years, at most, to start making sharp cuts to our greenhouse gas
emissions, or we will face disastrous consequences. The good news, he writes, is that
there is something we can do – but only if the leadership of the U.S. government acts
immediately and asserts its influence on the rest of the world.”’

(Citation from Romm, J. N. (2006). Hell and High Water: Global Warming–the Solution and the Politics–and What We Should Do. New York: William Morrow.)

President Obama had taken steps to address some of the issues related to climate change, although he was restricted in what he could do by the obstruction of the Congress. What can we expect from the team assembled by the President-elect Donald Trump? Paul McGeough, in the Sydney Morning Herald December 17-18, has given an overview of the team, yet to be confirmed by the Senate (‘All The President’s Men (and women)’: Two retired generals head Defense and Homeland Security, and a third will be National Security Advisor. All three have fairly right-wing views, in particular the third one, Michael Flynn, with respect to Iran. Secretary of State is the ‘outgoing chairman and stockholder of Exxon Mobil’, a ‘climate change sceptic’, Chief Strategist the ‘white nationalist and former chairman of inflammatory far-right propaganda platform Breithart’, compared with which even the Murdoch run Fox News is moderate; CIA Director is ‘outspoken in favour of CIA’s use of torture and against Iran nuclear deal’; Attorney General is a former state attorney general who ‘failed confirmation as a judge in 1986 due to alleged racist comments’;  Labor is a fast food chain executive, opponent of minimum wage laws and Obamacare’; Energy is a climate change sceptic; Health and Human Services is is a strong opponent of Obamacare, ‘womens’ health programs and abortion’; Education is a billionairess who is a  ‘strong advocate of charter schools and voucher funding for school choice’; Environmental Protection Agency  is a ‘climate change denier…close to fossil fuel industry’; etc.

According to McGeough, ‘the team is mostly wealthy-dominated by billionaires and megamillionaires. By one calculation, the combined wealth of Trump’s 17 picks to date, more than $9.5 billion, is greater than the combined wealth of the 43 million least wealthy households in the country…’

What can we expect? Trump has repeatedly emphasized that he would reduce corporate tax and that Obamacare would be abolished or strongly modified. He has used aggressive language against Iran and China, will send large numbers of Mexicans back and build a wall (partly now to be replaced by fences, apparently, and to be paid by Mexico), and has promised to make America strong again, also by building up its military. Concerning climate change, his and his team’s past histories suggest that all the progress made under Obama will very likely be reversed. He even went so far as to proclaim that the USA would leave the Paris climate change agreement. Some reports claim that the NSA will have to concentrate on space activities and stop monitoring activities of climate change on Earth. Some NSA climate scientists feel so threatened that they have begun to make backups of  climate data on their private computers.  NASA appears to have the largest and most important such data base of any country; without it predictions of climate change would become almost impossible. All this may sound ridiculously insane, but in Australia -for example- there also have been attempts (only partially successful) by the more extreme wing of the right-wing government to restrict climate work by the CSIRO, the Australian national research organization, which has been at the forefront of climate research in Antarctica.

What does all this mean for our future? Accumulating research data, for example those on melting of ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic and its effects on sea level rises, show how urgent research on the threats posed by climate change are. We must know how great and how fast the changes will be, if we want to take effective measures to guarantee the survival of mankind. One should never give up hope, but the (not yet confirmed) composition of the new government of the US does not look good, to phrase it mildly.

 

Mainstream and social media in politics

The recent elections in the US have shown that outcomes of elections are to a great extent determined  by who uses the media (now importantly including the social media like facebook) most cleverly and ruthlessly. Not the message but how it is presented to the people is important. Even lies will sway the electorate as long as they are presented convincingly. One could go further and say ‘exciting’ (i.e. totally unexpected) lies lend themselves more easily to swaying the public than the ‘boring’ truth. Tell the electorate that President Obama is not really American but was born in Africa or Indonesia, or that the Pope backs Trump during the election, and many will fall for it, not bothering to check the facts. Interesting in this context that the Australian public broadcaster ABC, after appointment of a new boss of ABC by the rightwing government, plans to scrap a program ‘Fact Check,’ in which statements by prominent politicians are checked for their truth. – Various commentators have drawn attention to this phenomenon in the context of the recent American elections, concentrating on social media (facebook, twitter). However, the public has been misled for a very long time by the mainstream media, which is particularly clear with regard to the politics of climate change. I and some coauthors have discussed this in the section “the societal role in combating overexploitation and climate change: information policy” in Klaus Rohde editor:  The Balance of Nature and Human Impact. Cambridge University Press 2013. I have also discussed it in a post

On the way to fascism? Climate change and media concentration

In Australia, about two thirds of the printed media are controlled by Murdoch, who also controls much of the mainstream media in Great Britain and USA (to mention only Fox News with its pernicious influence on American politics). These media support rightwing politicians and – in Australia at least – consistently downplay the importance of climate change, making effective action to limit its impact impossible or difficult.

Would the public so easily have been swayed by social media if  they would not already have been ‘primed’ by the mainstream media, i.e., rightwing TV, radio and newspapers?

We are not dealing with some phenomenon that has at best some secondary importance, but one that is central to the functioning of democracy. The ‘West’ lauds itself for its ‘freedom’ and even went to wars to ‘defend’ it. But if a war is fought it should be against the pernicious spreading of lies and half-truths by the media, whether mainstream or social. If that war is lost, we may  well be in big trouble very soon.

Hottest February on record

A few weeks ago I found a 16-page pamphlet in my mailbox titled: The Paris Climate Summit 2015. A waste? Hubris? Poor science? Alarmism gone mad? A gravy train? Take your pick.

A quote from the first page: ” But there is certainty beyond any doubt that CO2 is the building lock for all life on Earth and that without its presence in the global atmosphere at a sufficient concentration this would be a dead planet. Yet today our children and our public are taught that CO2 is a toxic pollutant that will destroy life and bring civilization to its knees”.

Also on page 1, Robert Mugabe, the “murderous tyrant”, is quoted as a speaker in favour of climate regulation: “Unless current trends are reversed, disaster stalks planet Earth”.

And in the Introduction: “Especially when one reads of the call for major changes to our economic and industrial systems …. on the basis of a theory which has been shown to have major flaws and errors. That’s right, let me repeat that “on the basis of a theory which has been shown to have major flaws and errors”.

 

What, then, is the present situation?

“NASA this weekend released new data which shows that February 2016 was not only the hottest in recorded history, but it soared past all previous records, prompting scientists to describe the announcement as “an ominous milestone in our march toward an ever-warmer planet.”

The average global surface temperature for February was 1.35°C warmer than the global average for the month between 1951-1980—a margin that shattered the previous record of 1.14°C, which was set just one month earlier—and exceeded preliminary figures released earlier this month.”

And Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, from the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research, presently  a visiting professorial fellow at the University of New South Wales, speaks of a kind of climate emergency. Full article here:

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/03/14/nasa-drops-major-bomb-march-toward-ever-warmer-planet

 

Of course, one observation does not prove a ‘theory’. Therefore, have a look here: https://krohde.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/misleading-information-on-climate-change-and-corrections/

Large-scale people movements in the Middle East not due to climate change alone

The large-scale movements of people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to Europe are not the result of climate change  alone but are due to complex interactions between various factors:

http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/natur/loeste-klimawandel-den-syrien-krieg-aus-a-1077461.html

The German climate consortium (Deutsches Klima-Konsortium), including many German research institutes  published a statement stressing that point

http://www.deutsches-klima-konsortium.de/fileadmin/user_upload/pdfs/PE_PM/20160211_PM_DKK-KF_zu_Klimawandel_und_Migration.pdf

Climate dates about Syria show that the region warmed by about one degree over the last century. The serious drought 2006-2010 was the worst since the beginning of measurements at the beginning of the 20th century. About 1 1/2 million peasants lost their livelihood, and many moved to different parts of the country. The government cut subventions and introduced various other ‘liberal’ economic policies, which led to the disaster. Therefore, not climate change alone but the lack of adequate political measures must be held responsible.

 

Ocean diversity and human impact: 49% decline in marine vertebrate populations between 1970 and 2012

According to an emergency edition of the WWF Living Blue Planet Report, there has been a 49% decline in marine vertebrate populations between 1970  and 2012. These estimates are based on tracking 5829 populations of 1234 species. For some fish species, the decline has been almost 75%. Overfishing, habitat destruction and climate change are held to be responsible.

Details here:

http://www.wwf.org.au/news_resources/?uNewsID=14601

Concerning the importance of marine ecosystems more generally, a concise and up-to-date list of important aspects of ocean diversity and how it has been affected by human activities is given in the UNESCO  report:

http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/ioc-oceans/priority-areas/rio-20-ocean/blueprint-for-the-future-we-want/marine-biodiversity/facts-and-figures-on-marine-biodiversity/

Some important points from this report:

  • “By the year 2100, without significant changes, more than half of the world’s marine species may stand on the brink of extinction.
  • Today 60% of the world’s major marine ecosystems that underpin livelihoods have been degraded or are being used unsustainably.
  • If the concentration of atmospheric CO2 continues to increase at the current rate, the ocean will become corrosive to the shells of many marine organisms by the end of this century. How or if marine organisms may adapt is not known.
  • Ocean acidification may render most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs, affecting tourism, food security, shoreline protection, and biodiversity.
  • Commercial overexploitation of the world’s fish stocks is so severe that it has been estimated that up to 13 percent of global fisheries have ‘collapsed.’
  • There are now close to 500 dead zones covering more than 245,000 km² globally, equivalent to the surface of the United Kingdom.
  • Between 1980 and 2005, 35,000 square kilometers of mangroves were removed globally.
  • Between 30 and 35 percent of the global extent of critical marine habitats such as seagrasses, mangroves and coral reefs are estimated to have been destroyed.”

 

Causes of losses in marine biodiversity are discussed here, with some references:

http://www.seaweb.org/resources/briefings/marinebio.php

Corrected sunspot history suggests climate change not due to natural solar trends

According to the International Astronomical Union (7 August 2015), sunspot activity over the last 300 years has remained more or less stable and cannot, therefore, be responsible for global warming since the industrial revolution.

 

“The Sunspot Number is a crucial tool used to study the solar dynamo, space weather and climate change. It has now been recalibrated and shows a consistent history of solar activity over the past few centuries. The new record has no significant long-term upward trend in solar activity since 1700, as was previously indicated. This suggests that rising global temperatures since the industrial revolution cannot be attributed to increased solar activity.” 

“The Maunder Minimum, between 1645 and 1715, when sunspots were scarce and the winters harsh, strongly suggests a link between solar activity and climate change. Until now there was a general consensus that solar activity has been trending upwards over the past 300 years (since the end of the Maunder Minimum), peaking in the late 20th century — called the Modern Grand Maximum by some.”

“This trend has led some to conclude that the Sun has played a significant role in modern climate change.”

 “The apparent upward trend of solar activity between the 18th century and the late 20th century has now been identified as a major calibration error in the Group Sunspot Number. Now that this error has been corrected, solar activity appears to have remained relatively stable since the 1700s.”

Full article (Science Daily) here:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150807220750.htm

 

 

A new book on the history of climate change politics in Australia

A book on the history of climate change politics in Australia, describing the disastrous influence of the right wing media (particularly those controlled by Murdoch) and the big mining corporations has just been published. Author is Maria Taylor (“Global Warming and Climate Change. What Australia knew and buried….then framed a new reality for the public”).  http://press.anu.edu.au/titles/global-warming-and-climate-change/ : A free copy can be downloaded at this address.

The book is based on Taylor’s research for a PhD at the National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science of The Australian National University. From the ANU site on her book: “Her multi-disciplinary investigation of the public record and the input of science, politics, economics, journalism and contemporary mass media has revealed for the first time how and why Australia buried a once good understanding of global warming and climate change — to arrive after 25 years at the confusion and stalemate we are still in today. “

An outline and discussion of he book is available here:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2015/aug/06/how-australians-were-ready-to-act-on-climate-science-25-years-ago-and-what-happened-next

Excerpts:

“In 1989 Hawke described a “growing consensus amongst scientists” showing there was a strong chance that major climate change was on its way, that this change was linked to human activity, and this could have “major ramifications for human survival” if nothing was done.”

‘The Howard government …….. cautious climate policy positions ……. to justify it through media articles. That modelling was supported financially by the likes of the Australian Coal Association, the oil giant Exxon Mobil and the mining majors BHP and Rio Tinto.”

 

” ……. by 1997, many political and economic reporters were “dutifully scribing the story established by the business and political elite”.

A point to make is the role of the media in Australia, which is so dominated by the Murdoch press. That played a key role, in a sense that as the 90s rolled on it was so much easier to get out a consistent narrative if you don’t have a really diverse press. From what I saw – and what the documentary evidence showed – the ABC did have a leadership role for a long time in informing the public about climate change, but it really drew back in the late 90s. There was no other story being told.

Free-market neoliberal thinktanks, including the Institute of Public Affairs, promoted climate science denialist views and industry talking points that were picked up by the media.”