Cruel Intentions — Opposition to Climate Change Response is Swiftly Becoming Illegal

“From 1957 onward, there is no doubt that Humble Oil, which is now Exxon, was clearly on notice” about rising CO2 in the atmosphere and the prospect that it was likely to cause global warming… — Environmental Law Center’s Director Carroll Muffett in The New York Times

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We’ve known for some time that failing to respond to climate change is a callous cruelty of the worst kind imaginable. That continuing to burn fossil fuels and to delay a necessary transition to renewable energy will not only melt ice caps, provoke extreme weather the likes of which none of us have seen, flood coastlines and island nations, and threaten global food production, but it will also ultimately set off a hothouse mass extinction that is likely to be as bad or worse than the Permian.

We’ve known for decades now that the best, most moral, choice for human civilization is to keep those harmful fuels in the ground. To find a better way for conducting our national and global affairs and not to continue along the catastrophic business as usual emissions path. To listen to the increasingly urgent warnings posed by scientists — not the all-too-harmful dissembling of climate change deniers.

(Nature will surely grant no quarter if we do not hold the climate bad actors to account.)

And because continuing to burn fossil fuels commits so many harms on individuals, on nations, on the world, on children who are now growing up or who have yet to be born, and on the vital skein of nature itself, this activity is increasingly being viewed in the context of liability and criminality.

Corporate Support of Climate Change Denial Invites Accusations of Fraud, Consumer Protection, Environmental Law, and Securities Violations

For its actions as a leader in misinforming the public and promoting climate change denial, Exxon Mobil has found itself at the center of a maelstrom of lawsuits and investigations. The oil and gas company opposed regulations to curtail global warming. It funded organizations critical of global climate treaties and actively sought to undermine public opinion about the scientific consensus that global warming is caused by burning fossil fuels. And, in a move reminiscent of the Orwellian nightmare, the company helped to found and lead a misinformation engine called the Global Climate Coalition of businesses opposed to regulating greenhouse gas emissions. All this despite the fact that Exxon’s own scientists had previously confirmed that fossil fuel burning was indeed the cause of the warming.

By 2015, after numerous failures to respond to letters by Congressional Lawmakers and concerned citizens, Exxon was the subject of increasing scrutiny. In October of the same year, the company became the focus of a formal request from more than 40 social justice and environmental organizations to the United States Attorney General that an investigation be opened into its public deception and climate change denial campaigns. Vice President Al Gore, among other national leaders, then called for the revocation of Exxon’s articles of incorporation.

(Exxon’s own scientists told the corporation that human-caused climate change was a threat as early as the late 1950s. Exxon then spent millions of dollars to misinform the public. Image source: The Guardian.)

The outcry built as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation into Exxon’s activities. At issue was whether or not Exxon committed fraud or violated consumer protection and securities laws. Subsequently, the California Attorney General opened his own investigation into whether Exxon misinformed its shareholders, committed securities fraud, or violated environmental laws. And by mid summer of 2016, seventeen state attorney generals were involved in the growing legal action.

After various Congressional wranglings and court hearings, the case against Exxon is now headed for a New York state trial. It now appears that Exxon is likely to be found guilty of some or all of these charges. A decision that the company is likely to attempt to appeal.

Children Sue National Governments Over Human Rights and Welfare

Also in August of 2015, a group of children in Juliana vs the United States sued the federal government — arguing that its actions have endangered future generations’ rights to the degree that it threatened their survival. The government is argued to have endangered these children and to have failed in its duty to protect their access to crucial natural resources — to include a stable atmosphere and a natural world capable of sustaining the people of the United States.

(In the U.S., a variety of climate impacts ranging from sea level rise devouring coastlines, to worsening droughts, heatwaves, fires, and floods, to increasingly intense storms, to declining ocean health, air and water quality, to harm to the U.S. food and water security all threaten our children’s future well-being and survival. Their lawsuit — compelling the federal government to act decisively on climate change — continues to move forward in federal court. Image source: Common Dreams.)

The lawsuit has named President Donald Trump as a party to be held accountable. But the legal action’s overall aim is to compel the U.S. federal government to act in a decisive manner to respond to climate change in order to protect the survival and well being of future generations. The lawsuit continues to advance in federal court despite numerous calls by the fossil fuel industry and by the Trump Administration to have the case thrown out or delayed (you can read the legal argument of the plaintiffs here). At this point, the case appears likely to receive a hearing this year.

On April 1 of 2017, a similar lawsuit was also filed by 9 year old Ridhima Pandey against the government of India. Ridhima’s lawsuit argues that India, which is also the world’s third largest carbon emitter, has failed to put into action the promises it made by signing the Paris Agreement on climate change. The case also alleges that India has violated its public trust doctrine, its implied promise to provide inter-generational equality, and a number of national environmental laws. Ridhima’s lawsuit comes as India has increasingly succumbed to dangerous heatwaves, droughts, and floods which have harmed food production, provoked mass suicides by farmers, and put the water security of a number of provinces into increasing jeopardy.

UK Government Faces Lawsuit in 21 Days if it Fails to Act on Carbon Budget

In the UK, promises to cut carbon emissions are now legally binding. Britain’s Climate Change Act required the government to find a way to reduce the amount of carbon hitting the atmosphere by 57 per cent through 2032. And considerable progress has been made toward this goal as a shift away from coal precipitated a 33 percent drop from 1992 through 2014. However, the government’s reliance on fracking, its sand-bagging of renewable energy adoption policies, and its failure to more fully incentivize electric vehicles has now put it in a position where the 57 percent goal is falling out of reach.

In response, environmental law firm ClientEarth is giving the UK government 21 days to make good by producing a policy that puts emissions reductions back on track to meet 2032 goals. Failure to do so, says the firm, will result in a lawsuit against the government for not meeting its legal obligations to the public.

(Climate change denial may make you want to laugh or cry. But it’s a deadly serious matter.)

James Thornton, chief executive at ClientEarth, noted:

“We want to work with the government on a strong, effective emissions reduction plan, but all we get is never-ending delays. Government must publish the plan, and must consult with industry and civil society. If it continues to kick this can down the road, we will have no option but to consider legal action.”

Paradigm Shift Running Throughout Civil Society

Legal actions holding powerful corporations accountable for climate harms, holding governments to account for failing to provide for the welfare of future generations, and legally compelling governments to adhere to climate policy obligations represents a pivotal shift in the rules and standards governing western civil societies. It provides an institution that enables citizens and environmental watch-dogs to shape climate policy while holding bad climate actors to account. And this critical social advancement in the presently perilous age when climate impacts are now starting to be realized could not have come soon enough.

Links:

Pressure on Exxon Intensifies

What’s Scarier than the Permian Extinction? Burn all the Fossil Fuels to Find Out.

350.org

Business as Usual Emissions Path

Professor Calls Out Writer Who Misleads on Climate Change

Exxon Mobil Climate Change Contraversy

Exxon Spear-Headed Misinformation Campaign Against its Own Scientists

Children’s Climate Lawsuit Names Trump

Small Children Take on Big Oil

Kids Sue U.S. Government over Climate Change

9-Year-Old Sues Indian Government over Climate Change

UK Government Threatened with Legal Action Over Failure to Cut Emissions

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Erik

Pope Francis Encyclical to Set Divine Imperative — Halt Climate Wreckage, Help the Poor

The Pope is on a mission. The most moral and ethical mission of this century and perhaps of all time. A mission to stop a fossil fueled capitalist monstrosity from a “tyrranical” destruction of much of the world’s life-sustaining resources for the temporary gain of a handful of wealthy billionaires. A mission to stop this unjust system from victimizing the poor and from swelling their ranks with climate change sacrifice zone refugees. A mission to stop this unbridled, amoral, money-worshipping construct from killing our peoples, our civilizations, our planet.

Pope Climate Action

(In the lead-up to the 2015 Climate Summit in Paris, the Pope is urging the world to take climate action. His new encyclical will focus on the moral and spiritual imperative to preserve and nurture the Earth’s life support systems and to help the poor. The Pope views climate action as not only a moral and social justice issue, but also as a divine imperative. He sees the role of fossil fuel based political, market and resource domination as deeply unjust — a tyrannical treatment of nature and the poor that puts humankind under existential threat.)

The Pope is on a mission. A divinely inspired mission to root out a deep injustice that has been with all people, all nations, since the beginning, but that has greatly worsened due to the exploitation of fossil fuels and a proliferation of institutions possessing no moral values and only valuing a greed-based profit motive. A mission we must succeed in if we are to survive and have much hope of thriving in the coming years, decades, and centuries. A mission which you are called to join if you are thinking, feeling, and believe in life outside of the money-worship and resultant carbon conflagration that has now put every human, every creature into ever-amplifying peril.

It is a mission the Pope will more deeply explore in his coming encyclical on Thursday, June 18. A call for action that bears the clear and undeniable message: “If we destroy God’s Creation, it will destroy us.”

And it is very clear from the early releases of his upcoming proclamation that the Pope is taking on the powerful and wealthy political supporters of fossil fuel burning around the world. Taking on the 169 billionaires who now hold in their hands more than half of all the world’s wealth. A wealth whose concentration is enabled by unfair market systems and the domination of enforced consumption of finite and terribly destructive fossil fuels. An unjust base of terrible economic might enforced by conservative (neo-liberal) policies that delay and deny renewable energy adoption, the expansion of more efficient energy use, and that force destructive fossil fuel use upon ever growing numbers of people.

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The Pope’s Clear Message — Help the Poor, Cease Environmental Destruction

To these points, the Pope has laid down a number of clear messages. The Pope warns us of expanding poverty and a swelling of the number of refugees due to economic exploitation and climate change:

[A] threat to peace arises from the greedy exploitation of environmental resources. Monopolizing of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.

The Pope calls us to understand the essential imperative to protect the Earth and to nurture both it and its creatures. To not abuse, exploit, or destroy it. In other words, we are Earth’s protectors and nurturers, not her tyrants and good work is directly linked to the care of the Earth:

Genesis tells us that God created man and woman entrusting them with the task of filling the earth and subduing it, which does not mean exploiting it, but nurturing and protecting it, caring for it through their work.

The Pope tells us that the global hothouse crisis is existential for human beings and one that is due to a failure of human ethics:

We are experiencing a moment of crisis; we see it in the environment, but we mostly see it in man. The human being is at stake: here is the urgency of human ecology! And the danger is serious because the cause of the problem is not superficial, but profound, it’s not just a matter of economics, but of ethics.

The Pope equates the current incarnation of neo-liberal (read US conservative) market capitalism and hyper-individualism to the ancient golden calf idol of the Bible saying:

We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money. Trickle-down economics is a failed theory. Excessive consumerism is killing our culture, values and ethics. The conservative ideal of individualism is undermining the common good.

The Pope sees greed-based economic systems as tyrannical, unjust and destructive, forcing unhealthy consumption, and calls for a radical new financial system to avoid human inequality and environmental devastation:

It is no longer man who commands but money. Cash commands. Greed is the motivation. An economic system centered on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rthymn of consumption that is inherent to it. [A] radical new financial system [is required] to avoid human inequality and ecological devastation.

The Pope calls us to stop seeking to dominate and exploit Creation, but to instead cooperate with, care for and respect it. That it is a task set out by God to live in the heartbeat of Creation. To nurture Creation. To care for Creation. This is the calling in each of our hearts:

This task entrusted to us by God the Creator requires us to grasp the rhythm and logic of Creation. But we are often driven by pride of domination, of possessions, manipulation, of exploitation; we do not care for Creation, we do not respect it. Nurturing and caring for Creation is a command God gives not only at the beginning of history, but to each of us. It is a part of his plan; it means causing the world to grow responsibly, transforming it so that it may be a garden, a habitable place for everyone.

The Pope notes that caring for the poor and caring for creation are linked and that there is no way out of the crisis without a radical cessation of every kind of exploitation and harm to innocents:

As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution can be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems as environmental damage does trickle down most on the poor.

This is a divine mission. One the Pope has called upon you to support. To give aid and lend your effort to the divine imperative to help the poor and to preserve the life-sustaining bounty of Earth. Will you join him? Or will you join the others? Those the scriptures have aptly labeled — Destroyers of the Earth?

Links:

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Explosive Intervention by Pope Francis Set to Transform Climate Change Debate

Pope Francis’s Revolution Launches Thursday

“Hey! Ho! Fossil Fuels Have Got to Go!” — World Sees Largest Climate March in History Amidst Mounting Dangers

(PBS expose covering the 2014 Climate March shows that nearly 1,500 organizations including environmentalists, faith-based groups, small business groups, economic and social justice organizations, and student organizations participated in this historic event.)

According to the National Climate Data Center, the summer of 2014 was the hottest in the global record. It was a season of record wildfires, sea surface temperatures far above the 20th Century average, and of record droughts and rainfall events around the globe. And it was a year in which the ability of nations to provide food for the world’s seven billion and growing population amidst a mounting tally of extreme droughts and floods was called increasingly into question.

On Sunday September 24, 2014, the ever-more alarmed people of the world responded.

In New York City, an estimated 410,000 took to the streets to protest the broad failure by global governments and businesses to effectively respond to the growing threat of an ever-increasing fossil fuel emission that is rapidly pushing Earth toward a dangerous hothouse environment. In London, nearly 50,000 protesters gathered as Melbourne, Australia saw 30,000 climate marchers. 25,000 lifted their voices in Paris, 15,000 marched through Berlin, and 5,000 gathered in Rio de Janeiro.

Overall, more than 2,500 protest events occurred in 166 countries around the world. Total participation is now estimated to be more than 750,000 — the largest and most widespread climate protest in history.

Climate March Grist

(Hundreds of thousands gather in New York City for Climate March. Image source: Grist.)

In New York City, the massive march began at 11:30 AM at Columbus Circle near Central Park. More than 550 buses disgorged passengers bearing signs labeled with a variety of apt sayings including: “There is No Planet B,” “Carbon Tax Now,” “Go Vegan,” “This Country has a Koch Problem,” “Never, Never Vote Republican,” and “We Can’t Burn all the Oil on the Planet and Still Live on It.”

The march, which included more than 50,000 students, numerous members of the scientific community, and such notables as Bill McKibben, Ban Ki-moon, Jane Goodall, Vandana Shiva, Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Leonardo DiCaprio, and Al Gore, at times stretched to fully 4 miles in length. Loud chants such as “Hey! Ho! Fossil fuels have got to go!” rocked what many still believe to be the center of global capital.

I Can't believe I'm having to protest this

(Sign speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Image source: Here.)

The rallies came just two days before a global climate summit was scheduled to convene on Tuesday, September 22. The summit, which will include more than 120 world leaders aims to provide more aggressive measures to attack the vast and growing threat of carbon pollution. As of 2013, recent studies showed that human hothouse emissions jumped by another 2.3% — primarily driven by increases in China, India and the U.S. Ominously, both China and India — previous bad actors on climate change due to astronomical increases in coal burning — have decided to opt out of the current climate summit.

A press conference held prior to the climate march drove home the growing plight of millions of people around the world already staring down the face of fossil-fuel inflicted harm. A number that is likely to jump to billions unless our race toward a hothouse extinction is rapidly halted.

peoples-climate-march17

(Is this a game? Image source: Here.)

Stanley Sturgil, a retired coal miner from Kentucky now suffering from black lung made this statement at a press conference before the march:

“Today I march because I want to behold a brighter future. We have destroyed ourselves. We have destroyed our health and I’m here because our political leaders have failed us.”

Marshall Island resident Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner also made this deeply resonant statement:

“We need to act now… We only have one atmosphere and we of the Marshall Islands only have one land we call home. We don’t want to move and we shouldn’t have to move.”

Sadly, if world leaders continue to fail to hear the pleas of their increasingly foundering constituents, residents of the Marshall Islands won’t be the only ones on the move. The migration, under business as usual carbon emissions and an emerging and deadly hothouse world will comprise a majority of the human race.

Links:

Hundreds of Thousands Turn out for People’s Climate March

Summer of 2014 Hottest on Record

Climate Change Summit: Global Rallies Demand Action

Great Photos From the Climate March

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