Andersen: Stop the drilling! Stop the killing!
December 12, 2015
Arguments for sparing roadless areas from drill rigs just got stronger — not for the sake of wildlands conservation in places like Thompson Divide but because of climate change.
A scientific paper authored by Snowmass energy analyst Rick Heede and co-author Naomi Oreskes of the Global Environmental Change journal warns that future development of fossil-fuel reserves will push carbon emissions and exceed the critical limit of 2 degrees Celsius set as a benchmark for human-caused warming.
"The threat of exceeding the 2 degrees Celsius target arises not so much from the relatively small reserves of the investor-owned companies," states the analysis, "but from their ongoing exploration for and development of new reserves. Therefore, we suggest that investor and consumer pressure should focus on phasing out these companies' ongoing exploration programs."
Stopping the drilling and leaving potential new reserves in the ground is a radical departure from the "drill, baby, drill" mentality that has driven unbridled energy development and contributed to a worldwide oil glut.
"The objective of limiting future production of fossil fuels in order to achieve the 2 degrees Celsius target," states the analysis, "will not succeed if production of reserves held by state-owned companies is not also brought under control; international negotiation must address this fact."
A prelude to these negotiations took place last week in Paris, where climate eclipsed the Paris ISIS attack that so stunned our frail human sensitivities. And so it should be. ISIS is a sideline skirmish when compared to the enormity of climate disruption. The two may, in fact, be linked.
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A prolonged drought forced hundreds of thousands of Syrians from the agricultural countryside into crowded cities where extremism thrives. Such climate-altered upheavals have social and political consequences beyond rising global temperatures. According to climate forecasts, some Middle Eastern regions will become uninhabitable within two decades, launching new waves of migrants.
"Because the world is so extraordinarily interconnected today — economically, technologically, militarily, in every way imaginable — instability anywhere can be a threat to stability everywhere," John Kerry said three days before the Paris attacks.
The savagery of ISIS and the accelerating calamity of climate change are pushing human tragedy to an all-time high as global instability ripples across the globe. Last week on a telling cover, The New York Times featured banner stories on ISIS mayhem and the sinking of the Marshall Islands due to rising oceans. Terror and climate are catalysts to a violently changing world, and the results are traumatic.
Times columnist David Brooks recently opined that trauma can make many of us stronger if we are able to adapt into what he calls "super survivors." It seems this may become a pained and necessary social adaptation, given the serial crises we face.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis prays for salvation from poverty and climate, describing yet another linkage that acknowledges how undeveloped countries have contributed little to climate change but will suffer the worst from the results, thus victimizing the poor.
The pope inveighs against blind acceptance of traditional systems of finance and rampant consumerism, both of which deny climate change and ignore the necessary stewardship of the natural world. Conservation of critical lands is needed to halt species extinctions and habitat destruction. New lifestyle approaches are warranted where conventional thinking has failed.
Alternative energy sources and a weaning off fossil fuels are essential to addressing climate. Another concern is measuring future potential emissions before emitting them, thereby breaking the cycle of anthropogenic climate change. As Heede suggests, the world cannot allow reserves to become "stranded assets" and create a dangerous "carbon bubble."
The war on terror, whether from ISIS or domestic shootings like in San Bernardino, requires a new battleground — one of hearts and minds. Until that war is won by love, reason, diplomacy and measured force, violent killers must be disarmed and defunded.
It may be up to the super survivors to make a transcendent shift away from the current finance-dominated, development-driven, militaristic world order and address both climate and terror within the same universal action. It's either that or endure more killing and more drilling with resigned acceptance of extremism, ecological breakdown and survivor guilt.
Paul Andersen's column appears on Mondays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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