The new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just been released, and it looks like bad news for the home team, i.e., the entire human race. Things are going to get hotter, coastlines are going to go under, deserts are going to get wider, and millions if not billions of people are going to be on the move, in need, in conflict, in increasingly desperate straits – and it's all our own fault. What's more, the effects set in train by our epic debauch with fossil fuels are going to keep on keeping on – although the worst outcomes can still be avoided, if the leaders of the world can bestir themselves to take action to slow the poisoning of the planet.
This is the consensus of more than 2,500 leading scientists from more than 30 countries – including the United States. But not to worry: that nattering nest of neocons, the American Enterprise Institute – which also functions as an employment agency for the Bush White House, sending innumerable nabobs into the higher reaches and greasy guts of the Administration – have come up with a perfect solution to this threat to the life of the world: bribing scientists to say it ain't so.
As the Guardian reports, the good folks at AEI – whose members were instrumental in bringing us the "splendid little war" in Iraq and are now agitating for an even more glorious bloodletting in Iran – are offering scientists and economists $10,000 each (plus extras) to tear down the IPCC report and snowjob the hoi polloi into believing that the crack pipe of the Carbon Era will never be empty.
AEI, its coffers bulging with funding from ExxonMobil (whose former honcho, Lee Raymond, is vice-chairman of the group's board of trustees), is flashing ten grand (plus "travel expenses" and "additional payments") to any scientist, economist or policy analyst willing to rip the IPCC report as "resistant to reasonable criticism…and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work." These bold global warming revisionists can trouser the loot in exchange for their scholarly contributions to an "independent review" of the IPCC report, the Guardian reports.
Here we see the Bush gang playing the usual double game. With the weight of virtually the entire scientific world against him, George W. Bush has finally, grudgingly, acknowledged that there might be a little problem with oceans boiling and cities submerging after all. So the tack has been a sudden flip-flop: from denying that global warming is a reality to claiming that he is actually leading the fight against this atmospheric terrorism. Thus, after spending months trying (and partially succeeding) in watering down the IPCC report, the Bush-appointed U.S. delegation to the conference signed off on the document in the end.
Now, through the AEI – and other proxies no doubt already cranking up in the background – the Bushists bring the sucker punch: "Yeah, sure, there's global warming – who would ever deny that? – but this IPCC thing, although certainly a worthy endeavor, is just a little bit over the top. There are 'reasonable criticisms' to be made of its analytical models and its perhaps somewhat too melodramatic conclusions. There's nothing out there that good old-fashioned American moxie – and entirely voluntary efforts by our ever-altruistic corporate sector – cannot overcome."
Obviously, AEI operates on the Cheneyian "One Percent" doctrine: if there is even an infinitesimal chance that the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming could be wrong, why then, we must act as if that remote likelihood is a reality. It is truly remarkable how the radical zealots who form the Bush "base" treat every single issue as an article of faith, an occasion for sectarian combat. The scientific examination of data from the natural world indicates that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level," as the IPCC report states. This is not a political position; it's simply an observation of reality. And yet because the Radical Rightists (including neocons, Christian extremists, militarists, and the assorted gasbags of the right-wing media echo chamber) have decided that global warming is somehow a "leftist" or "liberal" concept, they seek to denounce it or deride it or undermine it at every turn. Acceptance of this reality somehow threatens the highly circumscribed, narrowly blinkered worldview that seems to be so important to their emotional security.
Then again, maybe it's just the cold, hard cash from the black gold boys that trips their triggers. For behind almost every "scholarly" and "scientific" objection to global warming, you will find an ooze of oil bigger than the Exxon Valdez slick which, as the Guardian also reports this week, is still fouling the waters of Alaska. (A new U.S. government study "found more than 26,600 gallons of oil remaining at Prince William Sound. Researchers say it is declining at a rate of only 4% a year and even slower in the Gulf of Alaska" – 18 years after the tanker ran aground, the paper notes.) No industry will be more affected by efforts to contain and reduce the use of fossil fuels than the corporate oil empires, whose might and worth surpasses that of many, if not most, nations. Just last week, ExxonMobil – the munificent benefactors of AEI – recorded the largest annual corporate profit in history: $39.5 billion. Surely the protection of such a nest egg is worth a little bending of reality by a few bribed nabobs in lab coats.
But the sucker punch doesn't stop there. Last week, Bush took another great leap forward in his relentless construction of a presidential dictatorship by signing an executive order that will place a political commissar in every government agency to ensure that the party line is obeyed. Thus no matter what noble-sounding rhetorical positions the Administration adopts publicly on global warming, the devil will be in the details, as the Bush commissars twist, thwart, block and gut any fact-based findings and regulations that might be displeasing to the White House and its radical base.
The IPCC report on global warming is, ironically, most chilling. Thanks to the many years of obstruction by the well-funded apologists for corporate power, it is now too late to arrest the process. The effects not only on weather patterns and sea levels but also on the food chain that sustains life on the planet will be – are already – dire and profound. The only thing we can do now is to take urgent action to begin to mitigate the worst effects, to prepare for and soften the unavoidable economic, political and social upheaval that is coming. The struggle against the effects of global warming is one that could actually unite the human race in a common effort against a common danger that threatens not only the present inhabitants of our common home but also those "future generations" which we all profess to be so concerned about.
The scientific consensus is clear; finding a political consensus on mitigation will be immensely harder, perhaps impossible. But surely it is worth the effort. Yet even now, the corporate lords and their sycophants are trying to strangle these efforts in the cradle, by destroying the scientific foundation upon which any political solutions must be built. It may be politically expedient for them to do this; it may financially profitable; it may even be emotionally comforting. But it is also – to speak plainly and with no addition – a highly despicable act.