Bill Onasch

KC Labor— Online For Class and Climate Justice Since March 2000 Week In Review March 11—Part 2 Green New Deal by Bill Onasch

 Week In Review  Comments Off on KC Labor— Online For Class and Climate Justice Since March 2000 Week In Review March 11—Part 2 Green New Deal by Bill Onasch
Mar 162019

by Bill Onasch

Eight Years Later, Still Stands Up

In June-July, 2011 I gave a two-part presentation at the old monthly KC Labor Forum entitled What Can We Do To Stop Climate Change? In taking the first fresh look at it for years I was surprised, but far from pleased, how few revisions would be needed today.

But one is pretty big. In 2011 there was still a lot of talk about “peak oil” leading to shortages and wars. Fracking was just emerging but, of course, today has made the USA the world’s biggest producer of oil, natural gas, and soon petrochemicals.

I concluded my remarks:

Our destiny depends on energizing a class-conscious, fighting labor movement and utilizing our unions and other worker organizations to launch a Labor Party to contest the bosses for political power by any and all means necessary.

That statement has been valid since before any of us in this room was born. But now, the threat of climate change has raised the stakes higher than ever. I am convinced that if we fail to mobilize the strength of our class in battle soon the future of humanity will be bleak indeed. But, conversely, if we do get our act together for class and climate justice no force on Earth can stop us.”

Winter Of Our Discontent

I imagine we all have a relative or neighbor who is a global warming denier. During particularly harsh cold spells, such as the one that began in North America in October, they can become insufferable.

They gleefully point to more than 200 inches of snow in northern California; once in a generation big snows in normally rainy Seattle; an Amtrak train bogged down for forty hours in Oregon snow drifts; bizarre snow in Las Vegas, Palm Springs, and Malibu; the Russian River that carries mountain snow melt in to the Pacific peaked at its highest level in a quarter-century, flooding more than 2,000 homes and businesses. The cheerful deniers are fond of saying—“sounds like global cooling to me.”

A tweet from the twit in the White House ended with “Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!” Trump’s latest Science Advisor appointment—a physicist at Princeton—calls climate science a “cult.” He also has a peculiar fetish about carbon dioxide.

Of course, these recent examples I’ve cited are mainly weather episodes, not climate. The NASA website explains, “The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere behaves over relatively long periods of time.”

Most would agree that 24 years is a relatively long period. The planet-wide average temperature has risen in 22 of the last 24 years.

Local television meteorologists usually report on weather disasters—but are discouraged by their employers from mentioning any possible connection with climate change.

Many local cable TV systems offer BBC news where viewers would have learned that the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution has enjoyed 70F temperatures this winter–but are also being punished by the same kind of wildfires that have plagued California for years.

Acting Your Age

Though younger than Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, at age 76 I’m not likely to see the decisive battles that will determine the future of human civilization. But I’m encouraged by a group of elementary and high school students who have filed a class action lawsuit against the U.S. government for destroying the biosphere needed to sustain our species. CBS Sixty Minutes recently covered Juliana V United States.

But many young persons have chosen the venue of the streets rather than the courts in pursuit of climate justice. An AFP dispatch from Oslo begins,

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish school girl climate campaigner who has inspired worldwide protests, should be awarded this year’s Nobel Peace prize, Norwegian lawmakers said Thursday. ‘We have proposed Greta Thunberg because if we do nothing to halt climate change it will be the cause of wars, conflict and refugees,’ Norwegian Socialist MP Freddy Andre Ovstegard told AFP.”

Greta just turned 16. Yesterday (Friday 3/15) hundreds of thousands of students on every inhabited continent responded to Greta’s call to boycott classes and instead join in climate demonstrations.

A New New Deal?

A Chicago friend whose opinions I respect, and suggestions I usually accept, urged me not to get in to a historical polemic against FDR’s 1930s “New Deal” while evaluating the most recent incarnation of a Green New Deal.

I raise the question only because the authors of the GND congressional resolution give equal credit for recovery from the Great Depression to the earlier New Deal as well as armament production for World War II. The truth is that mass unemployment persisted throughout the New Deal and ended only when the government essentially took charge of the war economy.

The editorial board of the New York Times published a piece titled“The Green New Deal Is Better Than Our Climate Nightmare.” But better than a nightmare seems faint praise indeed. The Times liked many of the climate-specific proposals but seemed to resent inclusion of what some call “extraneous” issues like health care, housing, employment, education, minimum wage, taxes, etc.

For nearly thirty years there have been multinational efforts to integrate climate measures in to the capitalist marketplace—carbon price; carbon tax; carbon offsets. Sister Greta has a greater sense of alarm and urges that we treat the Earth “like a house on fire—because it is.”

To achieve massive reductions in greenhouse emissions by 2030—a no nonsense deadline for avoiding irreversible climate catastrophe down the road—means more than switching to zero emission fuel.

Actually that enormous task is the easy part. Clean renewable energy is available free of charge wherever the sun shines, winds blow, water flows. Breakthroughs in batteries make it possible to store electricity offline, adding it to the grid as needed.

Not By Energy Alone

A 100 percent clean renewable grid is achievable now. More of a challenge is replacing the cars, trucks, planes, boats, buses and trains currently relying on fossil fuels. We need to supplant chemical agriculture with organic farming. And perhaps the most difficult adjustment—halt and reverse Urban Sprawl.

I had projected two articles on the Green New Deal but I feel it is necessary to add a third—at no Extra charge.

In Brief…

  • New Boss Couldn’t Railroad Take-Backs–A union I was proud to belong in the 70-80s—the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers—has apparently fought their last battle with General Electric. GE is in the process of getting out of manufacturing in the USA. The last plant covered by the GE-UE national contract—the big locomotive works in Erie, Pennsylvania—has “merged” in to Wabtec. The new management demanded a new give-back contract. The union responded with strong strike which led to a ninety-day back to work agreement under current conditions while negotiations continue.

  • Keeping Public Service Public—I don’t know how many readers live in North Kansas City Ward 1. I generally don’t endorse candidates in local elections with no party designation but I’m making an exception for Anthony Saper. We’ve been friends for over a half-century but we’ve also collaborated on union activity in ATU 1287 and Labor Party efforts. Tony is focusing on the fight against privatization and has been endorsed by FireFighters Local 42.

That’s all for this week

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KC Labor–Since March 8 2000, Online For Class and Climate Justice

 Week In Review  Comments Off on KC Labor–Since March 8 2000, Online For Class and Climate Justice
Feb 202019

Week In Review 2-Part Extra–‘Green New Deal’

by Bill Onasch

From Little Ice Age to Global Warming

A recent poll conducted by Yale revealedgrowing numbers (73 percent) of Americans now accept that global warming is real. While that is a small step forward, only 62 percent believe warming is driven by human activity. The fall-back position of the ruling class, who can no longer successfully promote denial, is that nothing can be done about “natural” climate change.

Natural climate change, triggered by collision with a rogue asteroid 66 million years ago, led to extinction of three quarters of species while creating the biosphere suitable for humans. We are still vulnerable to wayward asteroids. We know it is inevitable that some day the Sun will go nova and then dark—though probably not for millions of years.

There’s nothing we can do about such cosmic threats. But if we move boldly enough and soon enough we still have a chance to stop pernicious global warming that is part and parcel of global capitalism.


This is not the first time that humans have altered climate. New research offers a macabre explanation of the once puzzling Little Ice Age, from the 15th to 18th centuries. Oliver Milman writes in the Guardian, “European colonization of the Americas resulted in the killing of so many native people that it transformed the environment and caused the Earth’s climate to cool down…”

Ninety percent of the indigenous population of the Western Hemisphere were killed either through occupier violence or European diseases for which they had no immunity. There were 56 million indigenous deaths by 1600. That’s about three times the military fatalities on all sides during World War I. It took many decades of slave trade and colonization to rebuild population levels in the “New World.”

By the end of the 19th century scientists already understood that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels were collecting in what came to be called a greenhouse belt in the upper atmosphere. Heat that would normally dissipate in to Space was being trapped in the human biosphere. While the pioneer scientists understood the danger this threatened they believed it was so gradual that there was no need for urgency, that it could be tackled over generations.

Renewed Interest

Science attention to climate was diverted by two World Wars sandwiched around a global Great Depression. In the postwar period some scientists—mostly employed by fossil fuel and auto industries—took a fresh look at the greenhouse effect. The corporate scientists were muzzled by their employers—who also had considerable influence in academic science.

The first most Americans heard about global warming came in 1988 when NASA scientist James Hansen—who came to earn the honorary title of Dean of U.S. Climate Scientists—testified before a Senate committee. The energy capitalists soon hired their own scientists to denounce climate change as job-killing junk science. It has taken over three decades to overcome the anti-science of the capitalists. And much irreversible ecological damage has been done over those years.

An Inconvenient Truth

At least one Senator was able to follow Hansen’s testimony. Al Gore had done some post-grad work on the topic. After becoming Bill Clinton’s Vice-President Gore became a

the top U.S. representative on UN climate bodies and treaty negotiations.

Gore played a decisive role at the adoption of the first climate treaty—the 1997 Kyoto Protocol now folded in to the Paris Accord. Everybody recognized it was crucial to get the world’s biggest economy—and at that time the biggest greenhouse polluter—on board. Gore was granted veto power over conference proposals—but had no such authority with his boss in the White House. Even though the delegates accepted all of the U.S. demands, Clinton never submitted the treaty to the Senate.

Gore received the most votes for President in 2000 but a Republican dominated Supreme Court awarded the disputed count in Florida to Bush II giving him an edge in the Electoral College. To his credit, once Gore accepted he was never going to be President he did tackle educating the public about climate change, especially through a book and film of the same title—An Inconvenient Truth. But while a good educator on basic climate science Gore believes the Stock Markets will straighten things out.

No one expected the oilmen Bush/Cheney to do anything positive about climate change—and nobody was surprised. What is remarkable is the expectation that Bush’s successor would be a “green” President—a fallacy still maintained by most leaders of the climate/environmental movements. Let’s review just the environmental low-lights of Obama’s eight years.

> The 2009 UN climate conference in Copenhagen was the first on Obama’s watch. Negotiations appeared to be close for the first meaningful agreement since Kyoto. But then Obama, in the vicinity to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize, showed up unexpected. He insisted on starting over again as he haggled with China and others. The upshot was that nothing new was accomplished.

> Obama was the fracking President. He could brag that he made America the biggest producer of oil and gas in the world. Big release of methane, fiery train wrecks, and a few earthquakes was considered a small price to pay for leaping from energy dependent to energy exporter. Fracking more than canceled out the benefits of more use of wind and solar energy.

> Obama came up with some slight of hand tricks to boost his legacy and deliver a pledge at the Paris conference. He could claim the benefit of cheap fracked gas replacing coal in power plants, while calling on states to develop their own regional emissions quotas and carbon taxes.

> Nearly all of Obama’s piddly green reforms were done through Executive Orders. What can be decreed with a pen can be repealed with a pencil. The current climate change denier occupying the Oval Office is himself fond or exec orders and proud of his calligraphy at the bottom.

In 2016 most climate activists rallied around the campaign of Bernie Sanders who calls himself a socialist but caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate and has now announced his second attempt to be the Donkey nominee for President. Sanders delegates, with the advice of Bill McKibben, got a few green nuggets past the Clinton delegates but climate change got scant attention during the campaign.

Now, just weeks after the convening of this Congress, a Green New Deal has been introduced in both houses of Congress. Neither the concept nor the name is new. The Green Party has used both before and still has resolutions and motivation on the website. But there are some new twists in the latest Democrat offering that deserve attention. I’ll continue this narrative, doctors permitting, next week.

That’s all for this week.

Good & Welfare

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