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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