Planet Watch
Chiquitania

Podcast: climate change and the global struggle III

In Episode 151 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes a tellingly ironic juxtaposition of simultaneous news stories: the COP27 global climate summit in Egypt and the World Cup games in Qatar—where mega-scale stadium air-conditioning betrays the fundamental unseriousness of our civilization in addressing the impending climate apocalypse. The COP27 agreement for a “loss and damage” fund stopped short of demands for climate reparations—a critical question for island nations that stand to disappear beneath the waves, flood-devastated Pakistan, and indigenous peoples of the fire-ravaged Bolivian Amazon. Petro powers like Russia and Saudi Arabia formed a bloc to bar any progress on limiting further expansion of oil and gas exploitation, while the Ukrainian delegation called for a boycott of Moscow’s hydrocarbons, and pointed to the massive ecological toll of Russia’s war of aggression. Meanwhile, the world population reached 8 billion, providing an excuse for groups like PopulationMatters to proffer the Malthusian fallacy even as the rate of population growth is actually slowing. Worldwide indigenous and peasant resistance to hydrocarbon exploitation points to a revolutionary answer to the crisis. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Bolivian campesino volunteer fire-fighter. Credit: Claudia Belaunde via Mongabay)

Planet Watch
Chad

Podcast: climate change and the global struggle II

In Episode 147 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the recent statement from the UN Environment Program that “only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster.” Studies from similarly prestigious global bodies have raised the prospect of imminent human extinction. An International Energy Agency report released last year warned that new fossil fuel exploration needed to halt by 2022 in order to keep warming within the limits set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. Adoption of new technologies and emissions standards does mean that CO2 emissions from energy generation (at least) are likely to peak by 2025. But the IEA finds that this would still lead to global temperatures rising by 2.5 C above pre-industrial levels by century’s end—exceeding the Paris Agreement limits, with catastrophic climate impacts. And the catastrophic impacts, already felt in places like Chad and Cameroon, win but scarce media coverage. Climate-related conflict has already escalated to genocide in Darfur. Climate protests in Europe—at oil terminals and car shows (as well as, less appropriately, museums)—do win some attention. But the ongoing resistance to oil mega-projects in places like Uganda and Tanzania are comparatively invisible to the outside world. The dire warnings from the UN and IEA raise the imperative for a globalized resistance with an explicitly anti-capitalist politics. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo of Tantaverom region of Chad via UNDP)

Planet Watch
air pollution

UN: no ‘credible pathway’ to Paris climate goals

There is “no credible pathway to 1.5C in place” today, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) states in its new Emissions Gap Report 2022, despite legally binding promises made at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference to prevent average temperatures rising by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. “This report tells us in cold scientific terms what nature has been telling us all year, through deadly floods, storms and raging fires: we have to stop filling our atmosphere with greenhouse gases, and stop doing it fast,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP. “We had our chance to make incremental changes, but that time is over. Only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster.” (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)

Planet Watch
Chernobyl

Podcast: Chernobyl and nuclear fear in Ukraine

In Episode 121 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the grim irony that on the week of International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day, Russian regime and state media figures issued blatant threats to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war. This follows criminal recklessness by Russian forces at the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhya nuclear plants, which itself constituted an escalation on the ladder of nuclear terror. These events clearly illustrates how nuclear power and weapons constitute a single unified threat, and make imperative our deconstruction the industry propaganda about how the “no safe dose” dictum is now obsolete (no, it isn’t, actually), and sophistries such as the “Banana Equivalent Dose.” Amid the relentless plans to revive the nuclear industry in US, China is undertaking a major thrust of nuclear development, with similar plans afoot in France. And this as economies are increasingly based on energy-intensive and socially oppressive activities like “crypto-mining.” Nonetheless, respectable environmentalists now advocate a continuance of reliance on nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels. But their assumptions are predicated on the continuance of dystopian “normality“—exactly what needs to be challenged. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Planet Watch
Verizon

Podcast: against ‘normalcy’ III

In Episode 107 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues his rant against the ubiquitous propaganda that normalizes the oppressive and dystopian pre-pandemic normality—or, as it is now incorrectly rendered, “normalcy” (sic). The opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by 2020’s pandemic-induced economic paralysis is now being squandered. The fashionable COVID denialism of the anti-vaxxers is ironically complicit in the actual crimes of the pharmaceutical industry, such as the instating of a “vaccine apartheid“—failing to make the vaccine available to Africa and the much of the Global South. Just at the moment that socialist ideas are being legitimized in mainstream discourse again, the drum-beat for “normalcy” (sic) means less pressure for an urgently mandated public expropriation of corporate cyber-overlords such as Verizon, as well as Big Pharma and Big Oil. Meanwhile, consumerist and technocratic pseudo-solutions, such as the bogus notion of reducing one’s personal “carbon footprint,” obscure the systemic nature of the problem. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: IBEW)

Planet Watch
anthropocene

Glasgow: ‘climate-vulnerable’ protest ‘compromise’ pact

The COP26 UN climate summit concluded a deal among the 196 parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement on long-delayed implementation measures. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the deal a “compromise,” and indeed it was saved through eleventh-hour haggling over the wording. Just minutes before the final decision on the text of the Glasgow Climate Pact, India, backed by fellow major coal-producer China, demanded weaker language on coal, with the original call for a “phase-out” softened to “phase-down.” And even this applies only to “unabated” coal, with an exemption for coal burned with carbon capture and storage technology—a technofix being aggressively pushed by Exxon and other fossil fuel giants, in a propaganda blitz clearly timed for the Glasgow summit. Another corporate-backed fix that allows polluters to go on polluting was also embraced at Glasgow: the pact calls for establishment of a global carbon-trading market in 2023. (Photo: CounterVortex)

Planet Watch
extinction rebellion

Podcast: anarchism and the climate crisis

With the inauspicious opening of the Glasgow climate conference, activists around the world are increasingly looking to local action as an alternative to the moribund United Nations process on addressing what has been called a “Code Red for humanity.” In Episode 95 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the ideas of Social Ecology and radical municipalism, developed by the late Vermont anarchist thinker Murray Bookchin, and how they provide a theoretical framework for localities struggling to lead from below on the climate question. Examples discussed include the Zapatistas in Chiapas, the Rojava Kurds in Syria, and the community gardens and ongoing struggles for reclaimed urban space on New York’s Lower East Side. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: East River Park Action)

Planet Watch
Arenal

Denmark, Costa Rica to launch no-fossil-fuel bloc

Denmark and Costa Rica jointly announced that they are launching an alliance of nations committed to setting a firm date to completely phase out use and production of fossil fuels. The two countries hope to present the initiative, tentatively dubbed the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance (BOGA), at the upcoming UN climate summit in Glasgow. Nearly 60 countries have made some sort of net zero emissions pledge, but only a handful of those have actually set a target in law or enacted bans on new fossil fuel exploration and production. An International Energy Agency report released earlier this year found that new fossil fuel exploration needs to halt by 2022 in order to keep warming within the limits set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. (Photo: Flickr/photodiscoveries via weather2travel.com)

The Amazon
Amazon Fires

Brazil’s Amazon is now a net carbon source: study

The Amazon has long played a vital role in balancing the global carbon budget, but new evidence suggests the climate scales are tipping in the world’s largest rainforest. Now, according to a study published in Nature, the Brazilian Amazon is emitting more carbon than it captures. Southeastern Amazonia, in particular, switched from being a carbon sink to a carbon source during the study period. Emissions were high in 2010, when the study began, because of a dry El Niño year, and researchers expected to see emissions return to normal afterward. But this never happened. The reason: emissions from forest fires—which have accelerated dramatically under President Jair Bolsonaro. (Photo via Mongabay)

Planet Watch
Innu

Innu Nation sues Hydro-Quebec

The Innu Nation of Labrador announced that it is seeking $4 billion in damages from Hydro-Quebec over its mega-dam on the Upper Churchill River. The suit, filed in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland & Labrador, seeks compensation for the theft of ancestral Innu land to build the Churchill Falls hydro-electric project, leading to devastation of their community’s culture and way of life. “The impact of Churchill Falls has been felt across generations of Innu,” said Grand Chief Etienne Rich. He charged that Hydro-Quebec and the provincial utility in Newfoundland, now called Nalcor Energy, “stole our land and flooded it in order to take advantage of the enormous hydro potential of the Churchill Falls. This project was undertaken without consulting us and without our consent.” New York City is pinning many of its hopes to cut carbon emissions on imported Canadian hydropower, but environmentalist opponents point to the impact of planned hydro projects on indigenous lands. (Image: Innu Nation)

Planet Watch
Cumbre de los Pueblos

Madrid climate talks a total bust

Nearly half a million demonstrators gathered in Madrid as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) opened more than two weeks ago, with young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg the star of the show at a mass rally. But despite being the longest climate summit yet, the affair ultimately amounted to little. Nearly 27,000 delegates came together with the supposed aim of finalizing the “rulebook” of the Paris Agreement, which is to officially take effect in 2020—settling mechanisms for international cooperation under Article 6 of the deal. But, unable to agree on terms, delegates finally invoked “Rule 16” of the climate process—allowing them to put off the critical decisions for another year. This means there will have been no progress when COP26 is convened in Glasgow in November 2020. UN Secretary General AntĂłnio Guterres tweeted that he was “disappointed” with the results of COP25, and that “the international community lost an important opportunity.” (Photo: Global Justice Ecology Project)