Sunday, June 14, 2015

Inequality, Global Warming and the Western Drought

It seems to me highly likely that the capitalist elite, the wealthy owners and controllers of large energy corporations such as the oil companies and people like the Koch brothers know full-well that global warming is real, that it is propelled by human carbon emissions, and its negative consequences like heat extremes, drought, rising oceans and severe weather extremes are real as well.  These are intelligent people, they have to be to manage their huge corporate and financial empires. They are certainly at least as intelligent as U.S. military leaders who have been convinced for years that the most significant security problem facing the U.S. in the long term is climate change.
A report released by the Pentagon in 2014 indicated that "Department of Defense has dramatically shifted its views towards climate change, and has already begun to treat the phenomenon as a significant threat to national security. Climate change, the Pentagon writes, requires immediate action on the part of the U.S. Military."
After all the Koch brothers were one of several funders of Berkeley physicist Richard Muller's Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project. Muller initially a climate skeptic began the project expecting to debunk climate science and instead came away a convert, declaring publicly that the climate science data not only showed that the earth had warmed and was continuing to warm for the foreseeable future, but that the only reasonable explanation for the warming was human carbon dioxide emissions. By providing funding for Muller's research the Koch brothers obviously considered him a scientist with a good reputation whose work would be respected.

However, unlike the military the wealthy leadership of the fossil fuel energy industry are publicly doubling down on climate change denial, and investing huge amounts of money into a efforts to convince the American public that global warming is a hoax; all while raking in enormous profits from the fossil fuel economy.

The most logical explanation it seemed to me was that the wealthy whole-heartedly believed that their wealth would exempt them from any consequences of climate change. Their approach seemed to be scrounge every bit of profit from the sinking ship and then abandon it and retreat to some protected, gated, isolated community cushioned by their wealth, while the rest of humanity dealt with the problems created.

So I felt vindicated to discover that this kind of thinking about environmental crises does in fact exist among the wealthy.  From yesterday's Washington Post an article datelined Rancho Santa Fe, California quotes from wealthy residents (owners of $30+ million dollar estates) that their wealth exempts them from water rationing. The basic sentiment expressed by some of the wealthy in Rancho Santa Fe which is the only community in its region to increase water usage while other communities are cutting back, is that if we can afford to pay for it we should have it, because the "should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful." ( Yes, it is more important for the wealthy to have green lawns than it is for the farmers to have enough water for their crops. The economy of the state, the solvency of the farmers, the jobs of the region, even the cost of food for the rest of the country is not as important as green lawns.