Obama’s plan for the climate: Greenwash our way into oblivion

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project


Image captured from The Weather Channel

At 1:45 today, President Obama announced his new Climate Action Plan in a nationally televised speech.

He described the emerging climate crisis and its impacts–both past, present and future, while be suffered the heat of an abnormally warm June day in Washington, DC. His arguments for climate action were compelling and hard to argue with.  Unfortunately his actions do not match his words.

Unlike Bill McKibben, I do not believe that “the solutions agenda [Obama has] begun to advance moves the country in a sane direction.” (Did you read the actual Climate Action Plan, Bill?!?)  No, what I read in Obama’s Action Plan was a rehashing of the same old dangerous false solutions that many of us have been fighting for years and years.  But what’s really criminal is that even though Obama clearly understands both the science and implications of climate change, he still pushes an agenda that will drive us all over the climate cliff.

First the plan’s “Case for Action” reiterates Obama’s pledge to decrease carbon emissions by a paltry 17% below 2005 levels by 2020–but only if all other major economies agree to do so as well. Climate scientists are not calling for 17% reductions by 2020. In fact, countries like the US need to reduce our emissions by 80-90%.  And not in seven years, but immediately.  Last year preferably.

The main takeaway from Obama’s greenwashed nonsense? We can continue our unsustainable way of life indefinitely with just a few key tweaks.

“Deploy Clean Energy.” Ain’t nothin’ clean about this.  Obama’s “clean energy” plan includes more fracking, more oil, more nukes, more biofuels and “clean coal.”  Yes, Obama wants to stop climate change by screwing over rural communities through promotion of more hydrofracking and increased natural gas exports; expanding domestic oil production–including the hellish Bakken shale oil fields (but don’t worry, it will be clean Bakken oil­–no really, that’s in there); devoting more land to growing feedstocks for plant-based liquid fuels (i.e. less land for biodiversity, growing food or for peasant communities to survive on); protecting forests that store carbon while cutting down trees to burn for electricity production; building more nuclear power plants (apparently never heard of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima); and maintaining the fantasy of that wonderful oxymoron “clean coal.” Sane direction?

Spur Investment in Advanced Fossil Energy Projects. Like “clean” coal, we can burn our fossil fuels and stop climate change too!

Maintain Agricultural Sustainability. For this one, Obama wants us to trust the vehemently pro-GMO US Department of Agriculture to “deliver tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.”  ‘Climate ready’ GMO crops anyone?

Negotiate Global Free Trade in Environmental Goods and Services. Right, cuz global free trade has served biodiversity, ecosystems and the 99% so well!

But the most ludicrous item is the last on the menu: “Leading efforts to address climate change through international negotiations.”  (I know, I know, stop laughing)

This section excels in Orwellian newspeak. It highlights the disastrous 2009 UN Copenhagen Climate Conference as “historic progress,” and insists that the secretly negotiated Copenhagen Accord (that was booed even by reporters when Obama announced it late in the negotiations) was a breakthrough in developing “a new regime of international transparency.” Omitted is the fact that this Accord was never actually consensed upon, but merely “noted” by the official body.  Well history is “his story” after all…

The section goes on to trumpet the accomplishments of the equally disastrous UN Climate Conference in Durban in 2011–about which Nature Magazine wrote “It is clear that the science of climate change and the politics of climate change, now inhabit parallel worlds.”

Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International similarly condemned Durban’s outcomes, “developed countries, led by the US, accelerated the demolition of the world’s international framework for fair and urgent climate action. And developing countries have been bullied and forced into accepting an agreement that could be a suicide pill for the world. An increase in global temperatures of four degrees Celsius, permitted under this plan, is a death sentence for Africa, small island states, and the poor and vulnerable worldwide. This summit has amplified climate apartheid whereby the richest 1% of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%.”

But Obama’s Climate Action Plan insists Durban was “a breakthrough”–because countries agreed to come up with some kind of new climate agreement that would not go into force until 2020.

Gee, guess who won’t be in office anymore in 2020…

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, Copenhagen/COP-15, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing, Oil, Pollution, Posts from Anne Petermann, UNFCCC

0 Responses to Obama’s plan for the climate: Greenwash our way into oblivion

  1. Ms. Petermann,

    The human species has zero probability of VOLUNTARILY “cutting our consumption of energy and various “stuff” by 80-90% “. The story of civilization is an undeviating drive for more comfort, security, and wealth. We have become perhaps a changed species, Homo Econimicus, in pursuit of those ends.
    External limits, probably famine, but maybe pestilence or war, will eventually correct the situation. In the meantime, we’ve got to avoid wrecking the biosphere, in order to give human descendants the chance to start over.
    They won’t even be able to try to start over if the planet warms by 6 deg C, the most likely value under scenario A1FI – the current scenario – in the IPCC’s Assessment Report 4 of 2007.
    Our only alternative is to hold the temperature down until one of the above horsemen comes along. Dire, cruel, but real.

  2. Either we will figure out ourselves how to transform our society to one that lives in harmony with the Earth–i.e. by cutting our consumption of energy and various “stuff” by 80-90% or the planet will become uninhabitable for life as we know it and we will be forced to piece together a life that will be decidedly unpleasant. You’re right, there are no good choices while we are so massively over-consuming. But pushing more fracking, shale oil, bioenergy, nukes and coal burning will only get us to the end of our collective rope that much faster. Time to get serious about real action for real change.

  3. F.Tnioli

    Say, this Obama’s climate action plan was televised for all to see and hear, wasn’t it. This makes me think that this plan is not actual plan at all – and thus, that the author of this blog entry is doing something quite similar to what Don Quixote did, if you know what i mean. 🙂

    Lemme explain.

    Best to use an example. A while ago, tsunami and earthquake in Japan did massive damage to Fukushima nuclear power plant. 20 (or was it 30?) -mile zone was evacuated. Clearly, the event was threatening lives and health of hundreds thousands, possibly millions people. Now think, when this regional catastrophe was developing, were people said about _how_ specialists will be restoring electric power? About _how_ they are cooling down molten cores and spent-fuel pools? About _what_ exactly all the possible dangers are? Nope, when the thing was going on, specialists were quite very silent. When one of reactors started to give massive smoke, or when hydrogen started to explode inside one of station’s units, it was a total surprise to the general public.

    And it had to be that way, really. Why? Because complex things cannot be helped by general public. If it takes a few square meters of high mathematics and engineering calculations to just estimate which solutions might work, and which won’t, when even specialists are not exactly sure about risks every at least relatively rational solution might bring, – making the public aware about all the details of such plans is really a bad idea. Because what good there will be if general public will go panic, or will go hoarding up resources which are too scarce for everyone to have a large pile of, or worst of all, if general public will start to _act_ in attempt to fix the situation? Note, the latter include terrorist attacks, huge amount of stupid ideas and erratic criticism (again, most of general public are NOT specialists, so they’ll have all kinds of silly, erratic, wrong ideas – and will push them!).

    I hope you see how this relates to Obama’s “climate action plan”.

    In short, i dare to think that the plan which was spoken by Obama – is NOT the actual plan, i.e. Obama’s administration, and forces which are backing it up from shadows, – won’t be acting according to this plan. Instead, they will be acting according to actual plan, which is quite very different. Bits and pieces of which one can already see in action, if one is paying attention.

    Such as, for a couple of years already, perhaps for more than a decade now, large amount of fine aerosols are being dispersed in the upper athmosphere (some 30000+ thousands feet) – in particular, aluminium oxides, and also certain silver- and barium-based compunds in relatively small amounts. Which results in “chemtrails”. And, while there is quite much nonsense and exagerration about it in public internet, there is much worthy information on the subject also. Chemtrails – additional dimming – is dirty, temporary, and definitely only so-much-effective solution, which works only for certain aspects of global warming – however, it works indeed, buying more time for all (both 1% and 99%) to live.

    Because the thing is, 1% definitely doesn’t want 99% to perish. 99% is the very source of 1%’s wealth, well-being, luxuries and special freedoms. Remove 99%, and remaining 1% will inevitably devide itself in similar, – if not the same, – proportion; some 1…3% will be “new masters”, and the rest 97…99% – will be “new poor and working”. And, those 1…3% who’d remain “masters”, – would also suffer, as level of services, goods, technologies and extent of special freedoms would inevitably fall dramatically – since 70M humans cannot do, physically, as much as 7 billions of people do.

    And then, even if 1% – the elites, – would indeed want to sacrifice 99%, – they can’t. Why? Because of ties, very strong ties – ones which exist between every particular big “owner” of things – and things themselves. Say, imagine you own a big factory, which makes cables – i mean, telephone cables, computer network cables, electric power cables, all sorts of. Now, imagine you got an order “from the top”, which demands you fire 90% – or perhaps indeed 99% – of your personnel. Would you comply? Hell no – it’ll ruin your _business_ completely. It’ll ruin your _profits_. Same for killing all the poor folks, too – it’ll ruin profits. Can’t do! Do you see now? Whole world is like that: many, if not most, of the poor, – are quite required parts in “generating profit!” structures, and each and every such structure has an owner, and those owners will be greatly opposing any major cut in their own workforces. Together, they effectively guarantee that 1% won’t ever willingly sacrifice 99%.

    Does Obama lie with that _broadcasted_ plan of his? You bet, he does. But does it mean he’s NOT doing anything else? Nope, it doesn’t. We won’t be told how and why 1% tries to counter-act; we won’t see the real climate action plan of Obama’s administration. We won’t know how little or how much they can do about it.

    But at least, some of us can realize that hands of 1% – virtually speaking the “elites”, – are quite tied:
    – they can’t cut down emissions 80-90% like NOW – this will kill billions who depend on all that fossil fuel, because most of the food billions eat – is grown by burning fossil fuels (and there’s no other _easy_ way to implement quickly); they need fossils for their electricity (more that 80% of electricity in the world is still from burning fossils), and their transport, and home heating/conditioning, even their water (which is pumped and cleaned up mostly powered by fossil fuel burning);
    – they can’t quickly switch from fossil fuels to a cleaner power source, – fusion is still some 40+ years from being viable as industrial-scale power source (if ever at all), hydro power is near its limits while still at ~6% of total power generation, solar and wind can only be secondary power sources (on industrial scale) due to intermittency of those sources and practical impossibility of world-wide power grids (too much losses, and amount of matherials to build required – huge – transmission capacity – is prohibitive), geo-thermal gen.1 – is too weak (max potential ~0.5% of present world consumption), geo-thermal gen.2 is proven to be tectonically dangerous and thus won’t be implemented, wave power and tide power are too weak to be main source and also prohibitevely expensive in terms of matherials if built on such a scale. Bottom line – fossil fuel infrastructure, built during whole 20th century, remains the only possible power source to keep 7+ billions of humans alive;
    – they find themselves in a situation which is deteriorating seemingly “on its own” without any help from themselves: huge pressure exists from the 99% for more energy, more food, more clean water, more goods. This has nothing to do with economists or conspiracies – it’s simply the fact of life that almost every person is trying quite hard to have a better life tomorrow. When there are billions of people who do that – you get a huge pressure. Even compensating this pressure (so that net energy consumption would remain stable) – is very, very complex task, hard to achieve. Even slowing this growth by half – is extremely difficult. It’s in human nature to grow – first 20 years of man’s life physically, and the rest of his life – mentally (the latter quite often results in faster rise of personal energy consumption than the former);
    – they (the 1%) are a bit smarter, on average, than average Joe from 99% (otherwise they wouldn’t earn nor keep their fortunes) – however, they are still humans. Geniuses among them are about as rare as among general population. Given the complexity of the task (of keeping Earth’s climate from going totally nuts), and all kinds of lies and vested interests present, – many of them (of the 1%) end up genuinely confused about what’s real and what’s not. Plus, science itself is not crystal clear yet – to say the least.

    Given all i said above, i find it very wrong to be any sure whether mr. Obama deserves some appload or some blame for his speech which we discuss… Perhaps both, even? What i am sure about, though, is that author of this here article is wrong to be so judging. This is my personal opinion only, perhaps, it’s not entirely correct or even compeltely incorrect, even – i ain’t no God and i don’t know everything, of course.

    Best wishes.

  4. Pingback: Obama’s green agenda seen through Vermont eyes | Climate Connections

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  6. Ms. Petermann,

    Your passage

    ‘ Ain’t nothin’ clean about this. Obama’s “clean energy” plan includes more fracking, more oil, more nukes, more biofuels and “clean coal.” ‘

    begs the question: Then what do you consider clean?

    Wind, water and solar, while technologically elegant on a small scale, can never compete with hydrocarbon energy on price and reliability. Therefore they can’t displace carbon fuels in a capitalist economic structure, which values only price and reliability, not sustainability.

    Their inherent disadvantages are that they are dispersed and intermittent. To compensate for those disadvantages we must vastly overbuild peak capacity [about 4X overbuild for wind; about 6X overbuild for solar]*. And we must build storage, which carries us only for a few hours. Refer to the NREL 2012 study for estimated energy-storage carrying times.

    To price-displace fossil fuels will require a dense, transportable, always-on, baseload energy source, which is also clean. That means nuclear.

    Humanity is going to realize this eventually. The question is whether we will realize it in time to preserve the ecosphere. See http://www.dirkpublishing.com for technical explanation.

    * USA capacity factors: about 1/4 for wind (24%); about 1/6 for solar (17%).

  7. Reblogged this on ashley dawson and commented:
    Powerful indictment of Obama’s climate plan

  8. Reblogged this on Collapse of Industrial Civilization and commented:
    Here is the latest fast-shuffle con game on climate. Nothing in Obama’s energy plan will change our race to the climate cliff. Yes the future will be one of attrition and the last wealthiest man standing. Vested interests and corporate capitalism are deciding the fate of mankind and the habitability of the planet. Look for last ditch efforts of geoengineering as things spiral out of control.

    A couple new developments for this site. Brutus of The Spiral Staircase will be contributing his brilliant writing skills on occasion. Also, I have added a link to climate tracker and emerging threat expert, Robert Scribbler. He’s got his finger on the pulse of climate change and blogs on the latest details of climate chaos. I highly recommend reading his blog to get the latest information and overview on the subject.