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Monday, December 09, 2019

Climate Change

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If we were to lose the bees, as now seems increasingly likely, humanity would collapse after four years. They pollinate about a third of our food. But if the insects were to disappear altogether, then even more than our food supply and quality of life would be affected. Entire ecosystems and inevitably civilization itself would collapse. Even now an enormous proportion of world insect species are endangered. Without them half of all birds would disappear and our world would become unrecognizable, a world we would not want to inhabit.

We have visited the Monarch butterfly sanctuary in Michoacan, Mexico, where the butterflies arrive after a 3000-mile journey from Canada through the United States in the longest insect migration on earth. To see the butterflies engaged in their aerial acrobatic flights is one of the world’s great spectacles. Everyone in North America should be concerned that the population of this unique iconic species has dropped by 80 percent in the last generation due to habitat destruction – and to genetically engineered crops which have been modified to resist Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide which destroys the Monarch species’ main food supply.

Spellbound by the numbers and huddled masses of the Monarchs we beheld in the oyamel forests over 16 years ago, we left the refuge very slowly. Local rangers made sure no-one drove more than five miles an hour so that not a single monarch would be hurt or hit by our vehicle. Yet all the while, in the United States our agricultural policies are committing mass murder of one of nature’s most exquisite species .

But it is not just the Monarch Butterfly that is threatened. Many bee species and nearly half of all insects have seen their numbers drop worldwide. As climate change exacerbates the destruction of their habitat, insects and fauna of all kinds face a very uncertain future. The United States still permits the use of 72 pesticides that are outright banned or will soon be in Europe, Brazil, and even China. More than 300 million pounds of pesticides banned in other countries are used in this country annually, in a military-type assault on agricultural lands. The banning of these pesticides will be largely up to the very industries that use them, but the people need to make their voices known. Until these chemicals are outlawed, we are committing ecocide on our own lands.

These chemical can also kill human beings, of course. The glyphosate-based weedkiller in Roundup has finally been brought to justice in the first cancer trial exposing that pesticide’s effect. After using the Monsanto insecticide, a farmer named DeWayne Johnson got non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a deadly form of cancer. Now Monsanto will have to pay $289 million in damages to Johnson. The only hitch is that he will probably not survive much longer.

Monsanto has allegedly concealed the facts about Roundup ever since its introduction on the market in 1974. Since then over 1.6 billion kilograms of glyphosate have been distributed over the American food supply – and over the past 20 years, the average amount of glyphosate assimilated into humans has increased by 1000 percent. The Johnson lawsuit only begins to reflect the damage done to the environment and people, with 8000 additional plaintiffs awaiting trial.

Anyone who believes they can escape the ill effects of pesticides should realize that breakfast cereals also contain glyphosate – and the average American consumes 10 pounds of cereal every year. The Lucky Charms leprechaun and that jolly Quaker fellow on the oatmeal box should be replaced with a death’s head. Too little and too late, the Environmental Protection Agency is reconsidering the impact of glyphosate and Roundup on human health and the environment, including the Monarch butterfly habitats. But the World Health Organization has determined already that glyphosphate is a deadly carcinogen.

Farmers have been using glyphosphate on crops at the time of harvest, incuding peas, carrots, soy products, sweet potatoes, corn, almonds, quinoa, and others. The impact on the body’s biochemistry, especially as it pertains to inflammation and the gut is substantial. We are all being affected.

Critically endangered species are being harmed by pesticides and herbicides daily, as is our vulnerable topsoil. Retailers such as Home Depot need to be persuaded to stop supplying Roundup before our food system crashes. In this time of extreme climate change, the last thing we need is to lose the insects, those very beings we have taken granted for millennia.

In Europe, regulators have taken a far tougher position on pesticides. France has been careful to ban five neonicotinoid chemicals from agricultural use because they are known to wreak havoc on pollinating bees. Europe’s top court ruled that the chemicals posed a “serious risk to human or animal health or to the environment.”

The United Nations has issued an alert that half of pollinators, bees and butterflies included, are at immediate risk of disappearing forever. Worsening floods, drought, and serious climate disruption are occurring already. If we don’t reverse course, we will have poisoned the very foundation of this country, its soil. Without the soil there can be no civilization. In the corn belt, America has already lost half of its topsoil. By 2050, as much as 75 percent of the world will be suffering from drought.

Global famine is just around the corner if we don’t save the insects by adopting sustainable farming methods. The industrial use of pesticides is eliminating the insects we depend on and will eventually undermine the viability of our species. The insects, those tiny creatures that uphold the world, have warned us.

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President Joe Biden

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Right-wing media are expressing outrage that President Joe Biden mentioned climate change during his September 21 speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

Biden’s nearly-30 minute speech, which focused mainly on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, also included calls for global cooperation on important issues including food insecurity, human rights, and climate change. The climate part of his speech lasted roughly 3 minutes and included celebrating the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. He also touched on recent climate disasters and the need for global emissions reductions, as well as promising billions of dollars in international climate finance.

Despite the relatively modest amount of time he spent on climate change, many in right-wing media were outraged that he even mentioned climate at all. Their comments included climate denial and falsehoods about the importance of climate change to the global community.

Right-wing media falsely claimed that the global population doesn’t care about climate change

Climate change is a serious concern around the world. For example, a January 2021 survey found that a majority of people around the globe want greater climate action. And a September 2021 Pew poll found that the world’s population increasingly views climate change as a personal threat. In August of this year, another Pew survey found that a “median of 75% across 19 countries in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region label global climate change as a major threat.”

Additionally, people from the global south — those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis but disproportionately suffer its effects — are often some of the loudest voices for climate action. Around the same time that Biden gave his UN speech, indigenous peoples from around the world were protesting in New York for climate justice. The president of Kenya made climate change a key part of his UN speech, and the prime minister of Pakistan, a country that has seen over 30 million displaced due to climate-fueled monsoon flooding, thanked Biden for “highlighting the plight of the flood victims.”

Climate change and poverty, meanwhile, are inextricably linked, as are climate change and global hunger. These facts, however, were still not enough to convince right-wing commentators in the U.S. that climate change is a significant threat to the global population.

For example, on the September 22 edition of Newsmax’s Wake Up America, host Rob Finnerty stated that “there's 193 sovereign nations in that room right there. … And nobody cared about that part of the speech. They needed a lot more from the American president, with everything going on in the world right now, and they get climate change.”

On Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy insinuated that people living in poverty don’t care about climate change, stating, “Suddenly he’s talking about climate change. And, you know, there are 675 million people living in poverty around the world. And for the president of the United States to be talking about climate change rather than trying to figure out a way to feed them.”

Doocy also entirely missed the fact that Biden did discuss food in his speech; he mentioned the term “food insecurity” 6 times, while also mentioning “feeding the world.”

The editorial board of the right-wing New York Postalso claimed that the world's poor don’t care about climate change. They referred to climate change as part of a “laundry list of left-liberal shout-outs,” before writing that the speech focused “on climate change, which Biden claimed lists first among the ‘challenges that matter most to people’s lives.’ The planet’s 674 million people living in abject poverty don’t agree, Joe.”

Right-wing media also dipped into one of their favorite overused talking points when it comes to climate change: U.S. action is worthless because China is the biggest polluter

There were also criticisms claiming China does not care about climate change. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade remarked about Biden’s climate comments that “climate change is unbelievable. The fact is that China could not care less.” On Wake Up America, The Daily Caller’s Briana Lyman took this China criticism a step further, stating that if “you want to talk about climate change, then you need to talk about China because China is responsible for more than double the emissions of the United States. … I think it's a dereliction of duty when he doesn't tie China and climate change together.”

Kilmeade’s comments ignore the fact that China is by far the largest market for clean energy in the world, and that its pledge to become carbon neutral by 2060 came about a year before the U.S. passed major climate legislation. Yes, its coal plants (and emissions) are a huge problem, but to say that the country doesn’t care about climate change (especially when an unprecedented heat wave just hit the country) is absurd.

Regarding Lyman’s comments, Biden did mention that the United States “will work with every nation, including our competitors, to solve global problems like climate change.” Immediately after this, he referenced China and said the U.S. will not seek out conflict with them.

Lyman also touched on a longtimeright-wing trope about climate change: that countries like China are the problem because they currently emit the most carbon, and because of this, it’s foolish to think that the U.S. should act on climate change. But the United States is the largest historical emitter; per capita emissions in the U.S. vastly outweigh those of China; and many of our products are manufactured in China.

Solely blaming China while absolving the U.S. for its own pollution problems and its outsized role in spreading climate denial does nothing for solving climate change in the long run.

Right-wing media also exaggerated the time Biden spent talking about climate change, and they threw in some good-old-fashioned climate denial

Three minutes out of 30 is arguably not enough time to devote to a problem that has led to a summer of destructive extreme weather across the globe. But it was still enough to annoy right-wing media figures.

Again on Wake Up America, host Rob Finnerty stated that “the president spent a lot of time talking about climate change during his speech. … This, of course, coming at a crucially important time. We’re seven months into the worst war in Europe that we've seen since World War II, and the president took the opportunity to campaign for Democrats and talk about climate change.” On the September 21 edition of Kudlow, guest Steve Moore falsely claimed that “he spent half the time talking about climate change.”

Perhaps the worst reaction came from Newsmax host Eric Bolling, who went on a climate denial rant on the September 21 edition of Eric Bolling The Balance. He called climate change “another made-up crisis lurking just around the corner,” adding, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” He then blamed Al Gore for supposedly inaccurate predictions about climate change and chastised former President Barack Obama for buying a house near the sea despite being concerned about rising sea levels.

The right-wing blow-up over Biden’s climate comments is not surprising. To these figures and outlets, any action on climate, big or small, is akin to a radical socialist takeover of the U.S. economy. In particular, the right has increased its climate denial and criticism of climate policies in recent months. As climate change worsens and global citizens come together to clamor for climate action, right-wing media will continue to double down on denial and lies to protect their polluting interests.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.