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What should renewables pay for grid service?

There is a lot of public debate around the rates utilities charge solar customers, but very little of it shows an awareness of the embedded technical and philosophical issues.

This posting will seek to provide a general context to help sort out issues in that ongoing debate. It will focus on transmission for simplicity’s sake, but the concepts can be extended to generation as well.

Part of the problem is that people associate rates with costs. Rates are crude ways to collect costs that work out on average. Early innovators can often take advantage of rate structures to get more than they pay for. But as usage patterns change and as more consumers “game” the system – rates need to be refined and adjusted. For example, for many years many systems did well charging residential customers just a flat energy rate. Based on the average use of their customers over the year they were able to collect their fixed cost and variable costs. However, for example, some areas saw increasing numbers of summer cottages that used only limited amounts of energy. Charging for their limited usage did not accrue enough to cover the fixed cost for providing the meter, the line and their usage. Some utilities corrected by adding a fixed monthly charge. People get irate when they have to pay something they did not before. They rarely realize that perhaps before they were getting below cost service and that as rate structures are exploited they need to change.

Traditionally the costs of transmission service were collected from consumers through their electric energy usage charges. For homes with behind the meter solar the price of the transmission cost can’t effectively be distributed for them across regular usage hours. While transmission costs are driven by peak demand periods, it would be extremely cumbersome and costly to individually monitor and bill residences for their contribution to transmission costs. Rate methods are devised to get approximate appropriate charges from individual customers, but these rate methods need to keep up with changes in how customers use (and “game”) the system.

Customers with their own generation are receiving a different service from the utility than traditional customers and traditional cost structures will not work for them. They are benefiting from back up service that will not be paid for by their use under existing rates in most cases. Extra costs are incurred to provide backup service to residential solar customers from the grid. Utilities can’t collect transmission expenses from them that are spread out across hourly energy costs. To recoup the costs associated with backup, utilities either can have a general charge for backup, charge backup customers’ extremely high costs when it is needed or subsidize them by charging rates designed for higher usage customers. The subsidized approach was acceptable when roof top solar made up a small portion of the customer base. The inequity could be ignored because supporting fledgling renewables did not cost other customers much and was seen as desirable or not worth the trouble to fix. This approach will cause problems with higher penetrations of intermittent renewables.

A digression

To get away from the emotion generated by consideration of renewables here is a short discussion of potential philosophies around cost sharing.

Imagine you are having a contractor do some work in your backyard for a cost of $8,000. You learn that your neighbor is planning a similar smaller project that will cost him $4,000. You talk to your contractor and he can combine both jobs and do it for $10,000. There are multiple ways that the $2,000 savings could be apportioned.

Business Model: You go to your neighbor with an offer that competes with his. Perhaps because you are overseeing all the work, he would prefer to have you do it for $4,000 or perhaps you have to lower the price some to be competitive. But basically you seek to use your capabilities to meet your neighbor’s need and offer him some small benefit, so you can maximally offset your costs.

Subsidy Model: Perhaps you decide to treat your neighbor. If you decide to pay more than $8,000 for the combined project you are subsidizing your neighbor. He could see anywhere from a $2,000 to $4,000 benefit from the combined project from this approach. There likely needs to be some other motivating factor to make you accept this arrangement.

Incremental Cost Model: You pay the $8,000 for your share and charge the neighbor the $2,000 increment. The neighbor gets his project at half of what his cost would be otherwise, as the entire $2,000 saving goes to benefit him. You’ve done your neighbor a favor, but received no benefit.

Shared Savings Model: You and your neighbor each reduce your cost by $1,000 or perhaps you each reduce your cost by 20%. This provides benefits to both parties and encourages cooperation from both sides.

None of the above models are generically right or wrong, but may be more or less applicable in various situations.

Hypothetical renewable example

Imagine a system with a level of solar roof penetration such that the transmission system would cost $10 billion for combined service to traditional and solar rooftop customers. If the system only served traditional customers it would cost $8 billion. A system to serve just the solar rooftop customers would cost $4 billion. Let’s look at the models introduced above in the context of this example.

Business Model: the utility would seek to get as close as possible to $4 billion from the solar customers to provide benefits to their traditional customers. I don’t believe anything approximating such an arrangement has or would occur in the electric utility industry. Such a model would cripple the potential for most self-generating customers who require grid back up as they do not have other feasible alternatives.

Subsidy Model: The traditional full service customers could be responsible for most of the costs. This is the model which dominates the utility industry today. At small penetration levels the costs are not large for the traditional customers, but as costs increase they can get very burdensome increasing the risk of a death spiral. A death spiral would occur if rising costs to traditional customers cause defections to solar customers and the reduced customer base has to continue subsidizing the growing base of solar customers.

Incremental Cost Model: Here the traditional customers are held neutral and the solar customer reaps all the benefits of the combined system. This is a controversial model today because it makes it very difficult to justify solar programs in many areas.

Shared Savings Model: For those familiar with cost accounting, charging renewable customers their fully allocated costs would be one way of doing this. I don’t know anywhere that this approach is currently being seriously and successfully advocated in cost of service studies for renewables, though it is generally common for other classes of service. (I welcome reader input and enlightenment here.) It would greatly reduce the risk of a death spiral but it would also greatly delay the implementation of renewable resources until such time as they were more cost competitive.

Discussion

History, inertia and the desire to support renewables have resulted in significant support for the idea that traditional customers should subsidize renewable customers. Perhaps this is coupled with the idea that traditional customers should be punished while renewable customers should be rewarded. Many of the battles around charges to solar customers are just over what the appropriate degree of the subsidy should be. Moving away from the subsidy model engenders great conflict. I have not read all the details, but I believe the Salt River Project’s controversial pricing plan is just trying to recoup the incremental costs of serving rooftop solar. (Perhaps they are asking for some help with shared/common costs. Any help readers?) In the press Salt River Project has been accused of “penalizing” solar customers, being anti-competitive, sabotaging their customer’s right to choose and far worse.

We need to move the public debate so that it is not just about the level of subsidy utilities should provide to solar. The subsidy model nearly guarantees that if the system transitions to high levels of local renewables there will be a major death spiral collapse as the traditional customer base erodes and the subsidized population increases. While some envision utilities as highly profitable entities with deep pockets that can well afford massive subsidies, in fact, the subsidies come from the ratepayers. Whether utilities pay for their system through money collected from their traditional customers or backup customers, their profits are in the hands of their public service commissions. Unlike the utilities, which will make money if they work with their regulators, ratepayers will be materially impacted by the cost sharing model selected. Indirect taxes placed upon electric utility ratepayers are terribly regressive and in the area of rooftop solar they result in significant wealth transfers from the less affluent to the more affluent.

Renewable subsidies disproportionately impact the poor, impacting their quality of life. To avoid these effects traditional customers should pay no more than incremental costs. If as a society we want to offer subsidies to rooftop solar we should consider funding it through a less regressive and punishing approach. That source will likely be less convenient to target but far more appropriate.

Aside from the appeals to fairness for ratepayers, the other models have further benefits. They send appropriate price signals to encourage more rational choices. They could help provide better flexibility for a transition to a renewable future that avoids price collapses and is open and potentially better able to serve newer and better “clean” energy alternatives.

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , | 8 Comments

Argentina: 30,000 doctors and health professionals demand ban on glyphosate

Eco-Noticias | April 16, 2015

Following on from the conclusion of the International Agency for Research on Cancer that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, Argentina’s union of doctors and health professionals, FESPROSA, has issued a statement throwing the support of its 30,000 members behind the decision:

“The organisation [IARC] has just released the results of a study that overturns the agribusiness model. Thus the complaints that affected residents and scientists outside the orbit of corporations have been making for years have gained renewed momentum,” FESPROSA said in the statement.

FESPROSA explained:

“In our country glyphosate is applied on more than 28 million hectares. Each year, the soil is sprayed with more than 320 million litres, which means that 13 million people are at risk of being affected, according to the Physicians Network of Sprayed Peoples (RMPF). Soy is not the only crop addicted to glyphosate: the herbicide is also used for transgenic maize and other crops. Where glyphosate falls, only GMOs can grow. Everything else dies.”

“Our trade union, the Federation of Health Professionals of Argentina (FESPROSA), which represents more than 30,000 doctors and health professionals in our country, includes the Social Health Collective of Andrés Carrasco. Andrés Carrasco was a researcher at [Argentine government research institute] CONICET, who died a year ago, and showed the damage caused by glyphosate to embryos. For disseminating his research, he was attacked by the industry and the authorities at CONICET. Today, WHO vindicates him.”

“Glyphosate not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological disease.”

“Health authorities, including the National Ministry of Health and the political powers, can no longer look away. Agribusiness cannot keep growing at the expense of the health of the Argentine people. The 30,000 health professionals in Argentina in the FESPROSA ask that glyphosate is now prohibited in our country and that a debate on the necessary restructuring of agribusiness is opened, focusing on the application of technologies that do not endanger human life.”

Translation by GM Watch

April 19, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Japanese court rules against restart of 2 nuclear reactors

Press TV – April 14, 2015

A court in Japan has issued a landmark ruling against the resumption of activities by two atomic reactors at a nuclear power plant, overturning an approval by the country’s nuclear watchdog.

The district court in the central prefecture of Fukui issued the injunction on Tuesday to prohibit the restart of the number 3 and 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant.

Last December, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) gave the green light to switch the reactors back on, saying they met tougher safety standards introduced after Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Disputing that ruling, a court official said, “The safety of the reactors hasn’t been secured,” adding that the watchdog’s new standards were “lacking rationality.”

Kansai Electric Power Company, which operates the plant, called the ruling “extremely regrettable and utterly unacceptable” and said it would appeal it.

Another court is slated to rule on the restart of two other reactors in southern Japan later this month.

Public sentiment over nuclear energy in Japan has been badly scarred following the country’s worst nuclear accident at Fukushima in 2011, when multiple reactors experienced meltdown after their cooling systems were disrupted by a magnitude-9 earthquake, which also triggered a devastating tsunami. The destroyed reactors have leaked radiation into air, soil and the Pacific Ocean ever since.

The incident, which is regarded as the world’s worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, also led to the evacuation of 160,000 people from areas near the power plant.

All of Japan’s 48 reactors went offline following the Fukushima disaster.

April 14, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | | 1 Comment

Locals Protest, Sabotage U.S. Navy Base Construction in Desert in Sicily

World Beyond War

There’s a popular movement in Sicily called No MUOS. MUOS means Mobile User Objective System. It’s a satellite communications system created by the U.S. Navy. The primary contractor and profiteer building the satellite equipment at the U.S. Navy base in the desert in Sicily is Lockheed Martin Space Systems. This is one of four ground stations, each intended to include three swivelling very-high-frequency satellite dishes with a diameter of 18.4 meters and two Ultra High Frequency (UHF) helical antennas.

Protests have been growing in the nearby town of Niscemi since 2012. In October 2012, construction was suspended for a few weeks. In early 2013 the President of the Region of Sicily revoked the authorization for the MUOS construction. The Italian government conducted a dubious study of health impacts and concluded the project was safe. Work recommenced. The town of Niscemi appealed, and in April 2014 the Regional Administrative Tribunal requested a new study. Construction goes on, as does resistance.

I spoke with Fabio D’Alessandro, a juornalist and law school graduate living in Niscemi. “I’m part of the No MUOS movement,” he told me, “a movement that works to prevent the installation of the U.S. satellite system called MUOS. To be specific, I’m part of the No MUOS committee of Niscemi, which is part of the coalition of No MUOS committees, a network of committees spread around Sicily and in the major Italian cities.”

“It is very sad,” said D’Alessandro,”to realize that in the United States people know little about MUOS. MUOS is a system for high-frequency and narrowband satellite communications, composed of five satellites and four stations on earth, one of which is planned for Niscemi. MUOS was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. The purpose of the program is the creation of a global communications network that allows communication in real time with any soldier in any part of the world. In addition it will be possible to send encrypted messages. One of the principal functions of MUOS, apart from the speed of communications, is the ability to remotely pilot drones. Recent tests have demonstrated how MUOS can be used at the North Pole. In short, MUOS will serve to support any U.S. conflict in the Mediterranean or the Middle East or Asia. It’s all part of the effort to automate war, entrusting the choice of targets to machines.”

“There are many reasons to oppose MUOS,” D’Alessandro told me, “first of all the local community has not been advised of the installation. The MUOS satellite dishes and antennas are built within a non-NATO U.S. military base that has existed in Niscemi since 1991. The base was constructed within a nature preserve, destroying thousands of cork oaks and devestating the landscape by means of bulldozers that leveled a hill. The base is larger than the town of Niscemi itself. The presence of the satellite dishes and antennas puts at serious risk a fragile habitat including flora and fauna that exist only in this place. And no study has been conducted of the dangers of the electromagnetic waves emitted, neither for the animal population nor for the human inhabitants and the civilian flights from the Comiso Airport approximately 20 kilometers away.

“Within the base there are already present 46 satellite dishes, surpassing the limit set by Italian law. Moreover, as determined anti-militarists, we oppose further militarizing this area, which already has the base at Sigonella and other U.S. bases in Sicily. We don’t want to be complicit in the next wars. And we don’t want to become a target for whoever attempts to attack the U.S. military.”

What have you done thus far, I asked.

“We’ve engaged in lots of different actions against the base: more than once we’ve cut through the fences; three times we’ve invaded the base en masse; twice we’ve entered the base with thousands demonstrating. We’ve blocked the roads to prevent access for the workers and the American military personnel. There has been sabotage of the optical communication wires, and many other actions.”

The No Dal Molin movement against the new base at Vicenza, Italy, has not stopped that base. Have you learned anything from their efforts? Are you in touch with them?

“We are in constant contact with No Dal Molin, and we know their history well. The company that is building MUOS, Gemmo SPA, is the same that did the work on Dal Molin and is currently under investigation subsequent to the seizure of the MUOS building site by the courts in Caltagirone. Anyone attempting to bring into doubt the legitimacy of U.S. military bases in Italy is obliged to work with political groups on the right and left that have always been pro-NATO. And in this case the first supporters of MUOS were the politicians just as happened at Dal Molin. We often meet with delegations of activists from Vicenza and three times have been their guests.”

I went with representatives of No Dal Molin to meet with Congress Members and Senators and their staffs in Washington, and they simply asked us where the base should go if not Vicenza. We replied “Nowhere.” Have you met with anyone in the U.S. government or communicated with them in any way?

“Many times the U.S. consuls have come to Niscemi but we have never been permitted to speak with them. We have never in any way communicated with U.S. senators/representatives, and none have ever asked to meet with us.”

Where are the other three MOUS sites? Are you in touch with resisters there? Or with the resistance to bases on Jeju Island or Okinawa or the Philippines or elsewhere around the world? The Chagossians seeking to return might make good allies, right? What about the groups studying the military damage to Sardinia? Environmental groups are concerned about Jeju and about Pagan Island Are they helpful in Sicily?

“We are in direct contact with the No Radar group in Sardinia. One of the planners of that struggle has worked (for free) for us. We know the other anti-U.S.-base movements around the world, and thanks to No Dal Molin and to David Vine, we have been able to hold some virtual meetings. Also thanks to the support of Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space we are trying to get in touch with those in Hawaii and Okinawa.”

What would you most like people in the United States to know?

“The imperialism that the United States is imposing on the countries that lost the Second World War is shameful. We are tired of having to be slaves to a foreign politics that to us is crazy and that obliges us to make enormous sacrifices and that makes Sicily and Italy no longer lands of welcome and peace, but lands of war, deserts in use by the U.S. Navy.”

April 11, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Global Warming: Truth or Dare?

By Denis G. Rancourt | Activist Teacher | February 2007

NOT THE GREATEST POTENTIAL THREAT TO HUMANITY

Global warming is often presented as the greatest potential threat to humankind and as the greatest environmental and ecological threat on the planet. It is also presented as a problem that could be solved or contained by determined international collaboration – by political will if it were present.

I argue: (1) that global warming (climate change, climate chaos, etc.) will not become humankind’s greatest threat until the sun has its next hiccup in a billion years or more (in the very unlikely scenario that we are still around), (2) that global warming is presently nowhere near being the planet’s most deadly environmental scourge, and (3) that government action and political will cannot measurably or significantly ameliorate global climate in the present world.

I also advance that there are strong societal, institutional, and psychological motivations for having constructed and for continuing to maintain the myth of a global warming dominant threat (global warming myth, for short). I describe these motivations in terms of the workings of the scientific profession and of the global corporate and finance network and its government shadows.

I argue that by far the most destructive force on the planet is power-driven financiers and profit-driven corporations and their cartels backed by military might; and that the global warming myth is a red herring that contributes to hiding this truth. In my opinion, activists who, using any justification, feed the global warming myth have effectively been co-opted, or at best neutralized.

ERODING THE VENEER

Since the global warming myth is presently the dominant environmental paradigm in the First World middle class mainstream, let us put it into the relevant perspective of planetary warming mechanisms.

One should first recognise that the atmospheric greenhouse effect is a well known natural phenomenon, mostly caused by atmospheric water vapour, that keeps our planet warm and habitable whereas (anthropogenic = human-made) global warming refers to a small extra greenhouse warming (0.5-1 C/33 C; 1-5 %) allegedly arising from an increase in atmospheric concentration of the minority greenhouse effect gas CO2 (carbon dioxide) – the later increase in turn possibly arising from fossil fuel burning (see below).

This means that the global greenhouse effect gives earthlings a needed and much appreciated base warming of 33 C (degrees Celsius), whereas the alleged “global warming” would contribute an extra 0.5 to 1 C of warming (a 1 to 5 % increase), on a planet that has seen a dozen or so ice ages since human kind has appeared.

The most often cited reconstructed global average temperature curves (themselves somewhat tenuous, see below) show increases in global mean temperature of approximately 0.5-1 C in the last 100 years. Let us compare this to the extremes of temperature to which humans routinely adapt. Humans have thrived in every possible ecological niche on the planet, from deserts to tropical forests to the North Polar Regions, since well before present technological advances. These environments show mean temperature differences of as much as 50 C or more. Many of these environments also show day to night and seasonal differences of as much as 20-50 C. A sudden 0.5-1 C increase in mean annual temperature (not spread over 100 years) would be imperceptible to any human and indeed could barely be detected using all of the methods of the modern scientific enterprise.

In addition, whereas there is evidence of negative consequences to populations from sustained regional cooling (e.g., Europe’s Little Ice Age, 1300-1850 AD) and whereas global ice ages (occurring every 40-100 thousand years or so) clearly have significantly affected human populations, there is no known case of a sustained warming alone having negatively impacted an entire population. If it were not for the global greenhouse effect, the planet would on average be 33 C colder and inhabitable. As a general rule, all life on Earth does better when it’s hotter: Compare ecological diversity and biotic density (or biomass) at the poles and at the equator.

Humans have already adapted to dramatically different regional climates occurring in every corner of the planet and the alleged future global changes are very small compared to these existing variations. There are more displaced refugees from wars and from economic aggression than there will ever be displaced inhabitants from rapid climate-induced habitat transformations. In both cases, the solution is to accommodate those losing their homes and communities, not to attempt to control planetary processes and unpredictable events.

IS THERE GLOBAL WARMING?

Before ‘climate chaos’ became cliché, many scientists advanced evidence for detected amounts of global average Earth surface temperature increases occurring in the post-industrial age. These reports, taken as a whole, were the main original catalysts towards constructing the global warming myth, so it is useful to critically examine their validity.

It was no easy task to arrive at the most cited original estimated rate of increase of the mean global surface temperature of 0.5 C in 100 years. As with any evaluation of a global spatio-temporal average, it involved elaborate and unreliable grid size dependent averages. In addition, it involved removal of outlying data, complex corrections for historical differences in measurement methods, measurement distributions, and measurement frequencies, and complex normalisations of different data sets – for example, land based and sea based measurements and the use of different temperature proxies that are in turn dependent on approximate calibration models. Even for modern thermometer readings in a given year, the very real problem of defining a robust and useful global spatio-temporal average Earth-surface temperature is not solved, and is itself an active area of research.

This means that determining an average of a quantity (Earth surface temperature) that is everywhere different and continuously changing with time at every point, using measurements at discrete times and places (weather stations), is virtually impossible; in that the resulting number is highly sensitive to the chosen extrapolation method(s) needed to calculate (or rather approximate) the average.

Averaging problems aside, many tenuous approximations must be made in order to arrive at any of the reported final global average temperature curves. For example, air temperature thermometers on ocean-going ships have been positioned at increasing heights as the sizes of ships have increased in recent history. Since temperature decreases with increasing altitude, this altitude effect must be corrected. The estimates are uncertain and can change the calculated global warming by as much as 0.5 C, thereby removing the originally reported effect entirely.

Similarly, surface ocean temperatures were first measured by drawing water up to the ship decks in cloth buckets and later in wooden buckets. Such buckets allow heat exchange in different amounts, thereby changing the measured temperature. This must be corrected by various estimates of sizes and types of buckets. These estimates are uncertain and can again change the resulting final calculated global warming value by an amount comparable to the 0.5 C value. There are a dozen or so similar corrections that must be applied, each one able to significantly alter the outcome.

In wanting to go further back in time, the technical problems are magnified. For example, when one uses a temperature proxy, such as the most popular tree ring proxy, instead of a physical thermometer, one has the significant problem of calibrating the proxy. With tree rings from a given preferred species of tree, there are all kinds of unavoidable artefacts related to wood density, wood water content, wood petrifaction processes, season duration effects, forest fire effects, extra-temperature biotic stress effects (such as recurring insect infestations), etc. Each proxy has its own calibration and preservation problems that are not fully understood.

The reported temperature curves should therefore be seen as tentative suggestions that the authors hope will catalyze more study and debate, not reliable results that one should use in guiding management practice or in deducing actual planetary trends. In addition, the original temperature or proxy data is usually not available to other research scientists who could critically examine the data treatment methods; nor are the data treatment methods spelled out in enough detail. Instead, the same massaged data is reproduced from report to report rather than re-examined.

The most recent thermometer measurements have their own special problems, not the least of which is urban warming, due to urban sprawl, which locally affects weather station mean temperatures and wind patterns: Temperatures locally change because local surroundings change. Most weather monitoring stations are located, for example, near airports which, in turn, are near expanding cities.

As a general rule in science, if an effect is barely detectable, requires dubious data treatment methods, and is sensitive to those data treatment methods and to other approximations, then it is not worth arguing over or interpreting and should not be used in further deductions or extrapolations. The same is true in attempting to establish causal relationships. This is in contrast to the precautionary principle which, in this context, would dictate that humans should reduce their fossil fuel burning because a resulting increase in atmospheric CO2 **might** cause serious environmental harm. I argue that we should stick to known consequences rather than potential ones – displacing people displaces people, clearing forests clears forests, etc. – and that we can apply universally accepted norms of human justice and respect for nature in limiting exploiters’ impulses.

WARMING, CLIMATE CHANGE, AND CLIMATE CHAOS

Global warming myth advocates emphasize that the alleged extra-CO2-driven warming does not occur uniformly, in that some regions are warmed more than others while other regions are cooled below their pre-warming averages. They claim that many regions therefore already suffer significant departures from their pre-warming average temperatures, by as much as 5 C, even though the overall global average increase is difficult to detect.

Whereas regional changes in average temperature (e.g., warmer poles and cooler tropics) are not in themselves bad, global warming myth advocates argue that such changes have significant negative ecological consequences. They argue that when regional climate changes occur, rather than simply causing geographical redistribution of ecosystems and niche creation, they instead cause permanent damage in the form of habitat loss and species loss.

Global warming myth advocates also argue that global warming drives increased climate chaos. That is, overall increases in extreme weather events, such as more frequent and more intense tropical hurricanes, more frequent and more intense heat waves, more frequent and more intense droughts and floods, etc.

The available data does not support these claims and does not allow one to conclude that we have entered into a period of greater climate chaos, let alone that any perceived increase in climate chaos would be caused by extra-CO2-driven planetary warming. Similarly, it is impossible to reliably establish (see below) that inferred regional warmings in the Polar Regions are caused by an extra-CO2-driven global greenhouse effect increase.

Weather is by its nature chaotic and unpredictable. Every year weather events occur and will always occur that have never occurred before in recorded history. A given July heat spell in North Bay, Ontario, will last longer than any other such heat spell that has also had more than three consecutive day-time highs of more than 35 C, for example. For the first time in recorded history, three selectively chosen Canadian northern towns of more than 50,000 inhabitants will not have snow at Christmas. One hundred year old trees will be uprooted by a hurricane in some locality in Northern Quebec in September, etc.

Regional weather (including regional air current patterns) is well known by climatologists to have measurable variations over a broad range of magnitudes and on every time scale, from decadal, to centennial, to millennial and beyond, as documented in climate and weather event records such as historical documents, tree rings, lake sediments, soil profiles, geological weathering patterns, etc. Climatologists have, for over one hundred years, studied these variations occurring on all continents and have always attempted to relate them to potential causal factors, with little success. Modern satellite observations and recent global circulation models have provided few significant advances, despite the hype.

Media sensationalism notwithstanding, none of the recent reports of weather events step outside of the statistical samples gathered by climatologists, as they have often informed us. Among other things, climatologists, environmental scientists, and statisticians have pointed out that: (1) North America has less frequent but more intense forest fires because foresters manage forests, (2) insurance companies pay out more natural catastrophe claims because there are more people living in more precarious areas with more expensive installations, (3) more people suffer the consequences of flooding because more people live in flood plains, (4) more urban elderly die in heat waves because they are older and live in isolation and in high rises, (5) water tables fall because of deforestation and watershed management practices, and so on.

GLACIERS AND PERMAFROST: PHENOMENON VERSUS CAUSE

Although weather is business as usual, there are significant changes occurring on the planet and some of these appear at first sight to be regional climate related.

For example, many high altitude glaciers are receding. Some glaciers are growing but it appears that more studied glaciers are receding than growing. The next question is why? There are no reports of average air temperature increases in the vicinities of these glaciers. To melt or sublimate ice one must supply a large amount of energy, far beyond what could be supplied by thermal conduction driven by an undetected temperature increase.

The required energy clearly comes from the sun, just as spring sunlight melts snow in temperate climates much more than the increase in air temperature ever could. More radiant energy must be deposited on the receding glaciers. Either there is more incident radiant energy or the glaciers are more able to absorb rather than reflect the incident radiation or both.

The causes of increased incident radiation can be one or a combination of the following: (1) there is more solar radiation because the sun itself is putting out more energy, the solar “constant” has increased, (2) more solar radiation directly comes through the atmosphere because the atmosphere is more transparent rather than reflective (e.g., less cloudy, less ozone), (3) more infra-red is sent back to the glaciers rather than escaping to outer space because the atmosphere is more greenhouse active (e.g., higher water vapour content), and (4) more ambient infra-red radiation is sent towards the glaciers via atmospheric greenhouse scattering because there is more ambient infra-red radiation originating from neighbouring ice-free cover that has become more incident-solar-radiation absorbent. The latter ice-free surfaces could have become more absorbent by changes in their surface properties (i.e., surface coverings). For example, deforested soil is more incident radiation absorbent than a forest cover, bare rock is much more absorbent than snow-covered rock, etc.

The glaciers themselves could have become more absorbent for incident radiation by various mechanisms. For example, mineral or organic or pollution atmospheric dust loads (e.g., fossil fuel burning soot) could have increased leading to dust delivery to the glaciers. Such microscopic deposited dust in turn makes a glacier surface more radiation absorbent. The type of snow that can cover a glacier will also affect its radiation (light) absorption and reflection properties and snow type (granularity, dendrite structure, etc.) is in turn dependent on several atmospheric properties. Volcanic activity, large scale forest or grassland fires, dominant wind patterns, large scale changes in soil humidity and other conditions arising from changes in agricultural practices, can all significantly alter atmospheric dust loads and the latter are known to affect regional scale solar radiation budgets.

We see therefore that receding glaciers are not even most directly a sign of global warming and that the actual mechanism(s) can include a host of other causes. Indeed, paleoclimatologists studying global climate and ice age cycles believe the opposite causal direction: Radiative loading and water cycle factors change snow and ice cover which in turn change global radiation balance (planetary surface albedo) which then provides a positive feedback for further warming (resulting from increased radiative loading) or cooling (resulting from decreased radiative loading). Indeed, the accepted theory of ice age cycles is based on solar radiation forcing arising from cyclical Sun-Earth orbital variations.

As another example, let us accept, for the sake of argument; that Polar Region warming is occurring beyond statistical variations of the last 100 years, say; that permafrost (permanently frozen subsoil) is less extensive; and that polar ocean ice coverages are less prominent. The next question is why? Ocean currents have not dramatically changed, nor have measured sea level air temperatures.

These changes can again be due to solar radiative effects, along the same lines as explained above for receding glaciers. For ocean glaciers the above discussion of mechanisms for receding high altitude glaciers applies exactly whereas minor modifications are needed for receding permafrost.

In the case of permafrost, the seasonal duration of direct solar radiation loading to the soil is probably the dominant factor. This duration is inversely related to the duration of soil snow and ice cover which in turn can be controlled by the same factors discussed above that control high altitude glacier recession.

In conclusion, all the main easily observable and most cited regional warming effects are probably driven by radiative mechanisms having nothing to do with (i.e., not being caused by) global warming or increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration. More likely causal factors include: soot from coal-powered plants, mineral, soil, and organic matter dust from changes in agricultural practices, fires from changes in water and land management practices, increased high-altitude and polar atmospheric transparency, changes in the solar constant, etc.

This is not to say that these local and regional warming phenomena are not important and do not affect ecosystems and people’s lives. But then if we want to help these people (mostly Polar Region and high altitude aboriginal people) then we need only help them! For example, we could ask what help they most need rather than continuing to pollute their environment and destroy their lands by resource exploitation. If we want to stop destroying habitat, we could stop destroying habitat.

SCIENCE IS NOT THE ANSWER

Environmental scientists and government agencies get funding to study and monitor problems that do not threaten corporate and financial interests. It is therefore no surprise that they would attack continental-scale devastation from resource extraction via the CO2 back door. The main drawback with this strategy is that you cannot control a hungry monster by asking it not to shit as much.

Somewhere First World middle-classers will need to abandon the lies that we live in democracies, that the corporate profit motive guarantees environmental protection, that servicing manufactured debt advances society, that corporate agribusiness is the best way to feed people, that making a mess everywhere to serve share holders is the best way to generate well being, and that exploiting others is a good way to help them, not to mention that war is an acceptable method to bring justice and freedom to enslaved populations.

The planet will continue to change, adapt and evolve, with or without us. Recurring episodes of increased volcanic activity will continue to alter our climate. Ice ages will continue to come and go. Meteorites will continue to impact our planetary home. Disease and insect outbursts, wild fires, floods, and earthquakes will continue to wash over us as we adapt and respond. The sun will continue to vary its output and will eventually burn out. The atmosphere will continue to change as it always has under the influence of life and of geology. We can’t control these things. We can barely perceive them correctly. But we can take control of how we treat each other.

The best we can do for the environment and for the planet is to learn not to let undemocratic power structures run our lives. The best we can do is to reject exploitation and domination and to embrace cooperation and solidarity. The best we can do is to not trust subservient scientists and to become active agents for change beyond head-in-the-sand personal lifestyle choices.

We need to get political, beyond corporate-controlled shadow governments and co-opted political parties. We need to take charge more than we need to recycle. Concentrated power and capital are not about to give up their practices or their imperative for profit. Resistance to the insane return-on-investments hydra that inhabits our planet is our main responsibility if we are concerned about future generations.

There are real environmental problems on the planet. Agriculture, especially large-scale corporate chemical fertilizer and pesticide-based agriculture, is the main human force that has transformed the planet. Resource extraction and use is a close second, including energy, minerals, building materials, etc. Toxic substance pollution vies for an important place, with everything from persistent organic pollutants, to heavy metals, to radioactive substances, to pharmaceutical metabolites, all the way to industrially prepared food products. The industrial food-animal cycle is another wonderful experiment in attempted mass suicide, not to mention its grotesque inanimality.

THE BEST WAY TO STOP IS TO STOP

All in all, the best way to not pollute and destroy the environment is to not pollute and destroy the environment. The best way to not exploit others is to not exploit others. I am not talking only about personal lifestyle choices, alternative information sources, and volunteer work. I am talking about taking back control from undemocratically run corporations and illegitimate concentrations of power, by all the effective means we can muster and as though our survival depended on it. I am talking about activism.

Global warming is strictly an imaginary problem of the First World middle class. Nobody else cares about global warming. Exploited factory workers in the Third World don’t care about global warming. Depleted uranium genetically mutilated children in Iraq don’t care about global warming. Devastated aboriginal populations the world over also can’t relate to global warming, except maybe as representing the only solidarity that we might volunteer.

If we want to help island dwellers threatened by a predicted sea level rise then let’s help those island dwellers. If we are worried about victims of weather events then let us help those victims. The poorest Hurricane Katrina victims are still waiting.

It’s not about limited resources. [“The amount of money spent on pet food in the US and Europe each year equals the additional amount needed to provide basic food and health care for all the people in poor countries, with a sizable amount left over.” (UN Human Development Report, 1999)] It’s about exploitation, oppression, racism, power, and greed. Economic, human, and animal justice brings economic sustainability which in turn is always based on renewable practices. Recognizing the basic rights of native people automatically moderates resource extraction and preserves natural habitats. Not permitting imperialist wars and interventions automatically quenches nation-scale exploitation. True democratic control over monetary policy goes a long way in removing debt-based extortion. Etc.

BACK TO SCIENCE: THE PROBLEM WITH CO2

Regarding planetary greenhouse warming, by far the most important greenhouse active atmospheric gas is water vapour – it is a major constituent of the atmosphere whereas CO2 is a trace atmospheric gas. This is well known and it is established, for example, that even doubling the present atmospheric CO2 concentration, to the unattainable value of 800 ppm (parts per million) say, without changing anything else in the atmosphere, would have little discernable effect on global temperature or climate.

All of the climate models that relate CO2 concentrations to climate effects do so by arbitrarily linking a model increase in CO2 to an induced and larger increase in atmospheric water vapour. In other words, all the climate models postulate a large and positive feedback between CO2 and water vapour.

Several scientists have argued that these models are computer realizations of the tail wagging the dog. Water vapour is the dominant greenhouse factor and the behaviour of water in the atmosphere is far more complex than that of CO2 (clouds, rain, snow, evaporation, etc.) yet CO2 is taken to drive the water cycle rather than water taken to drive CO2 dynamics; using a fictitious multiplicative feedback factor.

On the contrary, for example: Water is often the determining factor in vegetation growth. Vegetation growth in turn consumes CO2 and is the greatest active bound-carbon (C) pool on the planet. Therefore, it is more correct to say that water drives the carbon cycle. Atmospheric CO2 concentration is only a remote witness to all the natural and anthropogenic processes that consume and produce CO2.

There is no known mechanism whereby an increase in CO2 concentration could directly cause an increase in water vapour concentration in the amount required by climate computer models. On the other hand, there are many known mechanisms whereby water vapour concentration can be dramatically affected by various external agents. Some examples are as follows: (1) solar input drives convection and winds which in turn largely determine atmospheric evaporation loading, (2) deforestation and agriculture expose soils which are sources of mineral and organic dust which in turn can induce precipitation or can affect solar radiation balances, (3) solar winds of cosmic rays can induce high altitude cloud formation thereby reducing solar radiation penetration, etc.

Ice core data shows strong temporal correlations between average global temperature (as recorded by the water oxygen isotope proxy) and atmospheric CO2 (as recorded in trapped gas bubbles) yet these correlations do not show causal relations. CO2 increases may accompany temperature increases rather than causing them. Indeed, some high resolution studies have suggested that the temperature increases precede the CO2 increases. Interestingly, also, ice core data shows strong temporal correlations between inferred temperature and amount of dust preserved in the ice core. Finally, the older geological record shows several dramatic examples of where CO2 concentration and global average temperature were either unrelated or even anti-correlated.

Just as solar radiation intensity and inclination determines our seasons and the differences between day and night, so too solar radiation variations related to solar winds, magnetic shielding, and solar intensity cycles (e.g., sunspots) probably have a greater impact on the water cycle than changes in any greenhouse active trace gas.
There is of course much more wrong with state-of-the-art global circulation models (climate models) than the assumption and implementation of CO2-H2O feedback. Although these models are among the most elaborate predictive models of complex non-linear phenomena, they are nonetheless sweeping oversimplifications of the global climate system and its mechanistic intricacies.

IF IT WERE CO2 THEN COULD WE CONTROL IT?

Disregarding the above objections, if we take CO2 to be the pivotal quantity, then even this CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is not easy for scientists to understand. While the value of the CO2 concentration can be measured reliably and accurately and while it is increasing, possibly in response to fossil fuel burning, the measured increase is not proportional to the known increase in fossil fuel consumption. There is not a simple relation between fossil fuel burning and atmospheric CO2 in two key respects: (1) the temporal variations of burning and of atmospheric CO2 concentration do not follow each other – the curves do not match, they do not have the same shape, and (2) the net extra (post-industrial) amount of CO2 in the atmosphere cannot be reconciled with the amount of CO2 produced by fossil fuel burning.

Regarding the latter point, the resulting amount of CO2 in the atmosphere depends on many processes that either produce CO2 (that are sources) or consume CO2 (that are sinks). Growth of plants is a sink. Degradation of soil or sediment organic matter is a source. Burying and preserving sedimentary or soil organic matter from oxidation is a sink. Breathing is a form of combustion and is a source. Photosynthesis is a sink. Fossil fuels are preserved organic matter not yet degraded by oxidation (or combustion). Deforestation is a net source since forests are larger repositories of bound carbon than are agricultural or grazing lands. The weathering of rocks and the erosion of mountains is a source, as is mining. Etc. As it turns out, when all the known sources and sinks are added up, scientists are not able to account for half of the CO2 produced by fossil fuel burning.

In other words, there is a “missing sink” that is taking up approximately half of the CO2 produced by fossil fuel burning; that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere. This is a massive amount that scientists simply cannot account for. Clearly, the complex source and sink mechanisms of the bio and geospheres are far from completely understood, as are the myriad of feedback mechanisms that can dramatically either slow or intensify the rates of sinking and sourcing.

The point here is that CO2 concentration itself, even if we stubbornly cling to it as a holly grail of climate mediation, most probably cannot be controlled by controlling anthropogenic CO2 emissions. There are more unknown and unforeseeable CO2 evolution feedback mechanisms then there are climate research institutes on the planet.

Even among human activities, there are many practices that can potentially affect atmospheric CO2 fluxes more than direct mitigation of fossil fuel burning. These include: distribution-of-wealth practices; world investment, trading and lending practices; democratic versus corporate control over the media, over marketing and over the mental environment in general; military intervention and intimidation practices; and so on. Each of the above areas of societal behaviour and organization can be shown to significantly alter or moderate global CO2 fluxes between the atmosphere and other compartments.

Excluding direct human activities (land and water use, etc.), there are major natural factors that affect CO2 atmospheric loading. These are only partially understood and include: geological weathering, ocean sedimentation, land plant growth, soil evolution, sediment diagenesis, ecological niche invasion, volcanic activity, continental subduction, and many others. Indeed, there is no accepted model that quantitatively explains atmospheric CO2 concentration, given our limited knowledge of these factors.

The atmosphere is one of the smallest pools or compartments for carbon (as CO2) and it responds quickly to any flux changes with the other compartments. These flux routes are varied and largely unknown, as are the mechanisms that control flux magnitudes. To believe that we could control atmospheric CO2 concentration by controlling only the flux from anthropogenic fossil fuel burning is naive. Burning mitigation or carbon sequestration practices could easily have no effect or opposite effects, even if significant societal efforts were dedicated to such efforts.

THERE ARE TRILLIONS TO BE MADE

What is more naïve than believing that humankind could control atmospheric CO2 levels by direct interventions, however, is the belief that the financial and corporate interests that benefit from fossil fuel burning and still have gargantuan profits to be made from the remaining fossil fuels of increasing value could in this world be convinced by law or agreement to voluntarily reduce production and to not exercise their clout in creating demand for the resource that they control.

Fossil fuel is the main economic commodity on the planet. Cheap fossil fuel equals cheap transportation equals globalized trade and globalized exploitation of labour and of natural resources. Cheap fossil fuel drives the automobile industry, the largest manufactured goods growth area in the developing world. Cheap fossil fuel is the raw material of the petro-chemical industry, including fertilizers, and drives agri-business. Cheap fossil fuel allows rapid military deployments. The entire planetary web of corporate and finance exploitation is presently reliant on fossil fuels. To think that governments of media-created stand-ins could negotiate restraints on a remote side effect (CO2) of the present day exercise of power, without ever addressing the real issues, is to be delusional. Optimism of the will is needed but let us start with pessimism of the intellect. Let us be realistic.

In this world, before renewable sources become the new basis of global economic extortion, oil exploration will be extended to every sensitive ecosystem on the globe and the world’s massive coal reserves will be liquefied and gasified. There are enough coal reserves to keep the wheels of corporate exploitation turning for another 1000 years or so at the present rate. This will happen unless citizens force democratic control over the major planetary economic instruments – private banking cartels, multinational corporations, and their government extensions that are the World Bank and the IMF. In this sense, anti-globalization activists are at the forefront of environmental activism.

Even if CO2 emissions could be controlled in actual practice, this would not impact CO2 concentration in a predictable way, and CO2 in turn does not control global climate. People, corporations, financial webs, and ecosystems all adapt to climate change. A global corporate and finance machine of profit and interest extraction based on renewable energy resources (that it would control) would not be less devastating than the present system and would continue to cause irreparable damage.

Climate is not an effectual lever for controlling the corporate and finance madness that is destroying human communities and natural habitats. Indeed, it is the kind of lever that is guaranteed to be ineffectual: It avoids the root causes, it does not challenge the relevant power structures, it entices us into collaboration, it seduces us into personal consumption responsibility as a substitute for effective political action, it turns our attention towards learning about atmospheric chemistry rather than about the relevant major human-controlled planetary forces, and it gives us something we relate to (the weather) rather than sensitizing us to real world problems. The global warming myth isolates us from the people of the Third World and from all exploited people outside of our class, rather than creating meaningful occasions for empathy and solidarity.

WHY GLOBAL WARMING? SCIENCE IS A BANDWAGON

Precisely because it is ineffectual… and deflects our attention away from the necessary confrontations with established power.

If you accept my critique that the global warming threat is a myth then the next question is why are so many resources being spent to keep the myth alive? Why is it so important to keep global warming at the forefront of our mental environment? Why have scientists and First World environmentalists bought into it with such conviction and dedication? Why are mainstream politicians allowed by their bosses to use it in their platforms?

Scientists are simple beings. In general, they have not studied politics or sociology or human history. They have had to specialize and to confine their methods and questions to those that are specific to their chosen fields. Outside of their disciplines, they construct a world view largely from the same sources as most middle class citizens; the mainstream media and popular culture. Their main comparison points are colleagues just like themselves that they meet at specialized conferences and in staff lounges.

At the same time, scientists, like the rest of working people, often search for a sense of doing something meaningful at work. They look for ways that their work might have broader societal implications, even though it is most often very specialized and has narrow applications. Ecologists and environmental scientists like to consider that they might help society to better treat the environment.

Science is a social construction and scientists must be seen by their peers as contributing “positively” to their fields and must mainly cooperate in order to get along and get ahead. This has the effect of creating an impetus for scientific consensus. Contrary positions are rarely deep or long lived and a lot of mileage is extracted from going along and echoing the dominant paradigms or opinions. Once something becomes popular, a scientist can repeat it without new supporting evidence comfortably and without awakening the ire of reviewers. Such statements are made in the introductions of scientific articles in order to motivate the specialized work or are made in giving broader (and more tenuous) interpretations or are made in the conclusions of papers to suggest possible implications of the specialized work.

Global warming has now become just such a popular theme among ecologists and environmental scientists. As a result, whereas specialized researchers in climate change itself continue to debate global warming and its many facets and continue to critique each others’ methods, data, and conclusions, most articles in scientific journals that mention global warming do so gratuitously – in a non-critical, superficial and self-serving way. Observers of science must therefore be careful in simply counting opinions expressed in the introductions and conclusions of scientific articles.

In addition, there are the international commissions mandated to sort out the scientific literature on topics that could have public relevance. A main relevant example is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These bodies are mostly composed of scientists but have political missions.

The board members typically study thousands of scientific papers written by climate change experts and others. These papers use different methods and report different types of data and sometimes come to contradictory conclusions. Most published papers, however, report inconclusive results and tenuous extrapolations, given the difficulty of the area of study. The authors of the original publications are usually careful and often do not overstate their conclusions. They also often qualify their interpretations and spell out the limits of their work and the most tenuous parts of their arguments.

Faced with this massive array of inconclusive or tentative or contradictory and incomplete results, the international (or national) commission must prepare a report that will be useful to governments and policy makers. They must attempt to identify the dominant or most likely trends, while keeping in mind that scientific truth cannot be established by a democratic vote or a popularity contest.

Having then identified the main trends and having extensively documented the pitfalls and limits of the reviewed papers, the international commission must also write an executive summary, for executives that want definitive statements. The executive summary is the only part of the report that has a chance of being read by the top decision makers and it is probably the only part of the report from which the media will cite. Few of the players who will read only the executive summary have the knowledge to appreciate its careful language and all the sacrifices of content and accuracy that have been made to produce it.

The international commission’s report then becomes a milestone that the commission itself, for political reasons of perceived legitimacy, cannot easily contradict in future reports. There is also a tendency for most scientists to accept the commission report’s main conclusions or proposed trends.

THE ENVIRONMENTALISTS

The environmental activists, on their side, are trying to reduce negative human impact on the natural world by whatever means they can. Many of them are astute political activists but more of them are simply environmentally responsible citizens who are mainly concerned with personal lifestyle choices to minimize personal ecological footprints. Environmentalists generally see global warming as a bonanza in public opinion outreach that has the potential to transform a majority of citizens into bicycle-riding anti-air-conditioning energy saving zealots that will also be sensitized to other and deeper issues.

Environmentalists also have an urgent sense that humankind is destroying the planet (which is true) and therefore do not have too hard a time believing that fossil fuel burning could directly cause the globe to burn up in a violent last tempest of floods and hurricanes that would destroy the last natural habitats and make civilization as we would like it virtually impossible. Besides, it makes sense, CO2 is a greenhouse effect gas and it is a product of organic matter combustion.

The main arguments I hear from environmentalists are: (1) that even if we are not attacking a root cause, forcing all to burn less fossil fuels will slow down humankind’s otherwise unimpeded destruction of the planet and (2) concentrating on this issue has much educational value and will help sensitize members of the public who may then later go a further step.

I don’t agree with either of the latter positions.

Finance-driven exploitation is creative and nimble and will always maximize short-term gain by whatever method it can get away with, whether limited (on paper) in its CO2 emissions or not, and all such exploitations of humans and of nature are always destructive beyond what should be tolerated in a democratic society.

On the “global warming issue as education” front, I again argue the opposite: That promoting the global warming myth trains people to accept unverified, remote, and abstract dangers in the place of true problems that they can discover for themselves by becoming directly engaged in their workplace and by doing their own research and observations. It trains people to think lifestyle choices (in relation to CO2 emission) rather than to think activism in the sense of exerting an influence to change societal structures. The first involves finding a comfort zone consistent with one’s values whereas the latter involves accepting confrontation and risk in order to challenge power structures. The first is needed for welfare, as are community, friendship, etc., while the second is needed to create sanity and justice in an insane world.

In that sense, the global warming myth is a powerful tool of co-optation that has even eroded one of the most fertile grounds of political activism: the environmental movement.

I find that those who defend the global warming myth most strenuously are also those who cling most to the notion that the best way to solve these problems is to somehow (“through awareness and education”) get everyone (or the majority) to minimize their footprints and consume responsibly. They usually also argue that corporate bosses and bank managers are people too and that we just need to reach out to them. They are allergic even to the notion of organized confrontation.

MAINSTREAM MIND F#?K

The beliefs of mainstream environmentalists are beliefs of the First World liberal middle class. As such, the global warming myth fits right in.

The global warming myth, as propagated by the mainstream media, also works wonders on the general population: A global problem that we can solve by just changing our light bulbs to the energy saving kind or by voting for the Democrats or by trusting our scientists to come up with a carbon sequestration plan or by going nuclear for our electricity…

The media are allowed to talk global warming because it does not threaten power in any significant way. Indeed, it deflects attention away from real world issues. It’s perfect. The scientists can debate it. The environmental activists are largely neutralized. Everyone thinks it’s about CO2. The economists can work out the carbon credits. The politicians can talk environment without actually saying anything. Those who want to do something can change their consumer habits. The others can just ignore it and continue chatting about the weather.

The fact that the global warming myth has now attained this degree of media promotion and entertainment industry integration means not only that the issue is not threatening to power but that it has also come to be understood by power to be quite useful. In this regard, the global warming myth has joined the other useful media-supported myths that include: increasing crime rates, the terrorist threat, the American dream, that we live in a democracy, that greed and selfishness are unavoidable overriding consequences of human nature, that we all attain the economic status that fits our talents and efforts, that we help developing and Third World countries (that would be worse off without us), etc.

I hope that this essay will convert a few myth consumers into temporarily disoriented environmentalists who will eventually become dedicated and effective social justice activists. The global warming myth will then have been useful for something of value.

Denis G. Rancourt is a professor of physics and an environmental science researcher at the University of Ottawa. His scientific research has been concentrated in the areas of spectroscopic and diffraction measurement methods, magnetism, reactive environmental nanoparticles, aquatic sediments and nutrients, and boreal forest lakes. Many related articles are collected and posted at ACTIVIST CLIMATE GUY.

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April 10, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | 2 Comments

Obama Visits Jamaica, Urges Caribbean Nations to Break from PetroCaribe

By Z.C. Dutka | Venezuelanalysis | April 8th, 2015

Boa Vista – US President Barack Obama arrived today in Jamaica as part of an ongoing effort to persuade the island and its neighbors to reduce dependency on Venezuela’s bilateral PetroCaribe program.

As the first active US president to visit Jamaica in 33 years, the primary goal of Mr. Obama’s trip will be to develop, in coordination with the World Bank, an investment plan in the Caribbean’s energy sector.

Vice-president Joe Biden has alleged that PetroCaribe, founded by Hugo Chavez in 2005, is being used as a “tool of coercion” against the region by the South American nation.

For almost a decade, Venezuela has shipped fuel to 18 nations in the Caribbean and Central America with favorable terms for payment, such as low-interest loans, while investing in community projects including hospitals, schools, highways, and homeless shelters.

Last week, the Bolivarian government, through the Petrocaribe initiative, donated US$16 million to help the government of St. Kitts and Nevis provide for former sugar industry workers.

In January, Biden gathered Caribbean heads of state in Washington as part of his Caribbean Energy Security Initiative, which he claims is seeking clean energy solutions for small island governments. However, the focus of the event was less about environmentalism and more about breaking away from Venezuelan trade.

“Whether it’s the Ukraine or the Caribbean, no country should be able to use natural resources as a tool of coercion against any other country,” he told the leaders in attendance.

Last month, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned of “strategic damage” on Venezuela’s part which could cause “a serious humanitarian crisis in our region.”

According to a Miami Herald report published on March 26th, Venezuela has halved subsidized shipments of crude oil to Cuba and other PetroCaribe member nations from 400,000 barrels per day in 2012, to 200,000 barrels per day.

The article, which claimed to cite a Barclay’s Bank report, has since been refuted by the Venezuelan government.

Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez insisted last week that the information was “not true,” and was being published in a concerted effort to discredit PetroCaribe.

Maintaining that the organization remains “pretty strong” despite sliding oil prices and a contracting economy, Rodriguez said a “war” is being waged against the socialist program, because it “brings solutions to poor people.”

April 9, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Economics, Environmentalism | , , , , | Leave a comment

US making ‘no practical steps’ to ratify Nuclear Test Ban Treaty – Russia

RT | March 27, 2015

Moscow has slammed Washington for taking “no practical steps” to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) – despite countless promises to do so – and consequently preventing the important international treaty from going into force.

“The main load of responsibility that the CTBT has not entered into force so far lies on the eight remaining countries from the so-called ‘list of 44′ whose ratification documents are needed to launch the treaty,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry stressed that “first of all, this refers to the US, a country that positions itself as a leader in the sphere of strengthening the regime of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.”

“Unfortunately, despite the repeated statements on the plans to ratify the Treaty, the US has yet taken no practical steps in this direction,” the statement said.

Moscow also praised Angola for ratifying the CTBT on March 20. The African nation was the 164th country to confirm the treaty.

“Such a decision of Luanda (Angola’s capital) certainly brings the CTBT closer to a universal status and contributes to its turning into a valid international-legal tool,” the ministry said.

The statement stressed that Russia’s “continuous commitment to the CTBT and the readiness to secure its speedy entry into legal force.”

“We once again call on all the states that have not yet signed or not ratified the Treaty to do it without delay or preconditions,” it said.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a multilateral agreement banning all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes.

The CTBT was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 1996. However, nearly two decades later, it has not entered into force due to non-ratification by eight countries.

The US, China, Egypt, Iran, Israel have signed the deal, but not ratified it. North Korea and Pakistan have yet to sign the treaty.

March 27, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cancer and Infant Mortality at Three Mile Island

By JOHN LAFORGE | CounterPunch | March 27, 2015

The partial meltdown at Three Mile Island, March 28, 1979, involved the loss-of-coolant, the melting of half its fuel, a hydrogen explosion in the “containment” building,(i) the uncontrolled, frightening buildup of explosive hydrogen in the reactor vessel, the venting of radioactive gases, and the dumping of contaminated water into a major source public drinking water. The accident caused such a scare that it ended the expansion of nuclear power in the US. Today, reactor builds can’t keep up with closures.

Yet the human health consequences of TMI aren’t well known, and official cover-ups, propaganda and ignorance of radiation-induced illnesses have led to trivialization of the disaster. As Gar Smith notes in his 2012 book Nuclear Roulette, public officials issued one false statement after another for days, like: there were no radiation releases; radiation releases were “controlled”; radiation releases were “insignificant”; there was no melting of the reactor fuel; there was never any danger of an explosion; there was no need to evacuate close communities. In fact, TMI’s failed containment released a plume of radiation “about 100 times more significant than the initial estimates offered” by the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — which still doesn’t know how much radiation was released or where it went.

David Lochbaum of the Union of Concern Scientists estimates between 40 million curies and 100 million curies escaped during the accident. President Carter’s Kemeny Commission estimated about 15 million curies of radioactive gas was vented from the containment building, including 43,000 curies of krypton-85(ii) — which stays in the environment for 100 years — and 15-to-24 curies of radioactive iodine-131.(iii) (A curie is a huge amount of radiation — 37 billion disintegrations per second.) The NRC later admitted to several “deliberate but uncontrolled releases” of the cancer-causing gases. Estimates of these airborne releases are mere guesses, because half of the outside radiation monitors were not working, and of those that worked, a large number of them went off-scale.(iv)

Approximately 400,000 gallons of highly radioactive cooling water leaked from the reactor into “containment” areas. This water was secretly dumped into the Susquehanna River, a source of drinking water for nearby communities.(v) Later, about 2.3 million gallons of radioactively contaminated cooling water were allowed to be “evaporated” into the atmosphere.(vi)

On the third day of the venting and dumping, half the population within 15 miles — 144,000 people — fled the area. By this time the bulk of the airborne radiation gusher had already been spewed and was drifting on the wind. Yet the Kemeny Commission ignored all data on the effects of wind-borne radiation, even though the wind blew 6-to-9 mph toward upstate New York and western Pennsylvania.(vii)

“Nobody died at Three Mile Island” — unless you count babies

In 1980, Pennsylvania State Health Department authorities reported a sharp rise in hypothyroidism in newborn infants in the three counties downwind from the reactor. Late in 1979, four times as many infants as normal were born with the disease. The NRC said the increase was unrelated to radiation released by TMI.(viii) Upwind incidence of the disease had dropped to below the national average.

Eric Epstein, Chair of Three Mile Island Alert had noted that in March 1982, the American Journal of Public Health reported, “During the first two quarters of 1978, the [newborn] mortality rate within a 10 mile radius of Three Mile Island was 8.6 and 7.6 per 1,000 live births, respectively. During the first quarter of 1979, following the startup of accident-prone Unit 2, the rate jumped to 17.2; it increased to 19.3 in the quarter following the accident at TMI, and returned to 7.8 and 9.3, respectively, in the last two quarters of 1979.” (Dr. Gordon MacLeod, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Health.)

A June 1991, Columbia University Health Study’s findings (Susser-Hatch) were published in the American Journal of Public Health. The data actually shows more than a doubling of observed cancers in areas near the partial meltdown, including lymphoma, leukemia, colon and the hormonal category of breast, endometrium, ovary, prostate, and testis. For leukemia and lung cancers in the six-to-12 kilometer distance from TMI, the number of observed cases was almost four times greater. In the zero-to-six kilometer range, colon cancer was 4 times greater. The study found “a statistically significant relationship between incidence rates after the accident and residential proximity to the plant.”

In the county where TMI is located, infant mortality (deaths of kids under one) soared 53.7% in the first month after the accident; the rate rose 27% in the first year after the accident. As originally published, the federal government’s own Monthly Vital Statistics Report shows a statistically significant rise in infant and over-all mortality rates shortly after the accident.

Studying 10 counties closest to TMI, Jay Gould and Benjamin Goldman, in their 1990 book Deadly Deceit, found that childhood cancers, other infant diseases, and deaths from birth defects were 15% to 35% higher than before the accident, and those from breast cancer 7% higher. These increases far exceeded those elsewhere in Pennsylvania.(ix) Gould suggests that between 50,000 and 100,000 excess deaths occurred after the TMI accident.

Joseph Mangano studied the three counties closest to TMI — Daupin, Lancaster, and York. He found that between 1980 and 1984, “death rates in these three counties were considerably higher than 1970-74 (before the reactor opened) for leukemia, female breast cancer, thyroid and bone and joint cancers.” Cancer deaths among kids fewer than 10 years of age (between 1980 and 1984) nearly doubled compared to the national rate.

The death and disease associated with TMI’s radiation releases were foretold by Roger Mattson, a Director of the Systems Safety Division at the NRC at the time. Mattson told the NRC’s members during the accident: “I’m not sure why you are not moving people. I don’t know what we are protecting at this point.”(x)

John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin, and edits its Quarterly.

NOTES

1. Daniel Ford, Three Mile Island, Viking Press, 1982, p. 237-238

2. Nuclear Regulatory Commission: <http://www.nrc.gov/POA/gmo/tip/tip10.htm&gt;

3. John May, The Greenpeace Book of the Nuclear Age, Pantheon, 1989, p. 82

4. Dr. John Beyea, study for the National Audubon Society, 1984, in John May, above, pp. 220-221

5. Allen Hedge, Cornell University, “Systems Thinking,” August 2007, <ergo.human.cornell.edu/studentdownloads/DEA325/pdfs/systems.pdf> Stephen Pople, Oxford, Explaining Physics, GCSE Edition, Sec. 8, Electrons and Atoms, 1990, p. 323; and Report of the President’s Commission on the Accident at TMI, October 30, 1979

6. The Washington Post, March 28, 1989

7. Jay Gould and Benjamin Goldman, Deadly Deceit: Low Level Radiation, High Level Cover-Up, New York, Four Walls Eight Windows, 1990, p. 59

8. Boston Globe, February 23, 1980

9. Joseph Mangano, Low-Level Radiation and Immune System Damage: An Atomic Era Legacy, Lewis Publishers, New York, 1999, p. 65

10. Ford, Three Mile Island, p. 234

March 27, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | , , | Leave a comment

Monsanto shuns WHO verdict that Roundup ‘probably’ causes cancer

RT | March 21, 2015

The active ingredient in the world’s most widely-used Roundup herbicide has been classified as “probably” carcinogenic to humans by a branch of the World Health Organization. The agrochemical giant Monsanto, has immediately rejected the new conclusions.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in their latest study said that there was “convincing evidence” that glyphosate in Roundup can cause cancer in lab animals.

St. Louis-based Monsanto was not pleased with WHO conclusions, claiming that scientific data does not support their assumptions and urging the health watchdog to hold a meeting to explain the findings.

“We don’t know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe,” Philip Miller, Monsanto’s vice-president of global regulatory affairs, said in a brief statement released soon after the report was published.

The study, published Friday in the journal Lancet Oncology also said it found “limited evidence” that glyphosate was carcinogenic in humans for “non-Hodgkin lymphoma.” The conclusion of the research was based on studies of exposure to the chemical in the United States, Canada, and Sweden that date back to 2001.

According to the study, Glyphosate is used in more than 750 different herbicides in air dissemination during spraying, in water and in food. IARC said glyphosate was traced in the blood and urine of agricultural workers.

IARC has four levels of classifications for cancer agents. Glyphosate now falls under the second level of concern known as ‘probable or possible carcinogens.’ The other agents are classified either as carcinogens, ‘probably not carcinogenic’ or ‘not classifiable’.

Glyphosate, which was invented by Monsanto back in 1974, is a broad-spectrum herbicide used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses known to compete with commercial crops.

In the US the herbicide is considered safe since 2013, when Monsanto received approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for increased tolerance levels for glyphosate. In its original assessment the US watchdog said glyphosate can “be used without unreasonable risks to people or the environment.” The EPA said it would consider IARC’s evaluation.

A German government evaluation conducted for the European Union last year also found the herbicide safe to use. “The available data do not show carcinogenic or mutagenic properties of glyphosate nor that glyphosate is toxic to fertility, reproduction or embryonal/fetal development in laboratory animal,” the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment said.

Monsanto insists that “all labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health,” according to Miller.

Glyphosate is mainly used on genetically modified corn and soybeans, thus the general public is unlikely to face the greatest risk of exposure, according to the report.

However, “home use” is not the issue, said Kate Guyton of IARC.

“It’s agricultural use that will have the biggest impact. For the moment, it’s just something for people to be conscious of.”

Last month, a leading US environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, accusing regulators of dismissing the dangers of glyphosate.

In a recent report by the Center for Food Safety, the heavy proliferation of Roundup was linked to a drastic 90-percent drop in the population of monarch butterflies in the US. Roundup has become a leading killer of Glyphosate-sensitive milkweed plants – the only spots where monarchs lay eggs, as the plant is the only food source for monarch larvae.

March 21, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism | , , | Leave a comment

What About Diego? What the Torture Report Missed

By Alyssa Röhricht | The Black Cat Revolution | March 20, 2015

The Senate Torture Report released in December 2014 reads worse than even the foulest imaginings of Hieronymus Bosch: sleep deprivation, isolation and sensory deprivation, forced nudity, rectal feeding and rectal rehydration, waterboarding, beatings, threatening detainees with the rape of their mothers and harm of their children, chaining detainees to the ceiling for days clothed in only a diaper, rape, even human experimentation.

The house of horrors detailed in the Senate report – which even in its over 500 pages doubtless only scratches the surface of the depravity of U.S. “War on Terror” tactics – has been discussed at length. But what is outlined in the report is only part of the story. What the report omits is almost equally important to understanding the lengths that the U.S. will go to maintain and expand its Empire. One such omission: Diego Garcia.

Despite it being one of the most strategically important U.S. military bases on the planet, few have ever even heard of Diego Garcia or the Chagos archipelago on which it sits. The chain of over 50 small islands (today known as the British Indian Ocean Territory, or BIOT) is in the center of the Indian Ocean and was once inhabited by a thriving population of indigenous islanders. Today, it is home to the US military base of Camp Justice or the Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia, nicknamed (ironically) the “Footprint of Freedom.” In some ways, the island looks like any American town – a bowling alley, tennis court, library, Post Office, gyms, a bank, a chapel, and even a 9-hole golf course. The B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers, 30 warships, satellite spy station, deep space surveillance system, nuclear storage facility, and the almost 5,000 U.S. servicemen and women that live there give lie to the façade, as do the crumbling homes, school, and church of the island’s previous inhabitants.

The Chagossians – the rightful inhabitants of the islands – have sustained a very different sort of torture. They were not beaten or raped, they were not waterboarded or forcibly deprived of sleep, but they were threatened, they were ripped from their homelands (ancestors, communities, schools, homes), they were forced onto the hull of a ship, and they were dropped on foreign islands and forgotten. And this didn’t happen in long ago history, it happened only 40 years ago – a slow and pronounced torture that continues today.

The first permanent inhabitants of the Chagos Islands were slaves brought by the French to work on coconut plantations around 1783. By 1814, one colonizer replaced another, and the British took control of Mauritius, including the Chagos Islands. In 1968, Mauritius received its independence from the U.K., but for a price. Mauritius would be freed from U.K. rule only if it did not lay claim to the Chagos Islands – thus the British Indian Ocean Territory was born. The U.S. and U.K. developed an informal lease agreement that would allow the U.S. to use Diego Garcia for a military base – prime real estate situated with eyes on the Middle East, Asia, and Russia. The agreement was hidden from both the U.S. Congress and the British Parliament and in direct contradiction to UN resolution 1514 and international law, which stated that colonies being decolonized had to be done as a whole – not carved up for profit.

The U.S./U.K. terror campaign was launched to have the islands “swept” and “sanitized” of the Chagossian people, first through an embargo aimed at starving the population out. Without basic supplies like milk, salt, and medication, many Chagossians left. In the Spring of 1971, officials in the U.S. military gave the order to round up all of the pet dogs on the island and have them killed. Thousands of pet dogs were murdered – some taken straight from screaming children – gassed with exhaust fumes from military vehicles. The Chagossians that had held out were then rounded onto a ship allowed to take only one suitcase. The horses took precedence and were put on deck. The Chagossians – women and children – slept in the hull on bird fertilizer – bird shit.

Marie Lisette Talate, a Chagossian, recalled in the documentary written and directed by John Pilger, Stealing a Nation, “All of us Chagossians, women, children, it was ourselves who were the animals on the Nordvaer.”

They were taken to the Seychelles and kept in prison cells until finally being transported to Mauritius where many Chagossians remain today. They were dropped there with nothing – no food, money, housing, jobs, water, or any institutional support in a country unknown to them. Unable to provide for themselves, many Chagossians began to die. Malnutrition, disease, and drugs plagued the community. But many islanders say that the Chagossian people were dying of sagren, sadness.

Marie Rita Elysée Bancoult, one of the Chagossian people, recounted her life after the forced relocation in an interview with Vine. After learning that they would never be returning home, her husband, Julien, suffered a stroke and died five years later. In the years that followed, her sons Alex, 38, Eddy, 36, and Rénault, 11, also died.

“My life has been buried… It’s as if I was pulled from my paradise to put me in hell. Everything here you need to buy. I don’t have the means to buy them. My children go without eating. How am I supposed to bear this life?”

This type of torture may leave no visible scars, but it is no less effective. The Chagossians have seen their homes destroyed, have left behind their land and belongings, have abandoned the graves of their ancestors, watched as their pets were ripped away and killed, and were left – deserted – on the shores of foreign lands, the forgotten refuse of Empire.

The torture continues today, as the Chagossians are ping-ponged back and forth between the two governments. The U.K. claims that the U.S. will not allow the islanders to live on the islands due to national security concerns of the base. Meanwhile the U.S. obviates responsibility, claiming it has no jurisdiction over the islands and that the Chagossians must direct their requests to the Crown. Justice, it seems, is only for the few.

What’s more, they must watch from afar as their homeland is destroyed and denigrated by the U.S. military. In addition to a recent admission by a senior Bush administration official to VICE News that the island of Diego Garcia has been used as a “transit site” where people were “interrogated from time to time,” studies of the waters surrounding the Diego Garcia military base as well have revealed massive environmental harms caused by the base, including decades of contamination from wastewater sewage, which the U.S. has been discharging into the water since at least the 1980s. The dumping of the treated sewage waters have resulted in elevated levels of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphates up to four times higher than normal and may be causing damage to the coral reefs.

Just the construction of Diego Garcia alone has eliminated much of the vegetation coverage on the island and decimated the coral reef – forests were bulldozed and coral reefs were blasted and dredged. As with most military bases, the usual nuclear contamination, fuel spills of millions of gallons of oil, carcinogenic pollutants in the soil and water, dangerous underwater sonars that harm marine life, and a litany of unexploded munitions plague the island. And yet, many argue against the Chagossian return to their native lands on environmental grounds, the implication being that the U.S. military is a better guardian of these islands than the people who had lived there in harmony for generations. The implicit racism in this notion is hard to ignore.

Despite the setbacks, Chagossians continue to fight, and while the U.S. and U.K. governments have continued to abdicate responsibility for their complicity in these crimes against humanity, the Chagossians seem better positioned for a return than at any other point in history. The U.K. government recently commissioned a feasibility study to determine whether a settlement may be achievable on the islands, which found “no insurmountable legal obstacles” to the Chagossians returning home. At the same time, negotiations over the military base are up for discussion between the U.S. and U.K. to decide if the informal lease of the land will be extended for the U.S. military.

The decades of torture imposed upon these people has yet to be adequately addressed or remunerated, and while the international community has expressed outrage over the U.S. use of some of the most vile and perverted means of torture against prisoners in rendition sites across the globe, the same international outcry must be directed at the decades of human rights abuses imposed upon the people of the Chagos Islands. Torture, after all, is not just carried out with drills, straps, and chains; there is also a psychological torture – the torture of neglect and marginalization that renders a people invisible – that can do just as much damage.

March 21, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

San Diego sues Monsanto for bay pollution & persistent contamination

RT | March 17, 2015

Agrochemical giant Monsanto has been sued by the City of San Diego and the San Diego Unified Port District for selling chemicals the multinational knew were harmful to the ecology, including that of the now heavily polluted San Diego Bay.

According to the San Diego Reader, city agencies filed suit on Monday, alleging Monsanto hid its knowledge of the toxicity of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Despite being aware of these facts, the company peddled its chemical compounds for industrial use, including shipbuilding, electrical component manufacture, food packaging and paint plasticizers.

The city and port were previously held responsible by the San Diego Regional Water Control Board for the bay’s pollution, resulting in fines of $949,634. The city set aside $6.45 million to improve the Shipyards Sediment Site, the most notoriously polluted section of the bay. City and port authorities have already sued shipbuilding companies BAE and NASSCO, and are now going for Monsanto.

“PCBs manufactured by Monsanto have been found in Bay sediments and water and have been identified in tissues of fish, lobsters, and other marine life in the Bay,” the city said in the lawsuit. “PCB contamination in and around the Bay affects all San Diegans and visitors who enjoy the Bay, who reasonably would be disturbed by the presence of a hazardous, banned substance in the sediment, water, and wildlife.

“PCBs were not only a substantial factor in causing the City and Port District to incur damages, but a primary driving force behind the need to clean up and abate Bay sediments. In addition, fish consumption warnings are posted at locations in and around Bay tidelands warning the public that fish within the Bay may contain contaminants and directing consumption limitations.”

Monsanto was the practically the only PCB producer in North America, marketing the products under the name Aroclor from 1930 to 1977, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The lawsuit claimed Monsanto had known about the risks of inhaling or ingesting PCBs since the 1930s.

A report from 1969, the suit noted, showed that a Monsanto committee discussed ways to continue propagating the organic pollutants, which have been linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, among others.

“There is little probability that any action that can be taken will prevent the growing incrimination of specific polychlorinated biphenyls as nearly global environmental contaminants leading to contamination of human food (particularly fish), the killing of some marine species (shrimp), and the possible extinction of several species of fish eating birds,” the internal Monsanto report said.

“Secondly, the committee believes that there is no practical course of action that can so effectively police the uses of these products as to prevent environmental contamination. There are, however a number of actions which must be undertaken to prolong the manufacture, sale and use of these particular Aroclors as well as to protect the continued use of other members of the Aroclor series.”

Through the suit, the city and port want to recoup costs of removing PCBs from the bay and for loss of natural resources.

PCBs have been banned in the United States since 1979.

Much of Monsanto’s PCB production occurred in plants based in Anniston, Alabama and Sauget, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

In 2013, a Missouri appeals court ruled that a lawsuit — alleging PCBs produced by Monsanto caused cancer — could move forward in a reversal of a lower court’s decision.

The case, according to attorneys for the plaintiffs, is monumental given the plaintiffs alleged “general population” — and not occupational — exposure.

“The case represents the first time that injured victims have sought to hold a company accountable for producing a chemical that has contaminated the entire planet, including every person in the United States,” wrote Allen Stewart, P.C., a Dallas law firm that handles lymphoma claims.

“The plaintiffs are three lymphoma patients who each have elevated levels of PCBs in their blood. The original Monsanto Co. (now known as “Pharmacia Corp.”) produced more than 99% of all of the PCBs ever used in the United States. Because PCBs are far more persistent in the environment than most other chemicals, PCBs are now a ubiquitous environmental contaminant. Today, PCBs can be found in measurable levels in virtually any sample of soil or air, and also in the food chain. PCBs contaminate fish, dairy products, beef, pork, poultry, and eggs.”

Read more: DuPont pushing for lenient plan in cleaning up toxic former munitions plant

March 17, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Environmentalism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monsanto’s Deep Legacy of Corruption and Cover-Up

By Barbara Minton | Natural Society | March 6, 2015

Monsanto is now instantly recognized as the company dominating the global food supply with its more than 7000  current worldwide patents. But today’s Monsanto is not a corporate newcomer. Although its literature heralds the company as having a clear and principled code of conduct and a pledge to demonstrate integrity, respect, ethical behavior, and honesty in everything they do, the truth is that this company has a legacy of contamination and cover-up that dates back more than a century.

The Rise of  one of ‘The Worst Corporations in the World’

At the turn of the 19th century, John Queeny founded Monsanto Chemical Works to produce such nefarious products as saccharin, synthetic vanillin, and laxative and sedative drugs. The company was well positioned as a leading force in the dawning American chemical industry.

From the 1920’s until the late 1960’s, Queeny’s son, Edgar Monsanto Queeny, expanded the company into a global franchise, and changed its name to Monsanto Chemical Company in 1933. He added sulfuric acid, PCBs, DDT, synthetic fibers, and an array of plastics that included polystyrene to the product line.

During this time, Monsanto also created Agent Orange, one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971.

Agent Orange was a combination of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. The 2,4,5-T used to produce Agent Orange threw off dioxin as a byproduct, a compound the World Health Organization classes as highly toxic. Dioxin can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, hormone disruption, and the initiation of cancer. Dioxin persists in the environment and accumulates in the body, even at minimal exposure.

In areas where Agent Orange was used, the concentration of dioxin was hundreds of times greater than the levels considered safe by the Environmental Protective Agency (EPA). This resulted in a host of terrible health consequences for anyone exposed. and led to decades of litigation during which Monsanto fought tooth and nail to avoid paying for the horrific damage military personnel suffered from. The class action case that followed was settled out of court in 1984 for $180 million, reportedly the latest settlement of its kind at the time.

More than 60 years of Contamination and Cover Up

Dioxin Leak at Nitro – $93 Million Settlement

monsanto_Picture-682_310From 1929 until 1995, Monsanto operated a chemical plant in the small town of Nitro, West Virginia, where it manufactured Agent Orange. In 1949, a pressure valve blew on a tank of the herbicide, sending plumes of smoke and vapors containing dioxin throughout the town, coating residents and the homes they lived in with powdery residue.

In a short time, some people developed skin eruptions and were diagnosed with an enduring and disfiguring condition known as chloracne. Others had prolonged pain extending from their chest to their feet. According to a medical report following the explosion, “It caused a systemic intoxication in the workers involving most major organ systems.”

Monsanto’s reaction? The company down-played it, claiming the chemical was slow-acting and just a minor irritant.

To get rid of the dioxin, the company dumped it into storm drains, streams and sewers, and stored it in landfills. Dioxin persisted in waterways and in the fish that lived in them. When residents sued for damages, they were told by Monsanto that their allegations had no merit and that the company would defend itself vigorously.

The residents of Nitro or their descendants finally received $93 million from Monsanto in 2012.

PCBs Contaminate the Town of Anniston, Alabama

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are used in many industries as hydraulic fluids, sealants, and lubricants. These chemicals have been demonstrated to cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems.

Monsanto’s plant in Anniston, Alabama produced PCBs from 1929 to 1971. Since then, tons of contaminated soil have been hauled away from the plant, but the site continues to be one of the most highly polluted areas in the country.

Why was it such a mess? During its production years, waste PCBs were dumped  into a nearby open landfill, poured into a creek that ran alongside the plant,  or just allowed to run off the property during storms. During those years, the townspeople drank from their wells, ate fish they caught, and swam in the creeks, oblivious of the PCBs. When public awareness began to mount, authorities found high levels of PCBs all over the place, and in the bodies of those people, where it will remain forever.

In 1966, a Monsanto biologist testing waterways near the Anniston plant found that when live fish were added to the water, “All 25 fish lost equilibrium and turned on their sides in 10 seconds and all were dead in 3 1/2 minutes.”

In 1970, the FDA found high levels of PCBs in fish near the Anniston plant, and Monsanto jumped into cover-up mode. A leaked internal memo from a company official outlined steps for the company to take to limit disclosure. The strategy called for engaging public officials to fight the battle for them. “Joe Crockett, Secretary of the Alabama Water Improvement Commission will try to handle the problem quietly without release of the information to the public at this time,” the memo promised.

A statement eventually released from Monsanto’s world headquarters in St. Louis stated, “Quoting both plant management and the Alabama Water Improvement Commission, the PCB problem was relatively new, was being solved by Monsanto and, at this point, was no cause for public alarm.”

The class action suit for Anniston was finally settled  in 2003, when Monsanto was forced to pay $700 million.

More PCBs Dumped into the Environment

In 1977, Monsanto closed its PCB plant in Whales, but not before dumping thousands of tons of waste into the quarry of the town of Groesfaen. Authorities there say the site is still one of the most contaminated in Britain.

Internal papers indicate that Monsanto knew about the PCB dangers as early as 1953, when toxicity tests on the effects of PCBs killed more than 50% of the lab rats subjected to them. In 2011, Monsanto reluctantly agreed to help in the clean up after an environmental agency found 67 chemicals at the quarry site that were exclusively manufactured by Monsanto. Yet that effort remained underfunded and the quarry remains contaminated.

The Guardian reported that Monsanto wrote an abatement plan in 1969 which admitted “the problem involves the entire United States, Canada, and sections of Europe, especially the UK and Sweden.”

Navy Rejects Monsanto Product Because it was ‘Too Toxic’

Monsanto tried to sell its hydraulic fluid, known as Pydraul 150, to the navy in 1956, and supplied test results in their sales pitch. But the navy decided to do its own testing, and the company was informed that there would be no sale because the product proved to be too toxic. In an internal memo divulged during a court proceeding, Monsanto’s medical director stated that “no matter how we discussed the situation, it was impossible to change their thinking that Pydraul 150 is just too toxic for use in submarines.”

Monsanto Moves into Food, Biotechnology

Monsanto’s move into biotech began in the 1970’s, and in 1983 the first genetic modification of a plant cell had been achieved. Synthetic bovine growth hormone (rBST) was on the horizon. Monsanto’s public relations department portrayed GM seeds as a panacea for alleviating poverty and feeding the hungry. In 1985, the company bought NutraSweet artificial sweetener, a branded version of aspartame – the compound responsible for 75% of the complaints reported to the FDA’s adverse reaction monitoring system.

Monsanto Seeks Clean Image, Creates Solutia

In the late 1990’s, Monsanto created a new company known as Solutia, and off-loaded its chemical and fiber businesses. L. Bartlett and James B. Steele, chronicling the rise of Monsanto for Vanity Fair magazine, noted the reason for the spinoff was to channel the bulk of Monsanto’s mounting chemical lawsuits and liabilities into the spun-off company, thereby creating a clean image for Monsanto. Solutia became Monsanto’s solution!

As the company, now known simply as Monsanto, moves through the 21st century, it has a ‘new cleaned-up image,’ and a fine sounding mission statement. It refers to itself as a relatively new company that promotes sustainable agriculture and delivering products that support farmers around the world.

Except Monsanto is the 3rd most hated company in the world.

Monsanto’s legacy of contamination and cover-up should be a wake up call for you to run from the GMOs they have spawned. Remember the old adage that says leopards can’t change their spots?

March 12, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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