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Losing Earth: A Recent History (2019)

Tekijä: Nathaniel Rich

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"By 1979, we knew nearly everything we understand today about climate change--including how to stop it. Over the next decade, a handful of scientists, politicians, and strategists, led by two unlikely heroes, risked their careers in a desperate, escalating campaign to convince the world to act before it was too late. [This] is their story"--… (lisätietoja)
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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 9) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
One more reason to hate Reagan. Depressing, thorough, and unsurprising. ( )
  KallieGrace | Feb 27, 2024 |
A fast-paced, very readable look at the climate "debate" (such as it was) in the 1980s, and how that decade has shaped the ensuing forty years of discussion over global climate change. Fascinating and profoundly disturbing. ( )
  JBD1 | Oct 22, 2023 |
This book begins in the late 1970s and follows those who dared to push back against the political and economic agendas of both big fossil fuel companies and the U.S. government. Viewing these as separate entities has been a mistake as many of the key decisions about what should (or shouldn't) be done to mitigate the disastrous effects of rising temperatures were made with fossil fuels + the global economy in mind. The author of this book lays out step-by-step how policies were proposed, watered down, and ultimately made useless in the face of what many policymakers thought would cause an 'economic disaster' to the United States (and our trade partners across the globe). Through disinformation and outright denialism, the American public who once fully understood that scientists wholeheartedly agreed on the generalities of climate change were made to question and eventually come to distrust any information that was labeled as 'environmental science'. And this is how it stands today with very little in the way of real statutes or limitations regarding the use of fossil fuels. Every time there has been an approach to a global agreement, the U.S. (and usually its allies) have refused to participate wholesale.

Climate change is undeniable and in the 1980s when it became a hot button topic both politically and socioeconomically no one questioned this fact (or the science behind it). But when it first 'hit the scene' at this time it was not a new subject to those who were studying climate science and worrying about how to get the U.S. government to begin making widespread (leading to global) changes to slow the heating up of our planet.

If you're interested in this topic (and we all should be!) then this is a great little starter book to give you a history of how this topic was approached in the States + how it stands today. ( )
  AliceaP | Feb 14, 2022 |
Amazing. Interesting for those who want to get a grip on the intricacies between climate science and politics.

Also, once more, illustrates that we have known, and known for long time, about climat change.
  Boreque | Feb 7, 2022 |
Nathaniel Rich's book "Losing Earth" deals with Climate Change, but is not a book that tries to teach the science, nor dwells on the potential catastrophic consequences of a changing climate. Rather, it raises, and then answers the question, if it's a problem, why isn't the United States doing anything about it?

President Trump famously withdrew the Country from the Paris Climate Agreement, which was agreed to by essentially every Nation in the World. As of 2019, 196 states plus the European Union have signed the agreement, and the governing bodies of 183 of these countries have formally ratified it. So if the scientific institutions of each of these Countries recognize the reality of climate change, and can foresee the detrimental impacts of a warming world, why does the United States basically stand alone in denying climate change?

"Losing Earth" looks at how the scientists, businesses, and politicians have looked at the issue over the past 40 years or so. The science behind Climate Change has changed very little since the late 1970's, when scientists, the fossil fuel industry, and American politicians all understood and agreed on the need to act to limit the impact of climate change. But change is hard, and gradually, the stance of major carbon emitters and a number of prominent politicians turned from support to questioning to delay to opposition.

When President Reagan was elected in 1980, he leaned toward reducing Industry regulations and adopting Industry friendly policies. Early on, Reagan declined to act on Climate regulation, and even removed the solar panels from the White House roof, indicating his disdain for alternative energy. He proposed allowing increased coal mining on Federal lands, deregulation of surface coal mining, and to enact these policies, named James Watt, a pro-drilling and pro-mining advocate as Secretary of the Interior. After initially considering elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he relented, but instead appointed anti-regulation activist Anne Gorsuch to head the Agency. Subsequently, she cut the EPA budget by over 20%, reduced staff by 25%, and hired industry insiders to oversee their own industries. After the EPA put out a report warning about high carbon emissions and global warming, Reagan's science advisor, George Keyworth II discounted the report, and warned against taking any near-term corrective actions. The Administrations approach was that there were NO actions recommended other than continued research. At the bipartisan urging of Congress, Reagan did ultimately agree to join with Soviet President Gorbachev on a pledge to deal with global warming. But pledges and research don't equate with action, and not much happened during the Reagan years.

With this political atmosphere, and the inability of scientists to say exactly when the most significant impact of climate change would occur, coal and oil Industry groups delayed any actions to address climate change, and instead adopted policies to do further studies on the problem. The American Petroleum Institute (API) discontinued its CO2 task force, and Exxon ended their CO2 program. Similarly, politicians delayed making the tough choices needed to address climate change pending final and firm details on when climate changes would occur, and to what extent.

It appeared that things might change in 1988 when the Democrats nominated Michael Dukakis and the Republicans nominated G. H. W. Bush as their respective presidential candidates. In that election cycle, it was Dukakis who was pushing for more fossil fuel usage, noting that the U.S. had enough coal to power the Country for the next 300 years. Bush stood in contrast to that position, stating that he was an environmentalist. Further, he famously stated, "Those who think we are powerless to do anything about the greenhouse effect, are forgetting about the White House effect".

Just after taking office, Bush was visited by former Presidents Ford and Carter, who presented him with a bipartisan report, "American Agenda", which outlined the problems facing America. It recommended making Climate Change a national priority, and doubling the EPA's research budget. Additionally, Congress proposed multiple bipartisan initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, and to join with other Nations to work together to do the same.

But soon, the oil men started reconsidering, recommending delayed action and more research. In 1988, Mobil warned that action to address the greenhouse effect might require a dramatic reduction in dependence on fossil fuels. Exxon developed a corporate position on Climate, drafted not by scientists on staff, but by public relations people. The first draft acknowledged that the science was real, but proposed that Exxon should emphasize the uncertainty in scientific conclusions regarding the greenhouse effect. The general approach taken by the fossil fuel industry was that regulations to address climate change could hurt profits. On the other hand, some felt that a warming world would require more energy usage, primarily due to the need for more air conditioning and refrigeration. Their position was to proceed with caution, making sure any regulations would be applied gradually to limit economic shocks. Their approach was to highlight the uncertainties in the science, question the effectiveness of any new regulations, urge international cooperation, and accept only those measures which were consistent with broader corporate goals (e.g., actions which didn't hurt profits). The shift in the industry position merged nicely with President Bush's Chief of Staff, John Sinunu. Sinunu wanted no additional regulations or spending to fight climate change, and any good intentions President Bush may have had went nowhere.

By the time Bill Clinton became President, industry groups concerned about possible regulations of their industries to address climate change launched an organization, the Global Climate Coalition (GCC). Membership included petroleum, mining, utility, and automotive industries and their lobbying groups, representing the largest industries in the Country. While many GCC members — including ExxonMobil, Shell, Edison Electric Institute (EEI), Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Ford, and the American Petroleum Institute (API) — had internally acknowledged years earlier that the burning of fossil fuels contributed to and worsened climate change, they issued statements that Climate change probably wouldn't happen for >100 years, and expected that technical innovation would solve the problem before then. After Bill Clinton proposed an energy tax, the GCC directed a $1.8 million investment in a global warming disinformation campaign. Senate Democrats from oil producing States joined Republicans in defeating Clinton's tax proposal, and through the rest of the 1990's, the GCC spent at least 1 million dollars / year to crush public support for climate policy. The GCC ultimately disbanded in 2002 after several major members became embarrassed by their tactics and defected, but by then they had made their message dominant throughout the Country.

In 2000, as a candidate for President, G. W. Bush acknowledged that climate change was real, and 2008 G.O.P. Presidential nominee John McCain did the same in his campaign. However, the influences of Dick Cheney, former head of oil services behemoth Halliburton Corp., and industry leaders in general, were emboldened in their battles against climate change, and pushed the claim that the fundamental science of climate change was uncertain. And even though Obama won the Presidency in 2008, denialism was dominant within the Republican Party, and climate change initiatives were defeated in Congress. In 2009, the oil and gas industry, led by Exxon-Mobil, spent about a $500 million dollars on lobbying efforts to weaken energy legislation.

When the Nations of the world set targets to limit greenhouse gases under the Paris Climate Agreement, efforts to regulate carbon emissions and limit the effect of climate change have only been weakened in the United States after the election of President Trump in 2016.

We can only hope that, in the long run, the planet will be fine. The climate has changed many times in the past, and will change again in the future. However those past significant changes occurred gradually over tens of thousands of years, long before humans populated the earth. So while the planet will continue to circle the sun, regardless of changes in climate, because of the rapidity of the change and the fact that the world population now is so high, the human impact is likely to be much more significant. If so, this is the legacy we leave for our children, and our children's children.

Unfortunately, indications are the we can't be counted on to sacrifice present convenience to forestall penalties imposed on future generations. But that's not a certainty. Consider that DuPont was against taking action on CFC's to manage the Ozone Hole, but relented when they found out that there were profits in new refrigerants. In the same way, new technologies, new renewables can be profitable to many. Let's hope that political and industry leaders can join forces once again to develop a strategy for addressing this issue. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
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"By 1979, we knew nearly everything we understand today about climate change--including how to stop it. Over the next decade, a handful of scientists, politicians, and strategists, led by two unlikely heroes, risked their careers in a desperate, escalating campaign to convince the world to act before it was too late. [This] is their story"--

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