— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for the ‘Clean Coal’ Category

Drumpfian Attacks on U.S. Environmental Rules

33 rules have been overturned
  • Flood building standards
  • Proposed ban on a potentially harmful pesticide
  • Freeze on new coal leases on public lands
  • Methane reporting requirement
  • Anti-dumping rule for coal companies
  • Decision on Keystone XL pipeline
  • Decision on Dakota Access pipeline
  • Third-party settlement funds
  • Offshore drilling ban in the Atlantic and Arctic
  • Ban on seismic air gun testing in the Atlantic
  • Northern Bering Sea climate resilience plan
  • Royalty regulations for oil, gas and coal
  • Inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews
  • Permit-issuing process for new infrastructure projects
  • Green Climate Fund contributions
  • Endangered species listings
  • Hunting ban on wolves and grizzly bears in Alaska
  • Protections for whales and sea turtles
  • Reusable water bottles rule for national parks
  • National parks climate order
  • Environmental mitigation for federal projects
  • Calculation for “social cost” of carbon
  • Planning rule for public lands
  • Copper filter cake listing as hazardous waste
  • Mine cleanup rule
  • Sewage treatment pollution regulations
  • Ban on use of lead ammunition on federal lands
  • Restrictions on fishing
  • Fracking regulations on public lands
  • Migratory bird protections
  • Department of Interior climate policies
  • Rule regulating industrial polluters
  • Safety standards for “high hazard” trains
24 rollbacks are in progress
  • Clean Power Plan
  • Paris climate agreement
  • Car and truck fuel-efficiency standards
  • Offshore oil and gas leasing
  • Status of 10 national monuments
  • Status of 12 marine areas
  • Limits on toxic discharge from power plants
  • Coal ash discharge regulations
  • Emissions standards for new, modified and reconstructed power plants
  • Emissions rules for power plant start-up and shutdown
  • Sage grouse habitat protections
  • Regulations on oil and gas drilling in some national parks
  • Oil rig safety regulations
  • Regulations for offshore oil and gas exploration by floating vessels
  • Drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge
  • Hunting method regulations in Alaska
  • Requirement for tracking emissions on federal highways
  • Emissions standards for trailers and glider kits
  • Limits on methane emissions on public lands
  • Permitting process for air-polluting plants
  • Use of birds in subsistence handicrafts
  • Coal dust rule
  • Haze rule for national parks
  • Review process for forest restoration projects
10 rollbacks are in limbo
  • Wetland and tributary protections
  • Methane emission limits at new oil and gas wells
  • Limits on landfill emissions
  • Mercury emission limits for power plants
  • Hazardous chemical facility regulations
  • Groundwater protections for uranium mines
  • Efficiency standards for appliances
  • Efficiency standards for federal buildings
  • Rule helping consumers buy fuel-efficient tires
  • Aircraft emissions standards

As the above list amply illustrates, “[s]ince taking office last year [2016], President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority”.1 



1“67 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump” NYT (31 Jan 2018). https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/05/climate/trump-environment-rules-reversed.html.

Last Hours



‘The film Last Hours is the 2nd film in the Green World Rising Series ( the first one is Carbon that is available on this channel). Last Hours describes a science-based climate scenario where a tipping point to runaway climate change is triggered by massive releases of frozen methane. Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, has already started to percolate into the open seas and atmosphere from methane hydrate deposits beneath melting arctic ice, from the warming northern-hemisphere tundra, and from worldwide continental-shelf undersea methane pools. Burning fossil fuels release carbon that, principally through greenhouse effect, heat the atmosphere and the seas. This is happening most rapidly at the polar extremes, and this heating has already begun the process of releasing methane. If we do not begin to significantly curtail the use of carbon-based fossil fuels, this freed methane threatens to radically accelerate the speed of global warming, potentially producing a disaster beyond the ability of the human species to adapt. With this film, we hope to awaken people to the fact that the earth has experienced five major extinctions in the deep geologic past – times when more than half of all life on earth vanished – and that we are now entering a sixth extinction. Industrial civilization with its production of greenhouse gases has the potential to trigger a mass extinction on the order of those seen in the deep geological past. In the extreme, it could threaten not just human civilization, but the very existence of human life on this planet. An asset for the climate change movement, Last Hours will be disseminated globally to help inform society about the dangers associated with climate change and to encourage the world community to chart a path forward that greatly reduces green house gas emissions . . . Last Hours is narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, presented by Thom Hartmann and directed by Leila Conners. Executive Producers are George DiCaprio, Earl Katz and Roee Sharon Peled. Last Hours is produced by Mathew Schmid and was written by Thom Hartmann, Sam Sacks, and Leila Conners. Music is composed and performed by Francesco Lupica. Last Hours is brought to you by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and produced by Tree Media. Published on Sep 19, 2014′.



Human Extinction ahead and the End of the World as we Know it


The eminent Australian scientist Frank Fenner, who passed away in late 2010, made some surprisingly unsurprising predictions right before his death. Writing on the web-based science, research and technology news service Phys.org, Lin Edwards put forward that Professor Fenner “predicts humans will probably be extinct within 100 years, because of overpopulation, environmental destruction and climate change”.[1] As such, this apparently shocking statement should not come as a surprise to anybody . . . given that estimates indicate that the availability of drinking water will become problematic by the year 2040 and that the supply of foodstuffs will arguably falter in about ten years from then, or by 2050 . . . underpinning such dire estimations are the prospects of the sustained growth of the human population in the coming century. The world’s leading resource for events, research, and insight into the global agricultural investment sector Global AgInvesting (or GAI) released a report in 2012 (entitled simply, World Population Growth in the 21st Century) that put the population increase into perspective: “[t]he world’s human population does not grow linearly, but rather geometrically, (i.e., 1, 2, 4, 8, 16…, etc.) which explains the five-fold increase in population from 1.2 billion to 6.1 billion during the 20th Century. Rapid population growth is predicted to continue for the first half of the 21st century, with rates of growth declining during the latter half of the century. World population is projected to stabilize at just over 10.1 billion by 2100”.[2] More than 10 billion people without easy or even direct access to either drinking water or food, to be precise. That is, as things stand today.



Edwards continues her piece by stating that Professor Fenner has “said [that] homo sapiens will not be able to survive the population explosion and ‘unbridled consumption’, and will become extinct, perhaps within a century, along with many other species. United Nations official figures from last year [i.e. 2011] estimate the human population is 6.8 billion, and is predicted to pass seven billion next year. Fenner told The Australian he tries not to express his pessimism because people are trying to do something, but keep putting it off. He said he believes the situation is irreversible, and it is too late because the effects we have had on Earth since industrialization (a period now known to scientists unofficially as the Anthropocene) rivals any effects of ice ages or comet impacts”.[3] The report World Population Growth in the 21st Century puts it like this: The “rapid growth [of the human population] is expected [to occur] in the next 40 years, and will likely place a huge burden on global resources and the agriculture sector in particular”.[4] Professor Fenner himself told the press that “We’ll undergo the same fate as the people on Easter Island, there will be a lot more wars over food”,[5] aka resource wars-in-the-extreme. Lin Edwards then goes on to explain Fenner’s analogy: the “Easter Island is famous for its massive stone statues. Polynesian people settled there, in what was then a pristine tropical island, around the middle of the first millennium AD. The population grew slowly at first and then exploded. As the population grew the forests were wiped out and all the tree animals became extinct, both with devastating consequences. After about 1600 the civilization began to collapse, and had virtually disappeared by the mid-19th century. Evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond said the parallels between what happened on Easter Island and what is occurring today on the planet as a whole are ‘chillingly obvious'”.[6]


At the end of 2010, I wrote a piece appropriately headlined “Easter Island as a metaphor” and in it I tried to come to terms with what had happened to the island and how these events appear to predict the fate of the planet as a whole: “[w]hen Europeans arrived on the island it was utterly treeless. Pollen analysis has revealed however that the island was ‘almost totally’ forested until about the year 1200. But now the island is barren. A volcanic crater on the island’s eastern plain, Rano Raraku, provided the source of the sideromelane (basaltic) tuff from which 95% of the statues were carved. Some 250 mo‘ai [or Easter Island statues] are found in an almost unbroken line around the perimeter of the island, while 600 others in various stages of completion are scattered around the island. It is hard to imagine that this now barren island was once covered with trees and forests, but as wood and other tree materials were needed to transport the mo‘ai, trees had to be cut down and forests subsequently disappeared. In view of this rapacious resource depletion executed in the space of two and a half centuries, the locals devised narratives that managed to minimize the role of humans destroying the island’s abundant forests. The environmentally concerned physicist Adam Frank, on the other hand, relates in a matter-of-fact voice that the ‘need for trees, rope, and food to maintain a population of laborers eventually led to the destruction of the very forests the islanders depended on. After the forests were gone erosion took the soil too. What followed was Easter Island collapsing into starvation, warfare and cannibalism. The chance of escape disappeared too as seafaring canoes require large trees for their hulls'”.[7] Edwards, for her part, adds that “many scientists are also pessimistic, [but] others are more optimistic”.[8] She cites Professor Stephen Boyden as an example of the latter and predictably, he has come out to state that “[w]hile there’s a glimmer of hope, it’s worth working to solve the problem. We have the scientific knowledge to do it but we don’t have the political will”.[9] The other side of the coin is represented by somebody like the English writer and erstwhile green activist Paul Kingsnorth, who spent about two decades striving to save the planet as an activist in the environmental movement. But once he turned 40, he had an epiphany of sorts and threw out the baby with the bathwater, some would argue . . . he wrote an essay that ended with the following words: “It’s all fine. I withdraw, you see. I withdraw from the campaigning and the marching . . . I am leaving. I am going to go out walking”.[10] Together with Dougald Hine, he penned UNCIVILISATION: The Dark Mountain Manifesto,[11]


“These are precarious and unprecedented times . . . Little that we have taken for granted is likely to come through this century intact.

We don’t believe that anyone — not politicians, not economists, not environmentalists, not writers — is really facing up to the scale of this … Somehow, technology or political agreements or ethical shopping or mass protest are meant to save our civilization from self-destruction.

Well, we don’t buy it. This project starts with our sense that civilization as we have known it is coming to an end; brought down by a rapidly changing climate, a cancerous economic system and the ongoing mass destruction of the non-human world. But it is driven by our belief that this age of collapse — which is already beginning — could also offer a new start, if we are careful in our choices.

The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop”.[12]




[1] Lin Edwards, “Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist” Phys.org (23 July 2010). http://phys.org/news/2010-06-humans-extinct-years-eminent-scientist.html#jCp.

[2] World Population Growth in the 21st Century (23 March 2012), p. 3. http://www.globalaginvesting.com/downloads/files/World-Population-Growth-in-the-21st-Century-277F.pdf.

[3] Lin Edwards, “Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist”.

[4] World Population Growth in the 21st Century, p. 3.

[5] Lin Edwards, “Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist”.

[6] Lin Edwards, “Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist”.

[7] C. Erimtan, “Easter Island as a metaphor: resource depletion, climate change and the word of God” Today’s Zaman (21 December 2010). http://www.todayszaman.com/op-ed_easter-island-as-a-metaphor-resource-depletion-climate-change-and-the-word-of-god-by-can-eri-mtan-_229397.html.

[8] Lin Edwards, “Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist”.

[9] Lin Edwards, “Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist”.

[10] Wen Stephenson ,”‘I withdraw’: A talk with climate defeatist Paul Kingsnorth” Grist 50 (11 Apr 2012). http://grist.org/climate-energy/i-withdraw-a-talk-with-climate-defeatist-paul-kingsnorth/.

[11] The Dark Mountain Project. http://dark-mountain.net/about/manifesto/.

[12] Wen Stephenson ,”‘I withdraw’: A talk with climate defeatist Paul Kingsnorth”.

Climate Change is a Hoax Redux: ExxonMobil and Professor Schellnhuber

The reporter Avaneesh Pandey declares that “ExxonMobil — one of the world’s largest oil companies — was not only aware of the links between fossil fuels and global warming [(i)n the early 1980s], it was also actively trying to promote climate change denial among the general public”.[1]  Lest you’d forgotten, ExxonMobil is the company behind Alaska’s largest oil spill to date — “the tanker Exxon Valdez grounded on Bligh Reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, rupturing its hull and spilling nearly 11 million gallons of Prudhoe Bay crude oil into a remote, scenic, and biologically productive body of water”, “[o]n March 24, 1989”.[2]  The tanker had been in the hands of ExxonMobil between 1986 and 1989.

The Union of Concerned Scientist (UCS) published The Climate Deception Dossiers in July 2015, which is the basis of Pandey’s IBT report. The Dossiers’ lead authors are Kathy Mulvey and Seth Shulman and they categorically state that “the fossil fuel industry and policy makers learned that the climate is changing and that emissions from burning fossil fuels are the cause” “more than two decades” ago.[3]  Pandey focuses on Leonard Bernstein, whom he calls a “former climate scientist at Exxon, who also headed the science and technology advisory committee of the Global Climate Coalition — an American lobbying group that opposed action to reduce emissions”. Pandey quotes an internal memo written by Bernstein saying that “Exxon first got interested in climate change in 1981 because it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia . . . This is an immense reserve of natural gas, but it is 70 percent carbon dioxide”.[4]  In fact, looking at the memo, not coincidentally entitled Predicting Future Climate Change: A Primer published on 21 December 1995, is a sobering experience. Bernstein starts off like this: “[s]ince the beginning of the industrial revolution, human activities have increased the atmospheric concentration ofCO2 by more than 25%. Atmospheric concentrations of other greenhouse gases have also risen. Over the past 120 years, global average temperature has risen by 0.3 – 0.6°C. Since the Greenhouse Effect can be used to relate atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases to global average temperature, claims have been made that at least part of the temperature rise experienced to date is due to human activities, and that the projected future increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (as the result of human activities) will lead to even larger increases in future temperature. Additionally, it is claimed that these increases in temperature will lead to an array of climate changes (rainfall pattems, storm frequency and intensity, etc.) that could have severe environmental and economic impacts”.[5]  Today in the 21st century, the public-at-large has gotten used to such sentences, yet climate denial persists. As for Bernstein, following the just-quoted preamble, he went in for the kill and off-handedly stated that the “scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied”.[6]

It might be helpful to repeat Leonard S. Bernstein’s words one more time, but this time more slowly: the “scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied”. In spite of these clear words, as related by Avaneesh Pandey, “the public stance of ExxonMobil — a company that currently operates in over 20 countries — was, until recently, one of climate change skepticism. According to an earlier report by UCS, the company spent nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to fund advocacy organizations that raised doubts over climate change. Although the company pledged in 2008 to stop funding groups that promote climate change denial, as recently as 2012, Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, attempted to downplay the threat posed by climate change”.[7]  In other words, the deeds and actions of the men behind such companies like Exxon et al. could be summarized with the phrase “Profits before Planet” or “Après moi, le déluge”. After all, in 2012, the CEO of ExxonMobil Rex Tillerson stated publicly at the Council on Foreign Relations that he is “not disputing that increasing carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere is going to have an impact. It’ll have a warming impact. How large it is, is what is very hard for anyone to predict. We [humans] have spent our entire existence adapting, ok? So we will adapt to this”.[8]

In contrast to Tillerson’s apparent carelessness, Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, an adviser to the German government and Pope Francis, said the following on Friday, 10 July 2015: “In the end it is a moral decision. Do you want to be part of the generation that screwed up the planet for the next 1,000 years? I don’t think we should make that decision . . . We need a global social movement and it is already happening”.[9]  Perhaps so, or maybe it is just a little bit too late now . . .

[1] Avaneesh Pandey, “1980s, ExxonMobil And Climate Change: New Documents Reveal Oil Giant Knew Risks But Continued To Fund Deniers” IBT (09 July 2015). http://www.ibtimes.com/exxonmobil-climate-change-new-documents-reveal-oil-giant-knew-risks-continued-fund-2000868.

[2] “Exxon Valdez Oil Spill” NOAA Office for Response and Restoration (s.d.). http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/oil-and-chemical-spills/significant-incidents/exxon-valdez-oil-spill.

[3] Kathy Mulvey and Seth Shulman, The Climate Deception Dossiers (July 2015). http://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/fight-misinformation/climate-deception-dossiers-fossil-fuel-industry-memos#.VaEObpUVjpA.

[4] Avaneesh Pandey, “1980s, ExxonMobil And Climate Change: New Documents Reveal Oil Giant Knew Risks But Continued To Fund Deniers”.

[5] Leonard Bernstein, Predicting Future Climate Change: A Primer (21 Dec 1995). http://s3.amazonaws.com/nytdocs/docs/122/122.pdf.

[6] Leonard Bernstein, Predicting Future Climate Change: A Primer.

[7] Avaneesh Pandey, “1980s, ExxonMobil And Climate Change: New Documents Reveal Oil Giant Knew Risks But Continued To Fund Deniers”.

[8] Avaneesh Pandey, “1980s, ExxonMobil And Climate Change: New Documents Reveal Oil Giant Knew Risks But Continued To Fund Deniers”.

[9] Damian Carrington, “Fossil fuel industry must ‘implode’ to avoid climate disaster, says top scientist” The Guardian (10 July 2015). http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/10/fossil-fuel-industry-must-implode-to-avoid-climate-disaster-says-top-scientist?CMP=share_btn_link.

The Pope and the Environment: The Catholic Climate Change Agenda and the Holy Trinity

‘Christopher J. Hale, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. joins Thom. Pope Francis has released a groundbreaking new document urging the world to take action against climate change. Could this mark a turning point in the fight to save the planet? (19 June 2015)’.

The Pope (aka Jorge Mario Bergoglio) has managed to grab quite some headlines since he got elected to his office on 13 March 2013 . . . In some ways, Pope Francis has really taken the Holy See into hitherto uncharted waters, one could argue. As for example reported last May by the New York Daily News: “Pope Francis has nicely set the record straight on his thoughts about Israel and the Palestinians. There was doubt because, while meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the Pope was said to have called Abbas an ‘angel of peace’. Subsequent translations suggested that Francis had actually told Abbas, ‘May you be an angel of peace’. Then the Vatican indicated that the Pope had termed Abbas ‘a bit of an angel of peace’. Now, a Portuguese-Israeli journalist has reported that, in a written statement, Francis remembered telling Abbas that one day he might become a peace angel. Still more powerfully, the Pope is reported to have written that ‘anyone who does not recognize the Jewish people and the State of Israel — and their right to exist — is guilty of anti-Semitism'”.[1]  On step forward, five steps back . . . On other issues, he seems more forthright though, such as this month when Matthew Tharrett wrote that “Pope Francis ruined the celebratory vibe of Rome’s annual gay pride march over the weekend by spewing anti-gay rhetoric from inside The Vatican’s walls while LGBT revelers poured into the city around him. LGBT parents are incapable of raising children properly, he told an audience of around 25,000 Catholics at Sunday service on June 14, just one day after Rome’s pride march initiated a weekend of LGBT festivities”.[2]  Oh well, mustn’t grumble . . . turns out the Pope is not gay-friendly after all.

On climate change, on the other hand, the Pope has really broken new ground, as indicated by Thom Hartmann and his Catholic guest in the above clip. The Encyclical Letter is called Laudato Si’ and opens in the following pious yet firm way: “‘LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore’ – ‘Praise be to you, my Lord’. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs’ . . . This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail’ (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters”.[3]  Going down the historical road, the Pope’s missive continues that “[m]ore than fifty years ago, with the world teetering on the brink of nuclear crisis, Pope Saint John XXIII wrote an Encyclical which not only rejected war but offered a proposal for peace. He addressed his message Pacem in Terris to the entire ‘Catholic world’ and indeed ‘to all men and women of good will’. Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet. In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I wrote to all the members of the Church with the aim of encouraging ongoing missionary renewal. In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home . . . In 1971, eight years after Pacem in Terris, Blessed Pope Paul VI referred to the ecological concern as ‘a tragic consequence’ of unchecked human activity: ‘Due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature, humanity runs the risk of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation’. He spoke in similar terms to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations about the potential for an ‘ecological catastrophe under the effective explosion of industrial civilization’, and stressed ‘the urgent need for a radical change in the conduct of humanity’, inasmuch as ‘the most extraordinary scientific advances, the most amazing technical abilities, the most astonishing economic growth, unless they are accompanied by authentic social and moral progress, will definitively turn against man’ . . . Saint John Paul II became increasingly concerned about this issue. In his first Encyclical he warned that human beings frequently seem ‘to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption’. Subsequently, he would call for a global ecological conversion. At the same time, he noted that little effort had been made to ‘safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology’. The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement. Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in ‘lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies’. Authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and ‘take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system’. Accordingly, our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with God’s original gift of all that is . . . My predecessor Benedict XVI likewise proposed ‘eliminating the structural causes of the dysfunctions of the world economy and correcting models of growth which have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the environment’. He observed that the world cannot be analyzed by isolating only one of its aspects, since ‘the book of nature is one and indivisible’, and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations, and so forth. It follows that ‘the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence’. Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. We have forgotten that ‘man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature’. With paternal concern, Benedict urged us to realize that creation is harmed ‘where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone. The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves'”.[4]

In this way, Francis presents care for the environment as a well-established Catholic tradition and places himself in a strong line of papal defenders of “our common home”, the sub-lunar reality that is planet earth. The Pope’s letter continues that “[t]hese statements of the Popes echo the reflections of numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic groups, all of which have enriched the Church’s thinking on these questions. Outside the Catholic Church, other Churches and Christian communities – and other religions as well – have expressed deep concern and offered valuable reflections on issues which all of us find disturbing. To give just one striking example, I would mention the statements made by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with whom we share the hope of full ecclesial communion”.[5]  And yes, Istanbul’s very Orthodox Patriarch is a very well known activist in the field of environmental protection. The Patriarch even traveled to the Arctic to prove his personal credentials in this respect. The author and theologian Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis, who also serves as the advisor to the Ecumenical Patriarch on environmental issues, posits that “[n]o other church leader has been so recognized for his leadership and initiatives in confronting the theological, ethical and practical imperative of environmental issues in our time as the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. He has long placed the environment at the head of his church’s agenda, earning him numerous awards and the title ‘Green Patriarch'”.[6]  As a result, we can but wonder whether the present pope also aims at such accolades . . . the Green Patriarch and the Green Pope cooperating to save the world from the evil that is anthropogenic climate change or a particularly crafty demon that has been at work for a couple of centuries now.

In fact, the now-retired Benedict was already nick-named the Green Pope at one time . . . in July 2012, Sabrina Arena Ferrisi wrote that “the Vatican announced in 2007 that the Paul VI audience hall was to be covered in solar panels, [and consequently] environmentalists around the world took notice. Eighteen months later, the building was topped with 2,400 photovoltaic panels, generating sufficient electricity to supply the building’s heating, cooling and lighting needs year-round. Throughout his seven-year pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has promoted the idea of sustainability and resource conservation. In addition to the solar panels, Vatican City has planted a 37-acre forest in Hungary and installed a solar cooling system in one of its cafeterias, making it the worlds’ first carbon-neutral state”, adding that Pope Benedict XVI did “find some common ground with environmentalists on stewardship of the earth. While most liberals label him ‘ultra-conservative’, Benedict’s teaching on the environment has many on both ends of the political spectrum nodding in agreement . . . [at that time n]o other pope in history ha[d] written or spoken as much about the earth as Benedict XVI, which has led some in the media to dub him ‘The Green Pope’. He has spoken about the environment at World Youth Day and with dignitaries at the Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome”.[7]

As a result, Pope Francis hasn’t really broken new ground as much as revived a tradition of papal concern with environmental issues. And issuing an Encyclical Letter is arguably the best a pope can do on any issue . . . Francis addresses a whole host of matters in his missive: from “POLLUTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE”, “THE ISSUE OF WATER”, and the “LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY”, to the “DECLINE IN THE QUALITY OF HUMAN LIFE AND THE BREAKDOWN OF SOCIETY” as well as “GLOBAL INEQUALITY”. But then, he starts assuming a more accusatory tone: “Modern anthropocentrism has paradoxically ended up prizing technical thought over reality, since ‘the technological mind sees nature as an insensate order, as a cold body of facts, as a mere ‘given’, as an object of utility, as raw material to be hammered into useful shape; it views the cosmos similarly as a mere ‘space’ into which objects can be thrown with complete indifference’. The intrinsic dignity of the world is thus compromised. When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves: ‘Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given, but, man too is God’s gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed'”.[8]  The Pope then homes in on the real culprit, which is “[m]odernity [that] has been marked by an excessive anthropocentrism which today, under another guise, continues to stand in the way of shared understanding and of any effort to strengthen social bonds”.[9]  And he argues that it “cannot be maintained that empirical science provides a complete explanation of life, the interplay of all creatures and the whole of reality. This would be to breach the limits imposed by its own methodology. If we reason only within the confines of the latter, little room would be left for aesthetic sensibility, poetry, or even reason’s ability to grasp the ultimate meaning and purpose of things”.[10]  After all, Pope Francis is another pope, or another one of God’s shepherds of souls and another one of his representatives on earth: the “Father is the ultimate source of everything, the loving and self-communicating foundation of all that exists. The Son, his reflection, through whom all things were created, united himself to this earth when he was formed in the womb of Mary. The Spirit, infinite bond of love, is intimately present at the very heart of the universe, inspiring and bringing new pathways. The world was created by the three Persons acting as a single divine principle, but each one of them performed this common work in accordance with his own personal property. Consequently, ‘when we contemplate with wonder the universe in all its grandeur and beauty, we must praise the whole Trinity’ . . . For Christians, believing in one God who is trinitarian communion suggests that the Trinity has left its mark on all creation”.[11]

[1] “Frankness from Pope Francis on Israel and the Palestinians” New York Daily News (29 May 2015). http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/editorial-frankness-pope-francis-israel-article-1.2240679.

[2] Matthew Tharrett, “Pope Francis Celebrates Gay Pride By Declaring Gay People Are Incapable Of Raising Children” NewNowNext (17 June 2015). http://www.newnownext.com/pope-francis-celebrates-gay-pride-by-declaring-gay-people-are-incapable-of-raising-children/06/2015/.

[3] “ENCYCLICAL LETTER LAUDATO SI’ OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME” Vatican (24 May 2015). http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.



[6] John Chryssavgis, “The Green Patriarch” Ecumenical Patriarchate. https://www.patriarchate.org/the-green-patriarch.

[7] Sabrina Arena Ferrisi, “Is Benedict the ‘Green Pope’?” Legatus Magazine (03 July 2012). http://legatus.org/is-benedict-the-green-pope/.





Unprecedented or the End of Civilisation

The Retired NASA engineer Dwain Deets says that ‘David Ray Griffin has written a stellar book, Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis? (Clarity Press, 2015). The book’s tagline says it best: “Everything you need to know about climate change and what can be done about it.” Griffin addresses the scientific, moral, and spiritual problems that are blocking progress, and then offers solutions. I was struck by the breadth of disciplines and expertise among the reviewers on the cover. The review by Mary Evelyn Tucker, Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, is depicted in this 30-second video reproduced below.[1]

The theologian well-known for his treatment of the 9/11 myth in American history has now tackled the greatest crisis facing humanity . . . Last January, he wrote on the CNN website that “[a]lthough most of us worry about other things, climate scientists have become increasingly worried about the survival of civilization. For example, Lonnie Thompson, who received the U.S. National Medal of Science in 2010, said that virtually all climatologists ‘are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization’. Informed journalists share this concern. The climate crisis ‘threatens the survival of our civilization’, said Pulitzer Prize-winner Ross Gelbspan. Mark Hertsgaard agrees, saying that the continuation of global warming ‘would create planetary conditions all but certain to end civilization as we know it’. These scientists and journalists, moreover, are worried not only about the distant future but about the condition of the planet for their own children and grandchildren. James Hansen, often considered the world’s leading climate scientist, entitled his book Storms of My Grandchildren“.[2]

Below is the famous man talking about this in 2009, more than twenty years after his famous testimony before the U.S. Congress.

But let’s get back to Griffin, as he explains the whole issue one more time: the “threat to civilization comes primarily from the increase of the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, due largely to the burning of fossil fuels. Before the rise of the industrial age, CO2 constituted only 275 ppm (parts per million) of the atmosphere. But it is now above 400 and rising about 2.5 ppm per year. Because of the CO2 increase, the planet’s average temperature has increased 0.85 degrees Celsius (1.5 degrees Fahrenheit). Although this increase may not seem much, it has already brought about serious changes. The idea that we will be safe from ‘dangerous climate change’ if we do not exceed a temperature rise of 2C (3.6F) has been widely accepted. But many informed people have rejected this assumption. In the opinion of journalist-turned-activist Bill McKibben, ‘the one degree we’ve raised the temperature already has melted the Arctic, so we’re fools to find out what two will do’. His warning is supported by James Hansen, who declared that ‘a target of two degrees (Celsius) is actually a prescription for long-term disaster'”.[3]

Griffin goes on as follows: the “burning of coal, oil, and natural gas has made the planet warmer than it had been since the rise of civilization 10,000 years ago. Civilization was made possible by the emergence about 12,000 years ago of the ‘Holocene’ epoch, which turned out to be the Goldilocks zone – not too hot, not too cold. But now, says physicist Stefan Rahmstorf, ‘We are catapulting ourselves way out of the Holocene’. This catapult is dangerous, because we have no evidence civilization can long survive with significantly higher temperatures. And yet, the world is on a trajectory that would lead to an increase of 4C (7F) in this century. In the opinion of many scientists and the World Bank, this could happen as early as the 2060s. What would ‘a 4C world’ be like? According to Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (at the University of East Anglia), ‘during New York’s summer heat waves the warmest days would be around 10-12C (18-21.6F) hotter [than today’s]’. Moreover, he has said, above an increase of 4C only about 10% of the human population will survive”.[4] Given that a great many people will by that stage already have perished as a result of the food crisis expected to explode by 2050,[5] it thus seems quite unlikely that civilisation as we know it will make it into the 22nd century . . .  Oh well, mustn’t grumble as something else will undoubtedly turn up in the wash . . . or will it???

[1] Dwain Deets, “Can Civilization Survive The CO2 Crisis? Review of David Ray Griffin’s Book” Global Research (28 Jan 2015). http://www.globalresearch.ca/can-civilization-survive-the-co2-crisis-review-of-david-ray-griffins-book/5427758/.

[2] David Ray Griffin, “The climate is ruined. So can civilization even survive?” CNN (14 Jan 2015). http://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/14/opinion/co2-crisis-griffin/.

[3] David Ray Griffin, “The climate is ruined. So can civilization even survive?”.

[4] David Ray Griffin, “The climate is ruined. So can civilization even survive?”.

[5] “2050: The Year the World Goes Hungry” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (29 Nov 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/2050-the-year-the-world-goes-hungry/.

Coal All Around: The North Antelope Rochelle Mine

‘Barack Obama’s pledge to cut carbon emissions has not stopped North Antelope Rochelle mine in Wyoming. In fact, production is booming – and climate change is off the agenda. The Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg gets a rare look inside the biggest coal mine in the world (10 November 2014)’.

A couple of years ago, the U.S. got about half of its energy from coal-powered plants, but now ” America gets about 40% of its electricity from coal . . . According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), its use of coal for energy rose 4.8% last year, in part because of the Arctic blasts of the polar vortex. Carbon dioxide emissions from energy registered one of their steepest rises in the last quarter century”.[1]

[1] Suzanne Goldenberg, “The real story of US coal: inside the world’s biggest coalmine” The Guardian (10 November 2014). http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/10/-sp-the-real-story-of-us-coal-inside-the-worlds-biggest-coal-mine.