The Climate Criminals project: A five-pronged approach to climate solution

This falls under the heading of “wouldn’t it be nice.” I think the proposal below, if executed, would add considerable muscle to the existing (and frustrated) climate crisis movement.

I’m calling this proposal the “Climate Criminals” project — a label for the five-pronged approach to a climate solution that I’ve been writing about — for example here:

Solving the climate crisis — Goals, focuses, tactics (a summary)

I won’t detail the project’s tactics yet — this piece is already long enough — but I do want to identify what groups those tactics would focus on, show how these groups would be approached, and set up the next few posts in this series.

First, though, two reminders — what problem are we solving, and what strategies don’t seem to be working? (To skip immediately to the project itself, click here.)

The problem, the solution, and the “ask”

Before going further, let’s make sure we’re on the same page — all of us solving the same problem. For example, I’m not solving this problem:

How to keep the Koch Bros rich while transitioning to alternate energy sources.

Instead, I’m solving this:

The problem — Humans continue to put carbon into the air. What’s already there is too much.

Even if we stopped tomorrow, we’ve still created a terrible mess that we’ll need to adapt to. That adaptation will not be easy. What you’ve seen through the past few summers is exactly half the warming we’re already predestined to get. The other half is in the pipeline, just waiting to show up.

Defining the problem the way I have makes the solution-statement obvious:

The solutionPut the carbon industry out of business. Completely.

As long as the carbon industry is open for business, carbon will be added to the air. Zero new man-made carbon is the right number; any greater number is the wrong one.

Which means there’s only one thing the climate crisis movement should ask for:

The right “ask” — “Stop now.” Stop putting man-made carbon into the air at the most-strictly-defined earliest-possible moment.

Climate Change from Shutterstock

Climate Change from Shutterstock

The consequences of not stopping are far more important than the profits of a handful of super-wealthy egomaniacs. In addition, the disruptions to us all of an abrupt stop and energy conversion, however great, will be minor compared to life in a chaotic 3°C, 4°C, or 6°C warmer world. Life in those worlds will be hell.

As noted above, we’re at “only” .8°C warmer now. Any less discomfort we seek for ourselves now will come at a huge price in the years to come. Put another way, the decision to “stop later” is the decision to make our own lives marginally less bad by pushing the disaster (including a possible “mass extinction” event) onto our children.

Some would call that victimizing the next generation. It’s at least a very unfriendly act. I assume we won’t be thanked for it.

What doesn’t work; what isn’t sufficient

Before we look at what I’m recommending, let’s look at what doesn’t work and why:

  1. Personal behavior change — individual action — is not enough. That discussion is here. The bottom line, even if you went totally green, you’d have to get power from somewhere. And that “somewhere” is under political control, not personal control. Behavior change is critical, but not enough.
  2. Technology alone is not going to save us. That discussion is here. New technology is critical, but again, not enough. Even if the needed technology were available now, deploying it quickly is a choice between relative discomforts, not benefits — some discomfort now forestalling huge problems later. “More discomfort now” is a very hard sell, even if the political forces weren’t arrayed against us.
  3. A carbon tax is not the answer. That discussion is here. First, markets don’t work in an orderly way, so a market-based solution can’t be counted on (for example, see here). Besides, giving people permission to emit carbon is not our goal; our goal is the opposite — forcing the end of all new atmospheric carbon. (And yes, it will take force.)
  4. Mass protest and awareness movements are not going to solve the problem by themselves. They’re a vital part of the effort to “unconfuse the people” (one of our goals). But raising awareness isn’t enough by itself to change the behavior of politicians. Three examples: (1) Recent mass protests against the Keystone Pipeline, which only delayed approval. (2) Worldwide mass protests against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (3) Comparison of “will of the people” polling on economic matters — e.g., Bush-Obama Tax Cuts, banker bailouts, cuts to the safety net — versus the desires and actions of our rulers.

What is the five-pronged approach?

The Climate Criminals five-pronged approach is a plan for a cadre-led movement to:

  • Put very public focus on the perps, the “carbon criminals”
  • Catalyze leadership among on-the-fence politicians and media
  • Unconfuse the people about global warming consequences

The Climate Criminals project is conceived as a supplement to current action, not a replacement. It attempts to “up the ante” on consequences to produce a more effective result and more effective messaging. This is a U.S.–based project, under the assumption that if the U.S. can’t be changed, no leveraged worldwide change is possible.

The first four prongs focus on four groups of perps who are blocking all attempts at climate solution and mitigation — carbon CEOs; their political enablers and retainers; their big-media enablers and retainers; their bought climate scientists (the paid “tobacco scientists” of our day).

The approach publicly highlights individuals in each group — perps in the crisis, the reason world climate is getting worse, plus key fence-sitters — for public identification as “climate criminals” and for non-violent but effective action. The approach also attempts to recruit “climate converts” and leaders among the perps, especially within the political and media classes.

The fifth prong is aimed at the people themselves. At the moment the mass of people are terribly confused — partly because writers and communicators have not told the real story well, and partly because the four groups of perps have deliberately reinforced the confusion. This approach attempts to change that — to unconfuse the people with clear messaging.

Now the details:

Perp 1 — Carbon CEOs. These are the main “climate criminals” — the core reason we haven’t solved this problem already. The greed and megalomania of less than 100 humans is what stands between 7 billion humans and a climate solution.

Even though global warming and the greenhouse effect were identified as early as 1861, today’s carbon CEOs make obscene personal profit by continuing to monetize the greenhouse chemicals under their control. They’ve shown by their behavior where their loyalty lies.

Carbon CEOs are the primary reason carbon is still going into the air. They control the political and media classes to make sure their wishes, and no one else’s, become the public policy and message. They also control a number of paid-off scientists (the tobacco scientists of our day) who make sure the science messaging appears confused. When the generation alive in 2100 wants to know who gave them their hot chaotic world, these criminals will head the list.

A Climate Criminals project would identify each of these people by name, starting with the top 10 or so; identify how much money each is making from global climate destruction; identify how much wealth each has extracted from the misery of future generations; and ask — probably in vain — for a conversion of conscience to help aggressively solve the problem each has caused.

Carbon CEOs need to be made the permanent face of the catastrophe. Every time bad climate news appears, the people need to see these faces as the perps.

Perp 2 — Political enablers. This group includes two types — known climate criminals like James Inhofe, whose record is clear, and supposed fence-sitters like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (who will soon get to approve — or disapprove — the Keystone Pipeline from her perch in the State Dept).

A Climate Criminals project would name important enablers like Inhofe — treating them just like the criminal CEOs — then take the important fence-sitters off the fence by putting people like Barack Obama, the Clintons, Harry Reid and others, one by one, firmly on the record.

The key to putting people like Obama on the record is the Keystone Pipeline. I would start with Obama — first by stating the climate case vis-à-vis Keystone, then by asking:

“Mr. Obama, will you swear to veto any legislation that contains any approval for the Keystone Pipeline in the United States, regardless of whatever else the legislation contains?”

A Yes makes him a Climate Protector and the project would publicize him as such (thus keeping him on the record). A No or a waffle — either — makes him a Climate Criminal. This is entirely fair. Keystone Pipeline approval is a guarantee of 3°C or greater global warming and the mass extinction that will follow.

After Obama, similar questions should be put to the Clintons, Biden, Reid. The process could be continued as necessary. Fence-sitting senators up for election in blue states are especially interesting, as are congresstypes on environmental committees.

Perp 3 — Media enablers. The model for action is the same as for the political enablers. Again, there are two groups — the known bads like George Will and those who can be put on the record, one by one.

For the second group, I’d start with one of the primary network anchors — David Gregory comes to mind — then pick someone from MSNBC like Chris Matthews. Entertainers like Jay Leno and David Letterman should also be included. At Comedy Central I’d start with Colbert, who probably gets it, then move to Stewart, who may or may not.

The ask:

“Do you agree with the climate assessments and the timetable? If so, do you agree that every time the subject comes up, it needs to be framed in a way that correctly represents the situation — in a way that unconfuses people, not further confuses them?”

To be clear: Handling the news or the comedy is up to them. We’re only asking that they not confuse people with contra-factual framing. The goal is to seek new protectors, people who will agree and follow through with clear recognition that this is indeed a crisis. Only those like George Will who are died-in-the-wool deniers should go into the criminals group. Perhaps a third group — “climate fence-sitters” — might be useful here, especially as evidence from places like the Arctic mounts.

Perp 4 — Paid science deniers. Similar to groups 2 and 3, people should be put on the spot, then classified. Here, the question isn’t about the intention behind a climate denial position — that’s hard to determine — but the funding, which is easy to discover.

Starting with an empty deniers’ Climate Criminals list, I’d approach any prominent researcher who takes money from Koch Industries, the Heartland Institute or a similar organization and simply ask them to reject the funding in order to clear up any confusion about their motives. A researcher’s motives are only suspect if known-denial-funding changes hands. Otherwise, they’re presumed to be simply a contrarian, a perfectly fair position in science.

The ask is therefore:

“Will you reject and return all funding from [denier funding org] so that your motives will not appear to be compromised?”

A researcher who agrees to reject denial funding should be presumed sincere. Paid contrarians, however, are a different beast, and should be moved from “unknown” to the Climate Criminals list.

The people. There has to be a strong program to “unconfuse the people.” The goal is not to terrify, but to make people appropriately concerned — concerned enough to hug the monster and act with urgency. This brings in the writers, filmmakers and other professional communicators. The message:

“We’re facing a serious problem. These are the timelines. We better get our house in order because anyone who lives through most of the current century will experience the start of the climate chaos era. That means our children. Help us paint that picture before it’s too late to act.”

All five prongs work together in this part of the effort. Finding climate protectors among politicians and media would give mainstream cred to the “unconfuse” messaging. As interest mounts, people could even make money at it.

Bottom line

I’ve been writing for a while about the problem — we’re less than a generation, perhaps less than a decade, from watching the climate start to spin out of control. Once 3°C — 5½°F — is inevitable, the only option left will be to mitigate and survive. And a decade or two after that, when 3°C does arrive, it will bring degrees and levels of chaos that will make global coordination impossible. At least in my view.

So the time to act is now, before 3°C is inevitable. Is current effort going to be enough? In my opinion, no. Ultimately, nothing but force will budge the CEOs and their paid politicians. Time to add (completely non-violent) force into the equation.

A Climate Criminals project, or something similar, would be one way to up the pressure. A project like this would highlight the true perps, make them the face of the crisis, and allow all kinds of other actions to take place around that understanding. It would also put politicians and media on the record — and on the spot — in a way that isn’t happening now.

Again, my proposed Climate Criminals project is a plan for a cadre-led movement to:

  • Put very public focus on the perps, the “carbon criminals”
  • Catalyze leadership among on-the-fence politicians and media
  • Unconfuse the people about global warming consequences

I hope, if it gains momentum, you give it your support. The next posts will include a to-do list and some examples of using force that, under the right circumstances, could very well work.

GP

To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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