Climate change corruption

Examining the politics behind the impending collapse of the planet

Climate change corruption

Sophia Shannon, Writer

As many may have heard, the United Nations released a statement in September 2018 that stated that the world was in danger of irreversible damage due to climate change as soon as 2030. This created a lot of discussion concerning the severity, and even the existence, of climate change.

There is a plethora of evidence supporting the grim reality of climate change. According to Forbes, the average world temperature has risen between 0.9° C and 1.2°C since the industrial revolution in the late 19th century. Additionally, according to NASA, polar ice sheets are losing mass at an average of 413 gigatonnes every year, and the sea level is currently rising on average 3.2 mm annually as a result.

It is commonly accepted among scientists that the world is undergoing its sixth mass extinction, and the first one to have humans as the cause. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, species are going extinct at a rate that is 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate.

Climate change has impacted natural disasters as well, as predicted in an 2014 IPCC report. Examples in the news include the worst monsoon in recent history, which killed 400 people and displaced approximately one million others in India. Additionally, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico killed nearly 3,000 people, which made it one of the most deadly disaster in U.S. history.

These are just examples of consequences that the world is already facing or has faced already. Even more dire consequences are projected if the Earth continues down the path that it’s on. Extinction rates could rise even higher, it could become harder to produce food, and sea levels could rise to put coastlines underwater.

Unfortunately, there is not much that the average person can do to have an impact on global climate change. According to the Carbon Disclosure Project, only 100 companies are responsible for over 70 percent of Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. If these corporations continue to extract fuels at the same rate over the next 28 years, according to The Guardian, average global temperatures are expected to rise by 4°C by the end of the 21st century.

The fate of our world lies in the hands of big businesses and politicians. However, they are not necessarily good hands.

According to Climate Liability News, oil companies were aware as early as 1977, but refused to take action until 1998 because the evidence was “inconclusive”. Recently uncovered documents show that corporations have been aware of their effect on climate change for several decades, but obscured the information from public eyes and sold products with the knowledge.

There are even many instances of corruption between big corporations and U.S. politicians. According to The Guardian, after ExxonMobil pledged in 2007 to stop funding climate denial, the company paid over $1.87 million to members of Congress to block efforts to prevent and undo the effects of climate change.

Oklahoma senator Jim Inhofe alone has received approximately $20,500 from ExxonMobil since 2007, and has called climate change a “hoax” according to The Guardian. Roger Wicker, a Mississippi senator, has received about $14,000 from ExxonMobil since 2007, and was the singular “no” vote on a resolution that concluded that climate change was not a hoax.

Adding to this, according to Oil Change International, representatives who voted in favor of the Keystone XL oil pipeline combined took approximately $13 million from the fossil fuel industry in 2014 alone.

According to Oil Change International, from 2011 to 2012, companies in oil, gas and coal industries not only spent $329 million in campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, but also received $33 billion in federal subsidies.

United States politicians have not taken measures to improve the climate situation. The examples of corruption and bribery above shows this, but are certainly not the only illustrations of this issue. For example, since President Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement, a UN agreement to lessen the severity of climate change, Syria and Nicaragua have signed in, leaving the U.S. as the only country opposed to the beneficial deal.

In addition to this refusal to join the Paris Agreement, the White House is actually taking steps backward. According to the Washington Post, there are plans in place to create a panel of anonymous federal scientists who have questioned the legitimacy of climate change and humans’ contributions to it that will investigate further to challenge the current scientific consensus. This panel will be exempt from rules on disclosure and public comment, and will be led by National Security Council senior director William Happer.

Fortunately, some international politicians are making positive changes in response to the growing threat. For example, Germany has ended the mining of hard coal officially as of December 2018, and is looking into ending brown coal mining and coal-fired power generation to take a step toward a climate-neutral economy. According to Guterres, Morocco is building a solar farm that will power over one million homes by 2020, and Saudi Arabia is investing in renewables to move away from an oil economy.

Many people who refuse to take action against climate change may believe that making strides to fix it would be expensive and harmful to the economy. However, according to Guterres, nations are actually experiencing economic losses because of climate change. Extreme weather and the health impact of burning fossil fuels has cost over $240 billion a year over the past decade to the American economy alone.

The global economy could lose $2 trillion by 2030 because of a loss of productivity in a hotter world according to Guterres, and climate action could gain the economy $26 trillion by 2030 if socio-economic progress is pursued.

Normal people are attempting to make a difference in this climate chaos. Students across Europe have taken to striking from school to protest the lack of action against climate change. Started by a Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, the youth movement stands against politicians, saying that the students’ futures deserve to be protected. From walkouts to marches, with posters and signs, children are taking action. They are inspiring politicians and average citizens alike into changes for the greater good.

There are ways for each individual to help in the efforts on a smaller level as well. Contact Ohio’s senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, as well as district 10’s House representative Michael Turner to voice your support for the issue and ask for theirs. You can also calculate your own carbon footprint and commit to decrease your impact.

You can also donate to environmentalist organizations such as the Sierra Club, the Global Footprint Network, and the Earth Day Network to help others clean up the Earth and provide clean, green options for companies.

No matter how dark the future of global climate change looks, there will always be hope. We cannot give up on our efforts, trying as they may be, to save the beautiful world we live in.