The county I live in is suing the fossil fuel industry for over $50 billion because their products and their lies about their products’ dangers killed almost 90 of our citizens. It’s a small step, but one that — if it spreads worldwide — could save billions of lives.
My grandson is 5; by the time he’s my age the entire planet’s ecosystems could in full-blown collapse, according to a new study titled Earlier Collapse of Anthropocene Ecosystems Driven by Multiple Faster and Noisier Drivers published in last week’s peer-reviewed journal Nature Sustainability.
It turns out the IPCC has been far too conservative in their estimates, which have, decade over decade, consistently underestimated how rapidly climate change is happening. The six British researchers note that their new modeling “bring[s] the collapses substantially closer to today by ~38–81%.” That’s in the lifetime of most people reading this.
And let’s not forget that as ecosystems collapse, governments typically follow. My children and grandchildren may well look back on today’s crises of democracy worldwide as, to paraphrase Dickens, the best of times.
Greed is driving this entire process: a handful of giant fossil fuel companies and petrostates have seized almost total control of the American Republican Party, a process that’s gone into hyperdrive since 5 in-the-bag Republicans on the Supreme Court legalized political bribery with their corrupt Citizens United decision. They also own or partially own a handful of Democrats, most visibly multimillionaire coal baron Joe Manchin.
Back in 2010, Clarence Thomas (a frequent guest of the Koch Industries fossil fuel barons) was the tie-breaking vote to let the industry buy politicians.
Should he leave the Court, next time it just as easily could be Neil Gorsuch, whose mother tried to destroy the EPA before she resigned in disgrace from the Reagan administration to avoid prosecution, or Amy Coney Barrett, who refuses to recuse herself from cases involving the industry that her father spent decades defending as a top lawyer for Shell Oil.
The immediate result of the industry’s capture of the GOP is trillions more in profits (and billions for its top executives) and more political power for giant fossil fuel companies, as they manipulate the prices of gasoline, diesel, and home heating oil in the runup to the 2024 election the same as they did heading into the 2022 election.
That 2022 election-year price-gouging not only hurt Joe Biden and the Democrats (remember the “I did that” stickers with Biden’s picture that Republicans were sticking on gas pumps across the country?) but led to 2022 being the greatest-profit 12-month period in the entire 160-year history of the industry. Just the oil sector of the fossil fuel industry showed a profit — the money left over after expenses, including billions to senior executives — of a fifth of a trillion dollars.
The longer-term result — which we’re in the early stages of right now — will be the death of billions of human beings and the destruction of many of the ecosystems that keep our planet livable and in stasis. This is why Multnomah County, Oregon is suing for damages.
The industry and the lies they’ve been promoting for decades – and the Republican politicians they own who are parroting those lies – are killing hundreds of Americans every month, a number that is starting to explode as the climate crises morphs into a full-blown climate emergency.
Republicans have amped up their war against any company that may be thinking of reducing their carbon footprint or their investments and relationships with fossil fuel polluters. For example, 23 Republican state Attorneys General recently threatened a working group within the insurance industry that was seeking to respond to the crisis caused by carbon pollution.
The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) bills itself as “the world’s largest coalition of financial institutions committed to transitioning the global economy to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”
Which is exactly why a group of Republicans — the most senior law enforcement officials in almost every Red state — targeted them for threats and intimidation as part of their overall war on ESG (Environmental, Social and corporate Governance).
As reporter Helen Thomas wrote for The Financial Times earlier this month about The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero:
“Gfanz, as it’s known, billed as a ‘watershed’ by former Bank of England governor Mark Carney when it was announced in 2021, could be forgiven for keeping a low profile. A furious US backlash against all things ESG, led by Republican politicians and attorneys-general, has left the coalition of banks, asset managers, insurers and other money managers in peril.
“One of Gfanz’s subgroups effectively disintegrated last week when a series of its biggest global names quit the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance, after 23 Republican state attorneys-general wrote to members suggesting that the commitments involved violated antitrust laws. Gaps in coverage are already emerging: US companies State Farm and Allstate have stopped accepting new home insurance policies in California thanks to the state’s wildfire risk.”
That subgroup that “collapsed” included some of the largest names in insurance worldwide, who’ve been sounding the alarm about climate change — which increases their costs, drives up insurance rates, and reduces their profits — for decades. Now, because of Republican threats, what could have been a powerful influence on world behavior has disintegrated.
As the Financial Times detailed on May 26th:
“Five big global insurers and Lloyd’s of London, the insurance market, have quit the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance as growing US political pressure and legal fears plunge the climate initiative into crisis. …
“The departures bring the total number of large insurers which have left to at least nine, severely curbing its collective power and posing a question over its future. … Gfanz and its members have come under attack from Republican politicians in the US, who target collective climate action groups whom they perceive to be unfairly hitting the oil and gas industry.”
Rather than fighting back, the industry is backing off. And it’s hurting all of us, noted the Financial Times back in May:
“Gfanz said the ‘political attacks’ were interfering with insurers’ ‘efforts to price climate risk, which will harm policyholders, main-street investors and local economies’.”
So far, Republicans depending on fossil fuel money to fuel their campaigns are having an outsized impact. Their attacks on Gfanz is only one small dimension on their overall campaign against ESG, which DeSantis and his ilk have rolled into their bizarre “War on Woke.”
As DeSantis’ office proclaimed in a press release last February when he was rolling out the early stages of his campaign for the presidency:
“Today, Governor Ron DeSantis and Trustees of the State Board of Administration (SBA) formally approved measures to protect Florida’s investments from woke environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG)…
“‘Corporations across America continue to inject an ideological agenda through our economy rather than through the ballot box,’ said Governor Ron DeSantis. ‘Today’s actions reinforce that ESG considerations will not be tolerated here in Florida…’”
This opposition to doing anything about climate change is apparently the single largest thread uniting the Republican Party and its candidates for president. As Forbes noted last year, citing Bloomberg News:
“A nascent Republican primary for president is proving that the leadership and direction of the GOP remains unsettled. But whoever the future leader of the party is, ESG investing will be on the chopping block.”
Vivek Ramaswamy, the third declared GOP presidential contender was unambiguous about his opposition to doing anything to slow down the fossil fuel industry’s destruction of planet Earth:
“Ramaswamy is positioned as a culture warrior. He wants to fight against ‘the poison of wokeism.’ In particular, Ramaswamy focuses his ire on those using environmental, social, and governance factors in investing and financial decisions.”
In other words, any company that does anything to lower its fossil fuel usage is now officially a target of the GOP’s War On Woke. What started out as a dog-whistle to white racists and homophobes has morphed into a full-out attack on our planet’s biosphere. All to enhance the profits of fossil fuel billionaires and their industry.
Oregon’s Multnomah Country — mostly Portland — is David in this David-versus-Goliath battle, but hopefully will provide an example soon followed by other states as they’re ravaged by climate change caused by the fossil fuel industry and its decades of lies.
The 2021 heat dome we had here in the Pacific Northwest killed hundreds of people and millions of animals, including 69 people in Multnomah County. The county’s lawsuit is seeking $51 billion in damages and an additional $50 billion to harden the county’s systems against future climate emergencies.
While $101 billion is chump change for the fossil fuel industry, if Multnomah County’s example is picked up by others — similar heat domes are whacking other states as you read these words, not to mention severe drought, tornadoes, floods, and baseball-sized hail — the cumulative effect could be substantial.
It’s a start, and a consciousness-raising one at that.
If we are to have a livable planet going forward, we must take on this toxic, poisonous, and deadly industry that is apparently run by psychopaths with little regard for human life. And do everything we can to vote their Republican toadies out of office.