My new book Abolish Oil Now! just came out a few days ago. I’ve been working on it for two years, so I’m glad that it has come out in time for the COP26 United Nations Climate Change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, starting at the end of October.
This is the 26th year that leaders of the world’s nations have met to avert the threat of runaway climate disruption. And despite the best efforts of climate leaders everyplace from Washington to Beijing to the islands of the south Pacific to the indigenous communities of the Arctic, so far we have failed.
Over 26 years of international talks and agreements plus an increasing supply of sustainable products and clean energy projects, climate pollution has not decreased at all. Quite the opposite: greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have nearly doubled since the first UN summit on climate.
If that doesn’t qualify as failure, then I don’t know what does.
26 Years Is Long Enough
People around the world know that we’re not doing well on climate. You’d think that saving civilization from disaster in the form of biblical wildfires, heatwaves, floods and storms, would be urgent. It is urgent for ordinary people. But it’s not urgent for the world’s governments, the only ones big enough to make a difference.
That urgency gap explains why Greta Thunberg is so popular. She scowls at UN conference audiences as she scolds them for talking much and doing little. She speaks the truth. Watch Greta do it again in a recent speech dripping with sarcasm on government-speak about “win-win solutions” for a sustainable economy.
Failure — It’s not just about 26 UN climate summits that achieved less than nothing. It’s also about hundreds of other international meetings over more than 30 years that failed to stop pollution from getting much, much worse.
Some of those meetings involved the US government. For example, at a Congressional hearing way back in 1988, climatologist James Hansen warned American leaders that climate heating was real, that it was caused mostly by humans burning fossil fuels and that it represented a grave threat to the future of humanity.
Since then, there’s been no urgency to avert disaster. Instead, big business has given us no choice but to continue to burn oil, gas and coal without limit.
Hasn’t there been any progress?
Three decades of the problem not just not getting better, but getting twice as bad, does not qualify as making progress in any way. It only qualifies as abject failure.
Why have we failed, not just a little but a ginormous amount, to stop or even to slow climate pollution?
- It’s not for lack of affordable technology. Solar panels and wind turbines have been ready to go for years. They’re now the cheapest energy sources on earth.
- It’s not for lack of desire. For 30 years, polls have shown that the American public, as in other countries, overwhelmingly supports climate action and clean energy.
- It’s not for lack of truth-telling scientists like Hansen and articulate activists. Brave and energetic politicians like Al Gore; writers and organizers like Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein; and a new generation of youth activists inspired by Greta like the Sunrise Movement have all mobilized citizens for action.
- And it’s certainly not for lack of books on climate change. So, do we really need another one now?
What’s different about Abolish Oil Now! is that it focuses on the only reason why climate chaos still threatens our civilization.
The power of fossil fuel companies to command our political leaders.
The Cover Up Worse than the Crime
For three decades, those companies have compounded crime with deception. It wasn’t enough for fossil fuel companies to pollute the air and water and stoke climate heating by producing oil, gas and coal. Their lobbyists, attorneys and PR flacks also had to pollute the political system with a well funded campaign of buying politicians and confusing the public with lies about climate science.
To save ourselves, citizens must put an end to the fossil fuel industry. We must end the oil industry, the sooner the better. As my book title says, we must Abolish Oil Now!
Subtitled Abolitionists Beat Slavery and Abolitionists Can Beat Climate Change, the book doesn’t pull any punches.
It takes its cue from those who tell the truth about climate, no matter how unpleasant it is to other people who don’t want to hear that truth, like oil company CEOs in in Houston or Riyadh or Moscow or London.
Today, we need more than ever to listen to people who tell the truth like Greta. Or like British naturalist David Attenborough, who said:
“Climate change and ecological breakdown may one day be viewed with the same universal repugnance as slavery.”
In the past, some of the bravest truth-tellers in the world were called abolitionists: Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Lloyd Garrison and more. They were the Gretas of their day.
Miraculously, they won.
And against much longer odds than we face today. We can win too if we follow their example.
Their example is one for the ages. In fact key writers and thinkers call the abolition movement the single best David and Goliath example out there of how immoral tyrants and unconscionable practices can be beaten by a thoughtful coalition of determined activists and allies.
What it took to end thousands of years of slavery was the abolition movement. And what it will take to tackle climate disruption in time to save civilization is a new abolition movement.
Abolish Oil Now! talks about how the old abolition movement worked and how we can get a new one today.
Telling the truth will offend some people. But we don’t have time to be polite anymore.
I originally published this piece on my author website.