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Losing Earth: A Recent History por Nathaniel…
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Losing Earth: A Recent History (original 2019; edição 2019)

por Nathaniel Rich (Autor)

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By 1979, we knew nearly everything we understand today about climate change--including how to stop it. Over the next decade, a handful of scientists, politicians, and strategists, led by two unlikely heroes, risked their careers in a desperate, escalating campaign to convince the world to act before it was too late.Losing Earth is their story, and ours. The New York Times Magazinedevoted an entire issue to Nathaniel Rich's groundbreaking chronicle of that decade, which became an instant journalistic phenomenon--the subject of news coverage, editorials, and conversations all over the world. In its emphasis on the lives of the people who grappled with the great existential threat of our age, it made vivid the moral dimensions of our shared plight. Now expanded into book form,Losing Earth tells the human story of climate change in even richer, more intimate terms. It reveals, in previously unreported detail, the birth of climate denialism and the genesis of the fossil fuel industry's coordinated effort to thwart climate policy through misinformation propaganda and political influence. The book carries the story into the present day, wrestling with the long shadow of our past failures and asking crucial questions about how we make sense of our past, our future, and ourselves. Like John Hersey'sHiroshima and Jonathan Schell'sThe Fate of the Earth,Losing Earth is the rarest of achievements: a riveting work of dramatic history that articulates a moral framework for understanding how we got here, and how we must go forward.… (mais)
Membro:Kudi1987
Título:Losing Earth: A Recent History
Autores:Nathaniel Rich (Autor)
Informação:MCD (2019), 224 pages
Colecções:A sua biblioteca
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Etiquetas:to-read

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Losing Earth: A Recent History por Nathaniel Rich (2019)

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Nathaniel Rich's book "Losing Earth" deals with Climate Change, but is not a book that tries to teach the science, nor dwells on the potential catastrophic consequences of a changing climate. Rather, it raises, and then answers the question, if it's a problem, why isn't the United States doing anything about it?

President Trump famously withdrew the Country from the Paris Climate Agreement, which was agreed to by essentially every Nation in the World. As of 2019, 196 states plus the European Union have signed the agreement, and the governing bodies of 183 of these countries have formally ratified it. So if the scientific institutions of each of these Countries recognize the reality of climate change, and can foresee the detrimental impacts of a warming world, why does the United States basically stand alone in denying climate change?

"Losing Earth" looks at how the scientists, businesses, and politicians have looked at the issue over the past 40 years or so. The science behind Climate Change has changed very little since the late 1970's, when scientists, the fossil fuel industry, and American politicians all understood and agreed on the need to act to limit the impact of climate change. But change is hard, and gradually, the stance of major carbon emitters and a number of prominent politicians turned from support to questioning to delay to opposition.

When President Reagan was elected in 1980, he leaned toward reducing Industry regulations and adopting Industry friendly policies. Early on, Reagan declined to act on Climate regulation, and even removed the solar panels from the White House roof, indicating his disdain for alternative energy. He proposed allowing increased coal mining on Federal lands, deregulation of surface coal mining, and to enact these policies, named James Watt, a pro-drilling and pro-mining advocate as Secretary of the Interior. After initially considering elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he relented, but instead appointed anti-regulation activist Anne Gorsuch to head the Agency. Subsequently, she cut the EPA budget by over 20%, reduced staff by 25%, and hired industry insiders to oversee their own industries. After the EPA put out a report warning about high carbon emissions and global warming, Reagan's science advisor, George Keyworth II discounted the report, and warned against taking any near-term corrective actions. The Administrations approach was that there were NO actions recommended other than continued research. At the bipartisan urging of Congress, Reagan did ultimately agree to join with Soviet President Gorbachev on a pledge to deal with global warming. But pledges and research don't equate with action, and not much happened during the Reagan years.

With this political atmosphere, and the inability of scientists to say exactly when the most significant impact of climate change would occur, coal and oil Industry groups delayed any actions to address climate change, and instead adopted policies to do further studies on the problem. The American Petroleum Institute (API) discontinued its CO2 task force, and Exxon ended their CO2 program. Similarly, politicians delayed making the tough choices needed to address climate change pending final and firm details on when climate changes would occur, and to what extent.

It appeared that things might change in 1988 when the Democrats nominated Michael Dukakis and the Republicans nominated G. H. W. Bush as their respective presidential candidates. In that election cycle, it was Dukakis who was pushing for more fossil fuel usage, noting that the U.S. had enough coal to power the Country for the next 300 years. Bush stood in contrast to that position, stating that he was an environmentalist. Further, he famously stated, "Those who think we are powerless to do anything about the greenhouse effect, are forgetting about the White House effect".

Just after taking office, Bush was visited by former Presidents Ford and Carter, who presented him with a bipartisan report, "American Agenda", which outlined the problems facing America. It recommended making Climate Change a national priority, and doubling the EPA's research budget. Additionally, Congress proposed multiple bipartisan initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, and to join with other Nations to work together to do the same.

But soon, the oil men started reconsidering, recommending delayed action and more research. In 1988, Mobil warned that action to address the greenhouse effect might require a dramatic reduction in dependence on fossil fuels. Exxon developed a corporate position on Climate, drafted not by scientists on staff, but by public relations people. The first draft acknowledged that the science was real, but proposed that Exxon should emphasize the uncertainty in scientific conclusions regarding the greenhouse effect. The general approach taken by the fossil fuel industry was that regulations to address climate change could hurt profits. On the other hand, some felt that a warming world would require more energy usage, primarily due to the need for more air conditioning and refrigeration. Their position was to proceed with caution, making sure any regulations would be applied gradually to limit economic shocks. Their approach was to highlight the uncertainties in the science, question the effectiveness of any new regulations, urge international cooperation, and accept only those measures which were consistent with broader corporate goals (e.g., actions which didn't hurt profits). The shift in the industry position merged nicely with President Bush's Chief of Staff, John Sinunu. Sinunu wanted no additional regulations or spending to fight climate change, and any good intentions President Bush may have had went nowhere.

By the time Bill Clinton became President, industry groups concerned about possible regulations of their industries to address climate change launched an organization, the Global Climate Coalition (GCC). Membership included petroleum, mining, utility, and automotive industries and their lobbying groups, representing the largest industries in the Country. While many GCC members — including ExxonMobil, Shell, Edison Electric Institute (EEI), Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Ford, and the American Petroleum Institute (API) — had internally acknowledged years earlier that the burning of fossil fuels contributed to and worsened climate change, they issued statements that Climate change probably wouldn't happen for >100 years, and expected that technical innovation would solve the problem before then. After Bill Clinton proposed an energy tax, the GCC directed a $1.8 million investment in a global warming disinformation campaign. Senate Democrats from oil producing States joined Republicans in defeating Clinton's tax proposal, and through the rest of the 1990's, the GCC spent at least 1 million dollars / year to crush public support for climate policy. The GCC ultimately disbanded in 2002 after several major members became embarrassed by their tactics and defected, but by then they had made their message dominant throughout the Country.

In 2000, as a candidate for President, G. W. Bush acknowledged that climate change was real, and 2008 G.O.P. Presidential nominee John McCain did the same in his campaign. However, the influences of Dick Cheney, former head of oil services behemoth Halliburton Corp., and industry leaders in general, were emboldened in their battles against climate change, and pushed the claim that the fundamental science of climate change was uncertain. And even though Obama won the Presidency in 2008, denialism was dominant within the Republican Party, and climate change initiatives were defeated in Congress. In 2009, the oil and gas industry, led by Exxon-Mobil, spent about a $500 million dollars on lobbying efforts to weaken energy legislation.

When the Nations of the world set targets to limit greenhouse gases under the Paris Climate Agreement, efforts to regulate carbon emissions and limit the effect of climate change have only been weakened in the United States after the election of President Trump in 2016.

We can only hope that, in the long run, the planet will be fine. The climate has changed many times in the past, and will change again in the future. However those past significant changes occurred gradually over tens of thousands of years, long before humans populated the earth. So while the planet will continue to circle the sun, regardless of changes in climate, because of the rapidity of the change and the fact that the world population now is so high, the human impact is likely to be much more significant. If so, this is the legacy we leave for our children, and our children's children.

Unfortunately, indications are the we can't be counted on to sacrifice present convenience to forestall penalties imposed on future generations. But that's not a certainty. Consider that DuPont was against taking action on CFC's to manage the Ozone Hole, but relented when they found out that there were profits in new refrigerants. In the same way, new technologies, new renewables can be profitable to many. Let's hope that political and industry leaders can join forces once again to develop a strategy for addressing this issue. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
With all the propaganda and distractions, do you really know what humanity is up against and how we got to this reckoning of human existence?

This book tells it as well as most any I've read, at least the more recent history.

Not a lively read, but an important one if you value your future. ( )
  LGCullens | Jun 1, 2021 |
Utterly frustrating and aggravating.

In Losing Earth, Nathaniel Rich weaves a narrative detailing the events that unfolded in the 70's upon the discovery of an excerpt in a climate report stating that if the burning of fossil fuels didn't slow down the earth would warm considerably -- and bring about disastrous consequences in the upcoming decades.

The book doesn't get into the science behind what causes global warming but rather the (ongoing) battle between scientists and environmentalists versus the governments of the world (mainly the U.S., since they are the biggest contributor to carbon dioxide, the main culprit from the results of fossil fuels). The inaction by our elected representatives and the false information springing from Big Oil and Gas companies will have you screaming at the pages.

I have in the last couple of years tried my best to be as 'green' as possible, but I know I can do better. We call can do better. It won't be easy but any little action helps. Also, we have to try and be more vocal towards our congressmen and our governments. Vote for those who have a serious plan on passing climate legislation. Let's leave a healthy planet for our future generations. ( )
  ProfessorEX | Apr 15, 2021 |
Summary: An account of the lost opportunity of the 1980's to address climate change and the birth of the polarized dialogue that exists to this day.

Did you know that much of the scientific understanding of the greenhouse effect and global warming traces back to the nineteenth century? That in the 1950's and throughout the Sixties and Seventies, scientists were already warning of global warming and contending that warming connected with higher carbon dioxide levels was already evident? Did you know there was a time when climate change and the science behind it was not a political issue and that political leaders in both parties, and many others in most the the countries of the world, substantially agreed that this was a looming problem that needed to be addressed? That world leaders came very close to an agreement to limit and reduce carbon dioxide emissions in 1989? That was thirty years ago. In 1990 human beings emitted more than 20 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Instead of cutting that amount, by 2018, the amount was projected at 37.1 billion metric tons and growing.

Nathaniel Rich narrates the story of a lost moment through two figures: Rafe Pomerance, an environmental lobbyist and Gordon MacDonald, a climate scientist. A third figure who plays a prominent role is James Hansen, a NASA climate scientist who compiled massive amounts of data, and gave compelling testimony wherever called upon. Pomerance, came across this finding in a government study on the continued use of fossil fuels: "continued use of fossil fuels might, within two or three decades, bring about 'significant and damaging' changes to the global atmosphere." That was in the Spring of 1979 and changed the course of his life. It led to his interview with Gordon MacDonald, a geophysicist, who was glad that someone beside him finally noticed.

Rich's book traces their efforts to mobilize awareness and action, culminating in the formation of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and a climate summit in the Netherlands in 1989. Initially, action on climate change was widely supported, at least in public statements. Meanwhile, a transformation began to take place in the fossil fuel industry from studying the issue themselves and reckoning on the consequences of continued fuel use, to a movement of resistance and a challenge to the science, and exercise of increasing leverage. In the climate talks, the resistance of one US figure led to a meaningless agreement to which the US never subscribed, and an increasingly politicized discourse around climate issues. Perhaps the most stunning revelation of this book was that it was not always so.

Rich's afterword is both hopeful and sobering. He both notes the technological advances that might be turned to action limiting global temperature rises to somewhere between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius. Yet he also wrestles with the propensity of human beings to not act to address possible dangers down the road and instead prefer their present comfort. He not only condemns in the strongest terms those who twist and deny what they know. He challenges all of us:

"We do not like to think about loss, or death; Americans in particular, do not like to think about death. No matter how obsessively one follows the politics of climate change, it is difficult to contemplate soberly an existential threat to the species. Our queasiness even infects the language we use to describe it: the banalities of "global warming" and "climate change" perform the linguistic equivalent of rolling on sanitary gloves to palpate a hemorrhaging wound."

To see how close the world came to a climate agreement on carbon emissions in the 1980's, to learn of a time when this was not a political football, suggests that it may be possible in the future. To avert the worst possibilities, it is imperative. One concludes Rich's book wondering, will we seize or miss the opportunity that we have? ( )
  BobonBooks | Sep 17, 2019 |
This is the story of the global warming debate from 1979 to 1992 with the emphasis on Rafe Pomerance, a Friends of the Earth activist, who was the first environmentalist to see the seriousness of the issue in 1979. Rich recounts how scientists and concerned politcians attempted to bring the issue into the public debate and the challenges that they faced. The realization in the mid-1980s of the hole in the ozone layer caused a sudden and surprising consensus across the spectrum. Even President Ronald Reagan supported action. Then, just as an international agreement seemed attainable, the oil companies and their political allies went on the counter offensive. Rich puts much of the blame on President George H.W. Bush who promoted himself as the environmental president but waffled at the worst time. His chief of staff John Sununu plays the role of central villan in this account. It is depressing to think we were so close to implementing meaningful reforms thirty years ago and blew it ( )
  gregdehler | Jun 27, 2019 |
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By 1979, we knew nearly everything we understand today about climate change--including how to stop it. Over the next decade, a handful of scientists, politicians, and strategists, led by two unlikely heroes, risked their careers in a desperate, escalating campaign to convince the world to act before it was too late.Losing Earth is their story, and ours. The New York Times Magazinedevoted an entire issue to Nathaniel Rich's groundbreaking chronicle of that decade, which became an instant journalistic phenomenon--the subject of news coverage, editorials, and conversations all over the world. In its emphasis on the lives of the people who grappled with the great existential threat of our age, it made vivid the moral dimensions of our shared plight. Now expanded into book form,Losing Earth tells the human story of climate change in even richer, more intimate terms. It reveals, in previously unreported detail, the birth of climate denialism and the genesis of the fossil fuel industry's coordinated effort to thwart climate policy through misinformation propaganda and political influence. The book carries the story into the present day, wrestling with the long shadow of our past failures and asking crucial questions about how we make sense of our past, our future, and ourselves. Like John Hersey'sHiroshima and Jonathan Schell'sThe Fate of the Earth,Losing Earth is the rarest of achievements: a riveting work of dramatic history that articulates a moral framework for understanding how we got here, and how we must go forward.

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