April 18, 2013

Greedy Lying Bastards exposes the money, men and lies behind climate change denial

I wondered for a long time why climate change deniers existed. Maybe, I thought, because the truth is scary and requires us to change our ways — not a comfortable request for a society so deeply anchored in business as usual. While it’s true that climate change is indeed frightening and changing ourselves can be met with resistance, the actual reason is that there is a handful of very wealthy people who stand to lose a lot of money from the societal shift required to prevent catastrophic climate change. The rest of us, well, what we stand to lose by doing nothing can’t be measured in dollars.

Greedy Lying Bastards, a new film by director Craig Scott Rosebraugh and executive producer Daryl Hannah, strives to answer a question: why are governments not doing anything about climate change despite scientific consensus telling us it’s real, happening and potentially disastrous? Consider the relationship revealed:

Fighting climate change requires a shift to renewable energy and away from fossil fuels like oil and coal. Among the world’s wealthiest corporations are oil companies. They have a lot at stake when — not if — we kick our fossil fuel addiction, so delaying this climate change-induced transition is in their best interests. These Greedy Lying Bastards like the Koch brothers do this by creating doubt in the public about climate change.

As you’ll find out in the film, they mastermind this doubt in several ways. They channel massive funds into astroturf (fake grassroots) organisations and think tanks which act as their PR and even get ordinary folks rallying. They get media attention (like Fox News) and repeat the same lies and soundbites over and over again until we’re convinced. (The film explains that countering their simple, false one-liners on TV takes the honest opposition much longer than 10 seconds.) Money is also thrown at government officials, who then have a vested interest in keeping the oil machine running — and do nothing about climate change or block any efforts. (This is part of a bigger corporate lobbying disaster that includes the likes of Monsanto.) A lack of public pressure, in part because of public confusion, doesn’t help.

So we’re up against a massively wealthy, networked, and motivated group of people who are able to control a country’s one body that should have the power to change direction. (This is not limited to the US) On the bright side, the oil execs clearly feel threatened enough to spend millions of dollars spreading lies and casting doubt, so the rest of us must be doing something right.

Environmentalist Tzeporah Berman, who sat on the discussion panel after Tuesday’s film screening, said we have a little less than 8 years to turn our energy system and economy around before we hit 450 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, at which point we’re, well, screwed. (We’re at 392.) “The atmosphere does not negotiate,” she said; however, “we can change the way we power our industrial systems.” It makes me so angry knowing that it’s been 25 years since James Hansen’s congressional testimony about climate change and we’re still hell bent on an upward trajectory. Twenty-five years: that’s most of my own life.

Climate deniers and governments need to stop wasting what time we have left to turn this ship around before we hit the proverbial iceberg (or rather, flood waters). We must start dramatically reducing our fossil fuel extraction, export and use today. It’s simply the future of all species and ecosystems on this planet that’s at stake. That we depend on clean air, water and soil and healthy ecosystems is not something that can be denied.

Greedy Lying Bastards screens at Vancouver’s Rio Theatre on April 23rd and 25th at 7pm and 9pm.

Take action

Expose the Bastards: ask Congress to investigate

Co-sign the open letter to Obama calling for bold climate action at 350.org

Remember to vote for a healthy environment in the BC provincial election on May 14th

And while you’re at it, sign this petition against corporate patenting of our food.