Daily Archives: December 17, 2019

Nova Scotia town sinking as sea levels rising

CBC News: The National

Published on Dec 17, 2019

Liverpool, N.S., is trying to ward off flood waters from rising sea levels while the community is also starting to sink.

Climate Change: Is It Time To Scare People?

Thom Hartmann Program

Published on Dec 17, 2019

Climate Change is here but politicians are still not acting.

Is it time to scare people into caring about the Planet?

What to expect from House impeachment vote

PBS NewsHour

Ahead of Wednesday’s impeachment proceedings, the House Rules Committee began debate by acknowledging bipartisan respect — a rare gesture amid a highly contentious matter. Meanwhile, President Trump unleashed rancor in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Sen. Mitch McConnell rejected a Democratic proposal for the expected Senate trial. Lisa Desjardins reports and talks to Judy Woodruff.

Massachusetts attorney general on ‘outrageous’ Purdue Pharma settlement

Published on Dec 17, 2019
Newly released court documents reveal that the family behind Purdue Pharmaceuticals, maker of highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, withdrew over $10 billion from the company as the opioid epidemic grew worse. The developments are increasing scrutiny of the Sackler family and its liability for the deadly crisis. William Brangham reports and talks to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

James J. McCarthy — Global Scientist ~ Global Citizen


A leading global scientist and global citizen has died, leaving a lasting legacy that serves as a model for principled, humane public service.  As an active member of the Harvard faculty James J. McCarthy was esteemed by colleagues and students alike for his abundant, tireless and generous contributions to Harvard’s life over several decades.  A public memorial service planned for the Harvard Memorial Church in Harvard Yard is expected to gather colleagues, friends and admirers from across the country and around the world.  Beyond Harvard, citizens of Cambridge have expressed their sorrow and sadness and warm appreciation for his life and work.


YouTube Version

And well beyond both Harvard and Cambridge, public figures who benefited from his insights and extended tutoring have been among the first to acknowledge their enormous debt to Jim McCarthy over the years.

James J. McCarthy was a distinguished biological oceanographer who was honored by his fellow scientists with the award of the Tyler Prize for environmental achievement in 2018.  After receiving the award Jim was interviewed by Steve Curwood as part of the award-winning Living on Earth program series.  In the interview Jim elaborated some of the reasons of how he became interested in the field of biological oceanography and how his work came to the sudden attention of the nation as a whole through a front-page story on a trip he made to the North Pole.

jim mccarthy loe

The Tyler Prize award committee also published an extended interview with Professor McCarthy when they awarded the prize:


and in emphasized Professor McCarthy’s achievements over the years that made him particularly qualified of their recognition.  Professor McCarthy’s discussion with scientists upon receiving the  Tyler Award  at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, conveys a sense of the importance of climate science to the formulation of public policy:

The Tyler Prize Committee’s summary statement about the award which he shared in 2018 with Dr. Paul Falkowski underscores his achievements.

James J. McCarthy is recognized for his pioneering research on marine nutrient cycles, his significant additions to our understanding of human activity on Earth’s climate, and his contributions to informed policy discussions on climate change.

His service to organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme, as well as his authorship of the Arctic Climate and Northeast Climate Impact assessments, have uniquely informed and shaped the international discourse on environmental science policy.


Other tributes from his colleagues at Harvard and scientists across the country were evident in a recent series of “conversations” with Jim McCarthy during October of 2019:

Beyond his individual achievements as a seminal thinker in the field of biological oceanography, Professor McCarthy served as a key figure in the largest international collaboration of scientists ever convened in human history.  He was the lead participant and principal coordinating co-author in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), where he oversaw and coordinated the publication of  The Assessment Report” (TAR):


In large part it was for this report and the extraordinary international coordination of research that it represented that the IPCC was named as a co-recipient — along with Al Gore — of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.


Professor McCarthy — who played such an important role in coordinating the publication of The IPCC’s “Assessment Report” of 2001 — enjoyed a moment with the Nobel Peace Prize medal in Oslo as it was being awarded jointly to the IPCC and Al Gore in 2007.

In addition to his regular teaching obligations, Professor McCarthy served as the Head Tutor for the undergraduate concentration at Harvard in “Environmental Science and Public Policy” — a program which he helped to create.  Beyond this he regularly addressed the entire Harvard community in public fora devoted to discussing climate change and its public policy implications.  He frequently asked the uncomfortable questions, challenging the Harvard community and the wider world to confront the seriousness of our moment and role in the evolution of the global ecosystem.  His seminal 2009 article – “Reflections On: Our Planet and Its Life, Origins, and Futures” — which appeared in Science Magazine was an example of his probing and challenging mind in this regard as were all of his public talks offered to all on the Harvard campus:


His “civic contributions” to the Harvard community extended well beyond his realm of biological oceanography.   He served for many years at the Director of the University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, and  for 13 years he and his wife, Sue, shared the role of being Master of  Harvard’s Pforzheimer House — the second longest tenure in that role of Mastership in Harvard’s history.

Beyond these official positions and important tasks within Harvard’s formal teaching and administrative structures, Professor McCarthy played an important strategic role at a crucial juncture of the Harvard faculty’s confrontation with its former President, Lawrence Summers.  After suffering repeated criticism and formal votes of no-confidence on the part of the Harvard Faculty, President Summers refused initially to step down from the Presidency, citing his continued support from Harvard’s Board of Overseers where Robert Rubin — the Wall Street financier and former Secretary of the Treasury — appears to have played an important role.

As the “standoff” between the Harvard Faculty and President Summers continued, Professor McCarthy wrote a short, but highly consequential open letter to The Boston Globe, calling upon the Board of Overseers to pay attention to the enduring crisis and intervene to examine Lawrence Summer’s continued role.  Soon thereafter, in early 2006, shortly before yet another no-confidence vote from the faculty the world learned:


In other respects, Professor McCarthy expressed his “civic duty” beyond Harvard and beyond his own discipline in many and varied ways.  In addition to his exceptional work in mobilizing the international scientific community to provide information and insight to government officials around the world, Professor McCarthy contributed tirelessly for over a decade to teaching through “Harvard’s Night School” — the Harvard Extension School.


Moreover he appeared frequently in Washington, D. C. to testify to Congress on the importance of devising a rational climate policy.


Professor James J. McCarthy testifying before the United States Congress on climate science and the need for effective public policy to combat climate change.

Beyond these efforts to coordinate and extend the work of fellow scientists and make it accessible to both policy makers and future generations of a wide variety of students, Jim McCarthy reached out to communities rarely approached by his fellow scientists.  Upon stepping down from his role as Master of Pforsheimer House at Harvard the Charles J. Wells, a Staff Writer, for the student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, recorded: “…McCarthy will take a sabbatical during which he will work on a book, develop a new General Education course, and research the intersection of religion and science.” [emphasis added].

It is not known whether Professor McCarthy had the chance to develop this research further, but it is clear that he had reached out over the years in a very courageous manner to speak with climate denialists within the evangelical religions traditions.


Because of his longstanding contributions to Earth science and his continued commitment to reaching out to political leaders, and diverse communities of concerned citizens across the country and around the world, Professor McCarthy’s work was repeatedly presented and fully documented for students to consider through the online course on the ethics of environmental sustainability offered over seventeen years through the Harvard Extension School: 


For is insight and inspiration as a global scientist and global citizen Professor James J. McCarthy will be dearly missed by colleagues, students, friends and the entire human community.

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It is a particularly poignant irony that in the week of his death, much of what he inspired thousands of scientists to achieve seems to have been swept aside by short-sighted governmental leaders beholden to the fossil fuel industries around the world:

Concerning Professor McCarthy’s work, see related:

How the Fossil Fuel Industry Is Attempting to Buy the Global Youth Climate Movement

Alleen Brown   December 13 2019, 12:30 p.m.

The same day that 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg gave a stirring speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September, in which she criticized delegates for “stealing my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” the architects of the climate crisis welcomed select youth participants from the summit to dine.

CEOs from fossil fuel corporations including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and Norway’s Equinor were attending the annual gathering of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative in New York, which includes industry leaders who claim to be committed to taking “practical” action on climate change. On the agenda for lunch was to “explore options for long-term engagement” with young people the industry could trust. Student Energy, a nonprofit based in Alberta, near Canada’s tar sands region, helped organize the event, which included time for students to grill the CEOs about their inaction on climate change.

Tension in the room was high, Student Energy’s executive director, 30-year-old Meredith Adler, told The Intercept. “The whole discussion started off with one of our participants talking about why youth don’t trust oil and gas companies,” she said. But by the end of the meeting, Adler tweeted that she was “very impressed” with OGCI. “I don’t feel they had all the answers or strong enough answers but they are really listening,” she wrote.

The students’ questions may have been tough, but the event was great PR for the fossil fuel industry. Gone are the days when CEOs openly questioned the existence of climate change. Today, industry leaders are feigning a sense of climate urgency while pushing forward proposals for climate action that will allow companies to keep harvesting carbon-emitting products well into the future. Subjecting themselves to a cohort of skeptical students was an opportunity for oil and gas executives to boost their credibility in an era when many young activists will only engage with them with picket signs.

Young activists say they’re seeing more of this “youth-washing” as the global youth climate movement gains momentum, including at the U.N. annual climate conference, known as COP 25, which is wrapping up in Madrid this week. With “youth” becoming synonymous with climate action, corporations and politicians are increasingly using young people to portray themselves as climate serious.

“There’s a real dangerous tokenism of youth for the benefit of public image.”

“The use of youth in campaigning is becoming more and more overt,” said 24-year-old Eilidh Robb, a member of the U.K. Youth Climate Coalition, who has been involved in pushing the U.N. to adopt a conflict of interest policy that would prevent fossil fuel industry representatives from exercising influence at COP. “There’s a real dangerous tokenism of youth for the benefit of public image.”

The OGCI gathering was a particularly egregious example of youth-washing. OGCI has provided funding to Student Energy, and OGCI ventures director Rhea Hamilton is on the group’s board of directors. Among the “partners” listed in Student Energy’s 2018 annual report are Royal Dutch Shell and Suncor, one of Canada’s biggest tar sands producers. Fossil fuel companies consistently fund the organization’s annual conference.

Although Student Energy’s leaders often echo the talking points of activists like Thunberg, the group’s membership — a network it claims includes 40,000 young people — is largely made up of people who want to work in the energy industry.

Student Energy is among the youth groups granted observer status at COP 25, meaning that its members can gain access to negotiation spaces, speak with the negotiating parties, and participate in events. Its presence at the U.N.’s international climate talks is only expected to grow. Student Energy’s 2018 report noted that the group had seen a 73 percent increase in active chapters. Next year, the oil and gas major BP has pledged to send 50 Student Energy delegates to COP26. The funding would double the size of the group’s usual delegation, according to a BP press release. In a conference space that serves as a battleground of ideas about how to address the climate crisis, BP apparently sees Student Energy’s presence as beneficial to the corporation.

But Student Energy’s funders, some of the corporations most responsible for the climate crisis, show no signs of slowing down. Suncor’s production portfolio, which includes mostly tar sands extraction, is the most carbon intensive of the 100 largest fossil fuel companies in the world, and the company has pushed hard for new pipelines that would allow it to continue to increase production. Shell, the world’s 11th-largest greenhouse gas-emitting oil and gas company, is projected to increase its fossil fuel output by 38 percent by 2030. BP, the 14th-largest emitter, will up production by 20 percent.

The corporations’ projections fly in the face of the measures scientists say are required to meet the U.N.’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030. The point of the COP is to move toward that goal.

Adler told The Intercept that Student Energy participated in the OGCI event in order to challenge the oil and gas industry face to face. She said the organization follows strict partnership principles that prevent funders from wielding influence over the group’s activities. A large proportion of the organization’s members want to work in the renewables industry, not for a fossil fuel company, she added, and next year they will be diversifying their funding sources significantly.

As for BP’s COP26 funding, Adler said that Student Energy has not officially accepted the money. “We’re examining what that looks like and the implications of that and if they’re the right partner.”

To Taylor Billings, a spokesperson for the nonprofit Corporate Accountability, it’s no surprise that the industry is seeking a youth movement to collaborate with. As she put it, “If zebras were leading the march, fossil fuel corporations and global north governments would be clambering to get into the zoo.”

…(read more).