• October 28th, 2021
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Blue Like Earth or Red Like Mars?


 

Javier Sierra

 

No, palm trees are not growing on Mars. This breathtaking image of red skies caused by the fires around Los Angeles was taken on September 10 by photographer Chris Allen.

The western part of the country is suffering the worst wave of deadly fires in its history. In California alone, more than 3 million acres have burned, 1,000 every 30 minutes, and every day an area equal to the District of Columbia goes up in flames. In Oregon, more than 40,000 people have been evacuated because of the virulence of the fires.

Fire has always been an essential part of healthy forests. The big difference now is that the climate crisis fans the flames with catastrophic consequences. The experts are warning us that both the frequency and intensity of fires will only increase.

Why? For decades, the fossil fuel industry has treated the planet’s atmosphere like its private sewage system, in which it has dumped stratospheric amounts of greenhouse gases. Among those who have contributed the most to this blight are Chevron (2nd), ExxonMobil (4th), BP (6th) and Shell (7th). They and the rest of the world’s top 20 polluters have spewed 480 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

Science has warned us that by 2030, we must reduce the burning of fossil fuels by 45 percent, and by 2050, by 100 percent. The firestorms that have painted the Western skies red is a new warning by nature, which asks us: Do you want a blue planet like Earth or a red one like Mars?

This industry not only devours the planet’s atmosphere but also the US Treasury. According to an International Monetary Fund study, in 2015, the fossil fuel industry received $650 billion in subsidies only in the US—$50 billion more than the Pentagon, the federal government’s largest expenditure.

This deadly pollution and the climate crisis it triggers disproportionately impact vulnerable communities, like us Latinos. Moreover, the fossil industry—such as Chevron, Shell, or Valero—and the banks that support them—such as JPMorgan and Wells Fargo—constitute a financial stalwart to the country’s police foundations, especially in regions with a high density of petrochemical facilities. This partnership guarantees the protection these companies need amid the opposition from the frontline communities they poison.

The rapacious nature of this industry was once again left bare after the economic debacle triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The petrochemical industry, after years in decline and hundreds of bankruptcies, turned out to be the sector most favored by Congress when it came time to distribute economic assistance under the CARES Act. In total, thanks to shameless favoritism by both the Trump administration and the Republican Senate, the industry collected more than $10 billion in direct and indirect assistance, and $75 billion in financial protections provided by the Federal Reserve (that is, the taxpayer).

By contrast, the clean energy industry, the fastest growing in the US economy before the pandemic, received less than $188 million even though it has lost 600,000 jobs, a disaster that has especially impacted Latino workers.

Even so, the fossil fuel industry, thanks in large part to climate activism, is drowning in the abundance of its own products and debt. Since the pandemic started, Big Oil has had almost 400 million barrels stored in tankers around the world. Before that, the oil and gas industries had accumulated $200 billion in debt, and as a whole, it has become the worst investment value in the US. In August, Exxon, one of the funders of the Dow Jones, was kicked out of this important financial index.

Science has warned us that by 2030, we must reduce the burning of fossil fuels by 45 percent, and by 2050, by 100 percent. The firestorms that have painted the Western skies red is a new warning by nature, which asks us: Do you want a blue planet like Earth or a red one like Mars?

 

Javier Sierra is a Columnist with Sierra Club. @javier_SC

 

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