Tech giants want to burn the planet. Why yell at Feinstein?

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Opinion - Sacra­mento Bee

Sen. Dianne Feinstein went vi­ral for all the wrong rea­sons re­cently. Her sin: giv­ing a group of el­e­men­tary school chil­dren a blunt les­son in cli­mate change pes­simism.

In a video­taped en­counter, Feinstein re­buffed the kids’ ef­forts to get her sup­port for the Green New Deal. The 10-year plan calls for a mas­sive in­vest­ment to stim­u­late the econ­omy by tran­si­tion­ing to clean en­ergy. Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists cham­pion it as a way to cre­ate jobs and pre­vent cli­mate catas­tro­phe.

Feinstein was hav­ing none of it. She forthrightly as­sured the chil­dren there’s no hope for a Green New Deal in the Se­nate. When pushed, she boasted of her mil­lion-vote margin of vic­tory in 2018 and archly re­minded a 16-year-old that mi­nors can’t par­tic­i­pate in elec­tions.

“Get off my lawn!” seemed to be the only line miss­ing from her tone-deaf per­for­mance.

As it turns out, many lines were miss­ing. The video was heav­ily edited to re­flect the worst of the ex­change, and the Twit­ter out­rage mobs came for Feinstein.

Per­haps she de­served it. But in fo­cus­ing their anger on a Demo­cratic se­na­tor from Cal­i­for­nia who just got re-elected to a six-year term and sees cli­mate change as a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity, cli­mate ac­tivists missed a big­ger story – one that lends con­text to Feinstein’s dim view.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by Brian Mer­chant of Giz­modo, Cal­i­for­nia tech gi­ant Google – along with Ama­zon and Mi­crosoft – has qui­etly gone into the oil busi­ness. The goal: to use ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, big data and other ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy to max­i­mize oil ex­plo­ration and pro­duc­tion.

“Google is us­ing ma­chine learn­ing to find more oil re­serves both above and be­low the seas, its data ser­vices are stream­lin­ing and au­tomat­ing ex­tant oil­field op­er­a­tions, and it is help­ing oil com­pa­nies find ways to trim costs and com­pete with clean en­ergy up­starts,” wrote Mer­chant. “It’s strik­ing to see Google trans­form­ing it­self into a ver­i­ta­ble in­no­va­tion arm of the fos­sil fuel ex­trac­tion in­dus­try – at pre­cisely the time when an un­der­stand­ing that cli­mate change poses an ex­is­ten­tial threat to pop­u­la­tions across large swaths of the globe has never been more acute.”

Ama­zon and Mi­crosoft have also ea­gerly en­tered the oil busi­ness. The com­pa­nies de­clined to com­ment for Mer­chant’s story, and Google failed to re­spond to an in­quiry from The Sacra­mento Bee.

To re­cap: The most bril­liant tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies in the world are us­ing their power to make sure we ex­tract as much oil as pos­si­ble from the ground. They’re do­ing this de­spite the fact that sci­en­tists say 80 per­cent of known fos­sil fuel re­serves must stay in the ground to avoid cli­mate catas­tro­phe.

They’re also do­ing it de­spite their own vaunted com­mit­ments to solve the cli­mate cri­sis at the 11th hour.

The Feinstein video got zil­lions of views, but Giz­modo’s block­buster re­port about the big­gest tech com­pa­nies in the world help­ing to de­stroy the planet for money slipped un­der the radar.

It’s the lat­est in a string of un­for­tu­nate rev­e­la­tions about our in­ten­si­fy­ing cli­mate cri­sis. For ex­am­ple, in the last few days alone we learned that:

An ice­berg the size of

New York City is break­ing off of Antarc­tica, rais­ing wor­ries about ris­ing sea lev­els.

In­creased car­bon

diox­ide in the at­mos­phere may re­sult in the dis­ap­pear­ance of stra­tocu­mu­lus clouds, re­sult­ing in much higher tem­per­a­tures than cur­rent mod­els pre­dict.

●● volatile cli­mate may in­crease the like­li­hood of gi­ant storms, called ARkS­torms, that could turn some Cen­tral Val­ley cities into lakes and cre­ate 1.5 mil­lion cli­mate refugees.

The kids are right to feel pas­sion­ate and make de­mands. Feinstein made her­self an easy tar­get, but the truth is that no one is do­ing enough on cli­mate. Not gov­ern­ment, not busi­ness, not jour­nal­ists – no one.

Some are even try­ing to make the prob­lem worse.

Feinstein no doubt re­grets her rude­ness, but she may have also done the kids a fa­vor. She demon­strated the dif­fi­culty of get­ting “re­spon­si­ble adults” to act with ur­gency.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.