THE CLIMATE WAR ~ Our Destiny is Hanging in the Balance

by admin on April 5, 2022

UNITED NATIONS has assembled the best scientists for long range studies

This climate war now raging we cannot afford to lose

Essay by Randi Pokladnik, Environmental Scientist, Tappan Lake, OH, April 4, 2022

Dr. Svitlana Krakovska, a Ukrainian climate scientist and member of the International Panel on Climate Change recently said, “Human induced climate change and the war on Ukraine have the same roots, fossil fuels, and our dependence on them.” Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels from Russia is “funding the war” in Ukraine. Russia, the second largest producer of natural gas, has been accused of using the resource in a geopolitical way against European countries dependent on its gas.

Europe views the worsening situation in Ukraine as justification to double up its investments in renewable energy. The IEA and EU leaders announced a proposed series of steps to accelerate clean energy: fast-tracking permitting for wind and solar projects, revisiting decisions to phase out nuclear energy, and doubling the rate of conversions from natural gas boilers to electric heat pumps in buildings.” All of these would cut European natural gas demand.

However, oil and gas companies in the US, along with many politicians including Joe Manchin of West Virginia, are using the war to rationalize more drilling and fracking in the US. Manchin recently said, “Russia has weaponized energy and the thing I know about an adversary or a bullyis if they have a weapon, you better have one that will match it or be better than theirs”. However, Natural Resource Chair Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) said in a recent op-ed, “Doubling down on fossil fuels is a false solution that only perpetuates the problems that got us here in the first place,” saying it is time to “cut the lifeline to fossil-fuel despots like Putin.”

The newly released UN Climate Report clearly shows we are losing the battle against climate change. UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteras said “the evidence detailed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is unlike anything he has ever seen, it is an “atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”

Damaging effects from human-induced (anthropogenic) climate change are happening at a much faster rate than previous modeling had predicted. At least 40% of the world’s population is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, and these impacts will be felt most in areas that have contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions. The report stresses that the window to act in a meaningful way and avoid major destruction will close by the end of this decade.

The “David and Goliath” battle environmental activists (especially activists in the Appalachian region) have waged against the fossil fuel industry often feels like a war. The Appalachian region has become a resource colony, the residents have become collateral damage, and the landscape often looks like a war zone after the extraction of coal, oil, and gas.

At one time, it was said that McDowell County, WV exported more coal than any other county in the USA. However, it now sits in poverty with the less than 20,000 residents who still call it home. Harry Caudill’s “Night Comes to the Cumberlands” details the story of broken miners living in a broken land as coal mining destroyed the landscape as well as the bodies of the miners.

Mountaintop coal removal (MTR) replaced long-wall mining in the 1970s. Often referred to as “strip mining on steroids,” this technique uses monstrous machinery rather than miners. Millions of pounds of explosives are used to blast off up to 1000 feet or more of the mountains’ elevation. Peaks that took millions of years to form are gone in a matter of days. Thousands of miles of streams are buried under the mine spoils, and what remains of the once diverse mesophytic forest ecosystem is a flattened sterile moonscape. MTR has destroyed over 500 mountains and flattened an area equivalent to Delaware.

John McQuaid, a writer for the Smithsonian Magazine, once said of MTR, “I’ve reported on devastation around the world, from natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, to wars in Central America and the Middle East, to coastlines in Asia degraded by fish farming. But in the sheer audacity of its destruction, mountaintop coal removal is the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen.”

As the coal industry slowly dies in the area, local, state, and federal politicians are touting new ways to extract wealth from the region: petrochemicals and plastics. Both require hydrocarbon gases obtained by using high pressure hydraulic fracking. This technique forces hydrocarbons from shale deposits under the region, and is as destructive and polluting as coal mining. It requires millions of gallons of freshwater, produces millions of gallons of toxic radioactive brine, releases volatile organic compounds and methane gas, and contaminates surface and ground water.

A study by Yale Public Health found that of the hundreds of chemicals used in fracking, over 80 percent have never been reviewed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Of the 119 that have been reviewed by IARC, 55 were found to be carcinogenic. Among the chemicals most frequently used in fracking, 24 are known to block hormone receptors in humans (according to a 2017 study published in Science Direct).

Make no mistake, we all are witnessing a war; a war waged on our planet by the fossil fuel industry and those who benefit financially from these industries.

Like most wars, money is needed to fund this endeavor. Federal taxpayer-funded grants, subsidies, and tax incentives help fuel the climate crisis by providing financial incentives for continued extraction. Pennsylvania lawmakers offered Royal Dutch Shell nearly $1.7 billion over 25 years to construct the plastics-making Shell Cracker Plant in Monaca, Pa.

“Conservative estimates put U.S. direct subsidies to the fossil fuel industry at roughly $20 billion per year, with 20 percent currently allocated to coal and 80 percent to natural gas and crude oil. European Union subsidies are estimated to total 55 billion euros annually.”

Just like a conventional war, propaganda and lies are used to mold public opinion. “The fossil fuel industry has perpetrated a multi-decade, multibillion dollar disinformation propaganda and lobbying campaign to delay climate action by confusing the public and policymakers about the climate crisis and its solutions.”

The residents of Appalachia have learned that when it comes to extractive industries, rules and regulations for human health and the environment are more often than not watered down, ignored, unenforced, or non-existent. The oil and gas industries are exempt or excluded from certain sections of these federal environmental laws: Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to Know Act.

It is difficult to win a war when the cards are stacked against you, but the war for a livable planet is one we cannot afford to lose. We will have to make sacrifices but the people of Appalachia have sacrificed their health, lives, and land for decades to fuel the nation. It is time to demand renewable energy. It is time to stop subsidizing the companies responsible for the destruction of our planet. No more wars for fossil fuels.

As Dr. Svitlana Krakovska of Ukraine said, “We will not surrender in Ukraine, and we hope the world will not surrender in building a climate-resilient future.” Bill McKibben recently said that if the USA cannot choose renewable energy while watching the incredible courage of the people in Ukraine, then “I don’t know if we’re ever going to do it.”

>>> Dr. Randi Pokladnik was born and raised in Ohio. She earned an associate degree in Environmental Engineering, a BA in Chemistry, MA and PhD in Environmental Studies. She is certified in hazardous materials regulations and holds a teaching license in science and math. She worked as a research chemist for 12 years and now resides near Tappan Lake in Ohio’s Harrison County, near the Marcellus & Utica shale developments.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John Rucki April 7, 2022 at 10:46 pm

“Our survival’s on the line”

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, Steubenville Star Herald
DATE: AUGUST 1, 2020

Randi Pokladnik points out how short-sighted thinking has positioned our region and the planet for environmental catastrophe (“We need a clean, green vision for the region,” July 19.) The world is awash in plastic, the viability of fracking is in serious doubt and the job growth promised for the Ohio Valley is likely to be disappointing. She lays this out and backs it up with considerable research.

So, what’s to be done? In a word, innovation. Companies that want higher sales and profits are constantly asking themselves how they might adapt and thrive. But we have a different set of challenges before us.

Collectively, we face a threat to our survival if we don’t act now. Chasing profits won’t get us anywhere. We must have research, and it will have to be publicly funded. Much of the research done in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, aerospace and high technology has and is being done at public expense.

But Congress is in the hands of lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry. Please write to your elected representatives, run for office, get involved in some positive way so that future generations will have a real future.

John Rucki


IPCC_CH April 8, 2022 at 12:15 am

@IPCC_CH has released its latest #ClimateReport. The bottom line: the world must begin an equitable phase out of oil, gas, and coal NOW. We will not limit global warming to 1.5C without immediate and ambitious action.

Oil Change International, April 5, 2022


Betsy Lawson April 16, 2022 at 3:17 pm

NPR interview with Svitlana Krakovska

I hope you heard this interview yesterday afternoon with Svitlana Krakovska, whom Randi referred to in her article on the ‘war we can’t afford to lose’.

Betsy Lawson, Morgantown


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