Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

Global Warming Is Now Slowing Down the Circulation of the Oceans

March 24, 2015

The circulation of oceans is now being slowed down by global warming. (photo: whoi.edu)
The circulation of oceans is now being slowed down by global warming. (photo: whoi.edu)

By Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

24 March 15

 

elcome to this week’s installment of “Don’t Mess with Geophysics.”

Last week, we learned about the possible destabilization of the Totten Glacier of East Antarctica, which could unleash over 11 feet of sea level rise in coming centuries.

And now this week brings news of another potential mega-scale perturbation. According to a new study just out in Nature Climate Change by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a group of co-authors, we’re now seeing a slowdown of the great ocean circulation that, among other planetary roles, helps to partly drive the Gulf Stream off the U.S. east coast. The consequences could be dire – including significant extra sea level rise for coastal cities like New York and Boston.

A vast, powerful, and warm current, the Gulf Stream transports more water than “all the world’s rivers combined,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But it’s just one part of a larger regional ocean conveyor system – scientists technically call it the “Atlantic meridional overturning circulation” — which, in turn, is just one part of the larger global “thermohaline” circulation (“thermohaline” conjoins terms meaning “temperature” and “salty”).

For the whole system, a key driver occurs in the North Atlantic ocean. Here, the warm Gulf Stream flows northward into cooler waters and splits into what is called the North Atlantic Current. This stream flows still further toward northern latitudes — until it reaches points where colder, salty water sinks due to its greater density, and then travels back southward at depth.

This “overturning circulation” plays a major role in the climate because it brings warm water northward, thereby helping to warm Europe’s climate, and also sends cold water back towards the tropics. Here’s a helpful visualization, from Rahmstorf and the Potsdam Institute, of how it works:


Graph of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation by Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Red colors are surface currents, blue colors are below the surface. “NADW” stands for North Atlantic Deep Water.

And here’s a wonderful video from NASA that visualizes the thermohaline circulation for the entire globe. Rahmstorf also has a blog post up at RealClimate.org explaining his research.

The day after fiction

The system above has a key vulnerability. What keeps everything churning in the North Atlantic is the fact that cold salt water is more dense than warm water — so it sinks. However, if too much ice melts in the region — from, say Greenland — a freshening of the cold salt water could occur. If the water is less salty it will also be less dense, reducing its tendency to sink below the surface.

This could slow or even eventually shut down the circulation. In the scientifically panned 2004 blockbuster film “The Day After Tomorrow,” it is precisely such a shutdownthat triggers a New Ice Age, and utter global disaster and chaos.

That’s not going to happen, say scientists. Not remotely.

Nonetheless, the new research finds that global warming does indeed seem to be slowing down the circulation. And while hardly catastrophic, that can’t be good news. Among the very real effects, notes the Potsdam Institute’s Rahmstorf, could be a possible increase in U.S. sea level if the whole circulation were to break down — which would be seriously bad news for cities like New York and Boston.

The study uses a reconstruction of sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic to find that starting in around 1970 or 1975, the overturning circulation started to weaken — an event likely triggered by an unusual amount of sea ice traveling out of the Arctic ocean, melting, and causing freshening. The circulation then started to recover in the 1990s, but “it seems this was only a temporary recovery, and now it’s actually further weakened,” says Rahmstorf.

The hypothesized reason for further declines presented by the paper is that the massive Greenland ice sheet may now be losing enough freshwater due to melting to weaken the circulation. And indeed, it appears that a particular ocean region of the North Atlantic south of Greenland and between Canada and Britain is becoming colder — an indicator of less northward heat transport.

Rahmstorf points to a recent release by the National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, finding that the winter of December 2014 through February 2015 was the warmest on record for the globe as a whole. However, there were several anomalies — not just a cold winter for the eastern U.S., but also record cold temperatures in the middle of the North Atlantic:


According to the National Climatic Data Center, the world just saw its warmest winter ever…except for in one spot in the north Atlantic ocean (the deepest blue color above), which set a record for cold. Which is not good. (NCDC)

“These new NOAA data got me quite worried because they indicate that this partial recovery that we describe in the paper was only temporary, and the circulation is on the way down again,” says Rahmstorf.

So far, the study finds, we’re looking at a circulation that’s about 15 to 20 percent weaker. That may not sound like much, but the paper suggests a weakening this strong has not happened at any time since the year 900. Moreover, this is already more weakening than scientifically expected — and could be the beginning of a further slowdown that could have great consequences.

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in 2013, said it was “very likely” that the Atlantic overturning circulation would weaken over the course of this century, but gave a gigantic range of from 1 to 54 percent, with best estimates at 11 and 34 percent. We’re already in that window, suggests the new study, and it’s only 2015. So what would happen if the circulation weakens even more substantially or even shuts down?

Why the U.S. suffers from a Gulf Stream system slowdown

One thing that will not happen from a shutdown of the circulation is a sudden, dramatic freezing of Europe. It will certainly cool, relative to a world in which the circulation remains robust — but that will be offset by rising average temperatures due to global warming, says Rahmstorf. The “Day After Tomorrow” scenario will not come to pass.

However, there are many other effects, ranging from dramatic impacts on fisheries to, perhaps most troubling of all, the potential for extra sea level rise in the North Atlantic region.

That may sound surprising, but here’s how it works. We’re starting out from a situation in which sea level is “anomalously low” off the U.S. east coast due to the motion of the Gulf Stream. This is for at least two reasons. First, explains Rahmstorf’s co-author Michael Mann of Penn State University, there’s the matter of temperature contrast: Waters to the right or east of the Gulf Stream, in the direction of Europe, are warmer than those on its left or west. Warm water expands and takes up more area than denser cold water, so sea level is also higher to the right side of the current, and lower off our coast.

“So if you weaken the ‘Gulf Stream’ and weaken that temperature contrast…sea level off the U.S. east coast will actually rise!” explains Mann by e-mail.

But there’s another factor, too, involving what is called the “geostrophic balance of forces” in the ocean. This gets wonky, but the bottom line result is that “sea surface slope perpendicular to any current flow, like the Gulf Stream, has a higher sea level on its right hand side, and the lower sea level on the left hand slide,” says Rahmstorf. (This would only be true in the northern hemisphere; in the southern it would be the opposite.)

We’re on the left hand side of the Gulf Stream. So weaken the flow, and you also raise the sea level. (For further explanation, see here and here.)

Indeed, researchers recently found a sudden, 4-inch sea level rise of the U.S. East Coast in 2009 and 2010, which they attributed to a slowdown of the Atlantic overturning circulation. Rahmstorf says that “for a big breakdown of the circulation, [sea level rise] could amount to one meter, in addition to the global sea level rise that we’re expecting from global warming.”

Shutting down the circulation would also almost certainly have effects on global weather — changing around major planetary heat transport processes tends to do that — though scientists don’t know yet what those would look like.

So in sum: It appears that we’ve just seen yet another surprise from the climate system — and yet another process, like the melting of Antarctica, that seems to be happening faster than previously expected. And indeed, much like with that melting, the upshot if the trend continues is an especially bad sea level rise for the United States — the country more responsible than any other on Earth for the global warming that we’re currently experiencing.

 

Climate Inaction Is Destroying Poor Countries Like Vanuatu

March 23, 2015

Father and son in front of their home in Vanuatu. (photo: Reuters)
Father and son in front of their home in Vanuatu. (photo: Reuters)

By Mark Goldring, Guardian UK

21 March 15

 

Oxfam’s CEO argues that we need a new, ambitious framework to reduce the risk of climate-driven poverty getting dramatically worse

s the world keeps warming, it is expected that both the speed of winds and the amount of rainfall associated with tropical cyclones will increase. And as sea levels rise, storm surges and other coastal flooding will only get worse.

For Vanuatu and other Pacific Island nations, cyclone Pam has been the worst-case scenario: in Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital, 90% of the housing has been badly damaged; kids have nowhere to go to school, and the town’s hospital was left with no power. In the country’s outer islands, where most people live, about a quarter of a million people had little or no protection from the cyclone’s 160mph winds. And if people cannot get clean water and at least temporary toilets very soon, a “second emergency” could follow from water-borne diseases. That is why the world’s focus must be on meeting these urgent needs before any more lives are lost.

At Oxfam, we are already providing trucks of drinking water to people living in the evacuation centres. We are also distributing kits around the capital that include items designed to maintain high levels of hygiene. We have been carrying out assessments on some of the outlying islands and are working with local organisations to support food supplies amid fears that stocks will run out in two weeks.

No other city in the world is as exposed to disasters as Port Vila – an unenviable distinction recently recorded by the Natural Hazards Risk Atlas. What makes this all the more tragic is that Vanuatu was doing all the right things to prepare for disasters. Its people, government and all the local organisations with which Oxfam works knew only too well how vulnerable Vanuatu was to typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis.

These efforts were not wasted – setting up cyclone evacuation shelters in advance, for example, saved lives – but they could never have equipped this small country for something as big as cyclone Pam.

Last year, I saw in the Philippines that nothing could have prepared the people there for the power of typhoon Haiyan. Even the US struggled to cope with superstorm Sandy, which struck New York, New Jersey and other states in 2012.

So who or what is to blame? According to Vanuatu’s president, Baldwin Lonsdale, climate change has contributed to “the level of sea rise … the cyclone season, the warm, the rain, all this is affected”.

Whether we will see a greater number of cyclones as a result of climate change is uncertain, but scientists say one thing is clear: those that we do see are likely to be stronger and more destructive.

This is the threat that the people of Vanuatu and millions of people in coastal or low-lying areas will increasingly face. Millions more in other parts of the world will encounter drought, increased flooding and other hazards.

In a 2013 report, the Met Office and Overseas Development Institute said “climate change and exposure to ‘natural’ disasters threaten to derail international efforts to eradicate poverty by 2030”. According to the same study, by 2030 “up to 325 million extremely poor people will be living in the 49 most hazard-prone countries” in the world.

The world’s poorest people are being hit harder and harder by disasters. It was so poignant that, as cyclone Pam was tearing across Vanuatu, the world’s governments were gathering in Sendai, Japan, to plot a supposedly bold course to reduce the risk of future disasters.

Back in 2005, in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami, the international community agreed a 10-year plan – the Hyogo Framework – to make the world safer from natural hazards like typhoons.

But a decade on, all the measures to reduce the risk of disasters are being overwhelmed by the rising tide of calamities the world faces. What was needed was a step change in response. That’s why I’ve been arguing for a new framework with ambitious, measurable targets to reduce the risks for vulnerable people, a target that really ensures local authorities and NGOs have the funding, technical capacity and decision-making power to make meaningful changes where they are most desperately needed. But rather than that, the world’s governments have agreed only minimal improvements on the Hyogo Framework.

The Sendai Framework will have its value, but it would have had far more worth if it had gone further, and if wealthy countries had offered far more financial and technical support to the countries struggling to recover from disasters. Back in 2009, developed countries promised to mobilise $100bn a year by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to climate change and reduce their emissions. The UK’s record on contributing its fair share of that has been good. But global progress is slow, and uncertainty of finance for this purpose looms large over countries like Vanuatu.

Cyclone Pam reminds us again that so much more than money is needed. We must recognise that poorer countries like Vanuatu – with the least responsibility for climate change – are already suffering the devastating consequences of inaction. Like every richer country, the UK must act on this stark fact more than ever before. Whoever finds themselves in government after 7 May must lead the way in tackling climate change at home and abroad: in the former, by committing to phase out coal emissions from the British economy by the early 2020s; in the latter, by standing strong on the need for new concrete commitments on climate finance at the UN conference on climate in Paris this December.

My heart goes out to those whose lives have been devastated in the Pacific. But in my head I know the challenge of climate-driven poverty, inequality and disasters is likely to get dramatically worse.

 

Bill McKibben: Capitalism and the Climate Justice Movement

March 20, 2015

Bill McKibben. (photo: 350.org)
Bill McKibben. (photo: 350.org)

By Trish Kahle, Jacobin Magazine

19 March 15

 

ill McKibben has been a force in environmental politics for more than thirty years and authored fifteen books. In 2008, he helped found 350.org, an international organization dedicated to building a movement “that reflects the scale of the climate crisis.”

In the years since, the scale of that crisis has only become more apparent — the rate of climate change is accelerating at a pace not seen for at least a millennium, and the inequalities of its impact, from the scramble for water in Brazil to the oil refinery strike over safety in the United States, are constantly display.

In reaction, larger sections of the movement have explicitly adopted the climate justice framework — a framework that recognizes the different ways in which people experience climate are organized along lines of social, structural oppression: racism, sexism, transphobia, colonialism, and class exploitation.

Examining these intersections, as well as living through the worst economic crisis in living memory, has forced the movement to again confront the role of capitalism and state power in driving social oppression, economic injustice, and ecological devastation.

While the debate over analysis and strategy is far from settled, the climate justice movement has won concrete victories, and its ranks have swelled. President Obama recently vetoed a bill greenlighting the Keystone XL pipeline (though it may re-emerge after State Department review). Hundreds of thousands marched for climate justice in New York City this past fall. And fossil fuel divestment campaigns are growing on college campuses around the world.

Yet with the window to bring the earth into a “safe zone” shrinking by the day, these discussions are only becoming more pressing.

McKibben’s has long been one of the most visible contributors to that debate. In his 2010 book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, McKibben asks what it will take to adapt, politically and socially, to a world drastically altered by climate change. His proposals are people-centered and focus on breaking the power of the fossil fuel companies.

But he’s also partial to decentralization, which should raise red flags: we can’t hope to subdue the most centralized, highly organized institutions of capital with diffused power. Additionally, McKibben doesn’t advance a critique of capitalism, whose very logic has demanded exponential increases in the use of fossil fuels.

It’s true that the fossil fuel industry has an unsurpassed capacity to destroy the planet. But it’s also true that fossil fuels are a social force, a class project: “no piece of coal or drop of oil has yet turned itself into fuel,” Andreas Malmnotes. That is, the large-scale consumption of fossil fuels, and in turn, the power of the fossil fuel industry, is a product of capitalist production — not the other way around.

Despite the criticisms ecosocialists might have of McKibben, his work has been crucial in the struggle to halt capitalism’s assault on the planet. I spoke to McKibben on the state of the climate justice movement, the intersections between climate justice and other movements, and why he recently supported the first nationwide strike of oil refinery workers since 1980. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.


What do you see as the primary obstacle to action on climate change?

The financial might — and consequent political power — of the fossil fuel industry.

What, in your experience, has been the driving force behind new activists becoming involved with the climate justice movement?

I think all kinds of people want to be engaged in the climate fight, but the biggest deterrent is the sense that we’re too small to actually do anything about such a large crisis. And that’s true — each one of us is too small. So that’s why many of us have built a movement to  let people feel, in their solidarity, powerful enough to matter. And not just to feel that way — to really matter.

Can you speak about the role of disasters — like the recent refinery explosion, train derailments, etc. — and the role they play in driving people toward activism, or at least help change people’s ideas about what needs to be done?

I think above all the steady pull of “natural” disasters — floods, droughts, and so on — has woken people to the peril of our present course. And yes, we have constant reminders of the other ways in which fossil fuels are unsafe.

Why did you think it was important to stand with workers in an industry that is actively seeking to expand onshore oil production in the United States at a moment of climate crisis?

Because they’re also making people work in unsafe conditions. They’re treating their employees with almost the same cavalier highhandedness they treat the planet.

I think all of us have a responsibility to try and make our workplaces help the planet, not hurt it. And it’s incredibly exciting to be working with lots of labor groups doing just that. The various transit unions, for instance, whose drivers and mechanics are among the greenest workers out there; the nurses who end their shifts and then step forward to fight fracking because they know what pollution does to lungs.

Moving from workers to students, we’ve seen in the first six weeks of 2015 some important steps forward on the fossil fuel divestment campaigns on college campuses, particularly the success of the divestment campaign at the New School. Can you speak a bit about why the divestment campaigns are important? What’s the next step for student organizers once they’ve won divestment from university administration, or to put it another way, what’s the next target after divestment?

Divestment campaigns are one front of many in this fight, but they help a lot because they begin the process of politically bankrupting the fossil fuel industry. They’ve been the key vehicle to spread the understanding that these are rogue companies, with far more carbon in their reserves than scientists think we can burn. It’s already spread far beyond colleges — churches, towns, states, pension funds are all caught up in this struggle now.

What steps do you think climate justice activists should take to ensure that the legacies and ongoing realities of colonization and marginalization are not only addressed in terms of climate justice, but also in terms of political sovereignty and economic rights?

I think we should work with great leaders like Idle No More on all kinds of fights. I think that the emergence of indigenous leadership on environmental questions has been the most important advance in recent years in our fight, and I imagine they have a good deal to say on a number of other important issues as well.

Continuing on that theme, what connections do you see for activists to link the climate justice movement to the struggles against social oppression, in particular the Black Lives Matter movement?

I was really glad to see climate activists go down to Ferguson to help; I think one of my greatest partners in the last few years has been the Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, and I’m convinced he’s right when he says these issues are linked as being about, above all, power.

What kind of obstacles prevent public engagement with scientific research? What obligations do scientists have, if any, to engage in climate politics beyond their own research?

In a rational world, Jim Hansen would not have to regularly end up in handcuffs. We would long since have heeded the scientific alarm and gotten to work. But in the real world, I fear scientists have the same civic duty as the rest of us: after hours and on weekends it’s time to join together in real protest.

Can we really use blockades and divestment as a mechanism to buy time while the price of renewables comes down in the market? Can that approach work quickly enough given the extreme limits of our time frame? What about the people before profit/ecology before economy models of climate activism?

I think we can freeze the growth of the fossil fuel industry long enough for renewables to take the lead in this race — the price of solar panels has fallen enormously in the last few years, and it will continue to plummet. Whether it happens fast enough to outpace the warming of the planet is an open question, but in any event putting people (and every other living thing) before the profit of the fossil fuel industry is key.

What is your opinion of “degrowth” as outlined in Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism Versus the Climate? Can it account for the socioeconomic and international disparities in development which have left some areas hyper-industrialized and others completely neglected?

Some places are clearly underdeveloped, and others are probably overdeveloped. In a just world we would concentrate our efforts at most things, including the spread of renewable energy, in the poorest places (which have, of course, done the least to cause climate change).

As exciting as the pipeline blockades, Idle No More movement, and growing demonstrations against inaction on climate change have been, they are clearly inadequate to the scale of the task at hand. We have only a short window in which to avert the most disastrous effects of climate change. What do you think it’s going to take to, at the very least, put us in a “safe zone”?

I think it’s going to take a bigger movement. And I would not downplay Idle No More and pipeline blockades as merely “exciting.” They’re beginning to put the fossil fuel industry on the defensive. Every month we slow down their expansion is another month for renewable energy to get cheaper and more ubiquitous. Time is not on their side. It’s not clear it’s on our side either, though, since the momentum of physics is large. Hence the need to make change quickly!

Although he vetoed the KXL pipeline for now, Obama has announced plans to expand offshore oil drilling, even as the ongoing damage from the 2011 BP Deepwater Horizon spill has come back into public focus, with a report that more than 5 million gallons of oil remain in the Gulf. After more than six years of what can be — at best — called equivocating, can climate justice activists still rely on pressuring the Democrats? Is it time for environmental activists to throw their weight behind a third party?

I think offshore drilling is a bad idea. And someone wiser than me is going to have to figure out about electoral politics. We build movements to try and change the zeitgeist; from that will flow, one way or another, political change. Or so I hope, but I’ve been disappointed before.

If we succeed in blocking the KXL pipeline, where should environmental activists turn their focus next?

We’ve long since turned from KXL to focus as well on a hundred other fights: coal ports in the Northwest, fracking in California and Europe, huge coal mines in Australia paid for by Indian billionaires, endless divestment fights, big pushes to support renewables. We’re active in every country but North Korea; the press has a relentless focus on KXL for reasons I don’t fully understand, but for us this is a fight with many, many fronts.

Finally, let’s return to Klein’s book. What do you make of her central contention: that capitalism is on a collision course with the climate? How central do you think the debate around capitalism should be to the future of the environmental movement?

The fossil fuel industry is the richest industry on earth. It’s the most centralized too, producing vast amounts of wealth and political power. If we can replace it with renewable energy, we’ll not only cut the carbon in the atmosphere, we’ll do our share to rebalancing the insanely lopsided social structure of our planet. Or so I hope.

 

By 2050 Some US Cities Will Be Hotter Every Year Than Their Current Records

March 14, 2015

Phoenix skyline. (photo: Deirdre Hamill)
Phoenix skyline. (photo: Deirdre Hamill)

By Maggie Severns, Guardian UK

13 March 15

 

ithin 35 years, even a cold year will be warmer than the hottest year on record, according to research published in Nature on Wednesday. The study, which used 39 climate models to make a single temperature index for places all over the world, estimates when major US cities’ average temperatures will never again dip below that of the hottest year in the past century and a half. As the chart below shows, that’s as early as 2043 for Phoenix and Honolulu, 2049 for San Francisco, and 2071 for Anchorage, Alaska.

The study found that the tropics will reach the point when even a cold year is hot based on past temperatures, referred to by the researchers as “climate departure,” sooner than areas to the north. Climate departure will happen in 2025 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and 2034 in Mumbai, India, for example, compared to a global average year of 2047. In coral reefs, both pH and temperatures are climbing. “Our paper’s showing that pH is already well beyond the historical threshold,” co-author Abby Frazier said on Tuesday.

Hottest years in US cities. (photo: Mother Jones/Climate Desk )

Hottest years in US cities. (photo: Mother Jones/Climate Desk )

These estimates assumed that there will be no major push to curb carbon emissions in the coming years. The study also predicted a second set of temperatures for an alternate future, in which there’s what Camilo Mora, lead researcher, calls a “strong and concerted” effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That scenario would result in there being 538 parts per million (ppm) of carbon in the atmosphere in 2100, which is significantly lower than the 936 ppm that the researchers estimate will be in the atmosphere without that effort.

But this substantive action to curb carbon emissions would only buy us about 20 years. “The most striking thing for us is that we used a very conservative scenario,” Mora told Mother Jones. “Many people are already thinking that that just isn’t going to happen, considering the amount of effort that it requires to reach that. Even under those conditions, which are unlikely, we’re still going to face an unprecedented climate, just 20 years into the future. To me, that was pretty shocking.”

Those are two scenarios that Mora and his colleagues consider realistic. Even 538 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere in 2100, the scenario in which we curb carbon emissions in Mora’s study, is a significantly higher level of carbon than many experts consider safe for the planet. Since the late 1980s, scientists and advocates such as Bill McKibben have pushed 350 ppm as a safe upper limit for CO2. We’re already past that level: earlier this year, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere passed the “grim milestone” of 400 ppm for the first time in human history.

The potential result of 936 ppm? As Mora puts it: “The coldest year in the future is going to be hottest year of the past.”

 

Naomi Klein: ‘The Economic System We Have Created Also Created Global Warming’

February 28, 2015
Email This Page
add comment
Print

Best selling author/activist Naomi Klein. (photo: Anya Chibis/Guardian UK)
Best selling author/activist Naomi Klein. (photo: Anya Chibis/Guardian UK)

By Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel

28 February 15

 

PIEGEL: Ms. Klein, why aren’t people able to stop climate change?

Klein: Bad luck. Bad timing. Many unfortunate coincidences.

SPIEGEL: The wrong catastrophe at the wrong moment?

Klein: The worst possible moment. The connection between greenhouse gases and global warming has been a mainstream political issue for humanity since 1988. It was precisely the time that the Berlin Wall fell and Francis Fukuyama declared the “End of History,” the victory of Western capitalism. Canada and the US signed the first free-trade agreement, which became the prototype for the rest of the world.

SPIEGEL: So you’re saying that a new era of consumption and energy use began precisely at the moment when sustainability and restraint would have been more appropriate?

Klein: Exactly. And it was at precisely this moment that we were also being told that there was no longer any such thing as social responsibility and collective action, that we should leave everything to the market. We privatized our railways and the energy grid, the WTO and the IMF locked in an unregulated capitalism. Unfortunately, this led to an explosion in emissions.

SPIEGEL: You’re an activist, and you’ve blamed capitalism for all kinds of things over the years. Now you’re blaming it for climate change too?

Klein: That’s no reason for irony. The numbers tell the story. During the 1990s, emissions went up by 1 percent per year. Starting in 2000, they started to go up by an average of 3.4 percent. The American Dream was exported globally and consumer goods that we thought of as essential to meet our needs expanded rapidly. We started seeing ourselves exclusively as consumers. When shopping as a way of life is exported to every corner of the globe, that requires energy. A lot of energy.

SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to our first question: Why have people been unable to stop this development?

Klein: We have systematically given away the tools. Regulations of any kind are now scorned. Governments no longer create tough rules that limit oil companies and other corporations. This crisis fell into our laps in a disastrous way at the worst possible moment. Now we’re out of time. Where we are right now is a do-or-die moment. If we don’t act as a species, our future is in peril. We need to cut emissions radically.

SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to another question: Are you not misappropriating the issue of climate change for use in your critique of capitalism?

Klein: No. The economic system that we have created has also created global warming. I didn’t make this up. The system is broken, income inequality is too great and the lack of restraint on the part of the energy companies is disastrous.

SPIEGEL: Your son Toma is two-and-a-half years old. What kind of world will he be living in when he graduates from high school in 2030?

Klein: That is what is being decided right now. I see signs that it could be a radically different world from the one we have today — and that change could either be quite positive or extremely negative. In any case, it’s already certain that it will at least in part be a worse world. We’re going to experience global warming and far more natural disasters, that much is certain. But we still have time to prevent truly catastrophic warming. We also have time to change our economic system so that it does not become more brutal and merciless as it deals with climate change.

SPIEGEL: What can be done to improve the situation?

Klein: We have to make some decisions now about what values are important to us and how we really want to live. And of course it makes a difference if temperatures only rise by 2 degrees or if they rise by 4 or 5 degrees or more. It’s still possible for us humans to make the right decisions.

SPIEGEL: Twenty-six years have passed since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was founded in 1988. We have known at least since then that CO2 emissions from the burning of oil and coal is responsible for climate change. Yet little has been done to address the problem. Haven’t we already failed?

Klein: I view the situation differently given the enormous price we will have to pay. As long as we have the slightest chance of success or to minimize the damage, we have to continue to fight.

SPIEGEL: Several years ago, the international community set a target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Do you still consider that to be achievable?

Klein: Well, it’s still a physical possibility. We would have to immediately reduce global emissions by 6 percent a year. The wealthier countries would have to carry a greater burden, meaning the United States and Europe would have to be cutting emissions by around 8 to 10 percent a year. Immediately. It’s not impossible. It is just profoundly politically unrealistic under our current system.

SPIEGEL: You are saying our societies aren’t capable of doing so?

Klein: Yes. We need a dramatic change both in policy and ideology, because there is a fundamental difference between what the scientists are telling us we need to do and our current political reality. We can’t change the physical reality, so we must change the political reality.

SPIEGEL: Is a society focused on economic growth at all capable of fighting climate change successfully?

Klein: No. An economic model based on indiscriminate growth inevitably leads to greater consumption and to greater CO2 emissions. There can and must be growth in the future in many low carbon parts of the economy: in green technologies, in public transportation, in all the care-giving professions, in the arts and of course in education. Right now, the core of our gross domestic product is comprised of just consumption, imports and exports. We need to make cuts there. Anything else would be self-deception.

SPIEGEL: The International Monetary Fund makes the opposite claim. It says that economic growth and climate protection are not mutually exclusive.

Klein: They’re not looking at the same numbers as I am. The first problem is that at all these climate conferences, everyone acts as if we will arrive at our goal through self-commitments and voluntary obligations. No one tells the oil companies that, in the end, they are really going to have to give up. The second problem is that these oil companies are going to fight like hell to protect what they don’t want to lose.

SPIEGEL: You seriously want to eliminate the free market in order to save the climate?

Klein: I am not talking about eliminating markets, but we need much more strategy, steering and planning and a very different balance. The system in which we live is overly obsessed with growth — it’s one that sees all growth as good. But there are kinds of growth that are clearly not good. It’s clear to me that my position is in direct conflict with neo-liberalism. Is it true that in Germany, although you have accelerated the shift to renewables, coal consumption is actually increasing?

SPIEGEL: That was true from 2009 to 2013.

Klein: To me that is an expression of this reluctance to decide on what is necessary. Germany is not going to meet its emissions targets in the coming years either.

SPIEGEL: Is the Obama presidency the worst thing that could have happened to the climate?

Klein: In a way. Not because Obama is worse than a Republican. He’s not. But because these eight years were the biggest wasted opportunity of our lives. The right factors came together in a truly historic convergence: awareness, urgency, the mood, his political majority, the failure of the Big Three US automakers and even the possibility of addressing the failed unregulated financial world and climate change at the same time. But when he came to office, he didn’t have the courage to do it. We will not win this battle unless we are willing to talk about why Obama viewed the fact that he had control over the banks and auto companies as more of a burden than as an opportunity. He was a prisoner of the system. He didn’t want to change it.

SPIEGEL: The US and China finally agreed on an initial climate deal in 2014.

Klein: Which is, of course, a good thing. But anything in the deal that could become painful won’t come into effect until Obama is out of office. Still, what has changed is that Obama said: “Our citizens are marching. We can’t ignore that.” The mass movements are important; they are having an impact. But to push our leaders to where they need to go, they need to grow even stronger.

SPIEGEL: What should their goal be?

Klein: Over the past 20 years, the extreme right, the complete freedom of oil companies and the freedom of the super wealthy 1 percent of society have become the political standard. We need to shift America’s political center from the right fringe back to where it belongs, the real center.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, that’s nonsense, because it’s illusory. You’re thinking far too broadly. If you want to first eliminate capitalism before coming up with a plan to save the climate, you know yourself that this won’t happen.

Klein: Look, if you want to get depressed, there are plenty of reasons to do so. But you’re still wrong, because the fact is that focusing on supposedly achievable incremental changes light carbon trading and changing light bulbs has failed miserably. Part of that is because in most countries, the environmental movement remained elite, technocratic and supposedly politically neutral for two-and-a-half decades. We are seeing the result of this today: It has taken us in the wrong direction. Emissions are rising and climate change is here. Second, in the US, all the major legal and social transformations of the last 150 years were a consequence of mass social movements, be they for women, against slavery or for civil rights. We need this strength again, and quickly, because the cause of climate change is the political and economic system itself. The approach that you have is too technocratic and small.

SPIEGEL: If you attempt to solve a specific problem by overturning the entire societal order, you won’t solve it. That’s a utopian fantasy.

Klein: Not if societal order is the root of the problem. Viewed from another perspective, we’re literally swimming in examples of small solutions: There are green technologies, local laws, bilateral treaties and CO2 taxation. Why don’t we have all that at a global level?

SPIEGEL: You’re saying that all the small steps — green technologies and CO2 taxation and the eco-behavior of individuals — are meaningless?

Klein: No. We should all do what we can, of course. But we can’t delude ourselves that it’s enough. What I’m saying is that the small steps will remain too small if they don’t become a mass movement. We need an economic and political transformation, one based on stronger communities, sustainable jobs, greater regulation and a departure from this obsession with growth. That’s the good news. We have a real opportunity to solve many problems at once.

SPIEGEL: You don’t appear to be counting on the collective reason of politicians and entrepreneurs.

Klein: Because the system can’t think. The system rewards short-term gain, meaning quick profits. Take Michael Bloomberg, for example …

SPIEGEL: … the businessman and former New York City mayor …

Klein: … who understood the depths of the climate crisis as a politician. As a businessman, however, he chooses to invest in a fund that specializes in oil and gas assets. If a person like Bloomberg cannot resist the temptation, then you can assume that the system’s self-preservation capacity isn’t that great.

SPIEGEL: A particularly unsettling chapter in your book is about Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group.

Klein: Yes. I wouldn’t have expected it.

SPIEGEL: Branson has sought to portray himself as a man who wants to save the climate. It all started after an encounter with Al Gore.

Klein: And in 2006, he pledged at an event hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative that he would invest $3 billion in research into green technologies. At the time, I thought it was truly a sensational contribution. I didn’t think, oh, you cynical bastard.

SPIEGEL: But Branson was really just staging it and only a fraction of that money was ever spent.

Klein: He may well have been sincere at the time, but yes, only a fraction was spent.

SPIEGEL: Since 2006, Branson has added 160 new airplanes to his numerous airlines and increased his emissions by 40 percent.

Klein: Yes.

SPIEGEL: What is there to learn from this story?

Klein: That we need to question the symbolism and gestures made by Hollywood stars and the super rich. We cannot confuse them with a scientifically sound plan to reduce emissions.

SPIEGEL: In America and Australia, a lot of money is spent on efforts to deny climate change. Why?

Klein: It’s different from Europe. It’s an anger that is similar to that held by those who oppose abortion and gun control. It’s not only that they are protecting a way of life they don’t want to change. It’s that they understand that climate change challenges their core anti-government, free-market belief system. So they have to deny it to protect their very identity. That’s why there’s this intensity gap: Liberals want to take a little bit of action on climate protection. But at the same time, these liberals also have a number of other issues that are higher on their agenda. But we have to understand that the hardcore conservative climate change deniers will do everything in their power to prevent action.

SPIEGEL: With pseudo-scientific studies and disinformation?

Klein: With all of that, of course.

SPIEGEL: Does that explain why you are connecting all of these issues — the environment, equity, public health and labor issues — that are popular on the left? Is it out of purely strategic considerations?

Klein: The issues are connected, and we also need to connect them in the debate. There is only one way that you can win a battle against a small group of people who stand to lose a lot: You need to start a mass movement that includes all the people who have a lot to gain. The deniers can only be defeated if you are just as passionate as them, but also when you are superior in numbers. Because the truth is that they really are very few.

SPIEGEL: Why don’t you believe that technology has the potential to save us?

Klein: There has been tremendous progress in the storage of renewable energies, for instance, and in solar efficiency. But climate change? I, in any case, don’t have enough faith to say, “We’ll come up with some invention at some point, so let’s just drop all other efforts.” That would be insane.

SPIEGEL: People like Bill Gates view things differently.

Klein: And I find their technology fetish naïve. In recent years, we’ve witnessed some really big failures where some of the smartest guys in the room screwed up on a massive scale, be it with the derivatives that triggered the financial crisis or the oil catastrophe off the coast of New Orleans. Mostly, we as people break things and we don’t know how to fix them afterwards. Right now, it’s our planet that we’re breaking.

SPIEGEL: Listening to you, one might get the impression that the climate crisis is a gender issue.

Klein: Why would you say that?

SPIEGEL: Bill Gates says we need to keep moving forward and come up with new inventions to get the problem, and ultimately our complicated Earth, under control. You on the other hand are saying: Stop, no, we have to adapt ourselves to this planet and become softer. The US oil companies are run by men. And you, as a critical woman, are described as hysterical. It’s not an absurd thought, is it?

Klein: No. The entire industrialization was about power or whether it would be man or nature that would dominate Earth. It is difficult for some men to admit that we don’t have everything under control; that we have amassed all this CO2 over the centuries and that Earth is now telling us: Well, you’re just a guest in my house.

SPIEGEL: A guest of Mother Earth?

Klein: That’s too cheesy. But you’re still right. The oil industry is a male-dominated world, a lot like high finance. It’s very macho. The American and Australian idea of “discovering” an endless country and that endless resources can be extracted is a narrative of domination, one that traditionally casts nature as a weak, prone woman. And the idea of being in a relationship of interdependence with the rest of the natural world was seen as weak. That’s why it is doubly difficult for alpha men to concede that they have been wrong.

SPIEGEL: There’s one issue in the book that you seem to steer clear of. Although you revile the companies, you never say that your readers, who are customers of these companies, are also culpable. You also remain silent about the price that individual readers will have to pay for climate protection.

Klein: Oh, I think that most people would be happy to pay for it. They know that climate protection requires reasonable behavior: less driving, less flying and less consumption. They would be happy to use renewable energies if they were offered them.

SPIEGEL: But the idea isn’t big enough, right?

Klein: (laughs) Exactly. The green movement spent decades educating people that they should compost their garbage, that they should recycle and that they should ride their bikes. But look at what has happened to the climate during these decades.

SPIEGEL: Is the lifestyle you lead climate-friendly?

Klein: Not enough. I bike, I use transit, I try to give speeches by Skype, I share a hybrid car and I cut my flying to about one-tenth of what it was before I started this project. My sin is taking taxis, and since the book came out, I’ve been flying too much. But I also don’t think that only people who are perfectly green and live CO2-free should be allowed to talk about this issue. If that were the case, then nobody would be able to say anything at all.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, we thank you for this interview.

 

Comments   

We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We’ll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn’t work we’ll have to ramp up the moderation.

General guidelines: Avoid personal attacks on other forum members; Avoid remarks that are ethnically derogatory; Do not advocate violence, or any illegal activity.

Remember that making the world better begins with responsible action.

– The RSN Team

As Antarctica Melts Away, Seas Could Rise Ten Feet Within 100 Years

February 28, 2015
Published on
by

Based on rapid thawing, continent has become ‘ground zero of global climate change without a doubt,’ says geophysicist

Though 97 percent of the Antarctic peninsula is still covered with ice, entire valleys are now free of it, ice is thinner elsewhere, and glaciers have retreated, Peter Convey of the British Antarctic Survey tells the Associated Press. (Photo: Natalie Tapson/flickr/cc)

Rapid melting of Antarctic ice could push sea levels up 10 feet worldwide within two centuries, “recurving” heavily populated coastlines and essentially reshaping the world, theAssociated Press reported Friday.

Parts of Antarctica are thawing so quickly, the continent has become “ground zero of global climate change without a doubt,” Harvard geophysicist Jerry Mitrovica told AP.

The Antarctic Peninsula, including the vulnerable West Antarctic ice sheet, is the region of the continent warming fastest because the land juts out in the warmer ocean. According to NASA, it is losing 49 billion tons of ice each year.

And why does that matter?

Because, as the AP declares: “The world’s fate hangs on the question of how fast the ice melts.”

“[I]f all the West Antarctic ice sheet that’s connected to water melts unstoppably, as several experts predict, there will not be time to prepare,” explain AP journalists Luis Andres Henao and Seth Borenstein.

“Scientists estimate it will take anywhere from 200 to 1,000 years to melt enough ice to raise seas by 10 feet, maybe only 100 years in a worst case scenario,” they write. “If that plays out, developed coastal cities such as New York and Guangzhou could face up to $1 trillion a year in flood damage within a few decades and countless other population centers will be vulnerable.”

Earlier this week, news outlets reported a “very unusual” short-term surge in sea levels along North America’s northeast coast, which scientists also linked to climate change.

Share This Article

Teens Sue Government for Failing to Address Climate Change for Future Generations

February 25, 2015

 

 

Many young climate activists are taking climate change matters into their own hands rather than waiting for political leaders to get their act together. Young plaintiffs, who filed a lawsuit against legislatures, are demanding that political leaders “govern as if our future matters.”

Many young people feel they have too much at stake to wait for our leaders to get their act together and take meaningful action on climate change. In the words of one young climate activist, Alec Loorz, we need to demand our political leaders “govern as if our future matters.” With their future at stake, many youth have taken their case to the courts in the hopes that the judiciary will require the legislature to take action.

Photo credit: Generation RYSE
Kelsey Juliana is one of the young plaintiffs in the Oregon case that is asking her state government to bring down carbon emissions in compliance with what scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change. Photo credit: Generation RYSE

“We are all in imminent danger,” Loorz, who founded the nonprofit Kids vs. Global Warming,told Outside Magazine. “Scientists have said we have 10 years to make changes if we want to stabilize the climate by 2100—and that was back in 2005 … We care more about money and power than we do about future generations. The judicial system is the only branch of government not bought out by corporate interests.”

On Bill Moyer’s show last month, Mary Christina Wood, law professor at the University of Oregon and author of Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age, explains what is being called the “Children’s Climate Crusade.”

What exactly are these young people asking for? “Every suit and every administrative petition filed in every state in the country and against the federal government asks for the same relief,” Wood says. “And that is for the government … to bring down carbon emissions in compliance with what scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.”

The young plaintiffs simply want the courts to require “the legislatures and the agencies to do their job in figuring out how to lower carbon emissions,” says Wood. Do these litigants have any legal grounds to stand on, though?

Turns out, yes. “You find it in case law going back to the beginning years of this country,” says Wood. “The U.S. Supreme Court has announced the Public Trust Doctrine in multiple cases over the years and it’s in every state jurisprudence as well.”

The Public Trust Doctrine says “the government is a trustee of the resources that support our public welfare and survival,” according to Woods. The doctrine “requires our government to protect and maintain survival resources for future generations.” Relying on this long-standing legal principle, young plaintiffs have cases at the state and federal level.

At the federal level, five teenagers, and two non-profit organizations—Kids vs. Global Warming and WildEarth Guardians—partnered with Our Children’s Trust to file a federal lawsuit. Their petition for their case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in December, but the plaintiffs vow “to advance their climate claims in lower federal courts until the federal government is ordered to take immediate action on human-made climate change.”

At the state level, there are cases pending in Oregon, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Washington and Colorado. Courts in Alaska, Texas, Arizona, Kansas, Montana and Pennsylvania have issued “developmental decisions on which the pending cases are in part based.” Youth plaintiffs supported by Our Children’s Trust have filed administrative rule-making petitions in every state in the country.

“I think there are a lot of kids here in Colorado and around the world who would be so excited to get the gift of clean air and water, snow in the mountains, abundant wildlife and safe communities,” said Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, one of the young plaintiffs in the Colorado anti-fracking case, after learning the court rejected the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s request for dismissal of their lawsuit. “New York showed us all [by banning fracking] that a state can value the health of kids as a top priority. That’s what this whole thing is about, making Colorado a safe place to live for ours and future generations.”

Oregon’s and Massachusetts’ cases are moving forward. Legal arguments began last month in Oregon’s case and will culminate in a court hearing before Judge Rasmussen once again on March 13.

The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled last summer that “The court must decide whether the atmosphere is a public trust resource that the state of Oregon, as a trustee, has a duty to protect along with recognized public trust assets such as estuaries, rivers and wildlife.” Now the plaintiffs will argue in the Circuit Court that not only does the state have a duty to protect the atmosphere, “but that it is violating its trustee obligation to present and future generations if it does not.”

Kelsey Juliana, one of the young plaintiffs in the Oregon case, said, “As a youth, and therefore someone on the front lines of climate change chaos, I have everything to gain from taking action and everything to lose from not.”

In Massachusetts, Judge Gordon will hear oral arguments on March 9 in a case brought by four young litigants who say that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is “failing to fulfill its legal obligations to reduce Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas emissions, as required by the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act.”

Watch these videos from the iMatter campaign, an initiative of Kids vs. Global Warming and Our Children’s Trust to see what’s at stake for young people and how they are driving change:

A ‘Megadrought’ Will Grip US in the Coming Decades, NASA Researchers Say

February 17, 2015

Megadroughts can span generations. (photo: The Nation)
Megadroughts can span generations. (photo: The Nation)

By Darryl Fears, The Washington Post

17 February 15

 

he long and severe drought in the U.S. Southwest pales in comparison with what’s coming: a “megadrought” that will grip that region and the central Plains later this century and probably stay there for decades, a new study says.

Thirty-five years from now, if the current pace of climate change continues unabated, those areas of the country will experience a weather shift that will linger for as long as three decades, according to the study, released Thursday.

Researchers from NASA and Cornell and Columbia universities warned of major water shortages and conditions that dry out vegetation, which can lead to monster wildfires in southern Arizona and parts of California.

“We really need to start thinking in longer-term horizons about how we’re going to manage it,” said Toby R. Ault, an assistant professor in the department of Earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell, one of the co-authors. “This is a slow-moving natural hazard that humans are used to dealing with and used to managing.”

Megadroughts are sustained periods of sparse precipitation and significant loss of soil moisture that span generations, about 10 times as long as a normal three-year drought.

Tucson had less than 80 percent of its normal rainfall for long stretches in the 1990s. If that were to last for two decades, “that’s a megadrought,” Ault said.

Based on climate models the researchers used for the study, there is an 80 percent chance that such an extended drought will strike between 2050 and 2099, unless world governments act aggressively to mitigate impacts from climate change, the researchers said.

North America’s last megadroughts happened in medieval times, during the 12th and 13th centuries. They were caused by natural changes in weather that give megadroughts a 10 percent chance of forming at any time.

But climate change driven by human activity dramatically increases those chances. “With climate change, the likelihood of a megadrought goes up considerably,” Ault said.

The other writers for the study were its lead author, Benjamin I. Cook, a research scientist for NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and co-author Jason E. Smerdon, a research professor at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The report was published Thursday in the journal Science Advances.

“We got some exciting, thrilling and important research,” said Marcia Kemper McNutt, a geophysicist and editor in chief of the journal Science. “We are facing a water situation that hasn’t been seen in California for 1,200 years.”

At the study’s presentation, Ault had a word of caution. Weather conditions can vary, climate impacts can be mitigated, and the warnings of the study might not come to pass. A single El Niño weather pattern in the West could interrupt periods of prolonged drought.

Smerdon said the researchers went back over a thousand years’ worth of data to look at conditions that caused drought in North America and observing patterns in tree rings to determine wet and dry periods.

After 2050, there is “overwhelming evidence of a dry shift,” he said, “way drier than the megadroughts of the 1100s and 1200s.” The cause, Smerdon continued, “is twofold, reductions in rainfall and snowfall. Not just rainfall but soil moisture .?.?. and changes in evaporation that dry out the soil much more than normal.”

The research is newly published, but its findings are not dramatically different from similar studies in the past. Beverly Law, a specialist in global change biology at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, co-authored a study of megadroughts three years ago.

It showed that a drought that affected the American West from 2000 to 2004 compared to conditions seen during the medieval megadroughts. But the predicted megadrought this century would be far worse. Law said Thursday’s study confirmed her previous findings.

“We took the climate model .?.?. and compared” two periods, 2050 to 2099 and 1950 to 1999, she said. “What it showed is this big, red blotch over Southern California. It will really impact megacities, populations and water availability.”

Law is also co-author of an upcoming study commissioned by the U.S. Geological Survey about forest mortality later this century, and the preliminary findings are disturbing, she said.

According to predictions, the amount of precipitation in Arizona will be half of what it was between 1950 and 1999.

“We have drinking water to be concerned about,” she said. “That area’s really vulnerable.”

 

ISIS, Israel and Climate Change

February 17, 2015

Prof. Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist. (photo: Va Shiva)
Prof. Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist. (photo: Va Shiva)

By Noam Chomsky, Jacobin Magazine

16 February 15

 

acobin is proud to feature an interview with journalist David Barsamian and Professor Noam Chomsky. In it, Chomsky explains the roots of ISIS and why the United States and its allies are responsible for the group’s emergence. In particular, he argues that the 2003 invasion of Iraq provoked the sectarian divisions that have resulted in the destabilization of Iraqi society. The result was a climate where Saudi-funded radicals could thrive.

The interview also touches on Israel’s most recent massacre in the Gaza Strip, putting it in the context of the vital role Israel has always played for the United States. Chomsky then turns to today’s racist scapegoating of Guatemalan immigrants, tracing the conditions that lead them to leave their homes to the Reagan administration’s brutal destruction of the country.

Finally, Chomsky shares his thoughts on the growing movement for climate justice and why he thinks it is the most urgent of our time. The full exchange will be broadcast by Alternative Radio.

There are few voices more vital to the Left than Professor Chomsky’s. We hope you read and share the interview widely.


The Middle East is engulfed in flames, from Libya to Iraq. There are new jihadi groups. The current focus is on ISIS. What about ISIS and its origins?

There’s an interesting interview that just appeared a couple of days ago with Graham Fuller, a former CIA officer, one of the leading intelligence and mainstream analysts of the Middle East. The title is “The United States Created ISIS.” This is one of the conspiracy theories, the thousands of them that go around the Middle East.

But this is another source: this is right at the heart of the US establishment. He hastens to point out that he doesn’t mean the US decided to put ISIS into existence and then funded it. His point is — and I think it’s accurate — that the US created the background out of which ISIS grew and developed. Part of it was just the standard sledgehammer approach: smash up what you don’t like.

In 2003, the US and Britain invaded Iraq, a major crime. Just this afternoon the British parliament granted the government the authority to bomb Iraq again. The invasion was devastating to Iraq. Iraq had already been virtually destroyed, first of all by the decade-long war with Iran in which, incidentally, Iraq was backed by the US, and then the decade of sanctions.

They were described as “genocidal” by the respected international diplomats who administered them, and both resigned in protest for that reason. They devastated the civilian society, they strengthened the dictator, compelled the population to rely on him for survival. That’s probably the reason he wasn’t sent on the path of a whole stream of other dictators who were overthrown.

Finally, the US just decided to attack the country in 2003. The attack is compared by many Iraqis to the Mongol invasion of a thousand years earlier. Very destructive. Hundreds of thousands of people killed, millions of refugees, millions of other displaced persons, destruction of the archeological richness and wealth of the country back to Sumeria.

One of the effects of the invasion was immediately to institute sectarian divisions. Part of the brilliance of the invasion force and its civilian director, Paul Bremer, was to separate the sects, Sunni, Shi’a, Kurd, from one another, set them at each other’s throats. Within a couple of years, there was a major, brutal sectarian conflict incited by the invasion.

You can see it if you look at Baghdad. If you take a map of Baghdad in, say, 2002, it’s a mixed city: Sunni and Shi’a are living in the same neighborhoods, they’re intermarried. In fact, sometimes they didn’t even know who was Sunni and who was Shi’a. It’s like knowing whether your friends are in one Protestant group or another Protestant group. There were differences but it was not hostile.

In fact, for a couple of years both sides were saying: there will never be Sunni-Shi’a conflicts. We’re too intermingled in the nature of our lives, where we live, and so on. By 2006 there was a raging war. That conflict spread to the whole region. By now, the whole region is being torn apart by Sunni-Shi’a conflicts.

The natural dynamics of a conflict like that is that the most extreme elements begin to take over. They had roots. Their roots are in the major US ally, Saudi Arabia. That’s been the major US ally in the region as long as the US has been seriously involved there, in fact, since the foundation of the Saudi state. It’s kind of a family dictatorship. The reason is it has a huge amount oil.

Britain, before the US, had typically preferred radical Islamism to secular nationalism. And when the US took over, it essentially took the same stand. Radical Islam is centered in Saudi Arabia. It’s the most extremist, radical Islamic state in the world. It makes Iran look like a tolerant, modern country by comparison, and, of course, the secular parts of the Arab Middle East even more so.

It’s not only directed by an extremist version of Islam, the Wahhabi Salafi version, but it’s also a missionary state. So it uses its huge oil resources to promulgate these doctrines throughout the region. It establishes schools, mosques, clerics, all over the place, from Pakistan to North Africa.

An extremist version of Saudi extremism is the doctrine that was picked up by ISIS. So it grew ideologically out of the most extremist form of Islam, the Saudi version, and the conflicts that were engendered by the US sledgehammer that smashed up Iraq and has now spread everywhere. That’s what Fuller means.

Saudi Arabia not only provides the ideological core that led to the ISIS radical extremism, but it also funds them. Not the Saudi government, but wealthy Saudis, wealthy Kuwaitis, and others provide the funding and the ideological support for these jihadi groups that are springing up all over the place. This attack on the region by the US and Britain is the source, where this thing originates. That’s what Fuller meant by saying the United States created ISIS.

You can be pretty confident that as conflicts develop, they will become more extremist. The most brutal, harshest groups will take over. That’s what happens when violence becomes the means of interaction. It’s almost automatic. That’s true in neighborhoods, it’s true in international affairs. The dynamics are perfectly evident. That’s what’s happening. That’s where ISIS comes from. If they manage to destroy ISIS, they will have something more extreme on their hands.

And the media are obedient. In Obama’s September 10 speech, he cited two countries as success stories of the US counterinsurgency strategy. What were the two countries? Somalia and Yemen. Jaws should have been dropping all over the place, but there was virtual silence in the commentary the next day.

The Somalia case is particularly horrendous. Yemen is bad enough. Somalia is an extremely poor country. I won’t run through the whole history. But one of the great achievements, one of the great boasts of the Bush administration counterterror policy was that they had succeeded in shutting down a charity, the Barakat charity, which was fueling terrorism in Somalia. Big excitement in the press. That’s a real achievement.

A couple of months later the facts started leaking out. The charity had absolutely nothing to do with terrorism in Somalia. What it had to do with was banking, commerce, relief, hospitals. It was sort of keeping the deeply impoverished and battered Somali economy alive. By shutting it down, the Bush administration had ended this. That was the contribution to counterinsurgency. That got a few lines. You can read it in books on international finance. That’s what’s being done to Somalia.

There was a moment when the so-called Islamic courts, they were called, an Islamic organization, had achieved a kind of a measure of peace in Somalia. Not a pretty regime, but at least it was peaceful and people were more or less accepting it. The US wouldn’t tolerate it, and it supported an Ethiopian invasion to destroy it and turn the place back into horrible turmoil. That’s the great achievement.

Yemen is a horror story of its own.

Going back to National Public Radio and Morning Edition, the host, David Greene, was doing an interview with a reporter based in Gaza, and he prefaced his interview with this comment: “Both sides have suffered tremendous damage.” So I thought to myself, does this mean Haifa and Tel Aviv were reduced to rubble, as Gaza was? Do you remember the Jimmy Carter comment about Vietnam?

Not only do I remember it, I think I was the first person to comment on it, and am probably to date practically the only person to comment on it. Carter, the human rights advocate, he was asked in a press conference in 1977 a kind of mild question: do you think we have some responsibility for helping the Vietnamese after the war? And he said we owe them no debt — “the destruction was mutual.”

That passed without comment. And it was better than his successor. When a couple years later George Bush I, the statesman, was commenting on the responsibilities after the Vietnam War, he said: there is one moral problem that remains after the Vietnam War. The North Vietnamese have not devoted sufficient resources to turning over to us the bones of American pilots. These innocent pilots who were shot down over central Iowa by the murderous Vietnamese when they were spraying crops or something, they have not turned over the bones. But, he said: we are a merciful people, so we will forgive them this and we will allow them to enter the civilized world.

Meaning we’ll allow them to enter trade relations and so on, which, of course, we bar, if they will stop what they’re doing and devote sufficient resources to overcoming this one lingering crime after the Vietnam War. No comment.

One of the things that Israeli officials keep bringing up, and it’s repeated here in the corporate media, ad nauseam, is the Hamas charter. They don’t accept the existence of the state of the Israel, they want to wipe it off the map. You have some information about the charter and its background.

The charter was produced by, apparently, a handful of people, maybe two or three, back in 1988, at a time when Gaza was under severe Israeli attack. You remember Rabin’s orders. This was a primarily nonviolent uprising which Israel reacted to very violently, killing leaders, torture, breaking bones in accordance with Rabin’s orders, and so on. And right in the middle of that, a very small number of people came out with what they called a Hamas charter.

Nobody has paid attention to it since. It was an awful document, if you look at it. Since then the only people who have paid attention to it are Israeli intelligence and the US media. They love it. Nobody else cares about it. Khaled Mashal, the political leader of Gaza years ago, said: look, it’s past, it’s gone. It has no significance. But that doesn’t matter. It’s valuable propaganda.

There is also — they don’t call it a charter, but there are founding principles of the governing coalition in Israel, not some small group of people who are under attack but the governing coalition, Likud. The ideological core of Likud is Menachem Begin’s Herut. They have founding documents. Their founding documents say that today’s Jordan is part of the land of Israel; Israel will never renounce its claim to the land of Jordan. What’s now called Jordan they call the historical lands of Israel. They’ve never renounced that.

Likud, the same governing party, has an electoral program — it was for 1999 but it’s never been rescinded, it’s the same today — that says explicitly there will never be a Palestinian state west of the Jordan. In other words, we are dedicated in principle to the destruction of Palestine, period.

This is not just words. We proceed day by day to implement it. Nobody ever mentions the founding doctrines of Likud, Herut. I don’t either, because nobody takes them seriously. Actually, that was also the doctrine of the majority of the kibbutz movement. Achdut Ha-Avodah, which was the largest part of the kibbutz movement, held the same principles, that both sides of the Jordan River are ours.

There was a slogan, “This side of the Jordan, that side also.” In other words, both western Palestine and eastern Palestine are ours. Does anybody say: okay, we can’t negotiate with Israel? More significant are the actual electoral programs. And even more significant than that are the actual actions, which are implementing the destruction of Palestine, not just talking about it. But we have to talk about the Hamas charter.

There is an interesting history about the so-called PLO charter. Around 1970 the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Yehoshafat Harkabi, published an article in a major Israeli journal in which he brought to light something called the PLO charter or something similar to that. Nobody had ever heard of it, nobody was paying any attention to it.

And the charter said: here’s our aim. Our aim is it’s our land, we’re going to take it over. In fact, it was not unlike the Herut claims except backwards. This instantly became a huge media issue all over. The PLO covenant it was called. The PLO covenant plans to destroy Israel. They didn’t know anything about it, nobody knew anything about it, but this became a major issue.

I met Harkabi a couple years later. He was kind of a dove, incidentally. He became pretty critical of Israeli policy. He was an interesting guy. We had an interview here at MIT, in fact. Incidentally, at that time there was material in the Arab press that I was reading saying that the Palestinians were thinking about officially throwing out the charter because it was kind of an embarrassment.

So I asked him, “Why did you bring this out for the first time just at the time when they were thinking of rescinding it?” He looked at me with the blank stare that you learn to recognize when you are talking to spooks. They are trained to pretend not to understand what you’re talking about when they understand it perfectly.

He said, “Oh, I never heard that.” That is beyond inconceivable. It’s impossible that the head of Israeli military intelligence doesn’t know what I know from reading bits and pieces of the Arab press in Beirut. Of course he knew.

There’s every reason to believe that he decided to bring this out precisely because he recognized, meaning Israeli intelligence recognized, that it would be a useful piece of propaganda and it’s best to try to ensure that the Palestinians keep it. Of course, if we attack it, then they’re going to back off and say: we’re not going to rescind it under pressure, which is what’s happening with the Hamas charter.

If they stopped talking about it, everyone would forget about it, because it’s meaningless. Incidentally, let me just add one more thing. It is now impossible to document this, for a simple reason. The documents were all in the PLO offices in Beirut. And when Israel invaded Beirut, they stole all the archives. I assume they must have them somewhere, but nobody is going to get access to them.

What accounts for the almost near unanimity of the Congress in backing Israel? Even Elizabeth Warren, the highly touted Democratic senator from Massachusetts, voted for this resolution about self-defense.

She probably knows nothing about the Middle East. I think it’s pretty obvious. Take the US prepositioning arms in Israel for US use for military action in the region. That’s one small piece of a very close military and intelligence alliance that goes back very far. It really took off after 1967, although bits and pieces of it existed before.

The US military and intelligence regard Israel as a major base. In fact, one of the more interesting WikiLeaks exposures listed the Pentagon ranking of strategic centers around the world which were of such significance that we have to protect them no matter what, a small number. One of them was a couple of miles outside Haifa, Rafael military industries, a major military installation.

That’s where a lot of the drone technology was developed and much else. That’s a strategic US interest of such significance that it ranks among the highest in the world. Rafael understands that, to the extent that they actually moved their management headquarters to Washington, where the money is. That’s indicative of the kind of relationship there is.

And it goes way beyond that. US investors are in love with Israel. Warren Buffet just bought some Israeli enterprise for, I think, a couple billion dollars and announced that outside the US, Israel is the best place for US investment. And major firms, like Intel and others, are investing heavily in Israel, and continue to. It’s a valuable client: it’s strategically located, compliant, does what the US wants, it’s available for repression and violence. The US has used it over and over as a way of circumventing congressional and popular restrictions on violence.

There’s a huge fuss now about children fleeing Central America, say, from Guatemala. Why are they fleeing from Guatemala? You can see a photo of one of them here in my office. They’re fleeing from Guatemala because of the wreckage of Guatemala, of which a large part was the attack on the Mayan Indians, which was really genocidal, in the early 1980s. That’s a Mayan woman in the photo, in fact. They’ve never escaped this, and many of them are fleeing.

Reagan, who was extremely brutal and violent and a terrible racist as well, wanted to provide direct support for the Guatemalan army’s attack, which was literally genocidal on the Mayan Indians. There was a congressional resolution that blocked him, so he turned to his terrorist clients.

The major one was Israel. Also Taiwan, a couple of others. Israel provided the arms for the Guatemalan army — to this day they use Israeli arms — provided the trainers for the terrorist forces, essentially ran the genocidal attack. That’s one of their services. They did the same in South Africa. Actually, this led to an interesting incident with the great hero Elie Wiesel.

In the mid-1980s, Salvador Luria, a friend of mine who is a Nobel laureate in biology and politically active, knew about this. It wasn’t a big secret. He asked me to collect articles from the Hebrew press which described Israel’s participation in genocidal attacks in Guatemala — not just participation, it’s a leadership role — because he wanted to send it to Elie Wiesel with a polite letter saying: as a fellow Nobel laureate, I would like to bring this to your attention. Could you use your influence — he didn’t ask him to say anything, that’s too much, but privately could you communicate to the people you know well at a high level in Israel and say it’s not nice to take part in genocide. He never got a response.

A couple of months later, I read an interview in the Hebrew press, where they really dislike Wiesel. They regard him as a charlatan and a fraud. One of the questions in the interview was, “What do you think about Israel’s participation in the genocidal assault in Guatemala?”

The report says Wiesel sighed and then said: I received a letter from a fellow Nobel laureate bringing to my attention these actions and asking me if I could say something privately to try to restrict them somehow, but, he said: I can’t criticize Israel even privately. I can’t say anything even privately that might impede Israel’s participation in genocide. That’s Elie Wiesel, the great moral hero.

Even this story is astonishing. Now children and many other refugees are fleeing from three countries: El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Not from Nicaragua, about as poor as Honduras. Is there a difference? Yes. Nicaragua is the one country in the 1980s that had a way of defending itself against US terrorist forces — an army. In the other countries the army were the terrorist forces, supported and armed by the US, and its Israeli client in the worst cases. So that’s what you had.

There is a lot of upbeat reporting now saying the flow of children has reduced. Why? Because we’ve turned the screws on Mexico and told them to use force to prevent the victims of our violence from fleeing to the US for survival. So now they’re doing it for us, so there are fewer coming to the border. It’s a great humanitarian achievement of Obama’s.

Incidentally, Honduras is in the lead. Why Honduras? Because in 2009 there was a military coup in Honduras which overthrew the president, Zelaya, who was beginning to make some moves towards badly needed reform measures, and kicked him out of the country.

I won’t go through the details, but it ended up with the US, under Obama, being one of the very few countries that recognized the coup regime and the election that took place under its aegis, which has turned Honduras into an even worse horror story than it was before, way in the lead in homicides, violence. So, yes, people are fleeing. And therefore we have to drive them back and ensure that they go back into the horror chamber.

In the current situation, it seems that this is an opportunity for the Kurdish population of Iraq to realize some kind of statehood, some kind of independence, something that they’ve wanted for a long time, and which intersects, actually, with Israeli interests in Iraq. They have been supporting the Kurds, rather clandestinely, but it’s well known that Israel has been pushing for fragmentation of Iraq.

They are. And that’s one of the points on which Israeli and US policy conflict. The Kurdish areas are landlocked. The government of Iraq has blocked their export of oil, their only resource, and of course opposes their statehood bid. The US so far has been backing that.

Clandestinely, there evidently is a flow of oil at some level from the Kurdish area into Turkey. That’s also a very complex relationship. Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdish leader, visited Turkey about a year ago, I guess, and made some pretty striking comments. He was quite critical of the leadership of the Turkish Kurds and was plainly trying to establish better relations with Turkey, which has been violently repressing the Turkish Kurds.

Most of the Kurds in the world are in Turkey. You can understand why, from his point of view. That’s the one outlet to the outside world. But Turkey has a mixed attitude about this. An independent Kurdistan in, say, northern Iraq, which is right next to the Kurdish areas of Turkey, or in the Syrian Kurdish areas, which are right by them, potentially, from the Turkish point of view, might encourage separatists or even efforts for autonomy in the southeastern part of Turkey, which is heavily Kurdish. They’ve been fighting against that ever since modern Turkey arose in the 1920, very brutally, in fact. So they have a mixed kind of attitude on this.

Kurdistan has succeeded somehow in getting tankers to take Kurdish oil. Those tankers are wandering around the Mediterranean. No country will accept it, except probably Israel. We can’t be certain, but it looks as though they’re taking some of it. The Kurdish tankers are seeking some way to unload their oil in mostly the eastern Mediterranean. It’s not happening at a level which permits Kurdistan to function, even to pay its officials.

On the other hand, if you go to the Kurdish so-called capital, Erbil, apparently there are high rises going up, plenty of wealth. But it’s a very fragile kind of system. It cannot survive. It’s completely surrounded by mostly hostile regions. Turkey is sort of unclear because of the reasons that I mentioned. So, yes, they do have that in mind. That’s why they took Kirkuk as soon as they could.

There are a couple of questions I want to close with, actually from our latest book, Power Systems. I ask you, “You’ve got grandchildren. What kind of world do you see them inheriting?”

The world that we’re creating for our grandchildren is grim. The major concern ought to be the one that was brought up in New York at the September 21 march. A couple hundred thousand people marched in New York calling for some serious action on global warming.

This is no joke. This is the first time in the history of the human species that we have to make decisions which will determine whether there will be decent survival for our grandchildren. That’s never happened before. Already we have made decisions which are wiping out species around the world at a phenomenal level.

The level of species destruction in the world today is about at the level of sixty-five million years ago, when a huge asteroid hit the earth and had horrifying ecological effects. It ended the age of the dinosaurs; they were wiped out. It kind of left a little opening for small mammals, who began to develop, and ultimately us. The same thing is happening now, except that we’re the asteroid. What we’re doing to the environment is already creating conditions like those of sixty-five million years ago. Human civilization is tottering at the edge of this. The picture doesn’t look pretty.

So September 21, the day of the march, which was a very positive development, an indication that you can do things, it’s not a foregone conclusion that we’re going to wipe everything out, that same day one of the major international monitoring scientific agencies presented the data on greenhouse emissions for the latest year on record, 2013. They reached record levels: they went up over 2 percent beyond the preceding year. For the US they went up even higher, almost 3 percent.

The Journal of the American Medical Association came out with a study the same day looking at the number of super hot days that are predicted for New York over the next couple of decades, super hot meaning over ninety. They predicted it will triple for New York, and much worse effects farther south. This is all going along with predicted sea-level rise, which is going to put a lot of Boston under water. Let alone the Bangladesh coastal plan, where hundreds of millions of people live, will be wiped out.

All of this is imminent. And at this very moment the logic of our institutions is driving it forward. So Exxon Mobil, which is the biggest energy producer, has announced — and you can’t really criticize them for it; this is the nature of the state capitalist system, its logic — that they are going to direct all of their efforts to lifting fossil fuels, because that’s profitable. In effect, that’s exactly what they should be doing, given the institutional framework. They’re supposed to make profits. And if that wipes out the possibility of a decent life for the grandchildren, it’s not their problem.

Chevron, another big energy corporation, had a small sustainable program, mostly for PR reasons, but it was doing reasonably well, it was actually profitable. They just closed it down because fossil fuels are so much more profitable.

In the US by now there’s drilling all over the place. But there’s one place where it has been somewhat limited, federal lands. Energy lobbies are complaining bitterly that Obama has cut back access to federal lands. The Department of Interior just came out with the statistics. It’s the opposite. The oil drilling on federal lands has steadily increased under Obama. What has decreased is offshore drilling.

But that’s a reaction to the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Right after that disaster, the immediate reaction was to back off. Even the energy companies backed off from deep-sea drilling. The lobbies are just pulling these things together. If you look at the onshore drilling, it’s just going up. There are very few brakes on this. These tendencies are pretty dangerous, and you can predict what kind of world there will be for your grandchildren.

 

Noam Chomsky: “The world that we’re creating for our grandchildren is grim”

February 13, 2015

FRIDAY, FEB 13, 2015 01:25 PM CST

The intellectual sat down with Jacobin to discuss ISIS, Israel and climate change
SARAH GRAY
Share 81 70 3

TOPICS: NOAM CHOMSKY, SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN, ISRAEL, ISIS, IRAQ, SAUDI ARABIA, THE MIDDLE EAST, INNOVATION NEWS, POLITICS NEWS

Noam Chomsky: “The world that we’re creating for our grandchildren is grim”

Noam Chomsky: "The world that we’re creating for our grandchildren is grim"
Noam Chomsky (Credit: fotostory via Shutterstock)
Renowned linguist and well-respected political commentator, Noam Chomsky, was interviewed by journalist David Barsamian for Jacobin. In the fascinating and thought-provoking conversation the two touch on the origins of ISIS, America’s relationship with Israel, among other foreign policy topics. Below are a few choice selections from the interview, which can (and should) be read in full at Jacobin.

When asked about the origins of ISIS Chomsky explained how sectarian conflict derived from the Iraq war:

“There’s an interesting interview that just appeared a couple of days ago with Graham Fuller, a former CIA officer, one of the leading intelligence and mainstream analysts of the Middle East. The title is “The United States Created ISIS.” This is one of the conspiracy theories, the thousands of them that go around the Middle East.

But this is another source: this is right at the heart of the US establishment. He hastens to point out that he doesn’t mean the US decided to put ISIS into existence and then funded it. His point is — and I think it’s accurate — that the US created the background out of which ISIS grew and developed. Part of it was just the standard sledgehammer approach: smash up what you don’t like.”

Late in the answer Chomsky continues:

“Finally, the US just decided to attack the country in 2003. The attack is compared by many Iraqis to the Mongol invasion of a thousand years earlier. Very destructive. Hundreds of thousands of people killed, millions of refugees, millions of other displaced persons, destruction of the archeological richness and wealth of the country back to Sumeria.

One of the effects of the invasion was immediately to institute sectarian divisions. Part of the brilliance of the invasion force and its civilian director, Paul Bremer, was to separate the sects, Sunni, Shi’a, Kurd, from one another, set them at each other’s throats. Within a couple of years, there was a major, brutal sectarian conflict incited by the invasion.

You can see it if you look at Baghdad. If you take a map of Baghdad in, say, 2002, it’s a mixed city: Sunni and Shi’a are living in the same neighborhoods, they’re intermarried. In fact, sometimes they didn’t even know who was Sunni and who was Shi’a. It’s like knowing whether your friends are in one Protestant group or another Protestant group. There were differences but it was not hostile.

In fact, for a couple of years both sides were saying: there will never be Sunni-Shi’a conflicts. We’re too intermingled in the nature of our lives, where we live, and so on. By 2006 there was a raging war. That conflict spread to the whole region. By now, the whole region is being torn apart by Sunni-Shi’a conflicts.

The natural dynamics of a conflict like that is that the most extreme elements begin to take over. They had roots. Their roots are in the major US ally, Saudi Arabia. That’s been the major US ally in the region as long as the US has been seriously involved there, in fact, since the foundation of the Saudi state. It’s kind of a family dictatorship. The reason is it has a huge amount oil.”

Asked about Congress’ unfailing support for Israel — even beloved progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren — Chomsky responds thusly:

“She probably knows nothing about the Middle East. I think it’s pretty obvious. Take the US prepositioning arms in Israel for US use for military action in the region. That’s one small piece of a very close military and intelligence alliance that goes back very far. It really took off after 1967, although bits and pieces of it existed before.

The US military and intelligence regard Israel as a major base. In fact, one of the more interesting WikiLeaks exposures listed the Pentagon ranking of strategic centers around the world which were of such significance that we have to protect them no matter what, a small number. One of them was a couple of miles outside Haifa, Rafael military industries, a major military installation.

That’s where a lot of the drone technology was developed and much else. That’s a strategic US interest of such significance that it ranks among the highest in the world. Rafael understands that, to the extent that they actually moved their management headquarters to Washington, where the money is. That’s indicative of the kind of relationship there is.

And it goes way beyond that. US investors are in love with Israel. Warren Buffet just bought some Israeli enterprise for, I think, a couple billion dollars and announced that outside the US, Israel is the best place for US investment. And major firms, like Intel and others, are investing heavily in Israel, and continue to. It’s a valuable client: it’s strategically located, compliant, does what the US wants, it’s available for repression and violence. The US has used it over and over as a way of circumventing congressional and popular restrictions on violence.”

And he says this about climate change:

“The world that we’re creating for our grandchildren is grim. The major concern ought to be the one that was brought up in New York at the September 21 march. A couple hundred thousand people marched in New York calling for some serious action on global warming.

This is no joke. This is the first time in the history of the human species that we have to make decisions which will determine whether there will be decent survival for our grandchildren. That’s never happened before. Already we have made decisions which are wiping out species around the world at a phenomenal level.

The level of species destruction in the world today is about at the level of sixty-five million years ago, when a huge asteroid hit the earth and had horrifying ecological effects. It ended the age of the dinosaurs; they were wiped out. It kind of left a little opening for small mammals, who began to develop, and ultimately us. The same thing is happening now, except that we’re the asteroid. What we’re doing to the environment is already creating conditions like those of sixty-five million years ago. Human civilization is tottering at the edge of this. The picture doesn’t look pretty.”

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

MORE SARAH GRAY.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 90 other followers